Archive for January 12, 2014

thirsty_dead_poster_01

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but if I were running a fly-by-night American film production company in the 1970s and looking to save a few bucks  by shooting in the Philippines, I’d probably go with some of the local talent behind the camera rather than bringing in my own. Cirio H. Santaigo, for instance, was always available at the drop of a hat to direct any B (or lower)-grade picture, so why not give him a call rather than bringing over your own guy? Sure, the overwhelming majority of Cirio’s cinematic output is decidedly underwhelming stuff, but at least flicks like TNT JacksonStrykerVampire Hookers, and Death Force were uniformly entertaining, even if occasionally for the wrong reasons.

Which is why I’m scratching my head as to why an outfit known as International Amusement Corporation hired American TV director (and more frequent TV guest star) Terry Becker to helm 1974’s The Thirsty Dead. He’s got a story credit on this one as well, though not a screenwriting credit, so maybe that had something to do with it, but still — people have been jettisoned from projects they were involved with at the script stage for reasons even more petty than saving money in the past — and present — and you can bet they will be in the future, as well.

vlcsnap-2013-09-30-19h59m52s166

Anyway, Becker made the trip over and the result is a pretty dull, meandering effort with his name attached to it. Here are the particulars : a death cult in the remote jungles that worships a shrunken head in a box named Raoul has found the secret to eternal youth  — drinking the blood of young women (it’s not working so well for me, but I’ll keep trying). To that end, cult leader Ranu (Tani Guthrie) and her trusty male sidekick, Baru (TV vet John Considine) generally resort to having their —- uhmmm — donors kidnapped, since volunteers are hard to come by, given the grisly fate that awaits them : they don’t die, but they become wrinkled, disheveled, and decidedly feral after awhile. So a steady stream of unwilling recruits is always needed. It’s not an easy trek out to cult HQ, either : the ladies are lead on a dangerous (and highly misogynistic) “perp walk” through sewers, a river, and eventually semi-dense jungle before getting to where none of them wants to go.

So, yeah, there ain’t much in it for them and they’re not to keen to hang around once they arrive.

Luckily for one of the fresh conscripts we meet here, Laura (Jennifer Billingsley, another TV B-lister-at-the-time), our white-and-silver-robed cultists believe, for some reason, that she might be a reincarnation of some goddess that used to rule by Raoul’s side back when he had a body or something, so she’s given the opportunity to become one of the “elite” if she wants it — provided she develops a taste for the blood of her fellow abductees (one of whom is an exotic dancer who’s probably carrying at least some kinda disease given how desperate she is for the attention of anyone with a dick,but hey, this was before AIDS, so maybe there just wasn’t that much to worry about).

Beyond that, Filipino exploitation stalwart Vic Diaz turns up as (what else?) a cop for a few minutes, and there’s some clumsy attempts at equating the cult’s treatment of its victims with how society treats the elderly, which is kind of a weird choice for quasi-socially-relevant subtext given that this film was being marketed to the more youthful drive-in crowd, but you pretty much know how things are gonna play out here and they proceed to do exactly that.

thirstydead

Interestingly, while this sounds — and is fucking titled like — a vampire movie, the “V word” is never mentioned, and the folks who get their blood sucked out of them end up becoming more zombie-like than vampire-ish themselves, so in the end, it’s some weird, obviously-not-very-well-thought-through mish-mash of genres that ensues here. In the right hands — or even Santiago’s — that could, I suppose, be interesting, but Becker isn’t willing or able to do much with it, unfortunately, and what we end up with is a plodding affair that has no more idea of what it’s doing than, say, a caveman or medieval peasant spirited through time and landing smack-dab in the middle the Las Vegas strip would.

bloodthirst

If you feel like ignoring my advice and checking out The Thirsty Dead anyway, you can thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, who have recently issued this, alongside more traditional Filipino vampire flick Blood Thirst, on DVD as part of their “Drive-in Collection” series of double-bill releases. While far from perfect, the 1.78:1 transfer looks reasonably good (and probably as good as it can), and the mono soundtrack is generally free of too much snap, crackle, and popping. There are no real extras to speak of apart from some trailers for other Vinegar Syndrome titles. All in all, the package isn’t the worst way to spend  an evening of your life that , by the way, you’ll never get back, but it’s miles away from being anything remotely memorable.