A Taste of Blood (1967)

I suppose this could be called HGL’s magnum opus for the sheer ambition and length of the film.  It’s half again as long as any previous feature and it is kind of like a sequel and an update for the musty old Dracula tale.  Musty due to age, not a judgement on the story which if you want my opinion is fantastic and yet fertile cinematic turf.  Businessman John Stone (Bill Rogers) receives an unusual package from England.  Upon opening it he finds extremely rare 100+ year old brandy with notice of a large inheritance.  John seems to be a bit of a sot so he has no problem sipping on ancient brandy despite his busty wife Helene’s (Elizabeth Wilkinson) protests. Sadly for John he receives a few letters that inform him that he is descended from Count Dracula, that he has drunk some of the Count’s blood with the brandy and is now a vampire himself.  He gets a crash course in being a vampire and a hit list of the descendents of Dracula’s slayers who must now be put down for vengeance’s sake. 

Helene and her close friend Hank (William Kerwin) notice odd changes as the transformation process occurs and downright creepy behavior once it is completed.  John is never home at night or in the office during the day.  He is highly irritable, impatient, and prone to outbursts which are apparently vampire like behaviors.  He hypnotizes his wife and distrusts his best friend as he metes out lame excuses for business trips which are only done in order to scratch someone off of his hit list.  One of the names  comes to him as Howard Helsing has come to face the horror head on.  The horror being a creepy acting guy who has blue face and hand makeup on once in awhile.  Howard, Helene and the police then try to chase the monstrous John around town.  

Supposedly HGL thought of A TASTE OF BLOOD as his finest work and he isn’t too far off.  He is pretty much hitting on all cylinders here as a technically proficient filmmaker.  It is well shot though it is in his typical claustrophobic style, and it is well cast with the exception of Helene who may have been cast for two big reasons… both of which are on her chest.  I really enjoy some of the lighting he uses to make John look more vampiric.  It is just a bit wonky story wise.  Not as a critique, but it is a genuinely weird film.   The run time is quite long and it could be a much shorter and more effective film.  As it is it is a piece of late 60’s kitsch.  He also plays it light on the gore aspect even though he uses “blood” in the title once again.  The Something Weird Special Edition DVD is a decent print of the film and has a few bonuses on the disc.  The special features include a gallery of HGL exploitation art, the nudie short Nightmare at Elm Manor and a trailer for A TASTE OF BLOOD.  The disc also has a commentary track by Herschell Gordon Lewis. 

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