Amazon coasters: Bloodsuckers (1970)

"Well, it's only a couple of quid...what have I got to lose?" Martin lives to regret yet another impulsive web-purchase...

Francoise Pascal freaking out in possibly the best bit of Bloodsuckers - and it hit the cutting room floor.

There are actors (admittedly very few) who you can rely on to at least do something interesting with their next movie. Maybe it’ll be commercial but quirky, or just a good yarn, or something a bit more experimental. But you can rely on them to not appear in cynical crap.

Then, the day comes when they give up and go for the money regardless; sadly, you’re still following on the old ‘trust’-basis, and it takes quite a few turkeys before you’ve had your fill and realise that this person is no longer a barometer of quality for their latest film, and that you had better read the reviews first.

So many sad moments of realisation: Morgan Freeman in Dreamcatcher; Tim Roth in Funny Games; Johnny Depp in Secret Window (yes, at least The Libertine and The Brave were committed) and the Pirates sequels; Guy Pearce in The Time Machine

[Sniff]

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Yes, it’s sad, but inevitable. Huge tax bills come, and they must be paid for. There are Swiss finishing schools to arrange, cocaine habits to support, and ideals are for the young…

That notwithstanding, I am still amazed that my hero, Peter Cushing, appears in something as awful as Bloodsuckers, the ‘greek vampire movie’. An arch-cheese (in this case feta cheese) like Patrick Mower, fair enough, even if he does give arguably the only effortful performance in the movie; but the grand master of Hammer Horror surely had something better to do on the three days of shooting he appears to have contributed to this suck-fest (and I’m not talking about the vampires).

Bloodsuckers tells the story of Richard Fountain (Mower), the esteemed academic whiz-kid son of powerful Oxbridge don Walter Goodrich (Cushing), and authority on classical Greek culture. Whilst out in Greece, the rather-serious lad seems to have had a touch of heat-stroke and got mixed up in a drug-taking vampire sect full of bright young things, including Carry-On’s ‘Countess Of Cleavage’, the endomorphic Imogen Hassall. This very decorative addition to an esteemed and wasted cast gets her nude scene out of the way in the first five minutes and can do nothing further to rescue this movie in her capacity as lead-vampire/seductress of the mysterious sect.

The cheaper actors –i.e. the ones whose time could be more extensively bought than Cushing, Edward Woodward, Patrick ‘I’ll do anything for a pay check’ MacNee and even La Hassall – are promptly despatched to Greece to sort the whole sordid business out and get our wayward hero back to the dusty groves of academe, where his chronic impotence won’t be noticed so much.

The film assays a number of varyingly clumsy attempts to graft on a sexual subtext, notably in the inference that Mower might have some homosexual affiliation with his protégé (Johnny Sekka); however this theme goes nowhere in the movie itself, which seems to have been cut to pieces by the censor and reassembled dada-ist style, to the point where the viewer only has a vague notion of what is going on.

On my version, the only half-decent piece of editing in the entire film – a drug-addled freak-out in the young vampire’s nest – has itself hit the cutting room floor and crawled over to the sparse extras section, though I hear there is another version of Bloodsuckers which retains it in the movie itself.

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Mower’s much-discussed limpness forms the basis of the film’s conceit of vampirism as an S&M sublimation of sexual desire, a new wrinkle on an old myth, and one whose intriguing possibilities deserve a better host film. But pseudo-intellectual subtlety is never going to be the strong suit of a film that spends Imogen Hassall’s costly nude scene in reel 1 in order to hook uncommitted viewers, and goes on to bore rubber-neckers and horror-fans alike in a shambolic and nonsensical vampire-hunting trek around the admittedly-picturesque sights of Greece. Hassall’s canon-defying vampires don’t even seem to be averse to all that Greek sunshine, and blimey, they do love their psychedelic drugs…

Repatriated in a half-dead, hypnotic state, a recovering Mower is bearded in his Oxbridge lair by the not-as-dead-as-we-thought Hassall, and his bizarre sexual obsession with her manifests as an explosive anti-establishment rant at a dinner in his honour, which he decides to round off by biting out his boring fiancée’s throat and climbing up onto the spires of the campus. He is pursued by possibly-gay confidante Sekka, now duly armed with a stake (shouldn’t Cushing be doing this stuff? Oh well, he is the lad’s father, I suppose…). He falls off the roof, the stake descends, and that’s yer lot.

Bloodsuckers has too little sex and drugs to be an effective exploitation pic, and presents too watery a strain of horror to provide any scares of any kind. It is rumoured to have been very hastily assembled due to production problems, and I can only presume that James Trevelyan efforts to make it fit for a 1970 ‘X’ certificate have done little for the movie’s coherence.

Director Robert Hartford-Davis justly hides behind the pseudonymous ‘Michael Burrowes’ for the length of this rambling and not-that-bloody tale, and well he should: he is one of the few directors who ever got a bad performance out of Peter Cushing.

Serve at 1am on a Friday night. Warning: There’s some screaming in reel 7 that may wake you up.