Pop Culture Gadabout
Monday, August 04, 2008
      ( 8/04/2008 11:57:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"A GREAT PLACE TO DIG UP THE DEAD – OR BURY YOUR CAREER!" In the grand tradition of top-heavy horror hostesses, corny puns and low-rent cinema, Morella's Blood Vision is the latest in a line of drive-in DVD anthologies provided courtesy of movie cheese-master Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia and Infinity Entertainment Group. A collection of three obscuro horror flicks from the sixties and seventies, two of which get introduced in shot-for-video sequences featuring the zaftig Morella, Blood Vision features Del Tenney's Zombies (which also was released under the much more evocative title, I Eat Your Skin), a Philippine horror item entitled The Blood Seekers and the seventies Southern survival tale Blood Stalkers. According to the DVD case, there's also supposed to be a trailer for something entitled Blood of the Man Devil on the disc, but I'm damned if I could find it.

Morella's brief opening sequences aren't much to speak of, though they do have that all-important one-take local channel middle-of-the-night feel to 'em. Don't know why there isn't an intro segment for Blood Stalkers, though I liked the way she stabs a turnip as a comment on the relatively bloodless nature of Blood Seekers. As a dirty-minded post-post-post-adolescent, I know I'd gladly watch more Morella.

As for the movies themselves, Zombie proves to be a very of-its-decade mid-sixties cheapie. In it, Tenney, who is perhaps better known for The Horror of Party Beach (once featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000), tells the tale of a swingin' bachelor novelist (William Joyce) who travels with his agent and his agent's blond bimbo wife to Voodoo Island to investigate dire doings on the tropical isle. Said evil deeds involve a mad scientist and his predictably fetching daughter, plus an army of zombies with bug-eyes and what looks like an excess amount of calamine lotion on their faces. In one of the movie's proto-dumb moments, our hero swims across a lagoon with a pistol in his pants, then pulls it out to fire at a zombie. Even the kids in the audience were shouting aw, c'mon! with that one, though they probably dug the bit where a fisherman's head gets lopped off by a machete wielding zombie. For the record, no skin-eating actually occurs onscreen, but we do get a lot of movie-padding voodoo dance scenes.

The Philippine-shot Blood Seekers is a notch more smoothly constructed, even if the speaking extras occasionally sound as if they learned their lines phonetically á la Abba. The plot centers on "a strange blood cult" that operates out of a barrio nightclub: its blond-haired leader is draining the blood of young girls to keep herself young. Our hero (Robert Winston) is an American (yup, another one!) called to the island to investigate the serial killings; though not as much the jaunty swingin' bachelor as the hero of Zombies, he still manages to romance the adopted sister of the island's dim police inspector - and, of course, rescue her when she's captured by the cult leader's bulbous headed henchman.

Though originally filmed in black-and-white, Blood Seekers was tinted post-production to give the illusion of being shot in color. Thus, scenes set in the movie's Barrio Club are bathed in a lavender glow, while the exterior daytime sequences are shown in a sickly sepia. Infinity's version of the film has a distinctly muttery soundtrack, but since much of our hero's dialog is comprised of unfunny wisecracks, it's no big loss. It's not as if you're missing any subtle character nuances here.

The third "Blood Vision" feature, 1978's Blood Stalkers, actually lives up to its gory title, though it takes its own sweet time getting there. The only entry with a vaguely familiar face (Ken Miller, who played the bongos in I Was A Teenage Werewolf and was one of the menacing gang members in Orson Welles' Touch of Evil), Stalkers attempts to blend Deliverance with Legend of Boggy Creek. If the results are a mishmash, at least you can see writer/director Robert W. Morgan (who also casts himself as one of the movie's overripe poacher swampbillies) trying something interesting. The flick concerns a quartet of flare-wearing tourists, led by brooding Vietnam vet Jerry Albert, who run afoul of the title Stalkers when they stay the night in a grunged-out deserted cabin built by the hero's dad.

Two moments in particular stand out: a sequence scored to a rousing gospel hymn where our hero futilely attempts to get help from a group of resistant townsfolk and a grisly reveal framed like something out of Herschel Gordon Lewis' Blood Feast. The lingering coda, where our shocked and bloody vet stumbles through the town past the people who originally refused to aid him, is also a nice moody touch. Too bad the director blows it by cross-cutting with end credit shots of the main cast grinning into the camera, a moment reminiscent of the timid finish to the movie of The Bad Seed - which also brought its cast back for an on-camera curtain call as if to tell us, "Hey, that little girl didn't really kill Henry Jones! He's just an actor!"

Still, that Blood Stalkers even has an ending to flub is more than you can say for a lot of flicks of this ilk. Its inclusion on the package makes Morella's Blood Vision a decent purchase for lovers of old-style southern-fried exploitation cinema - even if the folks at Retrovision couldn't bother to film an intro for it.
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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