Sunday, March 8, 2009

Brides Of Blood (1968)

1968 – Brides Of Blood (Hemisphere Pictures/Independent International Pictures Corp)

[also known as Brides Of Blood Island, Brides Of Death, Brides Of The Beast, Island Of The Living Horror, Orgy Of Blood, Terror On Blood Island]

Directors Eddie Romero, Gerardo de Leon Producer Eddie Romero Executive Producer Kane W. Lynn

Cast John Ashley (Jim Farrell), Kent Taylor (Dr Paul Henderson), Mario Montenegro (Esteban Powers), Beverly “Hills”/Powers (Carla Henderson), Eva Darren (Alma), Oscar Keesee [Jr] (Captain Macbee), Ely Ramos Jr, Bruno Punzalan (Goro), Andres Centenera (Arcadio), Pedro Navarro, Carmelita Estrella, Quiel Mendoza, Willie Tomada, Ben Sanchez, Angelita Alba

Review by Andrew Leavold

The lure of the Philippines throughout the 60s and 70s was intoxicating for low-budget filmmakers - you could produce an exotic potboiler with genuine tropical locales for a fraction of the cost in America. With Hemisphere’s successful rerelease of the 1959 Terror Is A Man - Eddie Romero and Gerry de Leon’s reworking of Island Of Dr Moreau - as “Blood Creature”, producer Kane Lynn wanted more “Blood”, and so instructed Romero and de Leon to co-direct an even sleazier jungle shocker.

And so begins Brides Of Blood. On a steamboat are Peace Corps volunteer Jim Farrell (former matinee idol John Ashley), the radiation expert Dr Henderson (Kent Taylor) and his frustrated wife Carla (played by a former stripper with the unlikely but appropriate name Beverly Hills), a top-heavy B beauty with a shroud of hairspray around her polyethylene hair mountain and who manages to walk through a jungle without soiling her white shoes.

They land on Blood Island, a so-called tropical paradise literally crawling with mutant plants and with a native burial seemingly every 10 minutes. The group take refuge in the mansion of the elusive Estaban Powers, an ageless patriarch whose bald, disfigured and bug-ugly manservant Goro whips his small army of semi-naked dwarves (again with the dwarves!). Dr Henderson notices alarming levels of radioactivity in the island’s maneating plants; the trail of green radioactive slime leads from the mansion through fog-shrouded jungles to a giant grotesque stone idol where virginal village girls are sacrificed to a lecherous (not to mention ludicrous) monster on the prowl. Ever the lover boy, super-suave Ashley tries desperately to save a native girl from her fateful honeymoon as one of the “brides” of Blood Island.

Female patrons in its numerous drive-in runs were offered plastic wedding rings so they would be promised to the monster. Cheesy, yes, and old-fashioned even for 1968, but so successful was its exploitation hyperbole that Ashley, Romero and de Leon returned the following year with Mad Doctor Of Blood Island - not strictly a sequel, but a repeat of the formula with more flesh on display, a less laughable mutant creature on the prowl, and more green and red ooze in equal measures. Then came Beast Of Blood in 1970, completing the so-called “Blood Island trilogy” and setting the benchmark for the crimson-streaked wave of made-in-Philippines exploitation films to follow.

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