Bloodlust! (1961)

*. I understand why Hollywood keeps recycling the same ideas in remakes, resets, sequels, prequels, and franchises. There are only a limited number of essential stories to be told, and if one of them finds expression in a particularly successful movie then imitation is bound to follow.
*. That said, I’m always disappointed when a movie basically returns to the same material and only offers up a rehash without even showing any intention of doing something original or interesting with it. Like when The Most Dangerous Game was remade as A Game of Death, for example. Which brings us to Bloodlust!
*. The exclamation mark is part of the title, as though attempting to give the proceedings an extra shot of adrenaline. The film needs it. It’s basically another run at The Most Dangerous Game, only without any of the eccentric energy of that film.
*. There’s more to the disappointment than just the cast, though Wilton Graff (as Dr. Albert Balleau) is no Leslie Banks, June Kenney is no Fay Wray (not even close), and Robert Reed isn’t Joel McCrae (who wasn’t setting the bar that high in the first place).
*. There’s also no sense of the exotic or dangerous. The gang of fun-loving kids, looking much like the cast of Scooby-Doo, never seem that perturbed by anything that’s going on. The girls in particular go from somnolent to screaming and back again in a mechanical way.
*. The art direction doesn’t help. The creepy hunting chateau of Count Zaroff has been replaced by a surprisingly domestic, bourgeois-looking home in the jungle. Dig those drapes and wallpaper!
*. The upshot of all this is that we never feel threatened by Dr. Balleau. This despite a shocking scene in the trophy preparation room involving a face that has been skinned, or the trophy room itself, where Balleau’s victims are presented in the moment of their deaths. These human waxworks were cut from The Most Dangerous Game in 1932 because they upset audiences so much. They’re back in here, but they’re not disturbing at all. Further proof that it’s rarely shocking content that makes the biggest impact but how it is presented in context. In a movie like this, such moments have no weight.
*. Balleau isn’t very sporting, is he? Taking the firing pin out of the gun is a dirty trick, then shooting poor Tony at point blank range, in the gut, with his crossbow is just cruel. One gets the sense that he really isn’t much of a hunter.
*. It’s one of those movies that can be enjoyed as crap, and it was an obvious choice for receiving the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment. The dialogue is very stupid and easily mocked, and there are a number of incongruous moments that arise from the sheer incompetence of the filmmaking. The shot of the island at the beginning startles us into laughter because it’s suddenly so close, and I love that Betty knows judo and gets to flip one of the sailor flunkies into an acid bath.
*. The ending is very strange, and bad, in a different way. It may seem odd, at least to contemporary eyes, that one of Balleau’s men has to be resurrected to adminster the coup de grâce to his boss, but this is done in order to maintain the gang’s essential innocence. Their hands remain clean of Balleau’s blood and they are left free to register their shock at his murder.
*. Of course the flunky is impervious to mere bullets after all that he’s been through, but what’s really striking to my eyes is Balleau’s crucifixion. As the MST3K commentators put it: “Why this symbolism? Did Christ hunt people on deserted islands?” It is quite jarring.
*. I’m not sure this movie even rises to the level of a curiosity, but it’s short and it has enough camp value to make it worth a single viewing. Still, even among the many inferior descendants of The Most Dangerous Game it’s barely a footnote.

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