• Bloodthirsty Trilogy, The



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: May 22nd, 2018.
    Director: Michio Yamamoto
    Cast: Atsuo Nakamura, Yukiko Kobayashi, Yoko Minakaze, Kayo Matsuo, Midori Fujita, Midori Fujita, Toshio Kurosawa
    Year: 1970/1971/1974
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    The Movie:

    Arrow Video releases Toho’s early seventies attempts to bring Hammer Horror style gothic chills to a Japanese audience with their Blu-ray debut of director Michio Yamamoto’s The Bloodthirsty Trilogy.

    The Vampire Doll:

    The first film opens on a dark and stormy night with a young man named Kazuhiko Sagawa (Atsuo Nakamura) travelling by a hired car to the remote family home of his beloved Yuko Nonomura (Yukiko Kobayashi). Kazuhiko was away for a few months, and when he finally returns to visit her again, he’s basically attacked by a hunchback named Genzo (Kaku Takashina). It turns out he’s basically the handyman, and after that’s cleared up, Kazuhiko meets Shidu (Yoko Minakaze), Yuko’s mother… who informs him that she was recently killed in a car accident but that she called for him shortly before she passed. He’s distraught, of course, and doesn’t want to believe what he’s told. With the weather as bad as it is, he spends the night and hears the sound of a woman weeping in the room next to him.

    A short time later, Kazuhiko’s sister Keiko (Kayo Matsuo) wonders where her brothers has gone off to. She and her fiancé Hiroshi Takagi (Akira Nakao) hop in their car and retrace his steps back to the only home in the area he was last seen – and find out that there’s more to his story and to Yuko’s death than Shidu and Genzo have been letting on.

    The Vampire Doll starts off strong, drags for its middle stretch, and then picks up again in the last twenty-minutes or so. Clearly influenced by western horror pictures, the film is surprisingly devoid of actual bloodsucking, but it’s got its own quirky atmosphere. The makeup effects that make Yuko into the titular character are really well done and anytime she’s on screen, the movie is great. There’s also some really impressive, albeit fairly creaky, gothic atmosphere in certain scenes, most of which revolve around the Nonomura residence and the literal shrine that Shidu has built for her departed daughter. Throwing a crazy hunchback into the mix doesn’t hurt things either, but for the most part director Michio Yamamoto plays things pretty damn straight.

    The performances are okay, if never mind blowing. Yoko Minakaze is quite good as the mother with a secret to hide and Yukiko Kobayashi is very good as Yuko. Kaku Takashina does steal a scene or two from her, but for the most part its her show. The antagonists score high marks, making it a bit more of a shame then that the protagonists just aren’t all that interesting. Atsuo Nakamura isn’t bad as Kazuhiko but Kayo Matsuo and Akira Nakao are fairly dull and when the movie puts its focus on them, it tends to slow down a bit. Overall though, if this is no unsung classic, it’s a decent – and unique – slice of gothic horror from Japan.

    Lake Of Dracula:

    The second film begins when a young girl named Akiko Kashiwagi loses her small dog when he runs off into the nearby woods. She heads in after him and comes across a house she assumes to be abandoned. She’s startled when a disheveled old man jumps out of the woods.

    Eighteen years later and Akiko (Midori Fujita) is now a grown woman employed as a school teacher engaged to Takashi Saeki (Choei Takahashi) – she’s even got a new dog who is just as poorly behaved as the one she had as a kid! That old dog though, she just can’t get him off her mind. In fact, she’s even started having recurring dreams about him, complete with visions of that same old house she stumbled upon in her youth. Lately, Akiko has started working on a painting. Holed up in her lovely house near a serene lake, things are going okay until her neighbor, Kyusaku (Kaku Takashina), is delivered a giant wooden crate that, of course, happens to contain a coffin wherein rests a vampire (Shin Kishida). Complicating matters further is the fact that her sister, Natsuko (Sanae Emi), would seem to have eyes for Takashi, who is bound and determined to convince poor Akiko that all the weird stuff that’s started happening to her since that crate arrived is just in her head.

    Much more of a traditional western vampire film than the first movie, Lake Of Dracula doesn’t always make sense but it is genuinely cool. There’s a lot of atmosphere in that old abandoned – possibly haunted – house that keeps popping up in the movie and Shin Kishida makes for a pretty cool undead fiend. He’s not as elegantly ferocious as Christopher Lee or as charming as Bela Lugosi, but he does what he does quite well and brings his own quirky style to the part. Midori Fujita is also a perfectly charming female lead, playing her part convincingly enough that we’re pretty much instantly on her side, even while we know something is up with pretty much everyone around her.

    Like the first movie, there’s a good amount of visual style on display. The somewhat gothic locations are nicely photographed and there’s a good score put to use here. Production values are pretty solid across all three films in the set, actually, and we get some more than decent makeup effects here too. The pacing is also better this time around than in the first entry and the conclusion in this second picture is quite impressive. If we have to occasionally throw logic to the wind to try and make sense out of all of this, so be it.

    Evil Of Dracula:

    The third and final film in the set brings our attention to a schoolteacher named Shiraki (Toshio Kurosawa) who accepts a new position working at a remote girls’ school way out in the sticks near the mountains. Shortly after his arrival he sees what looks like a burnt-out car and is told by his driver that this is the remains of a nasty car accident that recently claimed the lives of two locals, one of whom was the wife of the principal at the school where Shiraki has just started.

    Shiraki, understandably, expects the principal (Shin Kishida) to be heartbroken over these events but oddly enough, he seems to be taking it all in stride. He even mentions to the new recruit that her body is, as per local custom, being stored in his cellar at his home for a few days. While he attends to all of this, he asks Shiraki to take over as principal until he can get his affairs in order. Shiraki agrees, and soon learns that there’s more to the principal’s story than he’s letting on… in fact there’s a whole lot more going on in the school as a whole than he would have ever expected.

    We know very early on where this one is going and pretty much how it is going to get there but that doesn’t make Evil Of Dracula any less entertaining. Even more so than the earlier two films, this one wears its Hammer Films influence very plainly on its sleeve. We get more neck biting action in this one, and much stronger sexual overtones than the first two films combined. It never ventures into bad taste, but it’s certainly the stronger of the three entries in the trilogy in terms of the sex and blood quotient.

    Again, Michio Yamamoto, who saves the best for last with this picture, paces the story nicely and the emphasis on interesting compositions and use of color result in a very attractively lensed production. The school location works well, it feels quite remote as it should, and the performances are pretty decent here. Toshio Kurosawa makes for a likeable enough lead and the supporting players all do perfectly fine work here.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    All three films are presented on Blu-ray – the first on its own 50GB disc and the two follow up pictures sharing a 50GB disc – framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. The accompanying booklet notes that these were remastered by Toho but that Arrow did do some additional cleanup work. Generally speaking, the three movies look quite good. Lake Of Dracula has a bit cleaner and more detailed picture than the other two but overall, things shape up nicely. Black levels can and will fluctuate a bit and color reproduction isn’t 100% consistent but overall there’s little to complain about here. Detail and texture are strong, if not quite reference quality, and there’s a reasonable amount of depth here as well. The image for all three films is quite clean, there’s very little print damage, while a natural amount of expect film grain is noticeable throughout.

    All three films get Japanese language LPCM Mono audio options and the second two films also include their English dubbed options in the same format (you’ll have to use your remote to select these as they aren’t available off of the menu nor are they even noted on the specs/packaging anywhere). The Japanese tracks sound a bit cleaner and stronger than their dubbed counterparts do, but either way, the audio here is fine. Balance is good and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion to note. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    The main extra, which is included on the first disc, is a sixteen-minute featurette called Kim Newman On The Bloodthirsty Trilogy in which the always amiable writer talks about his thoughts on the three films contained in the set, noting the obvious Hammer influences but also speaking to what they do differently. He also gives some background information on Japanese horror films that have come before and after these pictures and makes the case for the trilogy’s deserved placed amongst them.

    We also get theatrical trailers for each of the three films, still galleries dedicated to each picture, menus and chapter selection. The packaging is also worth mentioning here as it’s quite nice. The disc comes packaged with a limited-edition slipcover as well as some keen reversible sleeve featuring original art on one side and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin on the opposite. The first pressing of this release also comes with a full color insert book that contains an essay on the films penned by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp as well as some technical notes on the presentation.

    The Final Word:

    Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of The Bloodthirsty Trilogy brings together an enjoyable trifecta of films presenting a Japanese take on fairly traditional gothic vampire horror. The presentation for all three films is quite strong, and the inclusion of the featurette with Newman adds some value to the set, even if the extras are a bit lighter on this release than is the norm for Arrow. Really though, it’s the movies that matter most and each of these pictures is quite worthwhile for fans of the genre.

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




























































    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Darcy Parker's Avatar
      Darcy Parker -
      I saw the Dracula ones on Space back in the late 90’s, I have got to get this set!