Werewolf Wednesday: Blood (1973)

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In nineteenth-century America, a family arrives from Europe and settles into a new home. The patriarch calls himself Lawrence Orlovsky, but he has changed the family name to avoid persecution. In fact, he is the son of the notorious werewolf Lawrence Talbot – and not only has he inherited his father’s lycanthropy, his wife Regina is the daughter of Count Dracula.

The presence of Lawrence Talbot in the backstory indicates that Blood is a sequel to Universal’s Wolf Man cycle, but it has no relation to that illustrious series – not officially, anyway – and its roots lie elsewhere. The film was directed by Andy Milligan, the man who previously inflicted The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! on unsuspecting grindhouses; and his decision to go over the same ground with Blood feels like a murderer returning to the scene of the crime.

Comparing the two films, Blood can be described as a “spiritual successor” if we’re feeling charitable or an “utterly shameless rehash that only the most masochistic filmgoer could possibly find merit in” if we want to be blunt. We get another cursed family, another round of sub-Dickensian domestic strife, and another helping of Milligan’s jaw-droppingly incompetent directorial style.

The film looks terrible, its cast wearing bargain-bin period costumes and Halloween face-paint as they mooch around a distinctly un-Gothic set, one that looks like nothing so much as the location of a rather cheerless fancy-dress party. Somehow, it manages to sound equally bad: the scenes set in the basement laboratory were apparently shot while somebody rubbed two balloons together in front of the boom mic, almost drowning out the dialogue. Some would call this a mercy, of course, considering the general standard of the script:

“Oh, Lawrence, make love to me, please make love to me!”

“Not now.”

“Why not?”

“Because I just don’t feel anything like that now.”

“You’re thinking of her again, aren’t you?“

“Please, Regina, not again.”

“You could if she were here, couldn’t you?

“Will you please go to sleep?”

“You wish it were her breasts instead of mine!”

“Please, Regina!”

“You never please Regina anymore. Oh, Lawrence, I hate you! I hate you!”

“No, you don’t hate me.”

“Oh, go to hell!”

“We’re there already.”

Those unfortunate enough to have seen The Rats are Coming! The Werewolves are Here! will doubtless remember the scene of unsimulated animal cruelty in which Hope Stansbury’s character mutilates a live mouse on camera. In Blood, Milligan brings this high-concept sequence back for an encore performance: Hope Stansbury (now playing vampiress Regina) is shown decapitating a mouse with a cleaver and placing its head in her mouth. As with the previous film, the audience forced to watch this spectacle is immediately confronted with a gushy scene re-establishing the other characters’ love-lives – the general impression being, again, that Andy Milligan was on some level unhinged.

The film is clearly trying to go for a Universal-style monster mash. As well as the Wolf Man’s son, we have Dracula’s daughter, whose vampiric identity is revealed in what might have been a surprise twist had it not been blatantly signalled by her husband discussing her sensitivity to sunlight in the very first dialogue scene. The basement, meanwhile, includes a selection of carnivorous plants that the family use to dispose of unwanted guests, an idea likely borrowed from Little Shop of Horrors. Finally, once the house is again deserted, we get a jokey twist ending where a descendant of Frankenstein moves in.

This whimsy merely serves to make the film all the more perplexing: it seems doubtful that the ideal audience for a House of Frankenstein nostalgia-romp would be particularly interested in the Cannibal Holocaust school of unstimulated animal slaughter. Blood ends up as a genuine cinematic oddity, and not in a good way.

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