From the DVD case: Beginning with a serene charter boat ride and quickly descending into savage brutality, this lost gem, inspired by the classic thriller, The Most Dangerous Game, features an eerie atmosphere and intense performances. When two couples enjoying a seafaring vacation spot an uncharted island, little do they realize the horrible events that will soon threaten their very lives. Ensconced in a sinister mansion as the guests of the mysterious Dr. Balleau, the visitors quickly discover a trophy room where the heads mounted on the walls are human, and that they are the next game to be hunted. (1961, b&w)
Mark says: Though Bloodlust! is nowhere near the caliber of The Most Dangerous Game (1932), it does hold a certain kitsch appeal. There’s not much suspense, but there are some laughs and even a few genuine surprises.
Our hero, Johnny, is played by Robert Reed. Does that name sound familiar? You’ll most likely remember him as Mr. Brady from the TV series, The Brady Bunch. Reed makes for a pretty dull hero, but his ridiculously tight-fitting shirt provides some entertainment value.
The rest of Johnny’s gang consists of his girlfriend, Betty, played by June Kenney (Attack of the Puppet People, Earth vs the Spider), his nerdy friend, Pete, portrayed by Gene Persson (also Earth vs The Spider), and Pete’s girlfriend, Jeanne (Joan Lora). Of the group, it’s Betty that proves to have the most spunk and drive.
Wilton Graff (Valley of the Zombies) is Dr. Albert Balleau, a madman obsessed with hunting humans since serving time as a sniper during the war. Graff’s portrayal is adequate, but there are a few moments when he almost sounds like Vincent Price. This isn’t necessarily bad, except that it makes us wish that Vincent Price was in the role.
Dr. Balleau is such an evil guy that he kills off most of his own henchmen before the film’s completion. Not only that, he murders and stuffs his wife, played by Lilyan Chauvin (Silent Night, Deadly Night), when he discovers her plan to escape from the island with her lover, Dean (Walter Brooke, The Return of Count Yorga). Dr. Balleau also announces that he has some lascivious plans regarding Betty and Jeanne once he kills off the boys. He’s just an all-around bad man.
The most frustrating aspect of Bloodlust! is that an atmosphere of suspense is never established. The boys wander around in the woods without plan or logic. They talk loudly to one another, and Johnny, not needing his jacket any more, just leaves it on the ground allowing Dr. Balleau to track them faster. There’s no battle of wits, just the hunter and the hunted strolling stupidly through the woods. In fact, the girls, having escaped the mansion, just sort of bump into to boys long before Dr. Balleau can “track” them.
Bloodlust! does offer a few grisly surprises, though. In an early scene, we are exposed to a woman suspended eerily in formaldehyde. It’s not enough to give you nightmares, but it could make you uneasy. There’s also a scene involving leeches that made me squirm a bit. And, of course, any time there is a vat of acid in a movie, you can bet someone is going to be pushed (or Judo-thrown) into it. What’s exceptional about this segment, though, is the detail in which the acid consumes the flesh. It’s not something we expect from such a low-budget picture.
I wouldn’t rush right out and buy Bloodlust!, but if you find it in a dollar bin (like I did, combined with Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street) it’s worth the price of admission.
Look for Troy Patterson (Earth vs the Spider, Attack of the Puppet People) as drunk Captain Tony, and Bill Coontz (Kingdom of the Spiders, Frankenstein’s Daughter) as the insane (and very annoying) man in the woods.
Bloodlust! was filmed in 1959, but was not released until 1961.
Directed by Ralph Brooke.
Scene to watch for: Pete and Jeanne discover one of Dr. Balleau’s henchmen stuffing a human head with cotton. (Well, it looks more like a rubber mask than a head, but it’s the thought that counts.)
Line to listen for: “Listen Mr. Balleau, fun is fun, but if you think we’re going to be the clay pigeons in your shooting gallery you’re just a little far out!”
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ½ out of 5.