"I Drink Your Blood (1971/Blu-ray/Grindhouse Releasing)" Review

David Durston hardly seems to be the most likely candidate to have directed one of the most genuinely transgressive films of the 1970’s, judging by his docile looks and self-deprecating demeanor, but alas – with his darkly humorous magnum opus I DRINK YOUR BLOOD – this is exactly the case. Perhaps best known as the first non-pornographic film to be branded with an X-rating, the film has lived many lives over the decades following its initial theatrical run, and not all of them were particularly pretty.

Then in 2004, Grindhouse Releasing restored the film for a positively fan-pleasing Collector’s Edition DVD, and at last those at home could see what all the fuss was about. Packed with insightful and often humorous featurettes and looking better than ever, this seemed – at the time – to be the final word on this distinctively disturbing romp. Fast-forward to 2016 and Grindhouse is well into transferring their back catalog to the BLU-RAY format, and hot on the heels of such titles as PIECES and A CAT IN THE BRAIN was this film. Has the company, often dubbed the “Criterion of Exploitation”, outdone themselves once again or should the so-called “final word” been left as such? Let’s jump into this autopsy and find out.
 We open on a naked fireside ritual being held somewhere in the woods amongst a group of hippies with a penchant for the dark arts, led by the exotic Horace Bones (Bhaskar, an Indian performance artist). They kill a chicken and drain its blood into a goblet before spotting a local girl (Iris Brooks) sneaking a peek at the action from between some trees, who is then chased down and raped by a couple of their men. Devastated, she drags herself back into the sleepy town of Sally Hills the next morning, where she’s taken into the care of her kid brother Pete (Riley Mills) and the owner of the town bakery, Mildred (Elizabeth Marner-Brooks).  Her grandfather comes over to check on the poor girl and decides that these rowdy characters must be dealt with immediately. 
 Meanwhile, the cult shacks up in one of the town’s abandoned hotels, where they run rampant hunting rats and destroying what’s left of the furniture. The grandfather grabs his shotgun and heads out the door in search of the group, but when he finds them, they take him down and force-feed him LSD. Unable to stand by whilst his grandpa is in the throes of a bad trip, Pete takes the gun and goes out into the woods to do some snooping of his own. While exploring the woodland, Pete spots a rabid dog that charges at him, but he’s quick to shoot and after killing the animal, he takes some of its blood in a syringe. And what, do you imagine, he does with it? Why, what any other reasonable young fellow would – meaning that he injects the blood into some meat pies back at the bakery, which are then sold to the cult.
 Everyone but Andy (Tyde Kierney), the suspicious and insecure local kid who somehow got mixed up in the group’s nasty business, digs in to the pies and you can probably – emphasis on PROBABLY – imagine where it’s going from there. What ensues is nothing short of sheer lunacy. Psychopathic, hydrophobic hippies running rabid around a US ghost town, foaming at the mouth and spreading their disease far and wide. Durston goes all the way, trying his damned hardest to offend as many parties as he possibly can – religious folks, animal lovers, anyone with the tiniest glimmer of hope in the Good Old American Way – and he gets the job done with more style and class than one might expect. What starts as a simple small town revenge tale quickly degenerates into a sickly body horror gross-out spectacle, which is precisely as delectable as it sounds.
 I DRINK YOUR BLOOD is a strange one from the start because it embraces the pleasures of artifice almost unannounced. The performances are all so incredibly over-the-top, the dialogue is ingeniously insane, the lighting (especially during night-time shots) feels rather blatantly stagey, and it doesn’t seem to be taking itself very seriously at all. These are all qualities that evidently have made the film a bit difficult to read for some viewers, but to this reviewer, they are precisely what make up its unique identity. This is not so-bad-it’s-good, this is intentional dark comedy as well as intricately trashy horror-theater. Sure, it could hardly be considered an intellectual experience, but as an exploitation film it goes above and beyond to conjure honest tension and intrigue through sheer surreal ambience.
 Jacques Demarecaux’s ethereal photography has always been an unexpectedly alluring delight, carrying even more weight than ever before on the film’s high definition debut. The earlier transfer was great – and not just for the time – but the attention to detail here is just impeccable. The grime that oozes so lovingly from these frames has been painstakingly preserved rather than diminished by the upgrade and Clay Pitts’ groovy synth score sounds spectacular. Enthusiasts could not possibly ask for a superior presentation. 
Grindhouse is held in high regard around these parts - and rightfully so – and they haven’t skimped out once in terms of packing each and every one of their releases with bonus material that’s as entertaining as it is genuinely informative. Disc One of this stunning set is dedicated almost solely to the film (and three feature-length commentaries with cast and crew), as well as deleted scenes and outtakes, which are entertaining in their own right. 
However, it’s on Disc Two that most of the exciting (and more importantly, new) stuff can be found. Ported over from the DVD is “The I Drink Your Blood Show”, comprised of interviews with stars Lynn Lowry, Jack Damon, and Tyde Kierney, conducted by Durston himself (in his own backyard!). Another welcome addition to this release is an hour-long interview with the director, who speaks about his experience(s) making the film as well as his life-long relationship with the cinema; as those who have read Stephen Thrower’s great NIGHTMARE USA will already know, the man is a hoot and a half.
Next up we have a trio of standard definition featurettes. These include an I DRINK YOUR BLOOD reunion Q&A from 2004, another Q&A at Cinema Wasteland, and a brief interview with Durston at his table for the latter convention. But wait, there’s more! Also included on this disc are two bonus features, the first being I EAT YOUR SKIN, the 60’s voodoo cheapie that I DRINK YOUR BLOOD was famously paired with as a double bill back in the day. The film itself is accompanied with a lengthy interview with William Grefe, that film’s 2nd Unit Director. The second feature is BLUE SEXTET, a long-lost Durston-directed curio that sees the filmmaker trying his hand at a twisty Rashomon-style narrative. Both films look and sound great, and regardless of critical merit, their presence here is much appreciated. 
Lastly, there are a few German Super 8 versions of the main feature, cast/crew bios, image galleries, a radio spot, and a theatrical trailer. So as one can see, Grindhouse has once again spoiled us, with the only minor disappointment being the absence of Clay Pitts’ score making its physical debut. The man may never be found, but along with everyone else involved he has left behind a film that’s worth an entire legacy on its own. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD is an experience unlike any other, alternating gracefully between high and low brow cinematic alchemy; a crescendo of blood, guts, and shaving cream that lives up to its infamy. Through a seamless marriage of exceptional audio, video, and supplemental material Grindhouse has done it again, surpassing even the highest of prior expectations, which is no easy feat. Their aim is to make the cult film connoisseur grin from ear to ear, and they’ve succeeded in spades. 

-Ryan Marshall

Director: David Durston
Lead Actor/Actress:
Genre: Horror
Blu-ray Release Year: 2016
Theatrical Release Year: 1971
Time Length: 83 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Region Code: Region Free
Release Company: Grindhouse Releasing
Website: www.grindhousereleasing.com