Schlock Value: Blood Mania
Ever noticed those ridiculous box set DVD compilations of old public domain horror, sci-fi, and vintage sleaze films at your local Walmart, and wondered if any of them are any good? If so, SCHLOCK VALUE is for you. Being a fan of that kind of garbage, I’ve collected many of these sets over the years, and have amassed somewhere over 300 of some of the worst films ever made. With this column, I plan to work my way through them, sorting the bad from the truly abysmal, to let you know which films are worth a look, and which are better left forgotten. First up is 1970’s Blood Mania, from Mill Creek Entertainment’s Gorehouse Greats Collection.
Let’s start with the marketing. If you were to go into Blood Mania expecting the ultimate experience in terror, you would be forgiven. After all, it says as much on the poster, which also features a low angle shot of a harshly lit naked woman holding a human skeleton, with the title scrawled along the side by a pair of disembodied hands. There’s even a warning: “Come prepared for the SHOCKING CLIMAX The last 15 minutes will jolt you right out of your seat!” Because honestly, what will get people into the theater better than a warning to ‘keep out’? The trailer also does a pretty decent job, selling a mix of Italian horror/suspense and Herschell Gordon Lewis gore. Unfortunately, like a lot of other low-budget trash, Blood Mania is barely the film it was sold as.
The film begins with an opening credit sequence straight out of a classic giallo: a beautiful blonde woman in a sheer nightgown (and nothing else) is being stalked through a shadowy corridor by a mysterious older man. Of course, everything is bathed in vibrant primary colors. As the woman is eventually caught and killed by her assailant, the film cuts to the man waking up in his bed, revealing all to be a dream. This satisfactory opening sequence is about where the thrills end. At least, for a while. It turns out the man is Ridgeley Waterman, a wealthy old curmudgeon who is bed-ridden and cared for at home by his daughter, Victoria (played by Maria De Aragon, who would go on to play Greedo in Star Wars!).
The protagonist, Craig Cooper (played by Peter Carpenter) is Ridgeley’s physician. Things are pretty good for Dr. Cooper, he's handsome and he’s got a beautiful girlfriend (October 1967 Playmate of the Month, Reagan Wilson). Unfortunately, though, it turns out a former associate of his knows about some illegal abortions Dr. Cooper performed, and is looking for $50,000 in hush money. We never learn who this guy is unfortunately; he’s just credited as “blackmailer.” Honestly, though, it doesn’t really matter. He only exists to push the film forward so we can get to the good stuff. While on a housecall at the Waterman house, Dr. Cooper, looking for any way out, confesses to Victoria his “tax” problems.
Here’s the thing about Victoria: she’s a nymphomaniac (because of course she is). This is established in a superfluous scene early on when she tries seducing a poolboy, and up to this point, she has found as many opportunities to take her clothes off as possible, as nymphomaniacs are wont to do. When Victoria learns of Dr. Cooper’s “tax” problems, she offers to help him find the money, and quickly seduces him. With the affair consummated, Victoria proceeds to kill her father by poisoning him with amyl nitrate, and Dr. Cooper rules his death a stroke. When the day of the reading of the will arrives, however, Victoria learns that all of her father’s wealth was not left to her, but to her sister Gail. This leaves Victoria furious, and Dr. Cooper desperate and scrambling to attain the cash he needs to pay off the blackmailer. What follows is basically a family melodrama, with more affairs, more sex, and plenty of sibling rivalry, all leading up to the “shocking climax.”
Look, if I were to discover that Blood Mania had originally been a script for a softcore porn film that had been overhauled to work as a thriller, I would believe it. There are just barely enough thrills for it to be considered one, I guess, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mostly strung together by a series of sex/nude scenes accompanied by horribly amateurish dialogue, acting, and camerawork. To be fair, these are all classic sleaze staples, and they do make Blood Mania a piece of cheap, silly trash that is fun to watch in spite of itself. It almost doesn’t even matter that the title, poster, and trailer sold a completely different movie, but at the end of the day, I spent most of the movie waiting for the horror, only to walk away mostly empty-handed.
Vinegar Syndrome is set to release Blood Mania on Blu-ray this coming January. I wouldn’t go so far as to say you should pick it up, but if you want to buy the Gorehouse Greats Collection where it's bundled with other crap, I’d say give it a spin. It's also available on Amazon Prime Video. Just don’t expect much of a horror film.