Review Date: June 20, 2002
Released by: Something Weird Video
Release date: 7/24/2001
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1
I remember going to the drive-in in the early 70s. Of course, for me it was family movies like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I'd already be in my pajamas (since I never stayed awake till the end of the movie) as the film crackled through the tinny metal speaker hanging next to my dad. But drive-ins served two much more important functions that weren't of interest to me back then: A place for teenagers to make out, and to show double features of films that would never see the big theaters. Since then, video stores, multiplexes and Motel 6 have all made the drive-in obsolete, taking with it an important piece of Americana. Something Weird Video has endeavored to return those memories with their double feature drive-in disc, Blood Suckers
and Blood Thirst
. The sun's gone down, and the previews are about to start, so let's sit back in our cars and enjoy the show.
As the sun drops below the horizon, Blood Suckers
is first on the schedule, and it's a British film from 1971. Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower) is missing, having gone on a research trip to Greece and never returned. A trio of friends begins the search party for the lost Oxford scholar: Richard's student Bob (Johnny Sekka), his "unofficial" fiancée Penelope (Madeline Hinde), and the film's narrator, Tony (Alex Davion). In Greece, the trio adds Major Longbow (Patrick Macnee) who clues them in to what Richard's been up to. Seems he's found some new friends who engage in wild sex and drugs. Cue wild sex and drugs scene.
After finding out a lot more about Richard and his friends than we really need to know, he's located on the island Hydra. He's under the spell of the new love of his life, Chriseis (Imogen Hassall) and is in no hurry to leave. Richard is reluctantly brought back to England to continue his studies and resume his relationship with Penelope, daughter of the Provost (Peter Cushing). But Richard developed some bizarre new tastes in Greece, and they can't be satisfied in Oxford.
It's hard to tell what kind of film Blood Suckers
is. Is it an adventure film, a psychedelic sex romp, a horror movie, or what? My guess is, that is was meant to be all of the above. And this was done not to combine genres, but to make a generic film that could fit on almost any bill. If there was too much horror, they could just edit a few scenes and change the name, and it's a completely different film. Of course, I don't know this for sure, but it's fairly plausible, as the film has also been known by titles as diverse as Freedom Seeker, Incense for the Damned, and even Doctors Wear Scarlet.
It's this "one size fits all" mentality that really makes the movie such a muddled mess. If you make one trip to the concession stand, the characters will be in a completely different country and for a completely different purpose. What's interesting is that the scenes are so varied, you can see that the film could literally be marketed to any genre just by showing clips from one scene or another. Want to attract the crowd into psychedelia, sex, and violence? Just show the psychedelic sex/murder scene early on (there's never another one through the rest of the movie). Want to make the film look like a Greek adventure? Just show the parts with the gorgeous Greek scenery in the background. Want a horror film? Well, you get the idea.
There are some familiar names in the cast, again probably to attract various audiences. Patrick Macnee of The Avengers carries the adventure angle, while Peter Cushing (though in a very small role) will attract the horror fans. And Edward "The Equalizer" Woodward is, well, you'll just have to see the movie for his one scene where he links kinky sex with vampirism. Speaking of vampirism, this film suddenly becomes a vampire film in the last few minutes (which at least justifies the title), so be sure to stop kissing your sweetheart in the back seat for the finale.
We go to the Philippines for the second half of the double-dip, with a 1965 film called Blood Thirst
. This one concerns the mysterious deaths of young Filipino women, who are found with their blood drained. Local police chief Miguel (Vic Diaz) arranges for American sex-crimes specialist Adam Rourke (Robert Winston) to assist in the investigation. Adam plans an undercover operation, as well as making the moves on Miguel's sister Sylvia (Katherine Henryk).
Seems the dead girls all worked at the Barrio Club, run by Mr. Calderon (Vic Silayan). Adam is immediately entranced by Serena (Yvonne Neilson), a dancer at the club, and begins to pry Calderon for answers. He gets them, all right, as more cute Filipino girls succumb to the bizarre killer. Naturally, Sylvia will try to assist and only succeed in mucking things up worse, until it's up to Adam to save Sylvia and unmask the killer.
is a cheap film, very slow moving, and talky as hell. But I also found it to be the far better half of the double bill. Even if it's not the most exciting movie, at least it keeps a consistent feel throughout, and thus it's easier to follow and become involved with the plot. I personally think the filmmakers were trying to create a James Bond-like character with Adam, with his undercover work and his womanizing. Unfortunately, Robert Winston doesn't have the charisma of Sean Connery (or even George Lazenby), so it's not surprising that this didn't become a successful series. Still, you can see the aim of the filmmakers, something we sure didn't get in our first movie of the night.
It's enjoyable, and that's what counts. The killer's identity isn't a very big surprise and the creature's makeup is pretty stupid, but at least the story makes sense (mostly), and that's actually a rarity in super low-budget affairs (for example, Blood Suckers
). The finale of this film plays out quite similar to B-Movie classic The Leech Woman, but you weren't expecting originality here anyway.
What I really liked about these selections is that this is a true Double-Feature. These two films were actually released together, and probably to drive-ins. Often times films were retitled just to make them sound like they were meant to be seen together. The classic example of this was Jerry Gross buying an old voodoo movie and retitling it I Eat Your Skin, just so it could play on the same bill as his I Drink Your Blood. Here, I'm guessing that Incense of the Damned was given the more gruesome Blood Suckers
moniker, then the six-year old film Blood Thirst
was acquired on the cheap as a similarly titled companion piece. Voila! Instant Double-Feature! Ah, whatever. What did you expect at a drive-in?
didn't exactly get a pristine transfer here. According to Something Weird, it's digitally remastered, but they don't say what it was remastered FROM. It looks like it was remastered from a pretty scratched up print rather than an original negative, so it's a case of garbage-in garbage-out. The colors are faded, the picture jumps, and splice marks show up. Dark scenes (in particular the rooftop climax) are so dark as to be unwatchable. Normally I'd be pretty ticked off about a transfer like this, but I gotta say it actually fits the movie as well as the drive-in motif that Something Weird was implying. The scratchy print reminds us that it's FILM we're watching, and drive-ins never offered the best environment for quality film viewing. I hope video companies won't try to pass off less-than-stellar transfers as "Hey, it's just like it looked in the drive-ins", but in this case it works just fine. Blood Suckers
is presented full-frame, and not enhanced for widescreen televisions. I can't be sure, but I'm thinking it was intended for the common European 1.66:1 ratio since the closing credits seem a little cramped on the sides. It was probably meant to be seen slightly wider than this, but it doesn't harm the presentation here at all.
is not only the better movie, but it's also a much better transfer. I'd even go so far as to say it's an excellent transfer, one of the best I've seen from Something Weird. It's black-and-white, remarkably clean and crisp, and with fantastic contrast in several scenes . A few scenes are excessively bright, a few scenes are excessively dark, and pops and scratches do show up occasionally. But in general it's a great looking transfer, especially for a 1965 low-budget film from the Philippines. The high quality transfer might even be one of the reasons I preferred this movie over the first.
Sound for both films is Dolby Digital Mono, and it's more than passable for both movies. Occasionally some pops and scratches (just like the prints) will obscure a bit of dialogue, but other than that it's fine. Distortion is kept to a bare minimum, and the dialogue is quite clear.
Something Weird went all-out on this disc with a wealth of extra features. While these extras can all be selected from separate menus, the REAL way to go here is an option called "Let's Go to the Drive-In!" which pieces all the elements for a true drive-in experience, and that's the way I'll look at them here.
We begin with a collection of generic theater announcements. They don't advertise actual features, but were clearly meant to be tacked on before certain trailers. These announcements show ten times more imagination than the inane "movie quizzes" we're subjected to now at the multiplexes (which are really just soft-drink commercials anyway). In addition to the announcements, we get some trailers for more double features and a short (5 minutes) nudie film called Midsummer Nightmare. Then it's showtime for Blood Suckers
After Blood Suckers
, it's time to go to the concession stands (sorry, no "Let's all go to the lobby" ditties though). There are more generic announcements as well as some countdown to showtime segments and some more trailers. Another short sex film, The Horny Vampire comes here. This one's 12 minutes, which should be enough time to get one of those delicious Castleberry's barbecue sandwiches.
is next on the night's schedule, and even after that it's not done. There are still more trailers, and more announcements, this time reminding us not to drive off with the high quality speakers. And apparently we still haven't spent enough on food, 'cause the concession stand is still open.
Of course, all these extra goodies are available if you just select them individually, but trust me, it's a lot more fun to have them come up before and after the movie without pressing any buttons on the remote. And one trailer only comes up when using the "drive-in" option. The last supplement on here is a gallery of exploitation art with intermission announcements (which is not part of the interactive program, so you'll have to select this one on your own). The only problem with this feature is that you can't freeze-frame on any one poster (and that's a shame because there's some great posters here), nor can you skip back to any favorites that went by too fast. I also wish the "SWV" logo wasn't superimposed on all the supplements, either, but that's a minor complaint on what are some great extras that probably haven't been seen in more than 30 years.
If you're looking for something unique, I highly recommend calling a bunch of friends and having a drive-in party. Use the "Let's Go to the Drive-In!" feature for a three hour marathon, and be sure to put the remote away. Just watch these as the drive-in gods intended. OK, the movies themselves aren't exceptional, but I guarantee a good time will be had by all. I really like what Something Weird did here, and I wouldn't mind seeing some of the other drive-in titles they've done.
Movie - D+
Image Quality - D+
Sound - B
Movie - C+
Image Quality - B+
Sound - B
Supplements - A-
- Color/Black and White
- Running Time - Blood Suckers - 1 hour 20 minutes
- Running Time - Blood Thirst - 1 hour 13 minutes
- Not Rated
- 1 Disc
- Chapter Stops
- Dolby Digital Mono
- Original Theatrical Combo Trailer
- Theatrical Combo Trailers for: The Crawling Thing/Creature of Evil, Devil Woman/Dragons Never Die, The Embalmer/The She Beast, Night of the Witches/Dr. Frankenstein on Campus, and Orgy of the Living Dead
- Theatrical Featurette: The Horny Vampire
- Archival Short Subject: Midsummer Nightmare
- Classic Drive-In Intermission Shorts
- Gallery of Drive-In Exploitation Art with Drive-In Intermission Announcements