Friday, April 25, 2008

Blood Thirst – review


Director: Newt Arnold

Release Date: 1971*

Contains spoilers

*In respect of the release date, there does appear to be some confusion. The majority of the film was shot in 1965 and was completed in 1970. The film was released in 1971.

Let’s get this out of the way – I liked this film… I don’t know why, it is cheesy, it has bad effects, the acting is poor, the logic is flawed and yet the joint U.S./Philippines movie swept me along as though I was riding on its cool jazz soundtrack and I had a big old smile on my face all the way through.

first victimWe start as staff leave club Barrio, in Manila. As the hostess Maria leaves, the club owner, Calderon, offers to drive her home but she prefers to walk. She walks a while and then we see a flash of some hideous thing (I’ll get to the monster later) and she screams. She is found, tied upside down, dangling from a tree. The attending police, headed by Inspector Miguel Amos (Vic Diaz), recognise that it is identical to several other murders. Miguel has called in his friend and 'sexual crimes and motivation' expert, American Adam Rourke (Robert Winston).

Robert Winston as Adam RourkeRourke arrives and goes to Miguel’s house, where they discuss the case. All the girls had exactly 10 cm cuts on both wrists and they were surgically neat. Their bodies were drained of blood. There was no connection between any of them. It becomes quickly clear that Rourke is quick with a wisecrack and I want to discuss the character now. Rourke is a cross between a noir detective and James Bond with a fast tongue. Winston is not a good actor and yet… I really liked the character, he is the focus of the film, he amused me all the way through and I actually wished there were more films featuring Rourke (Winston did not have a long career and this was his last film).

Judy Dennis as SylviaMiguel’s sister, Sylvia (Judy Dennis) enters and dislikes Rourke’s tongue. Before you wonder, she is Miguel’s adopted sister. Rourke suggests that he goes undercover (as a writer) and checks out the Barrio club as no one knows he is police. Miguel objects but soon accedes. Miguel mentions that there are rumours of a blood cult flying around but Rourke is dismissive of the occult, making a crack about going to the library to look up books on Count Dracula and Medieval witches – much to Sylvia’s disgust. After a crack by Rourke about puncture holes in Sylvia's neck, Miguel forces her to drive Rourke into town. When she drops him off he makes a distasteful joke then kisses her she drives off in disgust.

Serana's danceRourke goes to the Barrio club and asks to see Calderon, but he is told to wait until after a dance by Serana. Now whilst it was not as, shall we say, exciting this scene brought to mind the Salma Hayek scene in from dusk till dawn. Everyone in the crowd, bar Rourke, seems oddly fascinated by Serana’s performance – including Calderon and Rourke later describes the reaction in terms of supplicants with a priestess or Goddess. Serana finishes, Rourke compliments her and she goes up stairs that Calderon has already taken.

Herero and AdamRourke follows and hears them arguing, Calderon worrying that she is exerting herself. Given the simile with from dusk till dawn it will come as no surprise to state that she is our vampire and I will come to that in a second. The majority of the film, however, is concerned with Rourke – the film seems more comfortable as a detective tale. He is shadowed by Herero, a one legged detective who is his contact, he survives assassination attempts and he gets the girl (Sylvia). Actually he gets the girl after much skirting around and slapping of each other, but there you go.

AgingSerana, as I said, is our vampire. She and Calderon moved to Manila from Brazil – following a series of suspicious deaths. She claims to be an Aztec (for we know the Aztecs were all blonde!), though Rourke seems dismissive at first, “There's a killer on the loose… a homicidal maniac with delusions of ancient history.” We discover that she is a “golden Goddess” and she ages without fresh blood.

blood is collectedThe manner of feeding is interesting. The girls are drained and she sits next to electrical apparatus (in the past the 'electricity from the sun' was captured in jars – no? I was lost at that point too.) She throws a special root into the blood, there is a puff of smoke and she becomes younger again.

lumpy monsterThe capture of the girls is carried out by a creature with a lumpy head… what else could I really call it. We discover at the end that this is Calderon. The thing is there are logical flaws through all of this and not just in the fact that the creature has no eyes, in certain shots at least, and that the actress who plays Serana is of a different ethnic origin to that which the character lays claim.

aging badlyFirstly, she dies when something goes wrong with the process but I couldn’t work out what exactly - she throws some herbs and then suddenly ages rather than becoming younger. Death may be by aging but for some reason she changes ethnicity during the failed process. Having fled Brazil because of suspicious deaths, Calderon and Serana then leave girls strung up all over the place, in plain view, only deciding to hide the bodies properly when the police are after them. The first (unseen) attacks are at random and then they suddenly only attack girls who work with them. They are a pair of the dumbest homicidal monsters in movie history.

CalderonYet it doesn’t matter. The film is flawed to Hell, the logic is weak or non-existent, the hero and heroine fall for each other in a blatant display of mutual domestic abuse, the hero is beaten and then goes right across the city to bodily throw himself through a door for, it would seem, effect and sympathy. The acting is poor. Yet it is good fun, a guilty pleasure no less.

I can’t give this a tremendous score, that would be wrong. 3 out of 10 seems overly generous. Yet I really enjoyed myself watching this…. Tat; ridiculous, rubbish, beautifully enjoyable tat.

The imdb page is here.

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