Vinegar Syndrome’s latest Drive-In Collection double feature presents two blood curdling tales from the islands of terror. These two schlockers are lensed in Manila and both bear the familiar face of genre stalwart Vic Diaz.
BLOOD THIRST was shot in 1965 but sat on the shelf until 1971. From a pure horror stand point it falls flat on its face. Luckily, it plays very well as a mostly straight noir, albeit with a few horror elements. It’s on par with many such films released in America 15 to 20 years prior to its filming. It is presented in black and white with a classic jazz soundtrack. It’s packed full of shadows, smoke, monologs, asides, and bare knuckle brawling. Also like many of those films, it talks…a lot. Not to the point of boredom mind you, but I do want to give fair warning that you will be talked at a bit.
Manila detective Miguel Ramos (Vic Diaz) has his hands full when women keep turning up dead and drained of their blood around The Barrio Club. He calls upon his American friend Adam Rourke (Robert Winston), a law enforcement professional who is a world class expert on sex crimes. Rourke takes on the cover of a writer interested in the story of the girls vanishing at the club and earns the disdain of the club’s owner Mr. Calderone as a result. While visiting the club he becomes entranced by the dancing of the buxom and blonde Serena (Yvonne Nielson). Adam is swept up in the intrigue of the seedy club and swept away by the beauties of Manilla. Whenever trouble surfaces for the intrepid Rourke he manages to just barely get away largely in part to his life size dummy and a one-legged Filipino guardian angel. As he mugs and charms his way through the Manila nights he realizes The Barrio Club may be more than what it seems. As he realizes the scope of the crimes he and Miguel must race to save Miguel’s sister from an angry and ancient sun goddess who requires the life blood of young women in order maintain her beauty and immortality.
As mentioned above, the film is quite talky, as luck would have it all of the actors had their roles well in hand and did quite well with them. The effects are sparse, mainly make-up and flash pots, so there is no room for much error there. If there is any fault it is that BLOOD THIRST is much too staid for a horror film and is closer related to detective centered noir flicks from the ’40’s. The picture quality is quite good and the black and white is very crisp in Vinegar Syndrome’s transfer. The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen.
THE THIRSTY DEAD is another hippie, trippie, cult flick with a twist. Brigitte Bardot look-a-like Jennifer Billingsly (BRUTE CORPS) stars as the unfortunate Laura. She is captured along with other young women and hauled off from Manila into the jungle by tribesmen in Jawa robes. Rowing through the sewer and into the rivers the men haul the four women to an isolated mountain which houses the subterranean lair of a mysterious cult. Most of her companions are horrified at what may befall them but go-go dancing Claire (Judith McConnel from THE DOLL SQUAD and HOW TO SEDUCE A WOMAN) is awfully excited for the chance to be sold into white slavery in Hong Kong.
What is in store for them is much worse when the cult uses the girls as a part of their blood ritual. They draw some blood from the throats of their captives and immediately heal the wound with a mysterious, almost magical leaf. The members drink the blood after mixing it with some of the prepared leaf granting them a youthful immortality thanks to their living, or dead, god who is a disembodied head that resides on a shrine in a red cube. The side effect is that the girls age after each time they are drained eventually locked up as useless crones. Laura is the lucky one as she is regarded as the reincarnation of a goddess and is afforded a chance to become immortal which she declines. The girls find an unlikely ally in the remorseful high priest Baru (John Considine) who assists them in their plans of escape.
The story is fairly straightforward, if a bit confusing, with little offered in the way of backstory. The cult sends out guards to kidnap young women to provide the blood that is necessary to keep them young and immortal. The girls’ past is not important, just their present danger. The cult is mysterious and little is cleared up as the story progresses. It seems they keep a tribe of mortal guards who are able to travel outside of the confines of their mysterious mountain. The head in a cube is a bit confusing as well and as far as I can tell the titular thirsty dead are the cult themselves…maybe they are already dead and rely on the blood to keep them alive? Maybe it should have been called “The Thirsty Old”?
The picture quality is quite good with a couple of coarse reel changes. At one point the sound crackles badly but only for a second or two. The film is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen with a new 2k transfer. The region free DVD is available directly from Vinegar Syndrome here. The DVD will be released on September 10th. Check out the trailer below.