Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I remember finding a shitty-looking black and white photocopied looking clamshell VHS box of I Drink Your Blood (1970) on the shelf of my favourite video store many years ago. I had never heard of the movie, which made it interesting, and the shitty-looking box somehow made me all the more curious about it. It looked like the owners of the video store had made the box themselves – and probably the movie, too. It just looked like an ordinary blank VHS tape with a sticker slapped on it. The sticker just had the title of the move on it – not a fancy designed looking version of it, but simple looking text probably done on a typewriter.

Black and white add for I Drink Your Blood (1970)I figured that I Drink Your Blood (1970) must be some kind of special movie for somebody to have gone to all this trouble. Maybe it was so extreme that no official company would release it. I immediately took it up to the front to rent it

The guy behind the counter looked at it and said, “I’m not sure if this version is uncut or not. Let me know.”

“Okay, ” I said – but had no idea how to even tell if the movie was uncut of not. I had never seen it before. I’d never read about. I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it. How could I tell if something was missing?

I suppose if it had been really obvious, like someone is in the middle of saying something: “Alright man, I’m gonna take this axe and -” – when suddenly there’s an ugly looking cut in the film, and then we’re watching some dude’s horrified looking face as he says ” Whoa, man, why’d you go and do that?! You didn’t have to chop him thirty-seven times!”

Maybe then I would have thought that something had been cut out of the movie. As it was, I just didn’t know. I enjoyed the  movie, however.

A few years later, a friend invited to a bad movie night with some of his other friends. He asked me to bring some crazy movies. So I went to an independent store that had a lot of crazy movies in it. I mean rare bootleg tapes with cheapass photocopied covers, a lot like the one that I had rented years ago. And lo and behold, they had a copy of I Drink Your Blood. This box stated very clearly “Uncut Version – Never Before Seen!” So I rented it, along with a copy of other crazy looking movies, and took them to the all-night-movie-watching event.

Unfortunately, those guys already had so many movies that they wanted to watch, that they never even considered looking at anything that I brought with me. And I had to return the tapes the next day, so I didn’t even get a chance to watch them on my own. I had wasted my money that day, and the store went out of business shortly after that. I never did see the uncut version of I Drink Your Blood.

Now, thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, I own the super-deluxe Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, and it contains two different cuts of the movie; the uncut X-rated version, and the director’s cut. The director’s cut is actually a longer version of the movie – but not because there’s more gore and violence. It contains more story. Honestly, I’m not sure which version of the movie is better, so I am thrilled to have them both in my collection.

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to be heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Instead of zombies, I Drink Your Blood features people infected with rabies. The effect is similar, but almost more like the fast moving zombies of the distant future (such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004)). 

The villains in I Drink Your Blood, and the first ones to become rabid maniacs, are a group of satanic hippies. This might sound like a ridiculous and campy idea (satanic hippies?!) but at the time the movie was made, some people were actually afraid of hippies. Their music, their fashions, their use of drugs, their rejection of normal society – this all seemed strange and dangerous to “respectable” people. They just didn’t understand hippies, so it wasn’t a big leap to imagine that hippies might worship Satan, or be part of a cult.

And let’s not forget that Charles Manson and his murderous crew were basically hippies gone wrong. And they had just committed their crimes the year before I Drink Your Blood was released. Hippies were definitely ripe for exploitation by the horror genre at that moment.

I Drink Your Blood features Lynn Lowry in one of her earliest film roles. She may have made Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return first, but it came out after, so I’m not sure. In any case, she was pretty much unknown when she made I Drink Your Blood. Her part was small, and her character was basically mute, but she really stands out from the rest of the cast. That’s not to suggest that the other actors are bad. I actually think that many of them are quite good, but Lynn Lowry somehow makes the strongest impression. She has a lot of screen presence, and manages to draw focus in every scene that she is in. It’s no surprise that she would go on to legendary cult status, thanks to films like The Crazies (1973), Score (1973) Shivers (1975), Cat People (1982) – and this one, of course.

Lynn Lowry dropped out of film and TV acting for about ten years in the mid 1990s, but since 2005 she has appeared in more than a hundred movies – many of them independent horror and other other genre films. Here’s hoping she makes another hundred.

I Drink Your Blood (1970) is legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema that every fan should see at least once. I’ve already seen it three or four times, and I will look forward to many more. It will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Blue Sextet (1971)

I had never heard of Blue Sextet (1971) until I bought the special edition Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood (1971) by Grindhouse Releasing. Blue Sextet was included as a bonus feature (along with I Eat Your Skin (1964), which was often paired with I Drink Your Blood as a double feature). In fact, this Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray marks the first time that Blue Sextet has ever been released on home video.

Blue Sextet is said to be from 1969 on the back of the Blu-ray box. The IMDb and other sites list the release date as 1971. Turner Classic Movies claims 1972. What does this mean? I’m only guessing, but I would speculate that the movie was shot in 1969, and not released until (probably) 1971. It must not have been a very wide release, allowing for some uncertainty about the exact date, which could explain TCM’s calling it 1972.

Blue Sextet centers on an egotistical artist named Jeffrey Amber, played by actor John Damon, who only appeared in seven movies but was known by 4 different names: John Damon, Jack Damon, Don Canfield, & Paul Dare. Damon was also the long time companion of David E. Durston, the director of Blue Sextet. In an interview after Durston’s death, Damon was credited as John DiBello.

David E. Durston is best remembered as the guy who made I Drink Your Blood, which is a #NotQuiteClassicCinema favourite, and I have had a personal relationship with it for many, many years. But that is another story.

Durston also directed a movie called Stigma (1972), which I saw for first time just a few years ago and I loved it. Still, I didn’t know quite what to expect from Blue Sextet, considering that it seemed to be a long forgotten film, but I was pleasantly surprised by how entertaining it was. It’s beautifully shot, with a great production design. It also has a cool soundtrack, and loads of psychedelic atmosphere. It could be called an art-house exploitation film. That means there’s lot’s of nudity and sex, but it’s very artistically done. 

As I’ve come to expect from late sixties sexploitation films, the story and the performances are much better than you might see in a more modern sex film. Blue Sextet is a real drama, not just a bunch of erotic scenes strung together with no point other than to be erotic. I have a particular fondness for the styles and sounds of the era, so my experience of the movie may be coloured by that. I can get a lot of joy from just listening to the soundtrack when not much is happening on the screen. I also have a lot of patience for storytelling that takes its time. Some other people have said that they got bored while watching this film. I most definitely did not.

Another criticism I’ve read, is that the characters are not sympathetic. This is certainly a complaint that I’ve made about other films from time to time. Certain recent horror films have been particularly guilty of this. They feature characters who are so obnoxious and unlikeable that you wind up rooting for the killer (or monster) to disembowel them. I did not have this feeling while watching Blue Sextet. Although part of the point may have been that Jeffrey Amber, the character at the centre of all the drama, may have been (literally and figuratively) screwing all of his friends. 

What can I say? I have a soft spot for movies of a bygone era. They literally don’t make ’em like Blue Sextet anymore. The entire sexploitation genre pretty much died out when hardcore adult cinema became the norm in the 1970s. In terms of  David E. Durston’s body of work, Blue Sextet may not be as exciting as I Drink Your Blood, or even Stigma, but you can bet that on some future #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn, I’ll be checking it out again. Maybe it will rise in my estimation upon second viewing. Maybe it will fall a notch or two. Or maybe it will simply endure, an artifact of a mostly defunct genre of #NotQuiteClassicCinema, continuing to entertain nostalgia-prone trash connoisseurs, like me, until the lights of the last home drive-in go out.

Friday night at the home drive-in: I Eat Your Skin (1964) or was it (1971)?

Who doesn’t know the story of this movie? Shot in 1964, but not released until 1971, it was originally titled Zombie, or maybe Invasion of the Zombies, but when producer Jerry Gross needed a second feature to send out with I Drink Your Blood he retitled it to I Eat Your Skin.

I Eat Your Skin got panned in every horror review book I ever read. Terror On Tape, by James O’Neill, gave it one and half stars and noted that the acting was “as gruesome as it gets.” Creature Features, by John Stanley, also gave it one and half stars and said “Credit (or discredit) Del Tenney for writing-producing-directing this mess.” Thanks to reviews like these, I avoided watching I Eat Your Skin for many years. But there was always a nagging voice somewhere in the back of mind telling me that this movie needed to be seen. And since it came as a bonus feature on my super-deluxe blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, I no longer had any excuse to ignore it. Continue reading