Before he was saddled with a wife and three kids, and then a second wife and three more kids, THE BRADY BUNCH's Robert Reed was fighting for his life in BLOODLUST!, on DVD from Film Chest in a new high definition remaster.
When the fish are not biting and they run out of bottles for target practice, a quartet of jet setters – sports man Johnny (Reed), his Judo expert girlfriend Betty (June Kenney, ATTACK OF THE PUPPET PEOPLE), nerdy Pete (Eugene Persson, EARTH VS. THE SPIDER), and his girlfriend Jeannie (Joan Lora, SORORITY GIRL) decide to take the dinghy out to an uncharted island against the advice of their drunken captain (Troy Patterson, THE STATUE). They hope to find buried treasure but instead Johnny falls into a trap. The island's owner Dr. Allen Balleau (Wilton Graff, LUST FOR LIFE), who retreated from civilization after the war in favor of hunting big game on his own private island, insistently invites them to stay the night rather than brave the wild animal and lurking renegade-filled jungle at night. The youthful quartet reluctantly agrees but they are in no way fooled by their host's hospitality. As Pete and Jeannie snoop around the house, Johnny and Betty learn the horrifying truth from Balleau's long-suffering wife Sandra (Lilyan Chauvin, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT) and her lover Dean (Walter Brooke, THE GRADUATE) who Balleau only keeps around because he's a good chess player. This six must band together to try to get off the island or end up stuff and mounted as exhibits in Balleau's trophy room; but Balleau is onto their plans, and he doesn't play fair.
The only feature (and barely feature-length at that) directorial effort of Ralph Brooke, who served as art director and second unit director on Jerry Warren's MAN BEAST and had small roles in a several mainstream films, BLOODLUST! is yet another variation on "The Most Dangerous Game". It's reasonably well-acted – with Reed, Graff, and Brooke coming off best – but definitely made on the cheap (one wonders if the film dispensed with scenes where the characters initially take their host's generosity for granted and had them immediately suspicious as an innovation or because they didn't have enough time to shoot them). The photography of Richard Cunha (who previously directed FRANKENSTEIN'S DAUGHTER and SHE DEMONS) is alternately TV flat and film noir-ish, and one could almost mistake it for a film from an even earlier era if not for some surprisingly grisly bits in the cellar (the cave walls of which look like crinkled construction paper), some onscreen blood that is not only shed but flows freely, and some surprisingly adult overtures from Johnny when his girlfriend asks what they can do since they've run out of bottles for target practice. Kenney actually gets to use her character's touted Judo, but there is otherwise a lot of screaming from the girls (one of whom of course twists her ankle). Near the end of a long career that started in the late 1930s, Graff gives a dignified and understated performance but there's really no mystery behind the character's motives from his introductory shot to the very next (which finds him posed besides a mounted lion's head); Graff's villainy turns more campily entertaining once the cat's out of the bag for the main characters. Kenney, Patterson, Lora, and Persson went on to appear in a couple of Bert I. Gordon films.
A Crown International release, the film appears to have slipped into the public domain and has been available on labels like Madacy (in a double bill with ATOM AGE VAMPIRE), Mill Creek, and Alpha Video in a transfer likely sourced from a Sinister Cinema tape release, BLOODLUST comes to DVD again via Film Chest from a new high definition transfer in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio looking well-framed – it zooms into 16:9 well enough (although forfeiting some details of the set dressing) but looks resultantly softer – and sporting a nice range of white to black tones (the blurry-looking, presumably 16mm-sourced PD version leans towards the gray in both its shadows and its highlights) although smoother than it should be with detail faring better in close-ups than in wider ones (although nothing can make one not peer at those fake cave walls). Since the film is only sixty-eight minutes, the bitrate could be higher but the mid-range setting is sufficient. The 35mm materials are not spotless but are very clean for a PD film from the early 1960s. The condition of the mono audio track – encoded here in Dolby Digital 2.0 – is fairly clean with all of the dialogue intelligible (one line is almost drowned under the incidental music, but that's the fault of the original mix). It's a mostly forgettable film, but Film Chest's DVD is the best the film will probably look any time soon unless someone tosses the same master onto Blu-ray. There are no extras, and the menu screens have the same template-look as Film Chest's SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT. (Eric Cotenas)
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