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November 15, 2016

I Drink Your Blood

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David Durston - 1971
Grindhouse Releasing BD Two-disc set Regions ABC

While it's touched upon in the liner notes for this new blu-ray release, what really struck me about I Drink Your Blood can be viewed as a parable about Richard Nixon's America. Taking place in a small, virtual ghost town, the remaining population is a handful of white people and a nearby construction crew. It's not enough that the visiting outsiders are devil worshipping hippies, but that the scariest of them include their East Indian leader, one very tall African-American, and what appears to be the archetypical Oriental Dragon lady, played by Jadine Wong, niece of Anna May Wong. Whether conscious or not, the threat in Blood are very clearly representative of the otherness that was, and for some, still is, what frightened "Middle America".

I have some vague memories of seeing the newspaper ads for the double feature of I Drink Your Blood and I East Your Skin from the time the films were released in February 1971. To be honest, I was living in New York City at the time, as a "serious" film student, mostly catching up on classics and European art films. As it turns out, the scariest images are those on that double feature poster. I can imagine that watching the film theatrically, the section of Blood that would cause the most screaming would be of the rats, hunted and barbecued. Of course the scene with the hippies gorging on meat pies tainted with the blood of a rabid dog would get the crowds whooping and hollering.

Does anyone know if David Cronenberg had seen Blood? Unless there's a film I'm unaware of, Writer-director David Durston may well have been the first to present horror through sexual transmission, well before Cronenberg's Shivers / They Came from Within. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Cronenberg's followup was Rabid. There is also that Lynn Lowry connection. I had first seen Lowry in Shivers, which was the first film to lure me to 42nd Street (because the New Amsterdam was the only theater in New York City showing the film, and I had read great things about Cronenberg in "Take One" magazine). Lowry's not credited here, and it was through reviewing the cast and crew list in IMDb that I realized the identity of that cute, mute girl who has dangerous ways with an electric carving knife.

Why a two-disc set? On Disc One, the complete theatrical version of Blood as approved by producer Jerry Gross. There is also Durston's preferred version which runs a little longer, has some humor that Gross cut out, and a better, more disturbing, ending. Plus there are commentary tracks by Duston and star Bhaskar (full name Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury) from the earlier DVD release, and a new commentary by actors Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney. Also cast interviews and an "Easter Egg".

Disc Two features I Eat Your Skin which was the Gross retitling of a Del Tenney film known either as Zombies or Zombie Massacre. No skin is eaten. Made around the same time that Tenney made Horror of Party Beach, Skin managed to sit on the shelf for seven years before Jerry Gross figured out how to show the film to an unsuspecting public. It's not scary, but it is mildly entertaining. A writer, modeled after Harold Robbins, is invited to a hidden Caribbean island where a doctor is finding a cure for cancer. The zombies turn out to be heavily drugged locals with eyes that look like friend eggs, and skin the texture of cottage cheese. Filmed in Florida, Tenney's zombies might be considered the unintended missing link between Jacques Tourneur and Lucio Fulci. The chief villain is portrayed by Walter Coy, most famous for playing the part of John Wayne's brother in The Searchers.

There's also the inclusion of Durston's soft core mystery, Blue Sextet, in which six people gather to discuss their relationship with the mutual friend, whose death was either suicide or murder. Even for a soft core film, the sex scenes are quite tame. For younger viewers, Blue Sextet is an example of that brief time shortly after movie ratings were introduced, when even some of the major studios released films dealing with erotic matters. As is usual for Grindhouse Releasing, there is an abundance of bonus features.

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Posted by peter at November 15, 2016 07:02 AM