Review Date: November 10, 2008
Released by: BCI
Release date: 10/14/2008
Region 1, NTSC
Widescreen 1.77:1 | 16x9: Yes
Although the seventies are hailed as the era for director cinema, there was one studio that stood proud with a vision that endured from film to film, director to director and genre to genre. No, it wasn’t Warner Brothers. It wasn’t Paramount. It was Crown International. Pandering exclusively to the drive-in market from 1960 onwards, they made film on shoestrings too flimsy even for the shoes of American International Pictures. They certainly didn’t make high art, but their films always had a nostalgic fascination with the culture of the times. It was never surprising when a plot would suddenly evaporate in favor of shots of teenagers driving down the strip in their new cars, or dogs stealing bikini tops on the crowded shores of the latest beach party. In an era now where all stories have been told time and again, it’s that unfiltered obsession with everyday seventies life that makes the Crown International catalogue so endearing.
The golden crown, with all their verite teen fun, specialized in two genres. Their teeny bopper flicks thrived throughout the seventies, brought on first by the taboo success of The Babysitter
in 1969, and then buoyed by American Grafitti
fast times with the hazy summer time classics, Malibu Beach
, The Van
and Van Nuys Blvd
. It was a simpler time then, when getting the girl was the be all, end all. That or scaring her senseless in their other drive-in friendly genre – horror. They started out inauspiciously with Bloodlust!
in 1961, but by the eighties they had some notable shockers in their stable like The Hearse
, Don’t Answer the Phone
. If there was one film that wanted to have it both ways, it was Blood Mania
. Part poolside teaser, part psychological slicer, it’s that film that aims to unite love and death like only Crown International could. Does it succeed? It’s packaged in BCI’s recent third volume of their Drive-in Cult Classics set, so let’s get manic.
After animated hands seemingly rise from the dead to tear down the film’s title, we’re transported into a Bava-esque nightmare of greens and reds. Brunette beauty Victoria (Maria De Aragon
) wanders through the darkness, and a sever looking gentleman stares at her with tragic importance. The budget on those colored lights must have expired, because as quick as it’s established, the scene ends and the film remains in a realistic palette until completion. It turns out that serious guy was in fact Victoria’s father, Ridgeley Waterman (Eric Allison
), and it’s actually he who’s in danger. Not only is he bed ridden and sick, but he’s also about to become the center of a sultry blackmail.
While Ridgeley’s stuck to the springs, Victoria is gallivanting topless around the pool, seducing anyone who comes near. She gives premature ejaculation a face when a teenager stops by to pickup his keys and ends up embarrassingly writhing in pleasure in her pool. Not able to satisfy her, he runs off, but it seems Ridgeley’s doctor, Craig Cooper (Peter Carpenter
), is more than up to task. He gives her a good roger, and instead of post-coital chit chat, he gets right to the point. He needs fifty grand, and he knows that Victoria can get it for him. She’s got a good will coming to her, right?
Out of lust and probably more just a casual frivolousness, Victoria offs her dad in hope for a big settlement. The will grants her all assets, but a footnote has her never-there sister, Gail (Vicki Peters
), grabbing the house and a hefty weekly living allowance. Victoria’s left to fight over the remainder, and without the cash, Cooper’s quickly lost interest. It doesn’t take him long to start gold digging in debutante Gail’s silver pockets and for Victoria to get a little…maniacal.
is one of those perfect misappropriations where the title promises one thing while the film delivers another. Outside of a ghastly murder during the finale, there really isn’t any blood, and the languid banter and meandering plot exposition is anything but maniacal. Rather than deliver horror, the Crown here instead delivers on young male fantasy, with handsome men of all denominations bedding women in the pool, by the fireplace or on the couch. It’s a rare kind of exploitation though, one seemingly untouched from the sleazy perversion that usually comes part and parcel with the genre. There’s an innocence to the whole thing, where love is actually a fireplace burning out of focus beside two lovers. Love may come frequently, feverously and toplessly in their pictures, but it comes with all the weightless innocence of a first kiss. In the world of Crown International, lovers actually enjoy long walks on the beach.
Female conquest sits at the forefront of Blood Mania
, and outside of a few scenes this could have probably been packaged just as easily as Weekend with the Boss’ Daughter
. Not really want you want to hear when describing a horror film, but simpler times call for simpler stories. The plot proper here is nonsensical and padded more than the sandbags of the superfluous maid. There’s really no consequence for any action, again part of the whole male fantasy, and the whole film drifts through a lack of linearity that matches the bookending dream sequences. The final death deals a few nice bits of blood and some forced perspectives and Easy Rider
-style quick cuts, and Canadian cherry Maria De Aragon even follows through with a few inspired bits of bitchy delirium but it’s no matter. Regardless of character, style or plot, this meanders into yet another listless slice of nostalgia like only Crown International can deliver. Walks on the beach, winning prizes at the carnival or kissing by sunset are the things that matter. Horror? Well…you can’t get nostalgic about murder, can you?
was previously released open matte in 1.33:1, and defying all expectations it actually looked quite good. It looks even better here with all that extra headroom removed in 1.77:1 anamorphic widescreen. Encoded in progressive scan and amazingly without any specking or dust, it looks amazingly sharp for such a low budget 1970 offering. There are times when the image is unbelievably sharp, like it was shot yesterday. That might not be what you want to hear when it comes to the Crown International brand of drive-in nostalgia, but Blood Mania
looks wonderful. There’s a bit of grain, of course, and some of the night scenes (very few, given that horror is always an afterthought here) don’t hold contrast corner to corner like they should, but it again, it is amazing how clean and sharp this frivolous little film looks.
By comparison the English mono track is lackluster, filled with a crackle and a flat sound register. Dialogue is always discernible, and the early synth riffs delicately pluck out nostalgia with little inhibition.
The standalone Blood Mania
had a trailer accompanying it, but as presented here in the Drive-in Cult Classics Vol. 3
collection, it’s without anything other than a chapters menu. It’s probably better that way.
is a mostly light lovers romp with a few horror scenes belligerently thrown in. There’s an effective quick-cut murder and some fun chewing of the scenery by the vixen Victoria, but for most the horror will come from just how sincere Crown International is with all its sunsets and gosh golly gazes. The image quality is surprisingly sweet, especially considering the film comes as one of eight films in the Drive-in Cult Classics Vol. 3
box set. Blood Mania
is really the only horror film in the set, but considering that horror is virtually non-existent, this set is instead recommended to all those nostalgia seekers of the seventies. Malibu Beach
is worth the cheap price tag of the set alone, but truth be told each of the other films offer that featherweight fancy that defined the drive-in era’s most enduring outfits. For nostalgia, Crown International is no doubt king.
Movie - C
Image Quality - A-
Sound - C+
Supplements - N/A
- Running time - 1 hour 20 minutes
- Rated R
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- English mono