• I Drink Your Blood

    Released by: Grindhouse Releasing
    Released on: November 22nd, 2016.
    Director: David E. Durston
    Cast: Bhaskar, John Damon, Tyde Kierney, Arlene Farber, Elizabeth Marner-Brooks, Lynn Lowry
    Year: 1971
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    The Movie:

    Written and directed by the late, great David E. Durston, 1971’s I Drink Your Blood opens with an ominous scene in which a man named Horace Bones (Bhaskar) leads a cult of acid dropping hippies in a Satanic ritual out in the woods. After they all get naked and listen to a bizarre sermon in which Bones tells them ‘Satan was an acid head’ they realize they’re being watch by a young woman. Even though she was invited by one of their own, Horace is none too pleased and so he sends two of his minions off to chase her through the woods and rape her!

    She escapes the ordeal and heads back to the small town nearby. Here a woman named Mildred (Elizabeth Marner-Brooks) runs a bakery while a kid named Pete (Riley Mills) hangs around with his grandpa (Richard Bowler). The hippie cult heads into town but their van breaks down. After pushing it down a cliff with one of their own inside, they make their way to the bakery in search of food. They’re sold some meat pies and sent on their way. They take over an abandoned hotel in town and, after hunting down and cooking some of the rats they find inside, start partying. When Grandpa shows up, shotgun in hand, to take care of business Horace – the fiend – smashes the old man’s glasses and doses him with L.S.D.!

    By this point, young Pete has had enough. He heads out into the woods, shoots a rabid dog and the injects its blood into the next morning’s batch of meat pies. Predictably the hippies show up again, there’s no other place around to get food, and take the contaminated pies back to the hotel. Most of them scarf the pies right down and before you know it, they’re foaming at the mouth and going crazy! Meanwhile, a bunch of horny construction workers in town to build a dam pick up one of the rabid hippie girls on their way into town, spreading the plague – If things weren’t crazy enough already, at this point they go completely off the rails.

    Originally meant to be titled Phobia, I Drink Your Blood (which doesn’t actually feature any blood drinking) is a veritable masterpiece of trash horror filmmaking. This movie doesn’t screw around. It starts off with that fantastic ritual scene (involving the unfortunate death of a live chicken) complete with nudity and subsequent rape and it just keeps building from there. The hippies are, for the most part, pretty evil and by the time we get to lil’ Petey infecting them all with rabies, well, after what they did to grandpa it’s hard to feel sorry for them – even the pregnant one! Before you know it, rats have been cooked, old people have had bad trips, a hippie has been raped and things get ridiculously gory. Limbs are chopped off, a stomach is cut open and one character’s head is cut from its torso and then paraded around town by a man wielding a machete and frothing at the mouth. It’s fan-fucking-tastic.

    The performances are pretty great across the board. Lovely Lynn Lowry makes her big screen debut here as a mute hippie girl. Even here, early in her career, she shows that unique mix of sex appeal and otherworldly screen presence that has made her a cult film icon. Riley Mills steals a lot of scenes as the unusually enthusiastic Pete Banner. This kid is devious – once he gets his fur up over what was done to grandpa he winds up unwittingly unleashing a pretty nastic plague of sorts. It’s a bit of an overreaction on his part maybe, but hey, the kid gets it done. He’s a blast to watch here, and where a lot of child actors are more irritating then they are entertaining, Mills? He’s just a kick and a half. George Patterson as Rollo, the token black hippie in the film, is also great. The guy is just full of energy, leaping over railings and ripping through those backwoods with manic enthusiasm, but the real start of the show is Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury (credited only as Bhaskar) as Horace Bones. This guy is just flat out evil, grinning like a maniac whenever he gets up to no good, using and abusing his hippie cultists as he sees fit and not above abusing young and old alike if it suits him. He does it all – he wields a sword, he tries to steal a giant snake, he pours blood on naked ladies and he kills chickens. Rarely has the silver screen given us such a despicably awesome bad guy!

    Shot in an essentially abandoned town in upstate New York, the locations here are great. The houses around are ramshackle in appearance and the grubby old hotel is the perfect spot to hide a hippie cult. The plot isn’t particularly complex but it’s ruthlessly efficient and if, at times, it feels a little bit like Night Of The Living Dead with frothing hippies and construction workers in place of shambling corpses, so be it. The gore effects are primitive and done on a low budget but somehow completely effective and the score, heavy on psychedelic and surreal instrumental oddities, is just flat out killer.


    Grindhouse brings I Drink Your Blood to Blu-ray for the first time in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer that looks really damn good. Some minor scratches show up here and there and some small white specks but it’s nothing serious, and it’s never distracting. For the most part, the image is quite clean and very nicely detailed. The scenes that take place out in the woods at night understandably don’t show this off as well as those that take place outside in broad daylight with better lighting but by and large this is a really strong presentation. Skin tones look nice and natural, there are no issues with compression artifacts and the picture is free of any edge enhancement. There’s good depth and texture present here and the color reproduction is pretty much perfect. Black levels are nice and deep as well but the image is free of crush and demonstrates pretty strong shadow detail in some of those dimly lit interior shots that take place in the hotel. No complaints here, really – this is a pretty substantial upgrade over the older DVD release from 2006 in every way you could realistically want it to be.

    Audio chores are handled by a DTS-HD Mono track in English with optional English subtitles. Dialogue stays clean, clear and plenty easy to follow and the aforementioned score, that crazy, wonderful score – it sounds great. When those stings are used they really punch out at you but manage to do this without sounding artificially boosted or unnecessarily loud. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion to complain about and there’s better depth here than you might expect to hear.

    On disc one you’re given the choice of watching the original X-rated theatrical cut of the film or the reconstructed director’s cut. This disc also includes the four deleted scenes (removed at producer Jerry Gross’ request) including the original ending that wasn’t ultimately used that are put back into the director’s cut viewable separately. These are neat to see – more footage of grandpa tripping, some footage with our hippie cultist and his square girlfriend, a scene where Pete tries to turn himself into the cops and the alternate ending that you really should just watch for yourself. Optional commentary is available over the scenes if you decide to watch them separately that gives them some context and explains their origins.

    Carried over from the old DVD release is the audio commentary featuring director David Durston and star Bhaskar himself (available on both cuts). For those who haven’t heard this before, it’s a pretty great commentary with Durston in particular quite keen to tell his side of the story in relation to how and why this film came to exist. He talks about casting the picture, the shooting locations, the gore effects and using trained rats in the film (noting that none of them were harmed even if it sure looks that way in the movie). He also talks about the film’s distribution history and theatrical play and tells a lot of great stories about its origins. Bhaskar doesn’t have as much to say but also chimes in, talking about what it was like on set, some of the co-stars he appeared with in the picture and his thoughts on the film. It’s pretty interesting stuff!

    Exclusive to this Blu-ray release is a newly recorded audio commentary available only on the X-rated theatrical cut by stars Jack Damon (who played Roger) and Tyde Kierney (who played Andy), recorded December 22nd, 2015. They talk about the shooting conditions, noting that it was hot the entire time except when they shot the opening nude scene when the temperature dropped a lot! Brandy and Vitamin C came into play and saved the day for various participants in that regard. They discuss the dangers of leaping down a hill, working with the aged Richard Bowler who was an experienced stage actor, Bhaskar’s training as a dancer and what has happened to some of the cast members since the movie was made. They also talk about what it was like working with Durston as a director, how grown up ten year old Riley Mills was on set, the locations used in the film, thoughts on Durston’s original script, their thoughts on Lynn Lowry, how the giant snake seen in the movie unfortunately died a few weeks after the movie was made, producer Jerry Gross’ tendency to go for sensationalism and more.

    There’s also a featurette included on this disc that documents the film playing with I Eat Your Skin as part of a double feature put on by Grindhouse and Exhumed Films that took place in Pennsylvania at the Mahoning Drive-In no October 2, 2015. This piece runs just under six minutes and it features some footage of the screening, a look at the drive-in itself as well as input from various attendees including a couple who were attending for romantic reasons as I Drink Your Blood was the first movie they watched together.

    The rest of the extras are on the second disc are divided into a few different sections, the first of which contains some great on-camera interviews beginning with The I Drink Your Blood Show, a half hour featurette in which Durston plays host and presents a talk show format presentation about the history and making of the movie. He talks about the film’s ‘checkered career’ and offers up some trivia about the picture, and then goes on to interview some of his partners in crime like actress Lynn Lowry, advertising guru Barney Cohen, actor Tyde Kierney and actor Jack Damon. Carried over from the DVD, this piece is a lot of fun as the participants all stroll down memory lane together.

    David Durston: Going For the Jugular is a new hour long interview with the late director who starts out by talking about how, at six years old, his puritanical mother told him that back in the twenties there was no film censorship and how they took him to see his first movie – The Sparrows starring Mary Pickford! He goes on to talk about how movie stars used to come around to his house as a kid due to his father’s theater connections, his early work in the entertainment industry writing for television after the Second World War, the onset of L.S.D. culture and how he became intrigued with it that led to his working on a picture originally called The Love Drug after getting the drug from a doctor. Hearing him recount his experiences here is pretty trippy (ha!). He then goes on to talk about working on various other projects, how he was told to ‘go for the jugular’ and to stay away from vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein characters and people coming back from the dead when he started out making I Drink Your Blood. He then talks about how reading a story about a village in the Middle East getting rabies provided the inspiration for the film, working with the cast (reusing Bhaskar who he had worked with earlier on Blue Sextet), how and why he cast Riley Mills, writing a scene specifically to include Lowry in the feature, how the film got paired with I Eat Your Skin, reception to the film’s X-rating and more. Candid and quite upfront, Durston is a great story teller and this is quite a nice addition to the disc even if it does cover some of the same ground as the other interviews and commentary tracks.

    The interviews section also holds thirty-five minutes of footage from an I Drink Your Blood Reunion that took place at the New Beverly Cinema March 25th, 2003 with Durston and a few of the cast members in attendance, hosted by Johnny Legend. Lowry shows up about a third of the way through as do a few others for a pretty lively Q&A that takes place after the screening. There’s also footage from the 2004 Cinema Wasteland Convention here, seventeen minutes from October 1st with Durston, joined half way through by Lowry, addressing a crowd about the film and four minutes from October 3rd featuring Durston sitting at a signing table doing a quick interview. The quality off the footage here is pretty rough but it’s cool to see it.

    Next up in the extras section we get a bunch of great promotional material like the original theatrical trailer and radio spot and six different still galleries containing poster art, promotional materials, theatrical images and more. There’s also a selection of bios and filmographries for David E. Durston, Bhaskar (where you’ll find footage of him dancing like a cobra) and Jerry Gross.

    Also in this section are two German 8mm versions of the movie. The first of these is Haus Des Blutigen Schreckens and it runs sixteen minutes. The second one is Die Satansbande and it’s longer at twenty-four minutes. Both versions more or less completely do away with the construction worker subplot. They’re presented in German, no subtitles here, but they’re great to see – completely bizarre alternate takes on the movie we all know and love!

    The first of the two bonus features included on this disc is Del Tenny’s 1964 film I Eat Your Skin, which is the picture that I Drink Your Blood was double billed with often during its theatrical run. A low budget cheapie from the early sixties, this film notoriously sat on a shelf in a film lab for a few years after it was finished until exploitation distributor extraordinaire Jerry Gross double billed it with the killer hippy movie, I Drink Your Blood, at which point it did quite well for him. The movie itself is pretty goofy, however. Better known as I Eat Your Skin, the film is presented here with the Zombie title card.

    The movie tells the tale of one Tom Harris (William Joyce), a hunky young man who makes his living as a writer and who is talked into taking a trip to Voodoo Island where he figures he can get in some quality time behind the typewriter and hammer out his next best seller. He and a few other travelers arrive and are promptly greeted by a machete wielding zombie, though none of them know why. Eventually it comes to pass that the zombies need a virgin, and since there’s one in their midst in the form of sexy Jeannie Biladeau (Heather Hewitt), they’re basically going to be a pain in the vacationers’ collective asses for the duration of the trip.

    Directed by Del Tenney, this film, as clunky and goofy as it is, does feature some pretty cool zombie make up effects pieces and actually does manage to occasionally conjure up some eerie atmosphere. The black and white cinematography does a moderately good job of capturing the warm, swampy locations and it has its own quirky charm. Most of this is completely undone by characters that do things for no reason, a hero who won’t bother to keep his shirt on, and some distinctly non-frightening zombie attacks.

    I Eat Your Skin appears here in high definition for the first time and the picture quality of the black and white image is quite solid. Contrast looks good and detail is strong, blowing away all of the crummy public domain DVD releases that the film has received over the years. The DTS-HD Mono audio, in English, is also just fine. It runs eighty-one minutes and twenty-one seconds in length and features the I Eat Your Skin title card.

    There are even some extras related to I Eat Your Skin, starting with an eighteen minute featurette called Swamp Man which is an interview with William Grefe. It opens with the man himself hacking his way through a swamp with a machete, fighting off mosquitos, before then talking about his career in cinema. It’s all done with a sense of humor, as he talks about I Eat Your Skin – but not before he goes back home to get away from the bugs. He does just that, filling us in on his experiences working as a second unit director on the film. He’s got some great stories about working with Del Tenney, the sets that were used in the film, how he came on board to work on the picture, what was shot in a studio versus what was shot on location, the trickiness of working against high tide, some of the cast and crew her worked alongside and more. Grefe’s quite a character and he’s a lot of fun to listen to here. Also on hand is a trailer for It Came From The Swamp, the recent career spanning documentary that covers Grefe’s career in film.

    The second bonus feature film in the set is Durston’s first picture, 1969’s Blue Sextet, a bizarre sexploitation film that debuts on home video for the first time with this release and that runs eighty-nine minutes and twenty-six seconds and would seem to be presented here entirely uncut. The film opens with a strange scene shot in negative where a man frolics, nude in bed, with a trio of voluptuous women. From there, we learn about a man named Jeff Ambler (played by Jack Damon) who recently committed suicide. Well it turns out that ‘the great Jeffrey Ambler’ was a bit of a dog, he had a habit of messing with the lives of those he came into contact with. Once he passes, a half dozen of his ‘friends’ arrive to help fix up his home and as they do, they start swapping stories about the guy. As the various participants talk about the dearly departed, the truth starts to come out and we hear all about some of the kinky, quirky behavior that he got up to leading to his death. But did he really commit suicide like it was declared by the coroner or is there something more to all of this?

    Featuring music from ‘Paul Chin And The Dynasty’ the story here is no great shakes but it does allow Durston to stage some interesting set pieces – crazy beatnik shindigs with plenty of booze and babes, intimate encounters with the fairer sex, naked frolicking on the beach, a strange party with a giant dog and a cameraman, dirty pictures, and absolutely insane occult ritual of some sort that takes place in a sex dungeon, nude sculpting and more! Bhaskar shows up in this one too as a dancer at a party scene. Szulkin’s liner notes state that the stronger European cut was put out under the alternate title Leap Into Hell but despite the fact that this version bears the Blue Sextet title, it is indeed the full strength version of the movie. This is available with optional commentary from Jack Damon who talks about how he landed the role in the movie, his relationship with director Durston, his thoughts on some of the film’s stronger content and stranger more surreal bits, a few of his fellow cast members and a fair bit more. There a few bits here and there where he goes a little quiet but again, there’s a lot of good information in here about this legitimately obscure picture!

    Also on hand, of course, is the Grindhouse Releasing trailer collection as well as credits for the Blu-ray release. Both discs in the set include animated menus and chapter selection is provided for each feature. The two Blu-ray discs fit inside a clear Blu-ray case that also holds an insert booklet containing an essay in I Drink Your Blood by David Szulkin and two tributes to the late David Durston by Kierney and Damon. The Blu-ray case fits inside a cardboard slipcover featuring newly created alternate art and the first 3,000 copies of this release ship with a pretty great Horror Hypo – a fake needle packaged to tie into the scene where Pete injects rabid blood into the meat pies.

    The Final Word:

    The old Grindhouse Releasing special edition DVD release of I Drink Your Blood was fantastic but this Blu-ray reissue is leaps and bounds above that standard definition offering. Not only does the movie look and sound better than ever but it’s got some impressive new supplements and it comes packed with two additional feature films, also debuting in HD for the first time. The movie itself holds up incredibly well, a no-holds barred epic of nasty, exploitative horror that is as ridiculously entertaining now as it has ever been.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!