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Film Review: Bloodlust! (1961)

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“A group of teenagers vacationing in the tropics take a boat out to a seemingly deserted island. They soon find, however, that the island is inhabited by a wealthy recluse and his staff. While their host is initially hospitable, he quickly reveals his true purpose: to hunt down and kill each of his visitors, as he has done with everyone unlucky enough to set foot on his island.” (courtesy IMDB)

You know, sometimes, when you’re on a boat, fishing and frolicking with your best friend and your best gal, and your best friend’s best gal, and your best friend’s drunken sea captain’s best bottle of whiskey, the idea of jumping ship to explore that strangely deserted island that no-one has ever heard of and isn’t on the charts just seems too darn good an idea to let pass. And if anyone ever did think about the logical reasons why not to go, then we would of course be seventy minutes short of a film. Let’s think for a moment about what Ralph Brooke, writer, director, producer, might have done better with this seventy minutes…

Are you still here? Oh well, it was worth a try. Anyway, Bloodlust! (1961) borrows heavily from the plot of Richard Connell‘s often-imitated 1924 classic short story The Most Dangerous Game and its 1932 film adaptation, in which its main character is a big-game hunter from New York who becomes shipwrecked on an isolated island in the Caribbean and is hunted by a Russian aristocrat, etc, etc.

Bloodlust! is a teensploitation rip-off…I mean homage, and is still to this day a drive-in schlocky classic, for those of you lucky enough to live near a drive-in, that is. In this version of the story, the reclusive island psycho Doctor Albert Balleau is played by Wilton Graff, of Valley Of The Zombies (1946), Who Killed Doc Robbin? (1948), Million Dollar Mermaid (1952) and My Friend Flicker (1956) fame. But for much of his working career he went by the name of Uncredited, including the film he produced himself called The Screen Writer (1950). Is he overly modest, minimising personal risk, or simply considered insignificant? I know that feeling too well. How many times have I, Nigel Honeybone, appeared in films, including this one, and never been credited? See if you can recognise me on the Tree Of Death, which is right next to the Shrub Of Mediocrity – but as usual, I digress.

Bloodlust! pits Doctor Balleau against a young Robert Reed, who shows us exactly what happened to the first Mrs Brady, and June Kenney of Teenage Doll (1957), Attack Of The Puppet People (1958) and The Saga Of The Viking Women And Their Voyage To The Waters Of The Great Sea Serpent (1957), in a simple let-them-loose-and-hunt-them-down plot. Troy Patterson comes straight from his big break in Earth Versus The Spider (1958), via Attack Of The Puppet People, and proves as an actor he really knows how to get drunk and pass out. Obviously a method actor, like my old friend Oliver Reed, except he never knew when to pass out.

The rest of the cast is fleshed out with Bobby Hall as a henchman, who went onto Batman to play…a henchman. The lunatic in the forest is played by Bill Coontz, aka William B. Foster, who appeared in Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958), Beware The Blob (1972), Kingdom Of The Spiders (1977) and about a million different westerns on film and television. The doctor’s fearful wife is played by Lilyan Chauvin, who went on to a long-lasting and occasionally legitimate acting career in The Man From UNCLE, McCloud, The Man From Atlantis, Magnum PI, Different Strokes, Facts Of Life, Hart To Hart, The X-Files, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, CSI, and more recently Ugly Betty. Walter Brooke also has a couple of hundred television shows and movies under his corduroys, too (which must make a lot of noise when he walks around), so if he doesn’t seem familiar…well, then you obviously have a social life. Aren’t you lucky?

This is pretty stupid stuff, for sure, but it’s thankfully only a little more than an hour in length, and campy enough to be lots of fun for one of those nights when one wants intentionally to watch a bad movie. Bloodlust! is one of the worst offenders in the teensploitation horror movies of the sixties. It may be one of the worst things to have been made in the sixties, if you don’t count some Elvis movies and Pamela Anderson’s decision to go into acting. In the post-Bloodlust! era we’ve had Woman Hunt (1975), the Australian cult film Turkey Shoot aka Escape 2000 (1982), Slave Girls From Beyond Infinity (1986), The Running Man (1987) with Arnie, Deadly Prey (1988), Lethal Woman (1990), and more recently on television’s Farmer Wants A Wife, where the story took a turn away from the violence and just concentrated on hunting for sex.

On second thought, Bloodlust! looks pretty good by comparison, especially if you are into campy remakes. If other remakes borrowed from Bloodlust!, The Brady Bunch‘s trip to Hawaii could have been a whole lot more fun than it actually was, and Gilligan’s Island might have actually been watchable – and mercifully short. Anyway, please join me next week when I will take you even closer to the event horizon of the insatiable black hole that is Hollywood for…Horror News! Toodles!

Bloodlust! (1961)

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