A photographer for a men's magazine is disturbed by a recurring dream he has that he is killing his models by various gruesome means. Then he discovers that his city is being terrorized by ... See full summary »
"Blood Mania" focuses on an unhinged heiress who murders her terminally ill father, a doctor—not to keep the money herself, but rather with the intent to help get his younger, attractive colleague (Peter Carpenter) out of fifty thousand dollars' worth of debt to an extortionist blackmailing him over his past work as a covert abortionist. Things get complicated (and violent) when the woman's sister arrives for the reading of the will.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that "Blood Mania" is high-brow cinema; it's many things, but it's definitely not that. However, I feel this film has taken a bit of an undeserved lashing from genre fans that it may not necessarily deserve. With a title like "Blood Mania," the film inherently makes promises it doesn't necessarily deliver on, but does that mean it's the disaster the many have painted it as? I don't think so.
The film, as many have noted, does play out like a sordid melodrama for much of its middle and latter half, but there is a constant sinister undertone beneath it that follows it through to the conclusion. This is largely helped by Maria De Aragon's performance as the sex-crazed, sociopathic femme fatale. Where the film does deliver is in the skin department, but it does have the distinction of being indiscriminate; for every shot of the svelte De Aragon, Vicki Green, or Reagan Wilson, there is a corresponding shot of the film's hunky lead, Carpenter, who bares just as much for the camera (and is also as morally corrupt as De Aragon).
Sex and soap opera aside, what I found especially fascinating about the film was its psychotronic and truly commendable cinematography, something one rarely expects out of a film like this. It opens with a hallucinatory sequence of a woman running through the darkness, stalling in freeze frames lit with various colors, which invoke Mario Bava and predate Dario Argento at his height. The film is colorful and richly detailed in terms of visuals, and the mansion setting is true California Gothic at its finest. The writing itself is actually not half-bad either; there is a bit of stilted dialogue, but there is a backbone to the film in terms of narrative that is often more noir than it is horror. The promotional material for the film in 1970 promised an explosive and shocking conclusion (ala William Castle's "Homicidal"), and while it doesn't necessarily shock, there is a trippy murder scene followed by an even trippier closing bit. Masterful? Not necessarily. Memorable? Sure. Punctuating the entire film is an equally psychedelic and often unnerving score.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this film, and truly feel that it's gotten the reputation it has due to mismatched expectations. I'd liken the film more to a "horror noir" if anything. I think if audiences can go into the film without the expectations conjured up by the sensationalistic title, they will find an amusing, relatively well-shot psychothriller that has more in common with the thriller and noir films of the forties and fifties. While it's not high art, I can say "Blood Mania" is one of the more skillfully-made (and entertaining) pieces of seventies sleaze I've seen. 7/10.
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