Released by: Vinegar Syndrome
Released on: September 10, 2013.
Director: Newt Arnold/Terry Becker
Cast: Vic Diaz, Robert Winston, John Considine
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A Vic Diaz double feature? Yes, Vinegar Syndrome, that would be swell. Make it so. And let’s do it in widescreen from nice film sources, the kind that will put those lousy ‘public domain’ versions to shame.
Up first is 1971’s Blood Thirst, directed by Newt Arnold (who went on to a prolific Hollywood career doing second unit work) and written by someone credited in the opening titles as N.I.P. Dennis. At any rate, the movie begins with a scene where a lovely lady heads home for the night after working late at a club in Manila. She’s soon found dead, hanging upside down, her wrists slit – the local cops, led by Inspector Miguel Ramos (Vic Diaz) realizes something is up and so makes a call to his friend in New York City, Adam Rourke (Robert Winston), an expert in sex crimes. Adam hopes they next plane to the Philippines and before you know it, he and Miguel are cracking bad jokes just like old times.
From there though, once Miguel has explained what’s happened, Adam gets to work. He starts investigating leads and making moves on Miguel’s adopted white girl sister, Sylvia (Katherine Henryk). Of course, everything leads back to the club run by Mr. Calderon (Vic Silayan), where Adam meets another foxy local in the form of an exotic dancer named Serena (Yvonne Nielson), who just so happens to be married to her boss. As Adam, with some help from Miguel and Sylvia, gets closer to uncovering the truth behind the murders, he’s attacked by an assassin in his hotel room. He shoots first but from here on out, things get dangerous… and there’s a killer with a face made of weird melted bubblegum or something.
Made in 1965 (and it shows – you wouldn’t mistake this for a seventies film) but not released until 1971, Blood Thirst was obviously made fast and cheap. It’s as much a cop movie as it is a horror film and the horror elements don’t really kick in until the last half, but there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Robert Winston struts around like the cock of the walk, making ladies do what he wants when he wants and obviously out to save the day, while Vic Diaz is just as goofy and likeable as ever. The ladies are nice to look at and Nielson gets a great dance number early in the film that’s actually quite well shot.
The black and white cinematography doesn’t hide the ridiculousness of the killer’s mask but it gives the movie a nice, almost noirish atmosphere. At seventy-four minutes or so, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome and if it won’t be a surprise to anyone even half way paying attention who the killer really is, the picture is well paced and entertaining. And the ending? It features a one legged man, a blonde in bondage, and our hero teaming up with ol’ Vic to try to karate chop his way out of certain doom. You can’t beat that.
The Thirsty Dead:
The second film is 1974’s The Thirsty Dead, directed and co-written by Terry Becker and once again set in Manila and begins with a great nightclub scene where a foxy cage dancer named Claire (Judith McConnell) grinds what she’s got while an assortment of bar flies look on. Oddly enough, shortly after she’s done she’s listening to a news report on the radio about a human trafficking operation and then, pow! Before you know it she’s been kidnapped!
The local cops (one of whom is Diaz, naturally!) are clueless as to what’s going on, they only know that this is happening a lot lately and that they’d better find a way to put a stop to it but they’re not fast enough and shortly after a stewardess named Laura (Jennifer Billingsley) talks to her boyfriend, Francisco (Rod Navarro), about her feelings on marriage she too gets nabbed. From there we voyage to a jungle where Laura and Claire meet fellow abductees Ann (Fredricka Myers) and Bonnie (Chiqui de Rosa). Their strange kidnappers make them walk through the jungle for a while and eventually they get to some caves inhabited by a strange tribe lead by a priestess Ranu (Tani Guthrie) and a priest named Baru (John Considine) who tend to a severed head kept on an altar. It turns out that these poor ladies aren’t going to be sold into slavery after all but instead drained of their blood so that the tribe may enjoy eternal youth at their expense! As the movie plays out, one will want to stay and join the cult, the others will understandably try to make their escape. Who will live? Who will die? Who designed the cave sets and why were the hired in the first place?
Goofy, goofy, goofy. This one is pretty silly and not in the least bit scary. In fact, once the girls meet the cult responsible for sending their hooded minions into Manila to kidnap them in the first place, they all get along surprisingly well. No one seems all that threatening and so the girls spend a lot of time just sort of hanging out looking good. The hooded minions themselves are pretty cool and the set design in the cave is amusing in that it looks like a set leftover from Land Of The Lost, but as unintentionally amusing as much of this is, it completely misses the mark as a horror picture.
A fun cast keep this pretty watchable though, and if you dig on beautiful chicks, this one offers them up in spades, even if they sadly remain clothed for the duration. There’s no sexy stuff here, but the ladies do look good. The scenes in the jungle are kind of cool and have an interesting exotic atmosphere to them while the opening sequence with the cage dance is pretty great as well. This is one where moments of the film are more memorable than the actual storyline, but you know, if you’re not too demanding, it’s entertaining enough. It’s almost more of a jungle adventure movie than the horror picture the title implies, but that’s not such a bad thing.
Blood Thirst has been a staple of bargain bins around the world thanks to its public domain status, but all of those presentations of the movie sucked. Vinegar Syndrome’s film sourced transfer was done in high definition presents the movie on DVD in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio and looking much better than it ever has before. Yes, there’s still some print damage and scratches here and there and a second or two where some crazy heavy black marks pop up and obscure most of the image, but contrast looks excellent and detail is very impressive for a standard definition release. Greys, blacks and white all look very nice and crisp and there are no issues with compression artifacts. The Thirsty Dead is also presented in 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen and it’s a nice, colorful transfer that offers up far better color reproduction and detail levels than previous DVD offerings of this title have been able to provide. There’s more print damage on the second feature than the first, but it’s still a pretty decent transfer.
Both movies get the English language Dolby Digital Mono treatment, there are no alternate language options, closed captions or subtitles provided. Clarity is fine for both movies, for the most part. There’s a bit of hiss here and there and maybe the occasional pop but the levels are properly balanced and there are no serious issues here. The movies sound fine when you take into account their age and low budget.
Aside from a static menu offering chapter selection there are no extras on the disc.
The Final Word:
Two Filipino oddities are presented in better shape than they have been before on this double feature from Vinegar Syndrome. Through in the ever important Vic Diaz factor, a bevy of babes, a goofy looking monster and some rad jungle cultists and the Drive-In Collection release of Blood Thirst and The Thirsty Dead turns out to be a fun way to kill a few hours with some genuine B-movie highjinks.