Monday, September 30, 2013

Drive-In Collection: Blood Thirst + The Thirsty Dead Review

Vinegar Syndrome's Drive-In Collection continues with this pair of 70's films shot in Manila.

Blood Thirst
Director: Newt Arnold
Writer: N.I.P. Dennis
Stars: Robert Winston, Katherine Henryk, Yvonne Nielson, Vic Diaz
Year: 1971
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Studio: Vinegar Syndrome
Region: ALL

A series of murders has begun plaguing Manila. The latest has taken place just outside of the Barrio Club - a happening club with a distractingly odd entrance that can't be more than 4 feet high, which means that everyone entering or exiting the club has to bend over on the way in or out. Really, what is the deal with this door? Filipinos aren't exactly what you'd call "heighty" people - well documented short dude Michael J. Fox is as tall as the average citizen of the Phillippines, but even still, this door is ridiculously small, like the Barrio Club is run and frequented by Filipino midgets or something. Anyway, shortly after this latest murder a cocky American journalist shows up looking to crack the case and discovers something far more sinister than your everyday run of the mill Filipino serial killer.

This was a pleasant surprise. I'd heard some not so great things about Blood Thirst, but I had quite a good time with it. Sure, the acting is mostly poor, but I don't think more than two of the actors were native English speakers, so you kinda have to forgive the bad line readings. Apart from that, I found it to be very enjoyable. What we have here is a nice quick paced mix of Noirish detective work and wonderfully Gothic horror with some very striking photography and an at-times ill-fitting, but nice laid back jazzy score. We also get a beautiful and mysterious belly dancer and a retarded looking, but still pretty awesome killer whose face looks like a Garbage Pail-ian cross between the The Toxic Avenger, and the killer from Blood and Lace, if that makes any sense to anyone. At a scant 74 minutes there's not a lot in the way of plot, but there is a lot of pulpy fun to be found here. Recommended.

  Note: This girl is supposed to be screaming in terror. She instead decided to giggle.

TheThirsty Dead
Director: Terry Becker
Writer: Charles Dennis
Stars: Jennifer Billingsley, John Considine, Judith McConnell, Tani Guthrie
Year: 1974
Running Time: 88 Minutes

The Thirsty Dead on the other hand is a bit of a bore. Four women in Manila are abducted by mysterious gentlemen in red robes and led to a cave in the jungle where blood worshiping cult members plan to drink their blood to retain their immortality.

From a technical standpoint it's decently made, with some beautiful jungle scenery, pretty good looking Land of the Lost-ish sets and fine camera work. The problem with The Thirsty Dead is its incredibly slow pace, uneventful plot and the fact that most of the actresses barely reacted to the terrible things that happened to them. These chicks were kidnapped by dudes in red robes that just scream "We are in a cult!" and they hardly put up a fight. They were then held captive in a commune in the middle of the jungle and forced to partake in a ritual where their blood was drained a pint at a time and drank by the members of the cult, and still nobody really seemed all that bothered by it. They just seemed vaguely bummed out like it was a minor inconvenience, like they were told they'd have to come to work half a day on a Saturday or something. 

The girls made a couple of daring escape attempts through the jungle with hired goons (I don't think this cult had a currency system in place, I have no idea how they were paying these goons) rapidly gaining on them, but did the girls finally show a bit of hustle and move their asses? Nope. During both escapes they just meandered through the jungle barely able to keep from scraping their feet on the ground like a bunch of exhausted sweaty fat kids. They kept stopping to catch their breath every few minutes. At this point I'm yelling at my TV "according to my calculations, uh, they're fucking coming! Stop stopping!"

At one point a large group of monstrous People Under The Stairs-like women broke free from an underground prison and you think, finally, for the love of God, we're gonna see some action, maybe even a bit of blood and guts. Something. Anything. And again, nope. The lady mutants get free and just sort of walk amok. They break some pottery and rough up a couple of people (with the vaguest hint of gore), but they're almost immediately just beaten back into the hole from which they escaped. Lamest jail break ever.

The Thirsty Dead isn't a terrible movie, it's just super slow, dull and rather uneventful. It's like they only had about 45 minutes of story that they needed to stretch to a full length running time, but instead of throwing some cheap nudity and gore our way, they just filled that time with scenes of endless walking and crying, which makes for a rather tedious viewing experience. I wouldn't say avoid it completely, but it's certainly not essential.

So, as you can tell I didn't care much for The Thirsty Dead, but Blood Thirst is very cool and in my opinion the superior film in this collection, by far. In fact I like to think this is just a nice looking Blood Thirst DVD with a bonus feature of The Thirsty Dead as a loosely similar tale of bloody immortality that also has the word "Thirst" in the title. Pick it up, but only for Blood Thirst.

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