You might say Blood Drive was just Death Race 2000 with carnal fuel injection, and you’d be right, but the Bleeders who mourn the show wouldn’t care if it ran on fumes, so long as it kept running. Blood Drive was cancelled. The track came to an end at some kind of preordained finish line where the man behind the madness was killed and the only hope of survival is locked away on an island for the criminally insane. Creator James Roland doesn’t blame SyFy. In fact he loves them. The network took a chance and those 13 episodes, which form a full arc, will forever be preserved for pirating. What Roland doesn’t say is that the reason SyFy didn’t renew the show is because he killed off all the executives who backed him in full view of the audience.
Blood Drive wasn’t for everyone, only about 450,000 Bleeders came back week after week to see it. They started a petition to #RenewBloodDrive. It was largely ignored by everyone else, who saw it as a cheesy rip-off of old grindhouse gore and sleaze. Blood Drive was all of that and less. The show was not a retread of old tires. It is now forever part of the genre it set out to pay homage to. Throwaway cinema filler flicks made by filmmakers who would do anything, show everything and exploit anyone, to get their vision on screen.
The series was a season long montage of Grindhouse cinema, where celluloid debris went off to wither and die.
Nobody sets out to make a bad movie. “You make an A-movie that turns out to be not that great,” declares Colin Cunningham, who played Slink, the master of ceremonies at Club Mayhem on Blood Drive, told Den of Geek when the show first launched. Syfy’s new road rage series was made on the same kind of threadbare budget as their Grindhouse movie influences. The most artistic movements in cinema were made on low- or no-budgets. Directors would get funding by labeling the films “exploitation,” but the drive and the imagination is accelerated by the passions of the projects. From Blood Feast to Robo Geisha, Blacula to Pink Flamingoes, independent filmmaker begged, borrowed, stole and mortgaged their futures to ensure the future of film.
Exploitation flicks made a comeback after filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez reminded moviegoers how much you could do for so little. They worked together to sing the praises of indie art on Grindhouse in 2007. Grindhouse movies were named after the theaters that ran the cheaply made and sometimes hand-delivered B-movies. Blood Drive brings that tradition to the small screen by paying subliminal and subversive homage to a different B-, or C-movie a week made on roughly the same budget.
Here are some of the movies the makers of Blood Drive credited as inspiration:
Writer/director David Cronenberg was the first filmmaker to promote Snuff TV in the hallucinogenic science fiction cult masterpiece Videodrome (1983). CIVIC-TV President Max Renn (James Woods) is looking for something as new and exciting for pirate TV. But nothing compares to the sexy pop psychologist Nicki Brand (Deborah Harry), who brings as much heat to a cigarette scene as Bogie and Bacall did in To Have and Have Not. You don’t have to be Professor O’Blivion to see the impact this film made on low-budget conspiracy cinema.
X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes
Director Roger Corman spent three weeks making the sci fi horror film X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes in 1963, and you can see every penny of his $300,000 budget on the screen without goggles. Ray Milland’s Dr. James Xavier opened our eyes so wide we could spot Don Rickles holding back his sarcasm.
Independent filmmaker Tom Laughlin kicked serious ass in bare feet on his 1971 hippie revenge drama Billy Jack. After laying waste to Hells Angels in The Born Losers (1968), Laughlin spent two years in the Arizona heat to sweat out this vision of a reluctant hero, and he never took off that hat. Laughlin wrote the original screenplay after he saw Native American abuse in Winner, South Dakota. Alfred Hitchcock loved Billy Jack. Laughlin also made the 1960 film The Young Sinner in 14 days.
Robert Townsend borrowed against his check from A Soldier’s Story and maxed out every credit card that came in the mail to make his tour de force directorial debut Hollywood Shuffle in 1987. Townsend would film a few segments, run out of cash, get an $8,000 line of credit and buy raw film stock, wardrobe, art supplies and scenery. He didn’t pay his actors. He filled their cars with gas. He ran up $40,000 in debt and his brilliant subversive comedy made more than $5 million.
Night of the Living Dead
Sure, the zombies in 1968 horror classic Night of the Living Dead are slow moving and all messed up. But George A. Romero only spent $114,000 to scare up $12 million and reinvigorate the genre. Romero’s screenplay with John A. Russo was based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. Zombies never really die and, after midnight snack, we woke to Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (1990), Diary of the Dead (2007) and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009). Blood Drive‘s Suck Bus turned it almost sexy in the episode “The Fucking Dead.”
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Russ Meyer didn’t make much money off his seminal 1965 sexploitation film Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but independent filmmakers have been reaping the rewards ever since. Made for about as much money as a go-go dancer can stuff in her G-string, the film stripped production values to bare minimum while featuring raw celluloid honesty.
Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens
How could anyone give Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens (1979) a bad review? It was written by the late Mr. Thumbs Up himself, Roger Ebert, along with the iconic director Russ Meyer. The sexploitation comedy sported the biggest breasts in motion picture history and it all happened in Small Town, USA.
Across 110th Street
Across 110th Street (1972) isn’t as well-known as Shaft or Superfly, but director Barry Shear caught the inner turmoil hiding under Paul Benjamin’s concrete façade and itchy trigger finger. Anthony Quinn played a cop and Anthony Franciosa represented the mob in this gangster blaxploitation masterwork.
Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS
Germany may have lost the war, but American teens willingly gave names, ranks, serial numbers and undying obedience to Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS. Director Don Edmonds shot the S&M classic on the same the truly independent filmmaking star of Hogan’s Heroes shot that POW series.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Alfred Hitchcock’s low budget thriller Psycho invented a whole new genre that Tobe Hooper ripped a new cord for in his 1974 classic slasher movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Inspired by the same real life Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein, the movie cost $140,000, and brought onscreen gore to epic levels.
Gooba gabba, we accept you. One of us. The 1932 classic suspense romance Freaks was made in the days when geeks were geeks and made their living by biting the heads off chickens. Director Tod Browning didn’t have to ask his stars to sit for hours in a makeup chair. Pinheads played themselves, conjoined twins shared sexual thrills and the Human Torso lit cigarettes with his tongue.
Lust for a Vampire
Master Hammer thespian Peter Cushing called Lust for a Vampire “one of the worst films ever made” some time after he turned it down. But director Jimmy Sangster’s sexy 1971 adaptation of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Sapphic vampire novella Carmilla pushed the limits on violence, gore, and nudity in the middle film of the Karnstein Trilogy that started with The Vampire Lovers (1970) and ended with Twins of Evil (1971). As toothy is it is, it doesn’t suck, it blows. But only compared to the other two entries.
Death Race 2000
Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 is the obvious top choice for Blood Drive’s roots. The satirical road race movie pits the star of Rocky against the star of Kung Fu in a cross-country cannonball run that scores points through collateral damage.
Goodbye Blood Drive, whereever you are.