Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sangue del mio Sangue – review

Director: Marco Bellocchio

Release date: 2015

Contains spoilers

Many thanks to blog reader Alberto who has emailed me with a couple of suggestions of films for the blog – in both cases films I hadn’t come across. This one Sangue del mio Sangue, or Blood of My Blood, is a film that perhaps falls into the more arthouse end of the vampire genre.

It is available on DVD and Blu-ray but, as far as I can find, only in Italian currently. However there are fansubs out there in English.

Federico (modern) with Ivan
The film is strange in its structure. Essentially split into two stories both centred on a building in Bobbio – in the first story it is a convent and it is disused in the second story but referred to as a prison. The two stories have some of the same actors and one of the primary characters within both tales is called Federico Mai (Pier Giorgio Bellocchio), in the first tale he is the brother of a priest (whom he looks uncannily like) who committed suicide and in the second he is a tax inspector who looks to sell the Bobbio prison to a Russian oligarch (Ivan Franek).

trial by ordeal
The first film sees the interrogation and trials of Benedetta (Lidiya Liberman) as the priest Cacciapuoti (Fausto Russo Alesi) looks to prove that she bewitched and seduced Federico and thus allow him to be buried in hallowed grounds (and open the way for him to eventually enter heaven). However she seems capable of passing the trials and Federico has fallen for her just as his brother did. One thing that struck me was the use of tracks by Scala & Kolacny Brothers, a haunting version of Nothing Else Matters and their sublime piece Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, itself used in We are the Night.

Patrizia Bettini as the Count's wife
The vampire aspect is in the second story however. Although the prison is reported empty it is actually the residence of the Count Basta (Roberto Herlitzka). We meet his estranged wife (Patrizia Bettini), who describes the Count – missing, as far as she is concerned, for years – as a vampire but that is allegorical surely? The Count has a toothache and goes to his dentist (Toni Bertorelli) and it becomes clear that they class themselves as vampires – they are not immortal, as the Count says, and the blood no longer does anything for him.

not in photo
He also, that evening, spots a waitress, Elena (Elena Bellocchio), who stirs within the old vampire feelings (of a romantic nature) that he has not felt for some time. She happens to be the sister of Federico. If we were in doubt of the Count’s nature it is dismissed, perhaps, when a photograph is taken of him with Elena and her friends that fails to capture him – there is, instead, a glow where he should be… that said his wife does have an older picture of him on her phone.

Roberto Herlitzka as Count Basta
The film is perhaps more mood than substance within the story, leading us and leaving us to search for the meaning ourselves. However it is beautifully shot, well acted and, as mentioned, has some sublime moments on the soundtrack. For those seeking a defined plot this is not for you, however there is a gothic tone lying with the sense of mystery. I liked it. 7 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

After the Blood Rush – review

Director: Pete Trudgeon

Release date: 2009

Contains spoilers

On a double disc with the Vampire bitches – which was reviewed here as Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches - this is definitely the weaker of the two products. The cut price nature of the DVD (at time of review) and the fact that the companion film has merit may lead you to get this.

It is a shame, as well, as the filmmakers clearly had some ideas but didn’t have the budget, the actors or the technical know-how to pull them off.

a Blood Junky
The film is set in Hamtramck, Michigan and intertitles tell us of a virus being released that has decimated the vampire population, turning most of the survivors into blood junkies and (we discover later) stripping the powers of many of those not so impacted. We also see a conversation between two gentlemen where it is confessed that the virus was man made and a cure does exist.

George Pogacich as jack
Two federally backed vampire hunters, Wally Wood (John Anton) and Jack Cole (George Pogacich), question their blood junky snitch Dwayne (Johnny Gel). He gives them the location of a nest of blood junkies that they raid. Wally uses a sword, whereas Jack uses an assault rifle that is unusually quiet and splatters targets with unfortunately cgi bullet wounds – budget filmmakers take note, it is rare that things like cgi blood or bullet wounds actually work effectively. A cop is the blood junkies’ meal – Wally kills him, presumably because he’d turn otherwise.

Cut in to the scenes of the raid are scenes of two drunk guys wandering down an alleyway. They see three girls who have “missed the bus” … the girls end up doing ring-a-ring-of-roses round them before attacking them – these are vampires as opposed to blood junkies. We also get scenes of a man called Andrew Milligan (Gary Freeman) who blindfolds himself and is met by the three girls. They hand the man a disc and put a phone to his ear to allow a woman called Zandora to speak to him. Milligan is a disgraced journalist.

Michael Clark as Prince Mumawalde 
So, the two hunters are introduced by the mayor (Karen Majewski) to a wealthy businessman, Wilkenson (Billy Whitehouse), whose daughter, Elizabeth (Taylor Ariel), is a blood junky. She has been taken by Zandora and is being held. She wants the hunters and Wilkenson is willing to pay them to get her back (and Milligan wants a scoop). The story is convoluted and not well drawn out. Zandora has a fully powered vampire working with her, Prince Mumawalde (Michael Clark) – a homage, of course, to Blacula. His presence in the film became pointless, unfortunately.

poor framing
So the dialogue was poor, the acting didn’t help and the sound was poor so dialogue became lost (possibly a fault of the DVD, rather than the sound editing). The effects were poor, especially when cgi was used, lighting was too. But the worst thing was the cinematography and direction. There was no proper framing and the film reeked amateur. Now, all that might be forgiven but, whilst earnest, the story was convoluted but buried beneath the dialogue. It was all a shame because of that word – earnest. One really did think the film was the product of an earnest attempt to do something good. It just failed. 2.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Lempire’s Lament – review

Author and artist: David Williams

First Published: 2010

The Blurb: “It’s tough being immortal when you’re born suicidal…”

Such is the plight of the long-suffering lempire. Part lemming, part vampire, this rare and exotic creature is consigned to a fate worse than death – failure! And he’s right cheesed off about it…

As everyone knows, the humble lemming has a profound personality disorder: from the moment he’s born he’s hellbent on oblivion. In stark contrast, our good friend the vampire has… let’s just say… time on his hands! One is on a crash course with destiny… and the bottom of a steep cliff. The other’s got a lunch date with eternity.

Follow the death-struck lempire on his never-ending quest for the great hereafter in this hilarious, gloriously illustrated and suitably surreal comic-horror adventure.

It’s time to take the leap…

The review: Is hosted at Vamped.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

El Misterio de Cynthia Baird – review

Director: José María Zabalza

Release date: 1985

Contains spoilers

Apparently filmed in the 70s and then languished on a shelf until 1985, the Mystery of Cynthia Baird is also known as El Retorno de los Vampiros (indeed that is what the title was on the poor video print of the film that I watched for this review). It is certainly an odd duck of a film with two principle players and suffers, I think, from not knowing what it wants to be.

There is an almost euro-psychedelia to the vampirism displayed but the film does not do enough to hold that for us as we shall see.

the lovers
It begins with a couple on the beach, Bill Moore (Simón Andreu) and Cynthia Baird (Susan Taff, the Curse of the Vampire), they chase around, fall and kiss and are clearly lovers. We cut to them in bed and they bicker over the covers, snoring and counting sheep. Eventually she gets up to run a bath and he gets a letter out. She wants to know what woman has written to him and it’s his wife (María Salerno). This ends up with her dictating a letter to write back to the spouse.

before Saturn Devouring His Son
The whole set up worked well but then went on too long as the film strayed towards almost a dialogue driven romantic comedy. Anyway, things take a funny turn when Cynthia notices the print of Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Son. Bill explains the picture to Cynthia but she seems to go into a trance and hears someone say, “I order you in the name of all evil spirits to appear in your ghoul form.” Of course this isn’t the first time ghoul and vampire have been conflated and she sprouts fangs and tries to bite Bill.

first bite
Bill fights her off and then picks up a floor lamp and brains her with it (or brains a stand-in dummy at least). She falls dead to the floor, in a puddle of blood. He quickly dresses, gets a bag, somehow stuffs her in it and then carries her down steep stairs to the gardens below his townhouse and buries her body. He then goes back up and cleans up the blood before seeing Cynthia in bed. He gets a book out and reads that to kill a vampire one must impale or rip the heart out. He goes to the garden and digs up the bag – now empty.

going for the throat
During his sojourn to the garden we see a flashback to the pair meeting in a ruined castle – though they formally call each other by surname. He declares his love for her but she cannot reciprocate, she says, because she wont condemn him to the Hell she lives in and states that she is marked by a stigma. When he won’t take no for an answer she bears fangs and bites him – the scene hidden by a big graphic blood splat! As the film returns to him in the garden we don’t know if this is something that has happened or not.

Guillermo Méndez as Harry
Anyway, Bill gets back to his living room and gives his employee Harry (Guillermo Méndez) a ring. He asks Harry to investigate Cynthia. Cynthia comes in to the room, notices something wrong with Bill and suggests breakfast. Bill doesn’t eat (bar an egg, which he claims traditionally breaks spells) and then Cynthia – in another dialogue heavy moment – suggests that Bill’s wife is probably cheating on him. Bill gets a call back from Harry – Cynthia Baird died on April 17th 1852 and was connected to his namesake Bill Moore.

Bill's fangs
So far you might think that she is a vampire and Bill the descendent of her lover/victim. However he is looking at the Goya and goes into a trance himself where it is suggested he revert back to his true nature. He sprouts fangs and attacks her, biting her until she repeatedly brains him. She goes off to get dressed but, on her way out of the place, he grabs her ankle – his memory disturbed (he can’t remember the town house and is convinced he lived on the street where she now lives and the original Cynthia died). The two try to puzzle out what is happening – convincing themselves that they are both vampires (he even decides his wife’s illness and anaemia was his fault). But can it be that simple?

bite marks
The film drags just a little but speeds up when they reach the point I described above. I really don’t want to spoil the story by revealing what apparently is going on but, although the film’s pace improved its storytelling took a dive off the high board of disbelief leaving us scratching our heads, wondering how the filmmakers ever thought that the story would pass muster. It’s a shame because they could have done some interesting things but they needed to cut down on the banter and pitch in with more vampiric lore. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Bloodrunners – review

Director: Dan Lantz

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

There is a 2010 short entitled Blood Runners but if that was almost a post-modern noir then this, its almost namesake, goes back to an era that could be said to exemplify noir. Though I don't believe it offers us a film noir experience, prohibition, gangsters and crooked cops are the order of the day – and, of course, vampires.

So we are in 1933, and this small town has its share of speakeasies and bootleggers running alcohol. The police aren’t exactly concerned – after all they are all making a tidy sum by skimming from the top. However a new speakeasy has opened up – Chesterfields.

Ice-T as Chesterfield
The film starts with cop Jack (Michael McFadden) in Chesterfields drinking wine. His partner Sam (Dan McGlaughlin) comes in as Chesterfield (Ice-T), the band leader, plays. Chesterfield introduces singer Alexandra (Julie Ek) – the true queen of the night he says – and Sam is fixated on her but Jack has noticed something going down in the club and, having spoken to the cigarette girl (Tina Marie Connell), has put two and two together and realised that Chesterfield is running the show – despite his ethnicity (a race element is touched on but the film does not capitalise on it). The two cops leave, put on uniforms and go to shake down the town.

Michael McFadden as Jack
After a hard night they head to a cathouse run by Rosie (Kerry McGann). What we have seen is a new customer (Benjamin Kanes) enter, having ensured he is invited in, and take up with a girl named Violet (Tammy Jean). As Jack gets more and more drunk with Rosie (he has never met a bottle he didn’t like) and Sam hangs with patrons and gals in the salon we see the man and Violet together. He goes down on her and bites her in a… sensitive spot. In the morning Violet will seem a tad sensitive to sunlight.

cgi wounds
The cops might be on the take but occasionally have to do some police work and this time it is because a girl has been killed in the woods. They aren’t exactly the bastions of police work, however, at first trying half heartedly to get the hunter (Peter Pryor) who found her to confess to her murder and then blaming a preacher who is near the scene preaching damnation. Actually this scene underlines the biggest problem I had with the film. The girl, viciously attacked we are told, sports cgi injuries and the film relies way too much on cgi – bullet impacts, stakings, wounds – they look false, distract and practical effects would have been so much better. Actually a bit more gore wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

Anna and Willie
Be that as it may what we end up with is the cops putting the shake down on the new speakeasy, who cave very quickly. This leads them to intercept a booze run – but the truck isn’t carrying booze, rather it carries blood (with the concept that the vampires are hiding a blood trade behind a surreptitious booze trade) and this leads to the cops and vampires going to war. Drawn into this are young lovers Anna (Airen DeLaMater), daughter of Rosie, and Willie (Chris James Boylan), odd job man at the cathouse and busboy at the speakeasy. Jack has flashbacks to being a sniper in WW1 and the time he killed a man during a truce, who was actually a vampire feeding on the wounded, an event he has blotted with booze until that vampire turns up in town.

The vampires are fast and strong. Chesterfield can transform into a flock of bats (no-one else shapeshifts) and we get some of those bats killed by swinging a rosary in the air and whacking them. Holy water burns, stakes kill (removing the greater part of the head by shotgun seems to as well) and they avoid sunlight but we don’t see the effect of that. Chesterfield is referred to as the Master and he confides that he staked his own Master. Blood is affected by the emotional state of the victim and a virgin's blood is highly prized.

The story was straight forward enough. The acting varied but the principles did a good enough job – Ice-T was, as one would expect, good in the role but somewhat wasted. As I mentioned, there is a racial element that really isn’t played to any great level and much more could have been made of that. The biggest issue for me was the use of cgi, as I mentioned. The photography looked professional enough and there had been care to get props such as Tommy Guns and period cars – why a few gunshot squibs couldn’t have been employed is beyond me. Chesterfield in full on vamp mode looked awful but for the most part the vampires just showed fang.

This isn’t the greatest film ever but it had a degree of charm, some neat ideas and didn’t outstay its welcome. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Honourable Mention: Dark Realm

Ron Fitzgerald (Lilith) – actor and stage illusionist is no stranger to the vampire genre. As well as being in Lilith he has been in a couple of low budget vampire films that I haven’t yet managed to get my sticky little mits on and has also posed as Graf Orlock for a series of photos (one of which appears in this film).

This 2013 film, directed by Vinnie Bilancio, showcases his stage show and from the trailer I assumed the surrounding story would have a vampire edge. It doesn’t, as such, but there was enough vampire (and Goth) imagery to lead me to suggest that this is definitely of genre interest – though that falls into the stage show aspects rather than the story surround (which I won’t spoil). In fact one of the illusions is accompanied by a piece of music entitled, the Vampire’s Dance and, as he says of another illusion, it is some “dark, sticky vampire fun”.

starting the illusion
The film starts with him performing an illusion where he seems to remove his assistant’s head to the strains of Voltaire’s When You’re Evil. Just a note on the soundtrack, as it is fantastic throughout and I must see about getting some House Made of Dawn, but I digress. As he lifts the box, which allegedly holds the head, blood pours from it and he bolts up awake. Raven (Kaylee Williams, III Slices of Life & A Blood Story), said assistant, is in his bed and puts the nightmare down to butterflies – Ron has a 3 night engagement coming up.

murder, or is it?
As the film progresses we see plenty of Ron’s stage show in his Master of the Realm persona but we also see strangeness occurring around him. Raven has vanished and no one knows where she is leading him to get Lady India (The Sacrifice) in to replace her during the first night. He sees Lady India murdered and then suddenly she is fine. He seems to lose time, have waking nightmares and meet people from his past who are dead.

Master of the Realm
This is a budget film but overcomes that because it concentrates on the show – though the surround story is less important, in some regards, it does neatly fold things together by the end. The references to vampires are enough for us to give this a feature and you can get a stream of the film over at Vimeo and the DVD is available via the film’s Homepage.

The imdb page is here.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Honourable Mention: The Pink Panther Strikes Again

Directed by Blake Edwards and released in 1976, the Pink Panther Strikes Again was (technically) the fifth Pink Panther film… though most folks (me included) don’t class the 1968 Inspector Clouseau as part of the series, there being a different director/writer and a different actor playing Clouseau.

This one had the inimitable Peter Sellers (the Magic Christian) playing Clouseau – as is right and proper – and the plot sees his long suffering ex-Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom, Count Dracula) entirely losing the plot, escaping from the hospital for the Criminally Insane and becoming a megalomaniac super villain, ala James Bond movies, whose doomsday device is put to one use – deliverance of the death of Clouseau.

It isn’t my favourite Pink Panther movie but it is a great piece of classic comedy. However, you might be wondering why it is getting an honourable mention?

from the credits
Like the predecessor films it has an animated opening and in this one Clouseau and the Pink Panther (the Panther, of course, not the diamond that lent its name to the series) are featured in a sequence in which the panther takes on several film roles – from imitating Hitchcock to being in a King Kong gorilla suit. During the sequence the Panther becomes a cloaked vampire and shows us fangs. Not the film proper and a fleeting visitation but it gives me an excuse to mention a Pink Panther film!

The imdb page is here.