DVD. Region Free. Grindhouse. Unrated.
(The company ident, the “coming attractions” and characteristically hilarious animated menus on this disc strongly suggest that the “deluxe uncensored director’s cut” edition of David Durston’s “legendary hippie horror classic!” under consideration here is indeed a Grindhouse release, though they are mentioned nowhere on packaging that does allude to MTI Home Video, Bedford Entertainment, Fangoria’s Midnight Classics and Box Office Spectaculars.)
Vying in popularity with the “Don’t (Do Something Or Other)” formula for titling exploitation pictures is that old standby “I Do (Some Objectionable Thing Or Other To Somebody Or Something Of Theirs)”, hence I Eat Your Skin (frequent double-bill mate of Durston’s 1970 gore-fest), I Dismember Mama and such unforgettable, time-specific Jose Mojica Marins (Coffin Joe) offerings as Tonight I’ll incarnate In Your Corpse, Tonight I’ll Steal Your Soul and Tonight I’ll Turn Your Corpse Red (he really needs to work on those chat-up lines…)
Jerry Gross, the aptly named king of grindhouse distributors, had already scored big by marketing Meir Zarchi’s obscure rape / revenge effort Day Of The Woman as I Spit On Your Grave. We all know what fate befell that one on its UK video release, but I Drink Your Blood never made it the DPP list. The (bowdlerised) Media release was seized and perused by more than one regional police force during their periodic purges of the nation’s video shelves in the early ’80s, and no doubt they drew pertinent lessons from it on such upcoming threats to natural security as Messianic cults, biological terrorism and (most worryingly of all) rampaging gangs of rabies infected construction workers. The only possible sane response from the rest of us is to fire up that pizza, crack a cold one (or several), sit back and enjoy I Drink Your Blood for the prime slice of entertaining schlock that it is… the first film rated ‘X’ by the MPAA on the grounds of violence rather than sex.
The picture’s tone is set by its sleazy opening scene, which details an open air Satanic ritual unfolding somewhere in the American boon docks, involving “the community of Sados” and presided over by a poor man’s Charlie Manson apparently glorifying in the name Horace Bones (played by the scarcely less exotically named Bhaskar.) “Let it be known to all the spirits that I am a Capricorn, living in The Tenth House… the house of our lord Satan!” he proclaims: ” Let it be known to all the spirits that I, Horace Bones, was born into Hell and reborn to this Earth. Let all the spirits here know that I am the first-born son of Satan! He commands my thoughts! I speak his words! Sons and daughters of Satan, put aside your worldly things and come to me. Let it be known that Satan was an acid head… drink from his cup…pledge yourselves… and together we will all freak out”. Horace’s dorky disciples obediently swig down some Electric Cool Aid, sacrifice a chicken and kick off a pretty tame looking orgy. A local gal who stumbles upon their infernal ritual is roped in for a spot of unsolicited sexual molestation, which is where things start to go downhill for Horace’s coven, which includes the superannuated exotic glamour of Jadine Wong in the role of Sue-Lin and the uncredited, non-speaking film debut of subsequent Hall of Famer Lynn Lowry, who later turned out for Romero (The Crazies, 1973), Cronenberg (Shivers, 1975) and Paul Schrader (Cat People, 1982) and is still very much in demand as an actress. As I type these words she’s guesting at the 2016 Abertoir Festival, up in tornado-ravaged North Wales.
The local vet Doc Banner (Richard Bowler) sure as shoot ain’t gonna stand for none of these pagan shenanigans… he grabs his rifle and heads for hippy HQ, where Horace and co are busy torturing a back-sliding cult member. The doc is easily disarmed and force-fed with heavy psychotropic substances, whereupon the mantle of family avenger devolves to little Petey (Riley Mills), the unlikeliest male lead of any fantasy / horror film since that brat in the original Invaders From Mars. Not happy that local girls have been messed with and his grampappy given “that crazy L stuff”, he grabs his own shotgun (a perfectly feasible scenario in rural America, as we are reminded by harrowing news reports on virtually a daily basis) and downs the nearest rabid dog … apparently the place is just bristling with them. Displaying improbable scientific know how for such a red neck ragamuffin, Petey then siphons off the mutt’s blood, injects it into a batch of meat pies and flogs them to the Sados dudes at the family bakery (being Satanic hippies, they can’t be expected to subsist on the kind of macrobiotic mush favoured by their non diabolically inclined fellow heads… and rat shish kebabs only go so far.) Having scoffed the poison pies, Horace, Sou-Lin, Rollo, et al waste no time rolling around screaming about stomach cramps, frothing at the mouth, torturing and decapitating each other, etc. Good riddance to bad rubbish, you might well be thinking, but Petey’s master plan has unforeseen repercussions when a bunch of construction workers, on their lunch break from building a local dam, make whoopie with a rabid hippy girl.
Can hydrophobia be sexually transmitted? Does “the fear of water (lead)”… as Durston claims on the commentary track “to an insatiable craving for raw flesh”? There’s no time to ponder these important questions, because before they’ve had time to clock on again, those rabid Village People rejects are running around growling through mouthfuls of toothpaste, decapitating goats and brandishing axes and power tools at the long-suffering inhabitants of Valley Hills… it’s threatening to turn into a Trump rally until a deputation of good ol’ boys finally turns up to mow them down, but not before we’ve had the chance to laugh our socks off at the spectacle of murderous hard hat hydrophobics being fended off with hoses and even, at one point, water splashed at them from a pond (my favourite moments in this whole gloriously tacky mess, along with those regular portentous pronouncements from the Satanic Bible according to Horace Bones).
“Rabies sure is a horrible way to die” tut-tuts the district coroner, just before the credits roll. Sure is, doc, but full marks to director Durston for managing to overcome his natural reserve about exploiting such a sensitive subject, tossing in tasteless allusions to the Tate-LaBianca killings as he goes.
Extras include the expected trailer (for “the biggest double horror show in history… I Drink Your Blood and I Eat Your Skin!”) and radio spot (“Every horror film you’ve ever seen… every tortured body, every severed limb, every hideous creature… has been preparing you for this moment!”) , poster and still gallery… you get filmographies of the principals, a few minutes of discarded takes (some with, some without sound) and at least three easter eggs which I’ll leave you to discover for yourselves… as if all that weren’t enough, there’s “rare and shocking film of Bhaskar performing THE EVIL KING COBRA DANCE!”, after which you’ll need to go and lie down in a darkened room for a while.
The Coming Attractions I mentioned are for a bunch of stuff that Grindhouse subsequently released or intended to, including An American Hippie In Israel (“The long-lost early ’70s psychedelic classic”), Cop Killers, The Tough Ones (Umberto Lenzi’s Assault with A Deadly Weapon aka Brutal Justice and Rome, Armed To The Teeth), Cannibals Ferox and Holocaust, Fulci’s The Beyond and A Cat In The Brain, plus Mad Ron’s Prevues From Hell (a trailer anthology in which that for I Drink Your Blood / I Eat Your Skin is prominently deployed.) Best of all is the legendarily gob-slapping trailer for Duke Mitchell’s Massacre Mafia Style (1974), which famously comprises nothing but the film’s opening, er mafia massacre, attaining in two minutes or so what Quentin Tarantino has aspired to over several feature films.
Grindhouse aren’t finished there, though. Not by a long chalk. We are also treated to four deleted scenes, including a touching romantic one in which it’s suggested that one of the hippy Satanists might be capable of redemption (though in fact he ends up decapitated by a rabid construction worker), another in which we get to see more of Grampy tripping out and not one but two alternative endings… a “humorous” (i.e. puke-inducing) one featuring little Petey and “the original blood-drenched ending deemed too disturbing for ’70s audiences!”… cool!
Durston interviews thesps Lynn Lowry, Tyde Kierney and Jack Damon, plus Barry Cohen, the ad executive responsible for changing the title of this picture from his preferred handle “Phobia” (“You might as have called it Who Shit In My Saddle Bag?”, complains the disgruntled director.) Then there’s the audio commentary from Durston and Bhaskar, in which we learn many interesting things… Durston spends much of it arguing, unconvincingly, that no animals were killed or injured during the making of his magnum opus. He also claims that the one of the rats that didn’t end up on a shish kebab subsequently starred in Ben. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised then, to learn that he dropped LSD under medical supervision (perhaps not enough medical supervision) when researching his earlier acidsploitation epic The Love Drug (1965.) Bhaskar is tickled by the memory of the muscle-bound dude who played one of the rabid construction workers and his obsession with how his toupee would look on screen. We also learn that before dancing and acting, Bhaskar pursued a boxing career that came to an end when he got comprehensively battered around the ring…
Durston explains that to get around the X-rating, producer / distributor Gross authorised local projectionists to cut their print of the film into whatever shape would comply with contemporary community standards, hence the bewildering variety of versions of I Spit On Your Grave in circulation. On this disc you get a choice of two cuts, the “Uncensored X-Rated Theatrical Cut” and the “Uncensored Director’s Cut” (having watched both, I can’t honestly say that I could discern any significant difference between the two.)
The DVD edition reviewed here has been unavailable for quite some time, apart from on the internet for silly money. Thankfully (?) Grindhouse are about to release a two disc Blu-ray edition including all of the goodies enumerated above plus a newly recorded audio commentary by stars Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney, a new interview with the late David Durston and not one but two bonus co-features (!)… finally, I Eat Your Skin (plus an exclusive interview with its 2nd unit director, William Grefe) and the home video debut of Durston’s Blue Sextet (1969), a “long-lost uncensored psychedelic shocker” whose cast includes the also sadly deceased Bhaskar… “PLUS OTHER SURPRISES!”
Put away your worldly things, dear readers, pledge yourselves to score a copy of I drink Your Blood on Blu-ray… and together we will all freak out!