Written by: John White on December 24th, 2005
Theatrical Release Date: Philippines, 1966
Director: Gerardo DeLeon
Cast: Ronald Remy, Amalia Fuentes, Eddie Fernandez, Mary Walter
DVD released: September 24, 2002
Approximate running time: 86 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 full frame
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
DVD Release: Image
Region Coding: Region 1 Ntsc
Retail Price: $19.99
Dona Marisa has returned to the Philippines with her dying daughter and her daughter’s lover Doctor Marko (Remy). In the time she has been away, Marisa has fallen in with a cult of vampires and has promised Dr Marko the heart of her other daughter Charito (Fuentes) to save the ailing one. Charito has been brought up by her Uncle and Aunt and does not know she has a sister. The Vampire cult comprises a hunchback, a dwarf and a maiden who is in love with Marko. Their presence leads to a number of killings of young women and Charito’s guardians and the local priest’s suspicions are raised that bloodsuckers are around. Dona Marisa offers Charito a roof over her head and Charito unaware of what awaits her accepts the offer. Will Charito’s friends help her to escape the fate of being her sisters’ organ donor?
Blood Drinkers has an incredibly convoluted plot and the presentation of the film involves jumps in narrative which are distracting to say the least. However, it is an immensely creative piece of cinema which uses colour in a way which is 10 years ahead of Argento’s Suspiria. Due to the expensive cost of colour film, the producers could not afford the whole film being in colour so they decided to have extensive sequences of monochrome tinted by red or blue. Leon chooses to use this limitation, and the night-time sequences of the film are all shot in monochrome with Red being the colour for danger or violence. This adds an effectiveness to these scenes of bloodletting and peril which is beautifully gothic and undeniably eerie.
Added to this stylistic choice is some wonderful use of lighting and smoke and what would be a poor budget looks greater than it should. The film has narration throughout from the priest and takes a very Catholic approach to the subject, so there is no attempt at camp or kitsch here. This is indeed a limited script and scenes are clearly lost but the Blood Drinkers is a gem which should appeal to fans of Bava’s gothics or Marins’ Coffin Joe films.
Stakes through the heart, heaving bosoms and a vampire in shades. This is very well made.
The main feature is presented in full screen and the restoration of the film is best marked in the monochrome sequences which are remarkably powerful. The colour sequences are much worn and the colour balance isn’t quite right.
The sound does have noise on the English dub which is provided here with pops but little distortion. The English dub is a little badly synched at times.
The extras are plentiful – commentary, documentary about Eddie Romero, deleted scenes, promos and trailers for other Filipino Image releases. Romero comes over as immensely humble and genuinely in love with films. An appreciation of the film is included as a small booklet in the case.
This is a rather interesting film and tremendously brave in the way it was shot. It is unsurprising that the narrative is weak given the lost scenes and ramshackle script, but fans of Gothic Horror will need to see this film.