Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Blood Sabbath (Brianne Murphy, 1972)

An odd film, with an odd story, and an odd director. Blood Sabbath is a bit of a dirty fairy tale. It stars Dyanne Thorne as Alotta, Queen of the Witches, Tony Geary as David, a war weary veteran, and Susan Damante as the nymph Yyala.

David has returned from Vietnam and is haunted by his experiences. He decides to travel through the woods (presumably in Mexico) where he is waylaid by a group of hippies, led by the über-hot Uschi Digard. They chase him from his campsite, steal his belongings and leave him for dead. This is where the true weirdness starts.

David is discovered by Lonzo (Sam Gilman, The Big Valley, Peyton Place). Lonzo nurses him back to health, but not before David comes across Yyala, a water nymph. He falls madly in love with her, and when it is discovered that to win her love he must lose his soul, he searches for an opportunity. That opportunity is, of course, through Alotta, who sacrifices souls to the pagan gods to assure a good harvest. She takes his soul for him, with the understanding that when Yyala leaves him (which she assures David she will) he must return to her.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie turned out to be. The story is fairly solid, without too many plot holes. The look and feel of the film is similar to those old fairy tale movies. I can't think of a specific one, but if there is an old Hansel & Gretel movie, that is what I am thinking of. The costumes (for those who wear them) are very theatrical, and perhaps not suited for film, though they work. Dyanne Thorne is typically is a huge set of robes with trinkets and jewelry.

Director Brianne Murphy only directed one other film, To Die, To Sleep (1994), but is an award winning cinematographer. She won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming, and was nominated for three other Emmy's including one for Highway to Heaven. Looking at her resumé, she seems an unlikely directorial candidate for the film as most of her credits are for incredibly mainstream television, or programming for children. Perhaps this is the reason for the Hansel & Gretel feel I get from it? Considering its low-B status, it is pretty beautifully shot, and when it does take on a psychedelic look it is not too heavy handed. One scene in particular stands out. Alotta is trying to trick David, and does a dance to seduce him. While performing, she makes him see her as Yyala. The editing here is quite good and not overplayed, in my opinion.

Despite, or perhaps because of, her role as the villain, Dyanne Thorne really steals this one. She is rather subdued and speaks in an almost Glinda the Good Witch voice. Her "face acting" is present, but less maniacal than in some roles. She plays devious and coquettish here quite well. Alotta is not one to do her own dirty work, and uses her wiles to get what she wants. Almost everything she wants.

My copy of Blood Sabbath is a Region 2 DVD that I got pretty cheap on eBay. Most US players cannot play Region 2, but there are ways to change this. If you are interested in the wonderful world of what the rest of the world has to offer, Google/Yahoo your DVD player with brand, model, and "region 0" and chances are there is a way to eliminate your Region 1 setting. I have a $30 DVD player that does NTSC and PAL, and it went Region-free with no problems.


dfordoom said...

I was also very pleasantly surprised by this movie.

Unfortunately the Region 4 DVD release is atrocious. I might have to look for that Region 2 disc.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I'm not sure how much better the R2 is. The screenshots in this post are from the DVD. It definitely looks like a 30+ year old print. The sound is not bad, if a tad muffled. The music sounds good though. I forgot to mention how cool the soundtrack was.

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