Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bloodlust! (Cinegrafik/Crown International, 1961)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2011 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Charles and I got home in time to watch a movie: a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 presentation of a film called Bloodlust!, a 1961 ripoff of The Most Dangerous Game that follows the formula of Richard Connell’s famous 1924 short story and the three films (at least!) previously made of it, and casts Robert Reed, a deeply closeted Gay actor mostly known for his TV work, most famously the male lead on the sitcom The Brady Bunch, in the Joel McCrea role of the leader (more or less) of a group of tourists stranded on an island owned by a mad hunter (Wilton Graff, whose performance might have been better if he hadn’t been trying so hard to channel Vincent Price) who shoots down human beings, “hunts” them, kills them and then stuffs them for his “trophy room.” Basically it’s two stupid guys, Johnny Randall (Reed) and Dean Gerrard (Walter Brooke), and two stupid girls, Betty Scott (June Kenney) and Jeanne Perry (Joan Lora), being chased around the island by the mad hunter, whose name in the credits list is spelled “Dr. Albert Balleau” but the last name is pronounced “Bellow” by all the actors.

A story that is powerful and suspenseful in Connell’s story and the first film version (1932, directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack from a script by Ruth Rose just before they and two of their cast members, Robert Armstrong and Fay Wray, went on to do King Kong) here just drags unmercifully and goes nowhere mighty slowly — though not slowly enough (imdb.com lists the running time as 68 minutes) that the MST3K crew didn’t have time to do a short film before it called A Visit to the Dairy Farm, produced by one of America’s milk associations and actually more intrinsically entertaining than the feature. The best part of the show was an MST3K interjection that had nothing to do with the movie: it featured Dr. Clayton Forrester having his mother over — and having her (played by Mary Jo Pehl, who took over the villainess role from her on-screen “son” in the latter stages of the show) fawn over his sidekick “TV Frank” (Frank Conniff), much to Dr. Forrester’s predictable irritation. That was a good deal more fun than they were able to have with this dreary movie, which like a lot of the other MST3K “targets” seems to have expressed its rottenness mostly as boredom. At least they didn’t cast Robert Reed as the mad hunter, as I’d feared — though that blatant an example of undercasting might actually have made the movie more fun!