Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Blood Drinkers – review


Directed by: Gerardo de Leon

First released: 1964

Contains spoilers

Sometimes, in filmmaking, budget (or lack of it) can lead to genius. Film stock was rather expensive in the Philippines when this was shot and so use of colour film was limited. Instead most of this film was shot in black and white and then tinted. What the filmmakers then did was use a variety of tint colours. Purple, blue, orange and red are all used and each tint becomes a code, some scenes having two different tints within the same frame. Scenes would jump between tints or fade in and out of different tints. Red became code for vampiric activity for instance.

All this makes this film, visually, a joy because it is so unusual. The tint becomes a plot element. Characters notice the tint. Vampire hunters notice a ‘red glow’ and know something is afoot. Hypnotic suggestion is based upon seeing a certain tint. It adds an unusual element to a film which, unfortunately, then suffers from really poor scripting and plot holes. This may not be a fault of the original script but within the English dubbing, to be fair, but we can only judge on what we are left with.

The film opens with a detail of a horse drawn hearse and this remains in detail as the credits display. When the film starts proper we see the hearse, followed by a car, as a priest narrates the opening. He tells us that death is the final word – most of the time – but evil is in the world in the form of vampires. The hearse and car pass a villa and pull up before a crypt.

Ronald Remy as Dr. MarcoThe hearse contains the coffin of Katrina (Amalia Fuentes). In the car is a complete motley crew consisting of, firstly, an older woman, Marisa, who is Katrina’s mother. Also in the car is vampire Dr Marco (Ronald Remy), a bald, shade and cloak wearing creature of the night. His servants consist of a hunchback, a dwarf and a vampire bride called Tanya (Eva Montes). They take the coffin into the crypt, remove her from it and hook her to medical machinery.

Marco and KatrinaThere is some plot muddling, which I'll try to cut through, as well as some interesting lore in this scene. Katrina may be very ill (though why place her in a crypt in that case) or dead. Certainly Marco is keeping her alive, from this scene forward, with blood – given through the machine – but to live she needs the heart of her sister Charito (also played by Amalia Fuentes). Marco is in love with the girl (and Tanya is jealous of this). During the procedure light spills through a stained glass window with a cross on it and blinds Marco. The cross, however, is unimportant – it is the light which blinds him. This lore is given to us later by the priest.

the first victimWe see Charito in an unconvincing serenade sequence, which we shall not dwell on. We then see an attack by the hunchback on a girl. The hunchback may or may not be a vampire – he does try to bite those whom he attacks. The girl sees a bat (I would have said that it was Marco at this point as he then appears but we will examine the bat later) and is bitten by Marco. This seems to be, as much as anything, blood harvesting for Katrina.

Amalia Fuentes as CharitoThe next day Marisa summons her brother-in-law Elias (Paquito Salcedo) and his wife (Mary Walter) to the villa. They have brought Charito up and she thinks of them as her parents. On the way to the villa they are attacked by the vampires and killed. After their funeral Charita is invited to stay at the villa with her ‘aunt’. Also arriving is Victor (Eddie Fernandez) and his sisters, who had arranged to stay with Elias before he died – Victor becomes the love interest.

the parents attackAnyway, in this, bitten by a vampire means becoming a vampire and Charito sees her foster parents who attack her. They are scared off by Marco with a whip – he does not use this incident to insinuate himself with his intended victim but gives an ominous threat and vanishes into the night. A check on the graveyard sees the foster parents’ graves uncovered. In a confused moment Victor goes to the police and accuses Marco (whom he has not yet met) and then the race is on to protect Charito.

stabbed by the cross and by a stakeThe priest is our main source of lore. He tells us that the vampires are dead bodies, without their souls and possessed by the devil. He tells us that in the old days they were killed by plunging a cross into their heart but any wood will do. Why wood? Seemingly vampirism produces an enzyme that creates a ‘heart glue’ that can stop a bullet but wood turns the glue to water! Okay…

momentarily humanThe cross, he tells us, is not effective, though light reflected from it (or projected through it) is effectual when combating the creatures. That said he also explains that (part way through the film) the power of prayer was enough to cure Marco and Katerina – but only temporarily as they had no faith themselves! I wish the film had made up its mind with regards religious intervention. The entire thing about giving Katerina a heart seemed odd. If she was undead why did she need it? Marisa becomes upset when she discovers her daughter is truly a vampire – Marco promised it would not be so – yet as a vampire why would she need a new heart?

Basra the bat - dedicated to regular visitor ChristineIt appears, at first, that Marco can turn into a bat but eventually we discover it is another servant, a familiar if you like. It is called Basra and, according to imdb, the role was expanded from one shot in the original film to a major role because the distributor liked the little rubber thing. Great… It is well within the realm of crap bat syndrome.

A vampiric suicideGetting back to light, in the finale Victor uses a flare gun to battle the undead – which was unusual and interesting. The finale itself was a little unconvincing. The vampires are on the run from the police and a mob. Yet they have an army of risen victims following them – wouldn’t they set them on their attackers rather than just have them traipse zombie like after them? There is a vampiric suicide during the finale courtesy of Tanya.

the priest is our source of loreThe soundtrack is ridiculously melodramatic all the way through and one can only wonder at the mess they made of the story. Definite good ideas are lost within the chaotic mix and bad scripting/dubbing. Yet the tinting elements actually make this a must see and convey a sense of atmosphere that the film probably didn’t deserve. 3 out of 10 balances the muddled lore, poor plot and rather good visuals.

The imdb page is here.


Christine said...

I have never seen this one, but Da Bat really looks cute in the, eh, tradtional fashion.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

glad you like the bat Christine

Bill Courtney said...


I have not had much free time to scan the blogs I usually do trying to get inspiration. I am surprised that you have so many informative postes since the last time I checked!!! Of course one problem I ave is that a lot of blogs I check are blogspot, or blogcity, wordpress, or blogger... all blocked in China!!! I have to use proxies to read your site and comment and sometimes they do not want to work.

Adds to the thrill though... haha.

I want to let you know I am refining my gif skills, using an Adobe program now. I did a few new gifs from a trailer for the Mexican vampire film The Vampire's Coffin. There is one of the count hypnotizing someone and I think you will like it.

let me se what new itens you have here before I mosey on over to Trash Aesthetics.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Bill, nice gifs...

you know I had wondered how you got around the great firewall!