Monday, October 19, 2009


Mill Creek Entertainment is moving up in the world. Our favorite purveyor of public domain oddities is now selling licensed properties, including some of the library of grindhouse stalwart Crown International Pictures, acquired from the defunct BCI Eclipse. One of Mill Creek's first Crown offerings is a 12-film collection called Gorehouse Greats. Blood Mania shares one side of a DVD with Al Adamson's Blood of Dracula's Castle. Is that worthy company?

Here's Mill Creek's synopsis of the film: "A nightmare of unspeakable terror, this Gothic-like horror tale is about a young doctor who's haunted by a questionable past and entrapped in a hopeless present by jealousy, blackmail and finally, murder!"

Here's the trailer Crown International made for it. Plenty horrific, yes?

Here's another poster advertising the film. The co-feature is apparently a 1961 Most Dangerous Game knockoff being revived as a cannibal film. Blood Mania itself appears to have been offered in some sort of Taste-O-Vision process from what the poster copy suggests.

Crown was only the distributor of this Jude production, and that fact makes me wonder whether Jude or Crown had the bright idea to sell Blood Mania as a horror film or, for that matter, to call it Blood Mania. That title does not prepare you for what you finally see, and, admittedly, neither does the credit sequence, a spooky episode featuring a blond in a diaphanous outfit on the run, stalked by a mysterious and colorfully lit menace seen only in close-up who seems intent on strangling the woman. Gary Graver is listed as one of two cinematographers for this film, and I suspect that this opening bit is his work.

What follows looks less like a nightmare of unspeakable terror than like a Lifetime Original Movie, only with lots of boob shots. The vision turns out to be the nightmare of Ridgely Waterman, an ailing millionaire, doted on by his daughter Victoria and treated by Dr. Craig Cooper, the object (I should say an object) of Vicki's lust. The poolboy is another object of said lust, but he's heard of women like her and doesn't like her. Dr. Cooper also resists; he seems to be happily married, but a shadow crosses his life in the form of a blackmailer (identified in the credits as "Blackmailer") who wants $50,000 from Cooper in order to stay quiet about his sordid past as an abortionist. Roe v. Wade was still three years away.

Maria De Aragon puts the moves on Peter Carpenter (below) and the audience (above) in Blood Mania.

While Mrs. Cooper selflessly offers her body to the blackmailer in return for his silence, the doctor offers his body to Vicki Waterman, who offers a shortcut to $50,000 in the form of a murder plot against her father. She eliminates him with a fatal dose of amyl nitrate, though there is a sort-of-horror movie moment when he suddenly bolts upright in his death throes. And now comes the reading of the will by Alex Rocco and the crushing revelation that the bulk of the Waterman estate will go to younger sister Gail Waterman (future Playmate Vicki Peters)-- the blond from the opening credits. To this point, Maria De Aragon has played Vicki as a rampant tramp. Now she gets an all out mad scene, screaming, rolling her eyes and pulling faces in a tantrum of hatred worthy of notice by all aficionados of bad acting. Her most famous subsequent performance, if IMDB can be believed, is in the role of Greedo in Star Wars! I don't think Lucas got full value from her.

Greedo must have seemed like a natural next step for De Aragon following "Greedy" in Blood Mania.

So Vicki doesn't get the money, and now it looks like she isn't going to get the doctor, either. Having shaken off all remaining scruples against sex for money, Craig now goes after Gail, despite a hint from her older female companion that he may have a rival already. All seems to go well, however, as he treats the blond to a day at the Renaissance Faire, a romp on the beach, and a romp in front of the fireplace, interrupted only by Gail's inexplicable inheritance of her late father's nightmare vision of her violation. All the while, amateur artist Vicki paints with broad red strokes.

The trailer has told you about the last fifteen minutes. Psycho may have its shower scene, but Blood Mania stakes out its own territory with a definitive bathroom-sink scene in which Vicki commits sororicide with a statuette.

She calls Craig over so she can have the satisfaction of showing him Vicki's bloody corpse. She only sneers when the blubbery doctor whimpers, "Why???" then makes him dump the body in his car for future disposal. Then she draws him into her triumphant embrace before the moment of supreme horror that climaxes this tawdry affair.

Blood Mania was the one and only produce of Jude Productions. The director, Robert Vincent O'Neill, may be best known for the Angel series of vigilante-prostitute films from the 1980s. Our male lead, Peter Carpenter, co-wrote the film and would pull the same double-duty once more before an untimely demise in 1971. I can't help but believe that they all had something other than "Blood Mania" in mind when putting this together, but since there really wasn't such a thing as the "erotic thriller" genre yet, they must have thrown in some horror elements to make their project more exploitable, if Crown International didn't do that for them. Whoever's responsible, they did the right thing, for the shock and horror bits are the only elements of interest, apart from the toplessness and Maria De Aragon's histrionics, in this mostly mundane movie. I put it into the machine expecting a proper horror film for the season, so I'm naturally a little disappointed in Blood Mania, but people who watch it with a better idea of what to expect may be gratified by the more campy or sleazy aspects of the story. I hope this helps.


J. Astro said...

I've been just about to watch this one myself, having picked up that same set for only $5 @ Walmart, heh. What a bargain, right? In any case, BLOOD MANIA is indeed a title to lurid & good to be true, & I'll still watch it, but thanks for the heads up on this one. I kinda glossed over the review 'cuz I don't want too many details goin' in, but I get the gist of it. I might put this one off until after my more "serious" Halloween viewing is wrapped up.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Excellent entertaining write-up! And nice work on the Greedo connection. BTW, you probably know this, but Luis de Jesus--aka Ralphus from BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, the second-most-evil dwarf in all dwarfsploitation for my money--played an Ewok in RETURN OF THE JEDI.


I figured there might be very little actual blood mania in this one, but I'll still check it out at some point--if only for the boobs. :)

I like boobs. Boobs are awesome.

db said...

I caught Blood Mania as part of the Mill Creek collection Drive-In Cult Classics III, and it's a much better fit alongside Weekend With The Babysitter than Satan's Slave. I put this on at random with no expectations and liked it quite a bit, but the totally confusing title and the weird intro (which is misleading in the same way as the intro to Messiah of Evil) could definitely throw that off. There's no question Boobs Are Awesome is a much more fitting title, hands down.

db said...

which reminds me: i did a totally uninformative twitter review of Blood Mania over at TODF.

Samuel Wilson said...

db, I read that review and I recommend it to the rest of you as a hilarious second opinion. But I've just seen Satan's Slave (don't know if I'll review it, though), and I can see those two in the same collection. Not that I have a choice, since they are, but I'm just sayin'.

Thomas L. Vaultonburg said...

I'm gonna sorta have to go ahead and disagree with you. Saying that it's not really a horror movie doesn't really make much difference. It's not. I think the two movies Peter Carpenter made back to back in 1970/1971 are really interesting to watch for the beautiful locations and people. That they're bad movies, or that Carpenter was a third-rate Tom Jones wannabee, or that they weren't horror movies is irrelevant. I enjoyed them.