The Film: 2/5
A hideous monster is attacking women around the city of Manila and draining them completely of blood. The police investigation lead by Lieutenant Miguel Ramos (Vic Diaz) is going nowhere fast, so Ramos summons his friend and colleague Adam Rourke (Robert Winston), an American specialist in sex crime motivations, to Manila to assist with their efforts to track down the killer. With some help from Ramos' adopted sister Sylvia (Katherine Henryk) Rourke quickly becomes a thorn in the side of local nightclub owner Calderon (Vic Silayan), whose establishment employed one of the killer's victims as a dancer. Eventually Rourke and Ramos come to the realization that the psychopath they're after is not your everyday garden variety assailant and the blood he is draining from his victims is being used for a much more nefarious purpose than they had previously suspected.
Blood Thirst is one weird and surprisingly enjoyable flick. It starts out as a moody detective drama, shot in lurid black and white and set to a jazzy soundtrack. There’s a capable hero, leggy dames, bar brawls with plenty of faked punches, a smoky nightclub, and a killer who looks like the less attractive brother of the Toxic Avenger, or the Batman villain Clayface. Wait a minute, that last thing seems out of place. There are also stretches of the movie taken up by drawn-out conversations that will have you reaching for the remote, and the scenes where the monster preys on his victims cut away just before the actual attack. I have no problem with certain visuals being left to the imagination, but Blood Thirst frustratingly insists on leaving everything to the imagination. Whether this was because the filmmakers either didn’t have the budget to realize these violent scenes or they cared very little will likely never be known. The movie was filmed in 1965 but sat on the shelf for six years; by the time it was finally crapped out into theaters in 1971 it was even more antiquated than when it was originally filmed.
Robert Winston (the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fave The Starfighters) isn’t the most challenging actor to ever appear in a grindhouse flick, but he does well. Most surprising was Filipino exploitation stalwart Vic Diaz playing a character who isn’t a corpulent shit sack and doing a terrific job of it to boot. The actresses are attractive but they add little but eye candy to the proceedings. Director Newt Arnold, who later went on to direct Jean-Claude Van Damme’s breakthrough feature Bloodsport and serve as an assistant director and second unit director on superior films from Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and The Getaway to The Goonies and James Cameron’s The Abyss, does a competent job in spite of the occasionally lagging pace and lack of memorable action. The cinematography by Hermo Santos is good enough to invoke memories of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil. In the end though, it just isn’t enough. Blood Thirst has its virtues, but its status as a forgotten flick is well deserved.
For many years Blood Thirst was resigned to the public domain, resulting in an endless series of cheap DVD releases of barely watchable quality including a two-pack from Family Value Collection that paired it with Antonio Margheriti's Castle of Blood. Something Weird did the title better justice when they released it on a double feature DVD in July 2001 with the British obscurity Blood Suckers (that disc was later included in the company's 2003 Box of Blood collection) and was able to include a few nifty bonus features.
THE THIRSTY DEAD
Once again the women who live in Manila are in danger from the forces of evil. Mysterious kidnappings have left the police (including the one and only Vic Diaz in a smaller role than he had in Blood Thirst) baffled. Beautiful American expatriate Laura (Jennifer Billingsley) becomes the latest to be taken captive not long after turning down a marriage proposal from her love Francisco (Rod Navarro). Along with sharp-witted go-go dancer Claire (Judith McConnell), Bonnie (Chiqui de Rosa), and Ann (Fredricka Myers), Laura is forced by a group of men in brown-hooded robes (who later doff their garments to reveal they’re shaven-headed Filipino extras) to travel into the jungle and to a section of caves and mountains that serves as the home of a cult lead by high priestess Ranu (Tani Guthrie) and her second-in-command Baru (John Considine). The women are treated like royalty at first, but once the cult reveals its true reasons for bringing them there - which include human sacrifice and Laura as their long-prophesized chosen one - they must risk their lives to escape the temple or remain and die anyway.
How in the hell is possible to make such a potentially cool slice of schlock as The Thirsty Dead into an utterly dull and inept garbage heap? You would have to be the worst filmmakers alive, or perhaps even the best. Director Terry Becker worked mostly in television before taking his one and only shot at a feature with Dead and it really shows. The scenes are visually flat, the acting is serviceable at best, and the entire movie suffers from worst pacing than an insipid teleflick. All we have left to treasure are the scantily-clad female characters played by actresses with varying degrees of talent, with the exception of Jennifer Billingsley (Lady in a Cage) and Judith McConnell (C.C. & Company), who both do fine work as the moral polar opposites in this twisted situation.
The music score by Richard LaSalle (Vice Squad Women) is befitting of the composer’s television-heavy career background, and the costumes worn by the cultists could have been shared with the production of Logan’s Run. Becker makes the most of his limited Filipino locations, but any attempts at creating an atmosphere of quiet terror are immediately undone by the haphazard production design. Only John Considine (The Late Show) seems to be giving anything close to an actual performance here. His devout cultist Baru is an imposing figure but has moments of charm and ultimately comes across as a very sympathetic figure who suffers an undeserved fate.
Like its companion movie, The Thirsty Dead had been trapped in the public domain for years until it was granted new life by Something Weird as part of their voluminous library of double and triple feature DVD sets which had it paired up with the Ecuadorian oddity Swamp of the Ravens.
Both films were scanned in 2k resolution from 35mm archival film elements and presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Vinegar Syndrome often does the best restoration work they can with the materials at their disposal, even though the prints are usually damaged in places that are hard to avoid. Such is the case with the two films on this DVD. With its gorgeous B&W cinematography Blood Thirst was always destined to look the best. There are a few instances of print defects like scratches and lines, but for the most part the transfer looks crisp and low in picture grain. On the other hand, The Thirsty Dead looks like warmed-over crap. Colors are somewhat bold and brightened by the high-resolution digitization and I didn’t notice any missing film frames, but grain content is high as is noticeable print damage. Scratches, smudges, and the like abound.
English 2.0 audio tracks are provided for each movie. Despite the presence of mild distortion and defects in both soundtracks the music and dialogue comes through pretty clear and manual volume adjustment is never a necessity. No subtitles are provided for either feature.
There are no extras.
Far from being the best that Filipino exploitation ever had to offer, lovers of Z-grade trash cinema might find some time-killing enjoyment on this latest double feature set from Vinegar Syndrome. But without quality transfers or anything in the way of supplements I can’t see anyone but the truly desperate wanting to give this DVD a shot.