Wednesday, April 4, 2012

#15: Blood Mania

Drive In Movie Classics
Disc 4: Side B

Blood Mania doesn’t get better than its title sequence: A grim, pale-faced man pursues a terrified woman in a nightgown through a dark, unidentified netherworld. Jarring colored lights--red, blue and green--disrupt the darkness. The woman screams, silently. Disjointed electronic music plays. The whole thing seems to hint at some surreal, nightmare vision, like those of Mario Bava or Dario Argento. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the rest of the film, neither in subject matter nor style.

The credits end. We meet Victoria Waterman (Maria De Aragon), looking after her ill, bed-ridden, bitter father, Ridgeley (Eric Allison). “You probably poisoned it,” he grumbles when Victoria brings him his breakfast.

“Daddy,” Victoria pleads, hoping he‘ll stop.

“Don’t daddy me,” Ridgeley says. “I could choke to death on my coffee and you wouldn’t shed a tear.”

Next we meet swinging, side-burned Dr. Cooper. Cooper is Ridgeley’s doctor, who shows up late to their appointment because he’s busy at home, carousing in the bathtub with his girlfriend. Cooper’s so irresistible, in fact, that Victoria tries--and fails--to seduce him that same day. The key to Cooper’s charm? It has something to do with the actor who plays him, Peter Carpenter: He was also one of Blood Mania’s screenwriters.

No matter. Cooper returns home, eager for more bath time with his girlfriend. A swarthy-looking blackmailer interrupts them. “That’s a nice girl you got there,” says the blackmailer. “But I wonder if she cares enough to come visit you in prison for the next ten years.” Turns out Cooper used to perform illegal abortions. The blackmailer wants fifty thousand dollars or he’ll expose Cooper’s little secret.

“You’ll probably live to be a hundred and ten,” Victoria tells Cooper, after her second--successful--seduction.

“Why’s that?” asks Cooper.

“Only the good die young,” Victoria replies. But she, too, has a dark side. When Cooper tells her the amyl-nitrate she’s addicted to could kill someone with a heart condition, she gets an idea: Cooper needs money and she wants to be rid of her father. That night, she creeps into Ridgeley’s bedroom, waves the amyl-nitrate under the old man’s nose, then watches as he dies. The next day, she tells Cooper. Cooper is taken aback, but lies to the coroner, claiming Ridgeley died of a stroke. After all, Victoria has promised to give him her inheritance.  

“I don’t want the money,” she explains, eyes glinting crazily. “I have you.”

At the reading of the will, however, Victoria learns Ridgeley has left part of his fortune to his beloved nurse and the rest to Victoria’s sister Gail (Vicki Peters). Victoria freaks. Cooper sedates her. The nurse is unperturbed: “Yesterday I was broke,” she tells the mourning family, chuckling. “Today I’m an heiress.” She pauses, smiling. “Anybody for a hot game of Scrabble?” she asks. It’s the first stage of grief, Milton-Bradley edition.

The rest of the film is equally silly: Cooper woos Gail, the true heiress. Mad with jealousy, Victoria goes full-Clue on her sister, bashing her head in with a candlestick. There’s a little blood and a little mania--though not enough to constitute the horror film the title suggests. Really, Blood Mania is nothing but an overblown soap opera with some gratuitous nudity thrown in and even more gratuitous footage of a renaissance faire, where Cooper takes Gail on their first date. They take an archery lesson. They peruse the olde-timey wares for sale. Incessant flute music plays. Some mimes wander around, eating popcorn. A jarring close-up shows a random stranger’s dirty afro. It’s all very disjointed and surreal--and, frankly, more nightmarish than the opening sequence.  

No comments:

Post a Comment