Friday, 26 April 2013

Bloodlust! (1961)

There have been countless movies either based directly, or inspired by,  Richard Connell’s great short story The Most Dangerous Game. The definitive version remains the 1932 Hollywood adaptation. Bloodlust!, distributed by Crown International Pictures and released in 1961, is an attempt to adapt the story in such a way as to appeal to the drive-in audience. It’s not quite a teenage version of The Most Dangerous Game, but it is a version calculated to appeal to the teenage audience.

Four young people on holiday discover an unknown island. They’re bored so they decide to investigate. The skipper of their boat, a drunk known as Tony, discovers too late that they’ve made a landing on the island in the dinghy. If he hadn’t been drunk again he’d have warned them not to set foot on the island.

Johnny (Robert Reed), Pete (Eugene Persson), Betty (June Kenney) and Jeanne (Joan Lora) soon find evidence that the island is not uninhabited as they’d first thought. They are taken at gunpoint to a large house where they meet the owner of the island, Dr Albert Balleau (Wilton Graff). They are then told about Dr Balleau’s hobby. He likes to hunt, but hunting animals no longer interests him. During the war he’d been a sniper and he’d discovered the pleasure of hunting the most dangerous game of all, man.

Johnny and Pete are to be his next trophies, to be hunted, killed and then stuffed and mounted and placed in a niche in the trophy room.

Dr Balleau’s wife Sandra (Lilyan Chauvin) and her alcoholic admirer Dean (Walter Brooke) also live on the island. They’ve been wanting to escape for a year and now they see their chance. They will try to reach the boats moored in a hidden cove on the far side of the island while Johnny and Pete keep Dr Balleau occupied. It’s a good plan, but not good enough.

Dr Balleau believes in giving his prey a sporting chance. He is to hunt Johnny, Pete and Tony and he takes with only three quarrels for his crossbow, one for each of them. And he gives them a gun, containing one bullet, so they have one chance to kill him first. Since Dr Balleau knows the jungles on the island like the back of his hand it’s not much of a chance, but it is better than nothing.

Dr Balleau and his assistant Jondor (Bobby Hall) now set out on the hunt.

Robert Reed (best known as Mike Brady in TV’s The Brady Bunch) seems like an unlikely action hero. He gives it his best shot but he’s not very convincing. The one actor whose performance stands out is Wilton Graff. He plays his role like a poor man’s Vincent Price. He’s not terribly scary but he is at least entertaining.

Writer-producer-director Ralph Brooke made only a handful of movies before his death in 1963 at the age of 43. Considering the very low budget he has to work with he does a competent enough job.

The low budget doesn’t really detract from the story too much. The sets are basic but functional and the hunting scenes, although obviously done in a studio, look reasonable. The pacing is rather slow, so even with its modest 68-minute running time it feels like it’s been padded out.

The violence is about as graphic as you could get away with in 1961, with some moderately gruesome dissection scenes and the odd severed head.

This movie is included in Mill Creek’s Drive-In Cult Classics collection. The movie is presented fullframe which is apparently the correct aspect ratio. By Mill Creek standards it’s a fairly reasonable print. The movie was made in black-and-white. Picture and sound quality are both acceptable.

Bloodlust! is not by any means a good movie but if you accept it as a low-budget drive-in thriller it’s not as bad as you might expect, and Wilton Graff is amusing. Worth a rental if you’re curious to see Mike Brady as an action hero.


Kho said...

I started to watch it one time but I lost interest. I wish someone would find a copy of The Most Dangerous Game with all of the trophy room footage intact. With or without, it is a great movie. It seems like Hollywood was doing everything well in the early 30's which makes it very sad to see the state of the industry today.

dfordoom said...

Kho, I agree about Hollywood in the 30s. I think everything fell apart when the studio system collapsed in the 50s. Hollywood has been in decline ever since.