Monday, December 15, 2008

Pale Blood – review

VHSDirectors: V. V. Dachin Hsu & Michael W Leighton

Release date: 1990

Contains spoilers

It is nice to be able to say, what a little gem… even if it is a film that is hidden within its own obscurity. This 1990 movie has an arthouse heart, with a punk soul (embodied by the appearance, peppered through the film, of punk surf band Agent Orange) and a nice little twist on the genre that is a pleasure to watch. It isn’t perfect, it certainly feels budget constricted and perhaps some of its arthouse leanings cause it to meander along its length, but all told it was a pleasure to discover this movie.

George Chakiris as Michael FuryIt begins with a voiceover talking about a dramatic piece of art (and asking a Mr Oswald to stop shaking). When the visuals kick in (and the voiceover vanishes) we are in Los Angeles airport and one Michael Fury (George Chakiris) has just landed. The film seems ponderous almost as it follows him through the terminal but eventually one of the page calls that pepper his journey is for him. He receives a message, Lori (Pamela Ludwig) cannot pick him up but will meet him at a store called Metropolis.

surely that isn't part of the displayHe gets a cab there and looks in the window. It is clear that one of the mannequins is no mannequin at all. Suddenly a news crew descends and a broadcast starts going out. They received a tip that the vampire killer had struck for the third time. Michael is approached by a woman, who turns out to be Lori, who apologises for not picking him up but she had received the same tip. She has been investigating these murders under Fury’s instruction and has rented him a condo, which she drives him to.

Wings Hauser as Van VandameerFury returns to the shop later and is moving with inhuman speed, unseen by the sleeping patrolman in a nearby car. Touching something on the floor he gets a sense of what has happened, a visionary flash of the woman. He has also noticed a camera nearby. He goes onto the nearby roof and approaches Van Vandameer (Wings Hauser, who we last saw in zombie/vampire crossover Mutant).Van is making a documentary about the killings, an arty one it appears. Fury vanishes off.

Diana Frank as JennyVan returns to his warehouse where two women Cherry (Darcy DeMoss) and Jenny (Diana Frank, who was also in Dead of Night and Club Vampire) are waiting. They are supposed to be making an erotic film with him but Jenny chickens out. She tells Cherry that she’ll meet them in a club called Drakes. Fury has followed Van, appearing briefly in Van’s rear-view mirror to freak him out before vanishing again. He changes quarry and follows Jenny.

blurred vampire motionIn Drakes the band Agent Orange are playing and Fury catches Jenny’s eye. They are soon back at her place. His movements are so fast they are blurry but he seems gentle with the girl, he peels her dress back and bites at the top of her breast. Fury, it is clear, is a vampire and yet he was on a flight to England when the last murder took place and we wonder why he would set up an Agency to investigate the murders if he was committing them.

Lori is a real fan(g) girlHe goes to visit Lori and she really is a vampire fan. She is watching Nosferatu when he arrives and has pictures of Bela Lugosi up as well as posters of The Return of Dracula and a French poster of Kiss of the Vampire. Interestingly the French release title of Kiss of the Vampire was Baiser du Vampire and the French title for this was Le Baiser du Vampire. Fury tells her that he does not believe the killer is a vampire; there are no such things – so what gives?

one of Van's victimsFury has, at that point, already met the killer; it is Van. Van is not, however, killing to appear to be a vampire but in order that he might lure a vampire into the open. Vampires are a rarity and, Van concludes, lonely. The chance of meeting one of their own might draw a vampire to him – which it does – and then he could capture it and film it feeding, which would be the greatest documentary ever. Where do these thoughts come from, we do hear that Van has been in and out of mental institutions and he has a sword that he claims is a 16th century vampire killer’s weapon, that once belonged to his vampire hunting Grandmother.

vamping outIt is this that makes the film special, the vampiric quest to find one of their own. They cannot just sense each other, as is so often a vampire trait in movies and books – they must reveal themselves just like anyone else. This film captures the loneliness of the vampire existence, not only through Fury but also in ways I haven’t described as I don’t want to spoil aspects. Fury does not kill his quarry (as he refers to his victims), though at one point the filmmakers make us wonder whether Jenny is dead following Fury’s time with her. Despite being lonely and not killing victims Fury is not your Ricean pathos and angst filled vampire, and this is a good thing. They have hypnotic abilities and sleep during the day – Fury has a fold out travel coffin.

Fury has pale bloodThere is a performance artist at one point who mentions the beast having pale blood and Fury’s blood is paler than normal, we discover when Van shoots him repeatedly. It is the injuries that stop him escaping the cell he is in and not the fact that Van has painted the walls with garlic and hung crosses everywhere. As soon as the blood is replenished Fury smashes the door down. Other abilities include being able to travel through shadows.

visions of the deadThere is an undercurrent in the film about the dead seeking revenge, as Lori tries to contact the spirits of the murder victims and apparently succeeds. They begin to plague her and Fury with visions of their last moments – moments that involve Van piercing their jugular with the fangs on the jaw bone of a vampire bat and then using a suction machine to drain them – before taking them and posing them to be found.

Acting wise I wasn’t too convinced with Pamela Ludwig’s performance, though I have seen a whole lot worse, however Chakiris was excellently mysterious as Fury and Wings Hauser was fantastically mad as the psychotic Van. The whole thing held together well but was perhaps a little too clever for its own good in places and it tended to meander at those points. The music was excellent though one felt perhaps there was an over use of Agent Orange live – their music would have done just as well.

Definitely worth keeping an eye out for. 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

;) Q


The Dirge Of Gabriel said...

I absolutely loved this film.

Granted I haven't seen it since I was 19, back in 1992 or so but it was fabulous. I was recommended to me by some goth friends of mine at the time and I even joined their video store so I could watch it. Of course at that stage I was totally in love with the vampire aesthetic that I thought it was a brilliant film.

When the protagonist discovered that the female was a vampire too and they were drawn to each other it blew me away. My favourite part is when he just taps the door of his prison and it falls away like paper mache!

I can't believe you only scored this film 6.5! it's at least an 8 from my memory. But still since the 80/90's part they don't make vampire films the way they used to anymore! The old films all had adult characters and I find that far more effective then using teen characters which is the current norm nowadays.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Gabriel, I agree re the teen/adult characters... however

having never watched this in my youth and thus never having the benefit of rose-tinted glasses - I think I stick by my score... it is a good, strong, above average film but it is not amongst the best and does have flaws...

Lee Winters said...

It's a well made movie..George C. Does a great job as the vampire , making him sympathetic , yet he's no twilight wuss. Diana frank stands out too , as his girlfriend. I wish she had actually played the female vampire lori. She's a better actress than ludwig.

Ialocin nicolaI said...

MCEG Virgin Vision (on its downfall) may had distributed that film in Australia for PAL VHS by that time, but. Pamela Ludwig (Dead Man Walking (another Wings Hauser starrer alongside her), Rush Week, Race for Glory) is reminding me of a cross between Rose McGowan, Charlotte Gainsbourg (when smiling) and Karen Elson - Genda Nicolai Iwakawa

Elizabeth Dane said...

My favorite vamp flick! I think the main scene between the 2 leads is the sexiest, most erotic in vampdom... I was quite surprised!

Although I love the movie, I agree with the rating. Two scenes bother me: Michael telling Jenny he doesn't think of her erotically and then cuddling on her bed....the other is Lori telling Michael everyone's a suspect and laughing, then immediately saying she doesn't think it's funny. However, I do like Pamela Ludwig's character.

I read somewhere that Chakiris said there was a change of directors at the last moment, makes me wonder how it could've been....

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Interesting Elizabeth, I wasn't aware of the director change :)

Elizabeth Dane said...

Yes, I'll have a look and see if I can find the source.... George said he was intrigued by the unique story line and then, just before filming, the director was swapped out. No idea why. George said he'd never watched the film (sad!), because he didn't think he'd like it.... I got the impression the original director might have been a woman...

One thing about the VHS I have, the box has a couple of pics on it that don't appear anywhere in the film. I wonder if there are slightly different versions in different countries, or if there might be some out takes somewhere? Things that make you go, "Hmmmm!"

Taliesin_ttlg said...

"Hmmmm!" indeed, I'll be interested in anything you come up with