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Here comes the bride...with a non-human creature by her side...
on June 2, 2006
Planning on taking a vacation this summer? Perhaps a warm, sunny, fun-filled destination like the Bahamas? Maybe the Caribbean? Here's an alternative...why not give Blood Island a try? It's got most everything one would look for in a tropical vacation destination...friendly natives, beautiful sunsets, and miles of pristine beaches. I suppose I should mention there might be just a touch of residual radiation present from atomic testing performed in the Pacific on nearby islands in the mid 1940s, resulting in unsubstantiated reports of mutated man-eating plants and homicidal humanoids lusting female flesh roaming about...directed by Eddie Romero (Mad Doctor of Blood Island, Beast of the Yellow Night), Brides of Blood (1968) features Kent Taylor (The Day Mars Invaded Earth, The Mighty Gorga, Hell's Bloody Devils), former stripper Beverly Hills aka Beverly Powers (Kissin' Cousins, Invasion of the Bee Girls), and John Ashley (Muscle Beach Party, The Eye Creatures, Beast of Blood), who found a moderate amount of success producing and starring in a series of exploitive horror features produced in the burgeoning Filipino film industry in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
As the film begins we see three individuals arriving by boat to a remote, Pacific local known as `Blood Island'...catchy name...anyway, there's Jim Farrell (Ashley), a Peace Corp type, Dr. Paul Henderson (Taylor), a scientist of some kind, and his hot and exceedingly trampy wife Carla (Powers), possessor of the ever attractive scornful acid tongue. Upon leaving the boat they witness a native funeral procession of sorts, except there's no body, but only bloody pieces. The head of the tribe states this was a bad time for the trio to come (there's a lot of bad mojo about), as the natives have reverted to some ancient rituals, and offers his comely granddaughter Alma to the group for the purpose of translating (and most likely to become a future love interest to Jim the way he's undressing her with his eyeballs). After settling in, the foursome visit the local plantation owned by an individual named Esteban Powers, who, along with a disfigured manservant named Goro, also employs a small group of half nekkid dwarfs who always seem to be underfoot. On the trip they encounter some odd plant life, particularly a grabby banana tree that likes to fondle attractive blondes. On their return trip they stumble across a sacrificial ceremony where a couple of young, female villagers are strung up and offered to appease an evil spirit type who lives in the jungle. The ceremony's a success, and by success I mean a large, hideous, humanoid muck man appears from the jungle, ravages the woman, and then tears them to pieces before heading back into the jungle...later Paul, after being attacked by a man-eating butterfly, hypothesizes all the weirdness is a result of genetic mutation due to residual radiation from the nearby atomic testing so many years ago. Eventually Alma is chosen for sacrifice and Jim tries to rally the natives to fight the power, but to no avail...things get hairy, more people die, Paul postulates some more, and Carla continues her life long quest to become Queen of the Harlots...
Man, this movie's got everything...spear wielding natives, dwarfs, a goo monster, man-eating banana trees, a disfigured manservant, carnivorous butterflies, sacrificial ceremonies, cleavage up the wazz, decapitations, flare guns, machetes, a handsome hero type, an atmospheric jungle locale, dismembered body parts, a huge, goony looking idol, scantily clad females in distress, and so on...I learned a number of things while watching this film, including the following...
1. Peace Corp worker types don't do any actual work, but rather stand around and issue orders to the native population while pretending to write on their clipboards.
2. John Ashley had enough strength in his legs to crush a man to death.
3. A tramp is a tramp be it in the big city or the wild and wooly jungle.
4. Having a handful of half-nekkid dwarf servants to do your bidding isn't as cool as it sounds (actually, it's quite creepy).
5. Where normal men tend to grow sleepy after an intimate lovemaking session, mutated humanoid goo men like to tear the limbs, and heads, off the object of their desire.
6. Beverly Powers has a rack (and mouth) that won't quit.
7. No matter how attractive a woman is said attractiveness is significantly diminished when combined with a condescending attitude and an overly smart mouth.
8. Shooting a man-eating banana tree with a pistol has little effect, other than wasting ones ammunition.
9. Disfigured manservants are loyal to a fault.
I enjoyed this classic drive-in feature a lot...it may have lacked in areas like a strong plot, capable writing, and believable acting, but it excelled in lurid jungle sleaziness. It's got horror and science fiction elements combined, with a dash of drama. I've spoken a lot about dismemberment and such, but there's actually very little in the way of blood and gore, at least compared to today's standards. We do see a decapitation at one point, but it is far off in the distance...I suspect this was mainly due to the inability to present a realistic looking prop that would appear to be a woman having her head ripped off, a result of the limited budget. This isn't a complaint on my part, as I don't necessarily dig on loads of the extreme visceral in my films. Give me a clear idea what's going on and I'll take it the rest of the way. The performances weren't great, but they were good enough for a feature like this...I especially liked Ms. Powers in her role as she was just fun to watch in all of her sardonic, caustic, licentiousness. I thought Ashley did well in the standard hero role, but I was a little surprised his character wasn't more prominent as it was... Kent Taylor, who looks quite a bit like Vincent Price, was a nice addition to the cast, but I never understood exactly what was the purpose of his character coming to the island. He was a scientist, for sure, but was it was never made clear the specific purpose of his coming to the island, or who sent him. Oh well, it's generally not wise to get hung up on such plot points when watching a movie like this...you're better off just strapping yourself in and hanging on for the ride. One element this film had in spades was jungle atmosphere, but given where it was shot, in the Philippines, it wouldn't have been that difficult.
The restored picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1) format, on this Image Entertainment release looks very good. It does show signs of aging (some lines, white specking, etc.), but compared to some of the murky VHS copies I've seen, this is about as good as you'll probably get. The Dolby Digital mono audio comes through very well. As far as extras included, there's an audio commentary track featuring distributor Sam Sherman, an interview with director Eddie Romero, an original Brides of Blood wedding ring giveaway promo, a "House of Terror" live horror show promo, a Beverly Hills pinup gallery, a Blood Island image gallery, liner notes by Jim Arena, a Brides of Blood essay by Christopher William Koenig, and a trailer for this film, along with ones for Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968), Beast of Blood (1971), Brain of Blood (1972), Blood of the Vampires (1971), The Blood Drinkers (1966), and Raiders of the Living Dead (1986).
By the way, if you're interesting in getting this DVD release, I'd suggest trying to find the four DVD set titled The Blood Island Vacation, which includes the following...Brides of Blood (1968), Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968), Beast of Blood (1971), and Brain of Blood (1972). It appears significantly less expensive than buying the titles separately.