7 August 2003 | sdiner82
Highly original, expertly-made 1971 horror classic. But be warned . . .
I caught "I Drink Your Blood" at a Times Square theater in New York in 1971. I was writing for a long-defunct but excellent film magazine called Filmfacts, where we covered every film given a theatrical release in the U.S.--running the gamut from the boxoffice blockbusters to the schlockiest of drive-in quickies. Filmfacts was a scholarly publication--most of our subscribers were libraries. For each film, we provided a complete list of cast & credits, a summary of critics' reviews, one-to-four stills (if available), and a thorough plot synopsis. Which is why I saw "I Drink Your Blood," expecting another piece of low-budget garbage, and instead being treated to one of the most truly horrific (and little-known) thrillers ever produced. Even though the obviously heavily-edited R-rated version was pretty strong stuff, it still put me through the wringer and I recommended it to the other members of the magazine's staff, who all loved it. The plot has been sufficiently detailed by other reviewers on this invaluable database, but, aside from urging anyone with a cast-iron stomach to sample this unique, feverish, gorgeously photographed nightmare of a movie ("Night of the Living Dead" please step aside), I'd like to clarify the conflicting accounts of the prints of the movie. The one I saw at the theater was rated R by the MPAA. A few months later, I happened to meet a lovely actress named Iris Brooks, who had given a first-rate performance in the film. We became friends and, on the anniversary of the film's completion, Iris invited me and some friends to attend a cast & crew party held at a Times Square theater around midnight (after the theater was cleared out) and the projectionist could show "I Drink Your Blood," followed by a catered but unpretentious party in the downstairs lounge (apparently, everyone involved with making the movie, its grisly subject matter notwithstanding, had a great time and had formed many friendships during the film). However, the print that was screened was not the butchered 'R'-rated version I'd originally seen but the director David Durston's (a sweet, supremely intelligent, friendly man, and a first-rate filmmaker as far as I'm concerned) unedited cut. It was perhaps 8 minutes longer than the censored version shown at theaters. The violent scenes were considerably more graphic and gory, and there were also some innocuous nude scenes that apparently gave Jack Valenti cardiac arrest, hence the butchered version that the distributor was forced to release. I've read that the original, uncut version has finally been unearthed and will be released on DVD. I heartily recommend that any serious movie buff should buy this film (in whatever version, it doesn't really matter) as soon as it hits the video stores. It's a true 'sleeper' that deserves to be re-discovered and appreciated even 30 years after its initial, shoddily-handled brief release. "I Drink Your Blood" is some kind of deranged masterpiece but, despite its controversial elements (even today, it's pretty far out there), it's never offensive and the people who made it are one of the nicest and most talented group of individuals it's ever been my pleasure to meet!