Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bloodlust! (1961)

... aka: Blood Lust

Directed by:
Ralph Brooke

Ralph Brooke, who'd previously co-written the cheapie monster movie Giant from the Unknown (1959) for director Richard E. Cunha, decided to make his own horror flick that same year; a take-off on The Most Dangerous Game (1932) that wasn't released until three years after it was made and never once cites source author Richard Connell. Cunha  returned the favor by helping out on this one as cinematographer, though it's difficult to appreciate his efforts on the ragged public domain version that's making the rounds. There are several cast members of note in here, including short blonde June Kenney from ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE (1958) and Lilyan Chauvin, who'd much later snag the role as the abusive Mother Superior in the notorious slasher flick Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984). The real point of interest here though is the presence of a young Robert Reed a full decade before playing patriarch of the Brady clan on the obscenely popular cornball TV series The Brady Bunch (which lasted from 1969 until 1974) and all of its various offshoots; such as the failed The Brady Bunch Variety Hour (1976) and later TV movies like A Very Brady Christmas (1989).

Two young couples; Johnny (Reed) and Betty (Kenney), the daughter of a Judo expert (!), and Pete (Eugene Persson) and Jeannie (Joan Lora), are out on vacation about a boat. Sick of skeet shooting and fishing, they come across a tropical, they-think-uninhabited island and, while their drunken captain Tony (Troy Patterson) is passed out, take a dingy to shore to look around. Their plans for a clambake are interrupted when Johnny falls into a deep hole, but never fear, the eccentric Dr. Albert Balleau (Wilton Graff), shows up just in time. Balleau is one of the only inhabitants of the island, and lives there with his unhappy wife Sandra (Chauvin), his drunk friend Dean (Walter Brooke), who he keeps around simply because he's good at chess, his mute servant Jondor (Bobby Hall) and a couple of other nameless henchmen. He invites the four back to his home, where he explains a stint as a military sniper during WWII left him with an unquenchable "lust for blood." It doesn't take long for the teens to realize they've stumbled upon a very bad situation, but by then it's too late.

Sandra and Dean, who've been carrying on an affair behind Albert's back and want to leave themselves, warn the young visitors that their host actually plans on eventually hunting them... all of them. And they don't find that story too hard to believe, especially after discovering a special taxidermy room with a dead woman floating in a tank and a skinned-off face being prepared for stuffing. Through a normal trophy room with wild cats, bears and other animals, Albert keeps his special trophy room, which is filled with stuffed humans. Sandra and Dean soon join the collection after they try to escape, then Albert plans an even bigger hunt; one that will involve Johnny, Pete and Captain Tony, who's been apprehended himself. Albert gives himself a crossbow with only three arrows and allows his prey - who are dropped off in the middle of the jungle - one gun with only one bullet. And then the game of hunting-for-humans begins. Back at the house, Betty and Jeannie try to escape a locked room and evade Albert's heavily-armed goons.

There's not much to write home about here in this eventual hunk o' Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder. It's cheap, it's unoriginal and it's pretty hokey. I also didn't like the fact that our heroes have ample opportunity to subdue, attack or conk Albert over the head with something (his back is often turned to at least two of them at any given time while he's ranting) yet insist on just standing around helplessly. Things are spiced up a little bit with leeches, a pit of quicksand, a vat of acid, a few bloody moments (a man shot with an arrow in the stomach, an impalement, etc.) and an ending that is somewhat unpredictable, but it's not really enough to save it. I did however like the fact that one of the females got to use her karate skills against a guard.

Bill Coontz, who had small roles in Cunha's Frankenstein's Daughter and She Demons (both 1958), plays a small role here as well as a crazed man lurking in the jungle. Brianne Murphy, from Jerry Warren's Man Beast (1956) and the awful TEENAGE ZOMBIES (1959) was the unit manager. She'd go on to direct Blood Sabbath (1972).


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