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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

"Let it be known that Satan was an acid-head!  Drink from his cup!  Pledge yourselves, and together we'll freak out!" exclaims Horace Bones in one of the most ham-fisted opening monologues in cinematic history.  Bones considers himself the first born son of Lucifer and leads a cult of ill-minded hippies in demonic sex, drug and sacrificial orgies.

When their van breaks down outside Valley Hill, a small town practically deserted due to a controversial dam development project, the hellish hedonists take up residence in an abandoned hotel and begin to harass the sparse locals.  They assault a young woman and soon after her veterinarian grandfather confronts the hooligans.  The old man is quickly beaten down by the group, ridiculed, dosed with LSD and sent on his merry way.

Now as it turns out, the only place for these "Sons and Daughters of Sados" to find sustenance is a bakery that caters to construction workers in the area.  Pete, the old man's grandchild, finds an opportunity to enact revenge on the bunch in the form of a rabid dog.  The boy shoots the canine, collects the tainted blood and injects it into meat pies sold to Bones and his minions.  All hell literally breaks loose as the contaminated crew fall victim to the virus and in their delirium give over to their bloodthirsty impulses.

To call I Drink Your Blood a humorous romp might seem misguided, but the balance of jolts and jests do keep things infectiously light-hearted.  For every shock thrown into the script there is an element of wild black humor as well.  Director David Durston's surprising segues between calamity and comedy give the film a giddy energy which keep the proceedings from ever feeling too unpleasant.  The absurd nature of the story exhibits both wit and charm and leaves plenty of room for excessive violence.

I Drink Your Blood's technical merits do leave it firmly in the exploitation realm for better or for worse.  Fans of the genre will undoubtedly find much amusement in the feature, however.  There's a healthy allotment of flesh, gore, over the top acting and spirited dialogue to securely capture the viewer's attention.

For a small budgeted production it's assembled and photographed favorably and the acting suits the mood perfectly.  Bhaskar's charismatic turn as Horace Bones is a wonder to behold and George Patterson's Rollo ("Satan was a black man!") elicits considerable weight as well.  Lynn Lowry (The Crazies) pretties up the cast as a mute (a part written for her exclusively) and renders one of the more harrowing images in the picture.  The weakest link in dramatics is Riley Mills as precocious and vindictive Pete; his smugness and awkward line readings hamper the otherwise earnest performances, giving the film an unwanted contentious air.  You'll be begging for Pete's disposal before the end of it, trust me.

David Durston's sensational film also managed to break some ratings boundaries, being the first to receive an 'X' based solely on its barbarity.  More importantly for entertainment's sake, by never taking itself too seriously, it becomes a triumph in comedic horror as well.

Overall, I Drink Your Blood stands out as an exemplary piece of early 70's shock cinema.  It also serves as a timely comment on the hidden violence in Small Town, USA.  The sensational aspects of the narrative exploit fears of youth culture, Satanism, LSD hysteria, and Manson-like cults.  Released only a month after Manson's sentencing, there can be no doubt this was an attempt to cash in on the media frenzy.  Check it out, the power of Satan compels thee!

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