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This has got to be one of the strangest vampire films ever made, it's almost like a dream, as it moves from one scene to another. The plot isn't hard to figure out: vampires are terrorizing the townspeople. What's really weird is the fact that at one point it will be in color, and then it changes to sepia tint, and then back again. While not as bad as most Philippine horror films (John Ashley's, in particular), it is almost impossible to describe. A definite must see for horror fans or fans of the bizarre.
Sorry to demystify the cinematography but it was a question of COST.
Color film stock was prohibitively expensive then and the producers
couldn't afford to shoot all the scenes in color. This practice was
prevalent in the Philippine film industry in the late 60's/early 70's.
I remember a billboard advertising a comedy as "filmed in partly
color"(sic). If the visual inconsistencies tended to enhance the
narrative and add to the creepy character of the movie, well and good.
So, there it is--another mystery gone.
Incidentally, it is not widely known that Gerry De Leon was an MD but never practiced this profession. His family was in the movie business and he promptly went into it after graduating from med school.
Polished performances, outstanding effects, pathos, delicious and powerful antagonist, nod to spirituality, eerie atmosphere, scary moments, moody, and superb. A feast for cerebral viewers. Inclusion of diversely enabled cast members is an ingenious touch.
An evil genius vampire whose minions include a hunchback, a midget, a hot chick with sunglasses, and a rubber bat tries to save the life of his vampire lover by transplanting her with the heart of her long, lost sister. The sister, inconveniently, is still alive. Plays at times like an Ed Wood movie, at others like a classic, albeit low-budget, horror film. Made in the Philippines, which lends jungle atmosphere, interesting architecture, and enough catholic iconography to satisfy the Pope. Badly dubbed in English, including the fact that three completely different characters are, evidently, supposed to be mute and make the exact same, "Uhn, uhn, uhn," noises in the exact same voice, which is blissfully confusing. Features one singing cowboy scene, Captain Kirk-style martial arts, and a musical score that sounds like it could be library tracks but nonetheless is very effective. The film is sometimes black and white, sometimes color, and sometimes tinted a garish magenta, which actually works to heighten the atmosphere at least part of the time. Anyone who has read this far and is still interested will not be disappointed.
Atmospheric vampire of story about a vampire who comes to a small town
in order to secure a heart for the girl he loves. Its an eerie little
film, a bit silly at times, but entirely watchable. It won't scare you
but it will keep you watching (its more vampire drama than horror
Its a stand out little film that has the feel of a specific time and place that is uniquely its own. Set now, we see cars and trucks and guns the film has a decidedly Gothic feel and at times seems to be set in the 1860's rather than the 1960s. There is a religious nature in the film adds more weight to the proceedings. The film builds up a nice sense of good versus evil and of God vs the devil, even though we sympathize with our villain. Few films have a villain as well drawn as this one does, you hate him but you like and understand him.
The most memorable thing about the film, aside from the bald vampire, is that much of the film was shot in black and white and then tinted red or blue depending upon what was happening in the scene. Even though its odd to see at first, it does begin to add something to the film when you realize that the tints actually correspond to certain events in the film, and that people in the film react as if aware of the tinting. I didn't get it when I originally saw the film on TV (which apparently had the wrong scenes tinted) nor did I pick it up on the first go through of the recent Image DVD. It was only after listening to the commentary track that I really was made aware of how the right tints actually help the film seem creepier.
Not a classic, but a its a good little thriller.
"The Blood Drinkers" had a lot of potential that was wasted due to some
poor screen writing (or possibly dubbing). The storyline is a
considerably innovative reworking of the tired vampire myth. The main
problem I had with the film were the characters. All of the characters
(espescially Dr. Marco) have interesting back stories. The script makes
them all sympathetic. The back fall is that they aren't really
developed enough for the viewer to make some connection with them. The
story and the beginning of the film promise much more than the
That being said, it still remains an interesting take on the vampire myth and avoids a lot of the clichés that plague the genre. This is one of the weirdest takes on vampires since Dreyer's "Vampyr". Plus, even if it was for budgetary limitations, the mixture of color film and tinted black and white stock add a surrealistic feel. Director Gerardo de Leon seems to be skilled at creating a Gothic atmosphere in the style of Mario Bava. Overall, this is an interesting film that unfortunately doesn't live up to its potential but is still worthwhile. (6/10)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A semi-color Filipino vampire film with lots and lots of amazing
vampire action. The lead vampire, played by a bald Ronald Remy, is just
fine, particularly because he is ALSO a mad scientist, who must steal
the heart of his dying lover's sister to restore her. Plus he is served
by a hunchback, a dwarf, another cute girl, and the old mom of the two
girls he is involved with.
I call it "semi-color" because many scenes are black-and-white. Some are full-color, and others are tinted blue or pink. It makes no sense either. A completely innocuous scene of some men serenading the heroine is in full-color, while the hunchback attacking and killing two people, which you'd think would be worthy of at least a tint, is normal black and white. Its like a kid who just found out about filters.
The mad scientist, plus the many deformed vampires, all lead to great fun. Sure the movie makes no sense at all but who cares? The giant fake bat (de rigeur in any vampire film) appears to be a fruit bat, rather than a blood-sucking variety, and at least two of the vampires wear sporty shades while flitting around at night. That's a new one.
Lots of low-budget fun. If you haven't encountered 60s Filipino horror - this is as good a place as any to start. It's fun to compare it with, say, Mexican vampire movies. Actually I would argue that The Blood Drinkers holds up against even American vampire movies from the 1960s. Nothing we did until Count Yorga holds a candle to this one. (The British Hammer Dracula films, of course, leave the poor Filipino blood drinkers panting in the dust.) Whether you appreciate this movie for its loony qualities, or for its interesting plot and scenery, it's worth a look. It is NOT cheesy in the classic sense, by the way. The actors play their parts as straight as I've seen, and the monsters are certainly not camping it up. Yeah it's weird that there is a dwarf vampire and such, but if there WERE such a thing, it may as well behave like the one in this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To begin with, let me set this straight: none of the Filipino-made
horror films I've seen from the '60s and '70s have been very good. They
were local produce through and through, designed to emulate classic
pictures coming across from the west on a fraction of the budget.
Crudely acted and slowly paced, films such as THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD
ISLAND are often laughable by today's standards, employing cheesy
scares and an almost total disregard for the likes of pace, plot and
characterisation. Yet somehow, in some way, these films have a 'feel'
all of their own, something that distinguishes them from western fare
or indeed other Asian horror films of the era. Maybe it's the sweaty
jungle backdrops or the crude way in which attempts are made to jolt
the viewer through marauding beast-men and jarring music on the
soundtrack. Once seen, never forgotten is a good way to describe their
THE BLOOD DRINKERS is no different. I rate films according to how much entertainment they offer me, and this one doesn't offer a great deal. The acting is okay at best, and the pace is almost non-existent, with great long stretches of nothing much happening. The vampire plot is a predictable spin on Dracula, with an anything-goes mentality that incorporates a beautiful vampire henchwoman, a crazed hunchback and a sadistic little dwarf. Apart from the old-meets-new climax, in which the vampires are attacked by a horde of torch-wielding villagers and the gun-toting local police at the same time, there's hardly any action here, other than a protracted fight sequence with the kind of exaggerated posturing you'd find in an early STAR TREK episode.
Even though this is a bad film, there's stuff going for it, mainly in the film's look. Thanks to a low budget, only a handful of sequences are in colour. Director Gerardo De Leon decided to use this to his advantage by tinting the black and white shots with various red or blue filters, each corresponding with the on-screen action. Red signifies the approach of evil, while blue charts the progress of the good characters. It's a clever touch, and one I found greatly enhanced the film no end. Elsewhere, the influences vary from THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN-style paraphernalia in the vampire's lair to the use of spotlights shining on the eyes just like in Lugosi's Dracula, Ronald Remy, who reminded me of Billy Zane, is an nonthreatening vampire, who reminded me a lot of Peter Lorre in MAD LOVE; perhaps that was the intention.
For fans of so-bad-it's-good cinema, there's a scene of a man beating up a dwarf which is fairly amusing, as well as some truly pathetic rubber bats which make the ones in THE SCARS OF Dracula look like the latest animatronic models. Otherwise, THE BLOOD DRINKERS is a film just too dated and too unappealing to be enjoyed by the modern viewer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Though he had started his career as a medical doctor, Gerardo de Leon
went on to become not only a movie director, but the most awarded
director in the history of the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and
Sciences (seven awards, in all). He helmed film projects in many
different genres, but this viewer had, until recently, only been
familiar with three of his pictures, all in the horror category. His
1959 effort "Terror Is a Man," generally cited as being the first
Filipino horror film, was an excellently done reworking of H. G. Wells'
"The Island of Dr. Moreau," while the two films he directed with Eddie
Romero in 1968, "Brides of Blood" and "The Mad Doctor of Blood Island,"
had been fun, pulpy schlock exercises. (Romero would go on to direct
"Beast of Blood," the third part of the trilogy, in 1971, by himself.)
But perhaps the most impressive of all the films that I have seen by de
Leon is 1966's "The Blood Drinkers," originally released under its
Tagalog title "Kulay Dugo Ang Gabi" ("Blood Is the Color of Night"...a
more artful and fitting title, I feel), when its director was 53. One
of the most unusual vampire pictures that this viewer has ever seen,
the film amply demonstrates (as did the 1967 Pakistani picture "Zinda
Laash") that the vampire scourge truly is international in scope.
In the film, which is narrated by the uncredited but unmistakable Filipino mainstay Vic Diaz, playing a country priest, the viewer makes the acquaintance of Marco, a bald, caped, pockmarked vampire who wears wrap-around junkie shades and who is portrayed by Ronald Remy (viewers may remember Remy as the villainous Dr. Lorca in "The Mad Doctor of Blood Island"). When we first encounter Marco, he and his retinue--which includes a hunchback, a hideous-looking little person, a brunette hottie named Tanya, his dead bride (Amalia Fuentes) and his mother-in-law--are gathering in a crypt, using modern-day scientific equipment to bring the deceased, Katrina, back to life. The procedure is successful, but Katrina's hold on life is a tenuous one, and so Marco decides that her twin sister, Charito (Fuentes again), must be found, and that her healthy heart must be placed into the body of his beloved! (The viewer will recall that Dr. Christiaan Barnard only performed the world's first successful heart transplant in 1967, making Marco--who proposes to perform the operation himself--not only a pioneer, but some kind of bona fide medical genius, as well!)
"The Blood Drinkers" is a remarkable film in many ways. Perhaps most memorable is the look of the picture itself. While prosaic shots were shot in standard color, many of the vampire attack sequences were seemingly filmed in B&W and tinted bright orange; nighttime scenes were tinted blue; some scenes begin in color but switch to tinted halfway through, or vice versa; while other scenes, depending on the action on screen, will change tints correspondingly. The effect can be extremely artful; just witness the sight of the vampires strolling at night through a billowing orange mist, or the blue shadows of lace curtains on Charito's pretty face. The setting of the film--the jungles of the Filipino countryside--is an unusual one for a vampire outing, too, and the picture does not shrink from the occasional gross-out moment (such as the sight of a jagged, bloody neck bite). Several scenes cannot fail to impress. In one, Charito's elderly guardians, now turned into zombified vampires, stalk her at night (orange tinted during their attack; blue tinted after Marco whips them off). In another, Charito's boyfriend dukes it out with that hunchback and little person, as well as with Marco himself, who keeps vanishing and reappearing unexpectedly. The film makes good use of that creepiest-sounding of all musical instruments, the theremin (especially during hypnosis sequences) and takes especial pains to mention how important prayer and a belief in Jesus Christ are during times of peril (no surprise, as the Philippines remains largely Roman Catholic to this day). Indeed, not only are Jesus and prayer referenced, but at one point, Charito is exorcised of her hypnotic state by dint of holy water, and the mere prayers of that country priest seem to release Marco and Katrina from vampirism...for a short while, anyway. Another touching element: the depth of Marco's love for Katrina; he even allows her to suck his own neck for sustenance! The picture includes the most ingenious use of a flare gun in the history of the vampire film and, unfortunately, the fakest-looking bat (Basra, Marco's helper) in the history of the vampire film, as well. Also interesting to note: Although Marco's entire entourage is eliminated by the film's end, the main vampire himself (slight spoiler ahead) manages to survive and escape the wrath of the angry villagers. Offhand, I cannot recall another picture in which the diabolical neck nosher lives to suck another day; yet another element that makes "The Blood Drinkers" such a unique viewing experience. Is it possible that a never-too-be-realized Marco sequel was being contemplated?
Further good news regarding the film is that it is available today on a great-looking Image DVD. Among the many fine "extras" on this disc is an interesting commentary by film preserver Sam Sherman; a modern-day interview with Eddie Romero himself (good luck understanding his English!); and 25 minutes' worth of (silent) lost footage, which would have seemingly steered the film in an interesting direction, playing up Tanya's jealousy of Katrina, even to the point of attempted murder. That vampiric love triangle was sadly left on the editing room floor, but what remains is quite fascinating enough, and surely worth the time of any jaded horror fan who is seeking out something different....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Dr. Marco" (Ronald Remy) is a vampire who wants to revive a woman he loves named "Katrina" (Amalia Fuentes) back from the dead. In order to do that he needs to perform a heart transplant and the only acceptable donor is her twin sister "Charito" (also played by Amalia Fuentes). In the meantime, Dr. Marco must keep Katrina alive and so he has people killed so that their blood can be given to her. Naturally, these deaths cause concern among the local populace which makes it quite a bit more difficult for Dr. Marco to complete his operation. Anyway, what I found remarkable about this film was the unique technique of using red-tinted film to signify the presence of vampires. Rather interesting indeed. Likewise, the heavy use of smoke to imitate fog wasn't too bad either. On the other hand, being originally produced in Tagalog and dubbed into English caused the dialogue to seem a bit flat. Additionally, the heavy influence of Roman Catholicism was probably a bit too strong in my opinion. But this was a movie made in the Philippines so perhaps this was customary during this specific time period. In any case, this wasn't a bad movie but the overall production values seemed to be somewhat lacking. That said I rate the movie as slightly below average.
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