THE MOVIE SOMNAMBULIST #27 -- Blood Mania
BLOOD MANIA is dead awesome at what it aims to be, and even better at the rationale I made up that they probably never thought about at all. The filmmakers clearly wanted a softcore nasty with lots of nudity and they got that. They also made a deconstructionist erotic thriller. It actually goes a bit farther than that. Other than a couple of lines, you have literally heard every single line uttered in this thing in a load of other movies. Even lines like "Didn't you know? I'm listed in the Yellow Pages under 'Sex'," or "Victoria, we're young souls; young and evil" might as well have been in a bunch of other movies.
Now I'm going to tell you something that may freak you out a little. Lots of nerds (yes, like me) only recently became aware that an actress named Maria de Aragon played Greedo in Star Wars. If the thought of this turned you on even a little, this movie was made by God for you. Maria is naked all over this thing and she's pretty amazing. Actually, it was made by Robert O'Neill, who also directed ANGEL and AVENGING ANGEL; he also wrote the classic VICE SQUAD. My Golden Age of Playboy Centerfolds alarm went off twice, after spotting Reagan Wilson and Vicki Peters. One of the two non-nude performances was by a lady I remember from a MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. episode (The Thrush Roulette Affair). The oddball connections almost knocked me clean over.
The movie wrestles with its less-convoluted-than-it-looks plot and its goal of showing naked women in vaguely Argento-like lighting schemes and camera angles. There are a lot of what we now read as killer POV shots when the idea is merely to disorient. O'Neill seems more informed by Russ Meyer than Argento, and for this I thank him. It can only be an homage to RM when Victoria strips for the poolboy and we get a sudden zoom shot of Victoria's boobs. Even the sex and drug sequences have that Meyer sensibility, with quick cuts, gorgeous statuesque women and crazy angles. Victoria (de Aragon) kept reminding me of Erica Gavin; heck even the leading man was in VIXEN!
But enough trivia; the plot's important! A rich old doctor is recovering at home from a heart problem. He has a doting nurse (the other non-nude actress in the movie) and Victoria to look over him. Daddy and Victoria hate each other. Whenever Dr. Cooper from the clinic Daddy runs comes to check on him, Daddy laughs at Victoria's efforts to get him into bed. In this respect, this is an anti-Russ Meyer film. It's a man's world even when the men don't amount to much. Victoria even tries to seduce the poolboy, but he runs in terror when she makes her move. Anyways, Dr. Cooper is happily married and isn't succumbing to Victoria's advances.
But Dr. Cooper has a . . . say it with me kids . . . a deep dark secret. Plus he has a blackmailer, Mr. Mills, a tiparillo-smoking douchebag of the sort that Steve Coogan could play in his sleep. Turns out Dr. Cooper performed abortions while in Med School to make ends meet; Mills wants 50 thousand bucks in two weeks or he'll have Cooper arrested. BLOOD MANIA was made three years before Roe v Wade, see. Cooper confides in his wife during her second nude scene and she says they'll find a way to pay Mills off. Wait, no, he tells her during her third nude scene. Her second nude scene was during Cooper and Mills' conversation about the money. Cooper asks his wife to go into the next room while he and Mills talk. The acting's so dreadful and the dialogue so damn bad that we are treated to a cutaway of Mrs. Cooper eavesdropping on the conversation while stripping. This movie knows how to cover its shortcomings.
Indeed, every time I started to write down crap dialogue examples, one of the three female leads took her shirt off. This strategy has fallen away in recent years; for instance, did the FRIGHT NIGHT remake really need to have a multi-fuck dialogue injection to get the "R"? You had Imogen Poots right there the whole time. But BLOOD MANIA didn't waste its treasures, no sir. I lost track of the number of nude scenes, and yet it managed to keep the excuses fairly reasonable.
So Cooper is a good guy in a bad situation, right? Well, I suppose he is, right up until Victoria shows him a painting she made and then kisses him; oh, and she says she can take care of the $50K. Down the rabbit hole he goes. In bed, Victoria cracks a popper under Cooper's nose and triggers a psychedelic sequence. There's no real body on top of body business (well, a bit later on, but there's an actual plot reason), just fast cuts and lots of sexual touching while standing. The movie manages to feel pretty sleazy while keeping a mostly chaste gap between lovers--room enough between you for the Holy Ghost, as the nuns used to say at the dance.
So Cooper tells Victoria that poppers are dangerous, especially if you have a heart condition. Victoria goes straight into Daddy's room and cracks one under his nose and he dies. Next scene, a lawyer tells Victoria that it'll be two weeks before the reading of the will, and you start to think the rest of the movie will play out in that time. Ha! It goes BAM, Victoria's sister Gail and her mature ladyfriend Kate appear and BAM, it's will time. There are a few lead-pipe hints that Gail and Kate are a couple, and Kate even warns Cooper off of Gail. Kate's pretty astute. There are later scenes where Kate, Gail and the nurse are sitting around enjoying each other's company and you wonder what a film of that would have been like. They seem to genuinely like each other.
Anyways, since there's thirty more minutes in the movie, Victoria's plans are thwarted when the nurse gets a small chunk of the estate and Gail gets the rest. Since Victoria can't give Cooper his $50K now, he immediately seduces Gail. Kate is powerless to stop this, because in this movie's game of cock-paper-scissors, cock beats scissors. Cooper takes Gail to a freaking REN FAIRE and scores, having sex with her in the living room that night. That's marking your territory. Kate knows she's beaten, so she packs and leaves that night. She does not return. Speaking of which, what happened to Mrs. Cooper? Well, Mr. Mills visits her to hear her offer: sex with me to let Dr. Cooper off the hook. He says sure and proceeds to rape her. Afterwards he says she wasn't very good and indicates that the money's still owed. For the sin of being an inadequate rape victim, the movie hands her a red card and she does not return.
Victoria is now recovering from a wooly-headed freak-out she had at the will reading. She's in Daddy's old room, locked in for her own safety. The nurse mentions the possibility of putting her in a hospital, which is one of the more deliciously catty moments in the film because Victoria and the nurse hate the holy hell out of each other but never quite have a big fight. It's the only unconsummated relationship in the movie, lemme tell ya. There's even a wild bit when Cooper is having sex with Gail on the living room floor that bears a bit of analysis. He's on top, all is well; but then Gail starts flashing back to a time when apparently Daddy used to rape her in the same position (hinted at in the confusing opening sequence but clear now). We flash back and forth between current nice sex and old bad sex and she starts to freak out. But Cooper doesn't even notice and soldiers on, and soon the flashes stop and she's enjoying herself. Cock beats everything in this movie.
Victoria ends up beating Gail's brains in, but not before Gail strips down one more time; they do not miss a single opportunity in this movie. It wants to entertain you. Cooper comes over, freaks out at Gail's corpse, then decides that rather than use his magic dork to wipe the rape memories out of his own wife, he'll help dispose of the body and stick with Victoria. He puts Gail's body in his car and goes back in to give Victoria some instructions when AAAAAAAAAAA there's Gail's corpse standing by the door! After a second Gail goes thump on the floor and we see that she was being held up by Mr Mills, whose price just went way up. More movies need to end with the "you're so screwed" moment. The 70s are full of them--think THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE.
Stayed awake for the whole thing because: "I did it for you." "For me?" "He was going to die anyway." "Victoria. That was your father." "Don't look at me like that." "How the hell do you want me to look at you?" Only here does the movie fail us by not having Victoria take her top off. Every other time, this movie pays like a slot machine. Six wide awake eyes for this one. (One eye equals 15 minutes of runtime.)
John Ira Thomas writes graphic novels for Candle Light Press. He needs to work out what the paper is in cock-paper-scissors. It's gotta be money, right? For more Movie Somnambulist fun, check out the archives!
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