Man about Movies Hank Parmer (known to his underworld confederates as Grouchomarxist) is back this week with another film which, by all the laws of physics, should not exist, and dares you to believe it!...Or Not!
Brides of Blood (1968)
A Hemisphere Pictures production, directed by Gerardo de
Leon and Eddie Romero (George's sleazier brother) from a script by your friend
and mine, Cesar Amigo.
The movie begins with some Filipino -- I mean, Polynesian --
extras standing around in sarongs, holding spears, as they watch a tramp
steamer approach their island.
On board the steamer young, handsome Peace Corps volunteer
Jim Farrell (John Ashley), boring middle-aged stiff Dr. Paul Henderson (Kent
Taylor, the Scientist) and his 30-ish wife, Carla (Beverly Hills -- no, really,
and her wardrobe will emphasize these prime tracts of real estate) are dining
with the captain of the Greasy Bastard
No, strike that: it's the captain
who's the greasy bastard.
The captain inquires: "Wha' for you want to bury
yourselves on thees island? No one veesits Blood Island except this sheep, and
that's only once every seex months." What 'sheep'? Sheesh, what a maroon:
he thinks he's the skipper of a sea-going even-toed ungulate!
Here we first become acquainted with this film's penchant
for not simply telegraphing but sky-writing the storyline, cluing us in from
the start that this bunch has the collective IQ of a wad of dryer lint. I mean,
seriously, "Blood Island"? ("We wanted to go to Entrails Island,
but they were booked solid. And Lingering, Agonizing Death Island is soooo
Jim's aching to civilize the simple natives, while Paul's
enthusiastic about studying the island's flora and fauna. (I think that's
enthusiasm, but it's hard to tell with Kent Taylor.) Carla's clearly not
pleased, even though she'll have a fresh field in which to pursue her hobby:
publicly emasculating her husband. She makes eyes at one of the sweaty,
bare-chested sailors. When Jim cattily remarks there'll probably be a mutiny
when she leaves the ship, Carla offers to stay aboard and keep the crew happy.
(I think she wants to organize a shuffleboard tournament.) The captain guffaws.
Hubby gets huffy, says he'd better go below and check his
equipment. Jim say's he'd better check his gear, too. (Will two 50-gallon tubs
of Brylcreem be enough to last six months? What if Paul runs out, and wants
some of his? He looks like at least a quart-a-day man.)
Carla asks Paul if he needs any help. But she doesn't mean
it: she knows that checking his equipment is something he prefers to do in
private. On her way to her stateroom, she stops off to check out the sailor's
equipment. That's right: she's a slutty slut slut. So she'll deserve whatever
bad thing is going to happen to her, right? God, how I love that good,
By the time they pull up to the pier, Carla's temporarily
satisfied her cravings, and changed into a new dress. Looking down from the
bridge at the islanders, she says she's never seen so many sad and frightened
faces. Not since the SWAT team took out Mr. Munch by mistake, in that
embarrassing incident at the East Moline Chuck E. Cheese.
The new arrivals file ashore just in time to see a
picturesque native procession. The islanders are carrying a lumpy,
cloth-wrapped bundle on a litter and mouthing the monotonous chant which will
accompany each and every one of their ceremonies: "Ba Ba -- Ba Ba Ba -- Ba
Ba -- Ba!
" It's a catchy little
Unbeknownst to our Americans and the villagers, a sinister
figure watches from the edge of the jungle.
One of the bearers twists his ankle and upsets the litter.
Out from the bundle pops a dismembered leg and a decapitated head. Carla quite
understandably freaks. The islanders gather up the people pieces, take them out
in the bay and respectfully dump them over the side of their canoe.
But it's nothing to get excited about. Arcadio, the village
headman, shows them to their hut, and introduces his granddaughter, the love
interest, Alma (Eva Darren). Carla, who's quickly recovered from her shock,
wants to know what happened to those two girls. (Incidentally, how did she know
these were pieces of two
of them female, as well as their approximate age? Did she take a correspondence
course in forensic pathology?)
It was an accident, explains the headman. Their leis
exploded ... and … then they fell into the coconut peeler ... didn't have a
chance, what with all the rotating knives. Yeah, that's the ticket.
Nobody bats an eye. Happens all the time on these primitive
islands, where they've likely never even heard of OSHA. Arcadio informs them he
and that sultry granddaughter who's sporting the suspiciously un-Polynesian
ronnie are the only English-speakers on the island. Except, Alma reminds him, for
the mysterious Mr. Powers and his faithful detainer, Goro.
Then Alma launches into a lengthy speech on behalf of the
islanders about how grateful they are to Jim and the others for coming to their
island. She finishes up by promising him "We are your servants."
Jim gently corrects her: "We're here to serve, not to
be served. I only hope it works out that way."
"I, too," she answers demurely, with downcast
eyes, each of them no doubt thinking of services they can provide for the
Jim introduces everybody. Alma says it will give her great
pleasure to do whatever she can to help. Carla replies that her husband won't
be much help in the pleasure department, dear. She offers to do a three-way
with Alma and Jim. It's going to be a long six months.
Later, everybody's in the hut, unpacking. Alma is enthralled
by the high tech of a Coleman lantern.
Arcadio now decides to tell Paul they chose a bad time to come to the
island. Jim wants to know why, but the headman won't elaborate.
Alma says they are ashamed. Jim assures her they weren't
expecting laundromats and supermarkets. A White Castle or an Arby's would have
been nice, but they'll manage to cope, somehow.
Arcadio: "We wish you had asked to return where you
came from, while the ship was still here." But wouldn't it have been a bit
more timely if Arcadio had said something before
the ship left? You simply can't assume this bunch is quick enough on the
uptake to catch broad hints like “Blood Island” and mysteriously mangled people
Arcadio: "We have gone back to primitive ways. There
are things which we do now, which we did not do before." He departs,
without offering any further explanation.
After Arcadio's exit, Paul asks Alma what he meant. She
says, "We have returned to the ways of our primitive ancestors. We are not
too proud of it." She bows, then quickly exits. Got it? They're doing
something primitive. And they're ashamed.
The next day, Jim is showing the awestruck islanders how to
construct a rickety cabana. He tells Alma it's going to be a health center.
Then they're going to build a schoolhouse, and maybe an irrigation system. And
after that, a secret fort! And then a full-scale replica of Trump's Taj Mahal!
He promises Alma he's here to improve their village, not tell them how to run
it: they'll have to do the work themselves. No leaving a bowl of milk out at
night for the elves!
Then he notices an odd-looking
tree. That is, he says it looks odd, but from all we can see of it, it just
appears kind of scraggly, and in need of a little judicious pruning. He asks
Alma about the tree, but she clams up. When he wants to know if something's
wrong, she runs away. He continues to gaze in wonder at this arboreal freak.
Cut to the jungle. Carla's bored, while hubby's doing
scientist things. Strangely, Carla notices the sun is setting at 4:30 in the
afternoon. It's more likely her watch has stopped, or she has trouble with the
concept of time zones, than the Earth has suddenly sped up its rotation. But
this is Blood Island, after all, where anything can happen.
Carla poses seductively against a tree trunk. Paul stops
taking samples and stares at her.
Carla: "I'm not one of your specimens."
Paul: "Sometimes I think it would be simpler if you
were." He'd need one hell of a big jar, though.
It looks as if she and Paul might reconcile, or at least
indulge in a quick hate fuck, but the moment passes. I see: this is the
Filipino-American remake of Who's Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?
Starring Carla as Martha, Paul as George, Jim as young
Nick and Alma as Honey. ("Don't talk about the monster, Martha!")
On their way back to the village, they come across a bizarre
critter which looks like someone glued an eggplant onto a land crab's
hindquarters. Paul, ever the perfect gentleman, assures the crab that it
doesn't make its butt look too big.
Back at the village, the setting sun is almost touching the
horizon. Another fascinating native ritual: this one's a lottery, to choose two
of the island's maidens for some special honor. Strangely, the lucky winners
don't seem at all elated by their good fortune.
I guess the script forgot about that sunset, since now Jim,
Carla and Paul are ambling through the jungle, and from the angle of the light it can't be more than a couple of hours past noon. Manservant Goro -- the
sinister, scar-faced guy we briefly glimpsed when the Americans set foot on
Blood Island -- suddenly materializes from the underbrush, and invites them to
dinner at Mr. Power's mansion.
Goro leads them into the jungle. Mist rises, and an
unearthly racket assails their ears. They notice a banana tree has grown a
weird appendage, which -- like the movie -- is flailing about aimlessly.
Scientist Paul appears only mildly interested by this incredible discovery.
(Okay, Taylor only seems capable of mildly portraying any
emotion, but still ...) He readily agrees with Jim that it can
wait until morning. They sure are in a lather to meet that enigmatic Mr.
Goro is nervous; he tells them they must hurry. Another
banana tree menaces them with its fronds as they walk away. They arrive at the
Powers mansion, where the groundskeeper has apparently been burning a lot of
yard trash. Inside the courtyard, two diminutive servants clad in red silk
diapers sprint to the gate and open it, while a third peeks around a bush.
The visitors are suitably awed by the place. "It must
be over a hundred years old!" exclaims Jim. Sure, it looks more like it
was built in the 1950s, but why not take the script's word for it? They enter
the mansion, while a half-dozen or more little people in diapers scurry around
or furtively watch the visitors. (Apparently, Powers has developed his own
breed of Oompa Loompas.) The little people whisper among themselves. Something
about wanting to climb those Hills, I'd wager.
The Americans first meet Ricky Ricardo -- I mean, the
mysterious Mr. Powers -- in his parlor, as he pounds out a tempestuous tune on
a grand piano. (I suppose a pipe organ would have been a little too much of a
tip-off.) I think he's playing the theme for The Secret Storm
. Goro whacks one of the servants on the head,
tells the little guys something which I'm sure would roughly translate as
"Stop ogling the dame and scram!" He then gently interrupts his
deeply preoccupied Master, informing him that his guests have arrived.
Esteban Powers introduces himself to his "fellow
Americans" in a thick Spanish accent, and invites them to stay at his
mansion. Carla, salivating over the new meat, easily persuades Paul. Jim
declines, reminding them he has to live among the villagers to do his work.
They sit down to dinner. Before they can begin tucking in,
they're interrupted by the sound of Goro whipping one of the Oompa Loompas.
Goro explains the little guy stole Paul's flare gun. Powers chides Goro for
leaping to conclusions, then apologizes to his guests: he hopes the beating
hasn't spoiled their appetites.
This crowd? Are you kidding? Jim and Paul have elevated
obliviousness to the level of high art, and Carla's ... intrigued.
The script dishes up some exposition: turns out Blood Island
was on the fringe of the fallout from the bomb tests. Powers says there's no
radiation here, but Paul tells him about the mutated land crab, and reveals
that his tests showed it was radioactive. They blather for a while about
radioactivity and mutations. Powers wants to know if the mutations could affect
-- dramatic pause -- humans. Paul isn't sure.
After dinner, Goro leads Powers' guests back through the
jungle. Assuming the filmmakers were trying for a day-for-night effect here,
they failed miserably. More mist, and again with the mixed-up, kooky sound
effects, as they trudge along the trail.
In a pioneering example of tentacle soft porn, Carla is
attacked by a tree root. Jim stabs the root with his knife, while Goro watches
impassively. Trees are waving their roots at them on every side. Orchids puff
clouds of pink pollen at them, but prematurely, while they're still well out of
range. (I think this may be a subtle metaphor for Paul's little problem.) They
hasten past. A giant inchworm -- or maybe it's an ambulatory penis, you never
can tell with these wacky atomic mutations -- humps across the trail after they
Carla panics. She has to be hustled along by Jim and Paul.
They emerge from that screwy jungle just in time to catch another procession:
now the islanders are carrying two litters, bearing the lucky lottery winners.
Jim, Paul and Carla follow the crowd to an idol topped by an enormous
gap-toothed Mr. Bill head. This idol really shouldn't have put off those visits to
The islanders tie the girls to upright bamboo frames, and
Arcadio strips their halters off. (Because of the blip in the movie here, I'm
betting the original cut probably showed some breast.) The headman shoos
everybody off, telling them there's nothing they can do for the women.
Again, I can only marvel at these Americans' enlightened
acceptance of local customs.
Back at the hut: eerie roars are heard from the jungle.
Well, actually, it sounds more like a telephone breather, with his head stuck
in a culvert. Paul, however, thinks it might be an earthquake. And this guy is
supposed to be a scientist?
"No!" replies Alma, mentally adding, "What
kind of a numbskull are you?"
A fake moth, with construction paper wings embellished with
markings crudely scrawled in Crayola, flutters into the hut and, accompanied by
a theremin, hovers in the air. It changes form before their very eyes!
Off-camera, and not in the brief glimpses they show of it, but look, just go
with them on this: it has fangs and other scary stuff, okay? Paul tries to
capture the putative were-moth, but it attacks him! It wounds his hand and
flies away, because it was never really his ...
While Carla helps Jim bandage Paul's bloody hand, the
breather gets louder and more urgent. He's either having a possibly fatal
asthma attack or working up to something ... Carla demands to know what's
happening. Paul speculates that some creature on the island has undergone a
drastic mutation. (Ya think?)
Cut to the idol. The monster shuffles into the torchlight.
It's a hideous amalgam of Sean Connery and H.R. Pufnstuf, with glowing red
eyes, and dried-up liver slices stapled to the costume. The non-human creature
attacks one of the girls. She screams.
Back to the hut: Jim wants to confront the creature, but
Arcadio insists it's too late. The headman threatens Jim with a knife, vows to
stop him at all costs. Suddenly, the roars cease. Oh ... well, never mind.
Lights out, everybody!