The Blood Island Trilogy directed by Eddie Romero
Surely one of the most beloved horror offerings in the history of Filipino cinema, Eddie Romero’s so-called Blood Island trilogy has been flabbergasting audiences for almost half a century now. Here, for your one-stop shopping pleasure, I offer three mini-reviews to help guide you through these remarkable sci-fi/horror outings:
BRIDES OF BLOOD: Wow, does this flick make for one wild and woolly experience! Brides of Blood (1968), the first adventure in the Blood Island trilogy, must be deemed, along with 1959’s Terror Is a Man, one of the crown jewels of Filipino horror cinema. In it, 1950s star John Ashley plays Jim Farrell, a Peace Corps worker who comes to the eponymous Blood Island in the Philippines. He is accompanied by naturalist Dr. Henderson, who wants to study the effects of recent nearby nuke tests on the island’s flora and fauna, as well as by Henderson’s randy, bubble-bosomed wife, played by Beverly Hills (love that name!). This film is some kind of ultimate drive-in experience, and throws in much to ensure a memorable time. Thus, there are some scary, groping, mutated trees (still not as scary as the ones in The Wizard of Oz, though), sacrificed topless maidens, gaggles of scampering little people (that IS the PC expression at the moment, right?), battles with torches, bolos and flare guns, AND a roaring, woman-hungry monster that beggars my poor powers of description. Please don’t get me wrong; this is certainly not anybody’s idea of a quality film (even my beloved Psychotronic Encyclopedia calls it “terrible”). It is somewhat shoddily put together, and features God-awful dubbing and egregious day-for-night photography. Still, it does offer truly exotic Filipino atmosphere, interesting characters, decent-enough acting, and eerie native chants. Plus, the film culminates with a wild, celebratory native mating dance that must be seen to be believed; a most satisfactory windup. The bottom line is that I can’t imagine any fan of sci-fi, horror or action films not enjoying this pulpy funhouse of a movie on some level. Recommended.
THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND: I don’t suppose any character from the original Blood Island film, Brides of Blood, would ever have had the bad sense to step back onto that radiation-mutated pesthole again, which probably explains why, in part 2 of the trilogy, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1969), we have all-new characters, and even returning actor John Ashley plays a different person. This time, Ashley plays pathologist Bill Foster, who comes to Blood Island accompanied by Angelique Pettyjohn (beloved in 1969 by all Trekkers for her turn as the Triskelion drill thrall Shahna, and soon to be famous for appearances in porn cinema), who is looking for her lost father. So what’s shaking on the island now? Howzabout a chlorophyll-mutated monster that likes to rip his victims to bits, for starters! This film has the same exotic Filipino locales as the first and the same lustfully gyrating native dancers, but ups the ante with more nudity, a slightly more interesting story, nicer scenery, and lots more blood and guts. It also unfortunately features the same egregious day-for-night photography, the same lousy dubbing and the same slapdash editing that were the hallmarks of the first picture. And yet, the film is so pulpy, the story is so much fun, Ronald Remy is so convincing as the mad Dr. Lorca, and Angelique proves to be such an effective screamer that many technical faults can be forgiven. This film has absolutely nothing to do with the first — it is a sequel in name only — but I suppose seeing these things in order is always a good idea. Psychotronic Encyclopedia, which usually has a high tolerance for shlock cinema, deems this film “awful,” but I still had fun with it. Anyway, I guarantee that you will not find a better picture dealing with Filipino chlorophyll mutation anywhere … with the possible exception of part 3 of the trilogy, Beast of Blood (1970). I for one was sufficiently curious to find out…
BEAST OF BLOOD: Although the second film in the Filipino Blood Island trilogy, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island, has no relation at all to the original picture, Brides of Blood, Beast of Blood (1970) picks up mere seconds after part 2’s conclusion. In this final part of the trilogy, John Ashley returns to Blood Island, in pursuit of the chlorophyll monster that had wrecked the ship he’d been sailing on. He is accompanied this time by a sassy newspaper columnist hot on the trail of a possible scoop, and played by the scrumptious Celeste Yarnall. Once back on the island, we learn that Dr. Lorca (played here by Eddie Garcia, not Ronald Remy) survived the inferno that had culminated part 2, and is keeping busy by trying to attach a new head onto the chlorophyll monster’s torso. (Well, everyone needs a hobby, right?) Anyway, this film is as pulpy as can be, and dishes out more of the same mix of blood, guts, mutants and jungle adventure that were the hallmarks of the previous installments. It manages to incorporate maggots, quicksand, pitfalls, cobras, gorgeous native girls, gross-out surgical sequences, and a battle royale with hand grenades, knives, spears, machine guns and rifles… all to guarantee a rousing show. The chlorophyll monster himself is not given much screen time this go-round — the picture is more of a jungle adventure, and was filmed, Celeste tells us in an interesting interview segment on the DVD version, four hours in from the nearest dirt road! I’m happy to report that the great Bruno Punzalan returns in this, his third Blood Island film, and will likely strike most viewers as a kind of Filipino Oddjob. Please don’t get me wrong… these films are guilty pleasures at best, and are hardly exemplars of the cinematic crafts. Still, they’re presented with a good deal of panache, and Beast of Blood brings the series to a fitting close. Plus, hearing that gorgeous Filipino gal say “un-com-FORT-a-ble” is worth the price of admission itself!