Blood for Oil

Alex Orr’s zestful cheapie BLOOD CAR played the Edinburgh Film fest this year (the Fest has a long history of supporting imaginative exploitation cinema, starting with its ahead-of-the-curve Corman retrospective back in the ’70s) and the writer-director was around for the whole event. He seemed very approachable so I cornered him for the first Shadowplay interview.

Well, it turns out I suck at interviewing, but am OK at free-ranging movie conversation, so once we stopped with the programmed blather things went much better. This means that I only garnered a tiny amount of useable on-topic stuff to print here. So I’m using ALL of it.

BLOOD CAR details the misadventures of vegan schoolteacher Archie Andrews, who’s trying to convert his car to run on wheat grass, but inadvertently discovers it prefers blood. The day before the interview I heard someone describe the film as “technically horrible” (it’s not, but it’s shot on digital) but “conceptually brilliant”. The political subtext of “blood for oil” is never stressed, but it doesn’t need to be. The filmmakers were certainly well aware of it.

“A B movie should just be a BIG AWESOME RETARDED THING,” he says, citing Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS as the big-budget version of that principle: Pretty kids getting eaten by bugs, plus a weird Nazi vibe. It’s all in the concept.

Alex and his pals were pitching ideas in the car, trying to find an exploitable low-budget scenario, and I guess the idea of a car came naturally to mind since they were in one. I bet lots of cyber-thrillers are thought up while the writers are staring at their P.C.s. It’s obvious, really.

Being an aspiring low-budget filmmaker myself, I had to ask Alex the budget and schedule question. The movie was made for “around 25-30″ and shot in 12 days, but there was a subplot that didn’t work, comprising about a third of the footage, so that was ditched and a further couple days new material was produced to bring the film up to length and add touches like the very funny baby-kissing coda. (OK, there IS some overt political satire).

Alex has a group of friends he regularly works with, and had helped out on horror films before, but never made one. His leading man is a friend whom everybody thought it would be amusing to systematically degrade and smear in blood. The “meat girl” character is Alex’s girlfriend (lucky guy). A local rap artist was drafted in to play a carjacker.

A little money was spent on one essential prosthetic effect, and a device to spray blood at high pressure was hired. And about fifty gallons of “Kensington gore” was purchased at a knock-down price.

The resulting movie has sold in Germany and has U.S. distribution, arranged through a sales agent. It’s pretty clearly going to turn a profit, and hopefully Alex will be able to make his next project.

“It’s about a white supremacist who gets a black hand transplanted onto him. It’s called BLACK HAND.”

Alex admires the seemingly loose but actually tightly organised plotting of LITTLE BIG MAN, and hopes to achieve a similar historical sweep. “Sex and violence can’t really offend anybody in a movie anymore, what with the Internet,” he says, “and nobody takes religion seriously,” so his plan is to use race, which is still a hot enough potato to get people talking.

“You gotta have an angle, other than ‘I’m great!’

Oh, I also want to mention Alex’s excellent abstract Peter Bogdanovich impersonation. “I met that guy, and he’s like a caricature of himself. He’s all, like, ‘Ah-wub-wub-wub.'” The sound can best be characterised as a smug burble. But Alex paid tribute to the burbler: “Your first two movies are the reason I became a filmmaker.” Bogdanovich is quite used to soaking up deserved praise for THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, but: “What? Targets???” referring to his low-budget Corman-produced debut, to which Alex could only reply “YES Targets!” 

I agree, it’s a terrific movie, and Bogdanovich gets extra points for gamely seizing a poisoned-chalice project that had to incorporate ten minutes of outtakes from Corman’s THE TERROR, and turning it into a smart and touching homage to Boris Karloff, as well as a chilling meditation on modern-day violence.

It’s the kind of low-budget derring-do I’d like to see more of in British cinema.

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4 Responses to “Blood for Oil”

  1. I think Alex met Hannah McGill at a bus stop in Sundance – persuaded her to see the film and thats how it got into Edinburgh.

  2. He’s a go-getter, that fellow. He sent me a nice note saying I shouldn’t say I suck as an interviewer. “Just tell them you’re great!”

    He’s probably right. Bit of self-deprecating British humour there.

    Anyhow, I plan on BECOMING an excellent interviewer.

  3. Targets is a wonderful film! A wonderful tribute to Karloff and a disturbing sign of the times film.

    And Starship Troopers is still the best film made about our current cultural and political climate. Skewed panic mongering news and the fear of the inhuman other who obviously is jealous of our way of life, which is why we should destroy them first!

    Add to that the Ken and Barbie dolls as our ‘sympathetic’ lead characters in the world (Ken and his pals are anatomically correct for those all important shower scenes, and come with the latest in weapons technology; Barbie has her own spaceship activity centre that can be easily broken in half with one special push of a button!), really the most perfect specimins of their society you could – bred and groomed for specific tasks – and I just find myself loving the film more and more.

    It works simultaneously as a big, dumb action film and as a critique of big, dumb action!

    Perhaps the most telling comment is that I remember watching it with my father around 1998 and him scoffing and saying “this is so far fetched and over the top!”

    Cut to ten years later….

  4. I never much enjoyed the film as drama, since nothing was at stake I could care about, but all the satire in the first ten minutes is ferocious. I wish it had somehow kept up the pace.
    Black Book shows that Verhoeven is still as provacative as ever, and still has his finger on the pulse.

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