Blood Thirst: Maganda!

Blood Thirst directed by Newt ArnoldBlood Thirst directed by Newt Arnold

Blood Thirst directed by Newt ArnoldFor those connoisseurs of foreign horror films who are desirous of seeing the 1965 Filipino obscurity entitled Blood Thirst, their only recourse, it would seem, is the DVD currently available from those maniacs at Something Weird. The picture in question shares the disc with another relatively unknown film, the similarly titled Bloodsuckers, and it was to see this British product of 1970 that I initially rented out this DVD. But Bloodsuckers turns out to be a terrible mess of a film, despite the participation of Peter Cushing and Patrick Macnee; an ineptly put-together head scratcher that suffers even more in comparison to Blood Thirst, a surprisingly good, well-made little chiller that manages to satisfy on all levels. Released in America six years after its Filipino debut, the film features gorgeous B&W cinematography by DOP Hermo Santos and comes off like a film noir crossed with a cheesy horror flick … and with winning results!

In the picture, we learn that a serial killer has been slaying young girls on the streets of Manila. Their bodies are always found hung upside down and completely drained of blood, their forearms slit exactly the same length every time. At a loss as to how to proceed, police inspector Miguel Ramos (played by the great Filipino mainstay Vic Diaz, who seems to pop up in just about every Filipino movie that I watch) calls in his American friend Adam Rourke (Robert Winston), a homicide lieutenant who is an expert in sex crimes. Hunky dude Rourke centers his investigations on the Barrio Club, an upscale nightspot where several of the murdered girls had worked. He thus encounters the club’s suave owner, Calderon (Vic Silayan, who comes off like a Filipino Cesar Romero), as well as its featured exotic dancer, the blonde hottie Serena (Yvonne Nielson), while being aided by Ramos’ sister, the emotionally conflicted Sylvia (Katherine Henryk). As the film proceeds, the viewer learns that the killer is quite a sight indeed; a lumbering mess of a man (?) with a face composed of innumerable lumps and hideous nodules. And as Rourke evades numerous attempts on his life while getting closer to Sylvia, he learns that the solution to this murder mystery might be even stranger than he had guessed …

Blood Thirst directed by Newt ArnoldTightly directed by Newt Arnold, Blood Thirst was filmed at the height of the secret-agent craze, the same year that the 007 vehicle Thunderball broke box-office records, and its debt to this international spy mania is very pronounced. Winston seems to be channeling Sean Connery in his performance here, and Rourke’s similarities with James Bond are many. They are both handsome men with hairy chests; both are chain-smokers, crack shots, quick with a humorous quip and smooth with the ladies. In addition, both go undercover to achieve their objectives in exotic locales, and both are good at karate and brawling … and at taking a punishing beating, as well. Rourke, of course, must contend with a much lesser degree of criminality than superagent 007, and he evinces more of the characteristics of the everyday dude, such as talking to himself and slapping himself on the head when he makes a mistake. Winston gives a highly likable performance here, as does his partner Diaz, a pudgy presence with an angelic smile that can appear as either sweet or diabolic, as the case may be. (For example, the last time I encountered Diaz, it was in the 1971 Eddie Romero film Beast of the Yellow Night, in which Vic plays the Devil himself!) Rourke’s love interest in the film, Sylvia, has been cast most unusually, as Henryk is not pretty in the conventional sense, and yet, because of her appealing nature and spunky disposition, she is a woman who grows more and more attractive as the picture proceeds. I was also happy to spot Bruno Punzalan in this film, here playing the thuggish bartender at the Barrio Club; Punzalan, like Diaz, also seems to pop up regularly in these Filipino outings of the period, and he has a doozy of a dustup with Rourke about halfway through this picture.

Blood Thirst is well acted by every one of its players and is overall a surprisingly intelligent affair; a film whose noirish elements gradually blend into pure horror by its exciting conclusion, in which blood, “solar electrical energy,” and the powder of roots of trees hundreds of years old are all combined in one mind-boggling mélange. The film tends to drag a bit in its central 1/3, but it never grows dull, and the stunning-looking B&W photography, artfully employing light and shadow, is always a feast for the eyes. Simply put, the film looks great, and is nicely captured here on this Something Weird DVD. For this viewer, the film comes as something like serendipity; an unexpected treat that I had previously never heard of before. To my great surprise, I must warn viewers AWAY from Bloodsuckers and urge them to see Blood Thirst instead, a film that is truly ripe for rediscovery …

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SANDY FERBER, on our staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012), is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough's finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a "misspent youth" of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship -- although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century -- and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror... but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle "ferbs54." Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club....

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  1. Interesting! A different mix of elements here.

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