Wednesday, March 1, 2017


     The recipient of one those wonderfully flagrantly and totally false ad campaigns which attempted to amp up the horror elements in non-horror plots, BLOOD MANIA was the first of a pair of films that producer/star Peter Carpenter (Russ Meyer's VIXEN) did for Crown International. Taken along with its Crown sibling 1971's POINT OF TERROR in which Tom Jones wanna-be lounge singer Carpenter falls into the clutches of record mogul Dyanne "Ilsa" Thorne and 1970's suburban wife swapping opus LOVE ME LIKE I DO (also with Thorne and his BLOOD MANIA co-star Maria De Aragon) they form an unholy-like trilogy of post hippie 1970's California kitsch.
     With the poster promising "Terror that rips the scream right out of your throat" along with blood smeared hands and a busty naked brunette carrying a skeleton all culminating in "shocking climax" that'll "jolt you right out of your seat", we'd expect semi-sleazy 70's exploitation horror. Instead however we get gaudily lit pseudo-psychological thriller that unfolds like a daytime soap opera plot with some snatches of bare flesh and H,G. Lewis inspired bright red gore at the climax. 
    Directed by Robert O'Neill (ANGEL - "Honor student by day.. Hooker by night !"), it's awash in velvet upholstered couches, huge sideburns, ankle deep shag carpeting and men's ties you could land a jet on along with females who would seem to spend their entire life in lace nighties and pink feathered boas all bathed in almost day-glo like colors that make your head swim. Playing on double and triple bills into the early 80's it must have a few patrons scratching their head in bewilderment (or stomping out of the theater in frustration).

      Opening with a bizarre animated credit sequence followed by a woman running through colored gel lighting we're then introduced to hunky Dr. Craig Cooper who's interrupted in an early morning bath with his wife Cheryl (Playboy Playmate Oct. 67 Reagan Wilson) by a call from Larry (Arell Blanton from BLACK GUNN - and only identified as "Blackmailer" in the credits) who is blackmailing the doc for some abortions he performed back in college. In what would seem to be his only patient case through the course of the film, Dr. Cooper heads to the mansion of the bedridden Dr. Waterman (Eric Allison THE CREMATORS) whose despised and nymphomaniac daughter Victoria (Maria De Aragon WONDER WOMEN  - and allegedly Greedo in STAR WARS) who when not attempting to seduce pool boys is busily lusting after Doc Coop. Lots of seething resentment and sexual tension lust here about as Dr. Waterman also hates Dr. Cooper as he sees the younger doctor attempting to take over his clinic and his only pleasure appears to be watching his daughter get continuously shot down in her attempted amorous conquest of the younger doctor (plus there's also a bit of hinted at incest).
     After engaging in some candle-lit amyl nitrate fueled sex Cooper tells Victoria that he needs $50,000 in order to pay off his blackmailer (or "tax problems" as he refers to it) which sends the hot & horny Victoria off on plan to kill her father thereby getting her hands on the inheritance (along with Cooper). Dosing her father with poison, she does a striptease in front of a mirror causing her fathers to keel over dead for which Dr. Cooper labels the death a stroke in order to get his hands on the money. 
    The family lawyer arrives (Alex Rocco DETROIT 9000) and informs Victoria that the money is actually going to younger sister Gail (Vicki Peters THE MANSON MASSACRE and Playboy April 72 Playmate) who shows up to claim her inheritance with her "friend" Kate (Jacqueline Dalya CHARLIE CHAN IN RIO). Changing tactics Copper now sets his sights on Gail with the couple go for long walks on the beach and attending a Renaissance festival while the increasingly psychotic Victoria begins her revenge.

     Bathed in eye popping color with film-noir like use of shadows and compositions shot through other objects in the foreground, this very lurid and gaudy example of 70's drive-in cinema is very beautifully shot by Al Adamson regular Gary Graver (I SPIT ON YOUR CORPSE) who took over from busy exploitation cinematographer Bob Maxwell (ASTRO ZOMBIES), who between the two of them seemed to have shot practically every low budget film in the 70's with Maxwell also shooting the above mentioned LOVE ME LIKE I DO and POINT OF TERROR. Paced with all the urgency of drying cement at certain points, with its dark interiors bathed in psychedelic like lighting housing a dysfunctional family BLOOD MANIA brings to mind a more slickly produced & less zoom happy Jess Franco vehicle. 
    Moving to a slightly bloody and downbeat ending, its main plot bares more than a passing resemblance to its twin feature POINT OF TERROR with a somewhat moral leading male drawn into a tawdry romance for the want of money. In spite of all the soap opera trappings there is some interesting stuff lurking about including a veritable feast for fans of all things related to 70's tackiness and the performance of De Aragon in the role of the bitchy Victoria is something to behold as she gleefully chews up gobs of scenery. Leslie Simms (THE LAST AMERICAN VIRGIN) has fun time in the role of the household nurse bringing some comedy relief to the proceedings while the great Alex Rocco is mostly wasted in the thankless role as the lawyer who basically just shows up to read the will.  
    In a sure sign that we are living a true golden age of home video Vinegar Syndrome recently released BLOOD MANIA and POINT OF TERROR in a glorious Blu-ray double which features mind blowing colorful transfers of both features in 2K scans from the original camera negatives.


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