Arse! I watched a film by mistake.
MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND, directed by Eddie Romero and Gerardo DeLeon, was my third experience of Philippine horror, after the rather classy TERROR IS A MAN, lent dignity by Francis Lederer (Jodie Foster’s drama teacher) in the mad scientist role, and THE BLOOD DRINKERS, a truly psychotronic mad-fest glazed with brain-searing colour.
I was watching MAD DOC as part of my See Reptilicus and Die quest, based on a gruesome fanged and mangled creature, sprawled on a beach, illustrated on page 207 of Denis Gifford’s A Pictorial History of Horror Movies. But the monster in this movie, the chlorophyll man (it should really be called MAD DOCTOR OF CHLOROPHYLL ISLAND) never winds up on a beach. What gives?
Tasha the Siamese brushes up on her Philippines horror cinema.
Reading Gifford’s caption more carefully, I discover that what he’s actually saying is… what he actually is saying. “Opposite below: the chlorophyll man, a Philippino favourite, was all washed up in Mad Doctor of Blood Island (Hemisphere 1970) — but struck again in Blood Devils.” Which, with the talk of being “washed up,” sounds like he’s attributing the still to MAD DOC, but then it sounds like he isn’t. So now I have to see BLOOD DEVILS.
Still, MAD DOC isn’t all bad. The bald vampire with bad skin and sunglasses from BLOOD DRINKERS, Ronald Remy, here plays mad/bad scientists Dr. Lorca (since Romero and DeLeon are so fond of using BLOOD in their titles, I’m surprised and disappointed that Dr. Lorca did not return in BLOOD WEDDING) who has attempted to cure cancer with chlorophyll from a unique dancing shrub (we eventually see a sample in his lab, wiggling its branches to and fro in an eternal vegetative froug). Filling out the cast are stray jawbone John Ashley and local floozy Alicia Alonzo, who “became a whore for love,” according to Dr. L.
Alicia is the film’s most interesting and non-generic element. She proudly tells how Ashley’s father first took her sexually at the age of 14, and how she’s never experienced a man like him. And not for want of trying. It’s a rather startling, adult, distasteful yet at least unusual bit of characterisation. Unfortunately, Ashley’s father, officially dead, is still roaming the jungle as a half-plant maniac, ripping innocent naked girls into gaily-coloured heaps of flesh and entrails. The movie has a real fascination with gory abjection, much more explicit than the same year’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, and in colour, yet. The other point of comparison might be Herschell Gordon Lewis, with his BLOOD FEAST etc, but Romero and DeLeon (the latter apparently still working at 85) have made a film roughly 50,000 times more compelling than Lewis’s depressing squaloramas.
While TERROR IS A MAN deployed misty b&w for atmospheric Lewtonesque shadow-work, getting close to the beauty of Gabriel Figueroa’s photography except that here the lighting and diffusion changes randomly from shot to shot, and BLOOD DRINKERS has that hyper-intense gel-lit palette, the main technique in this one is the zoom — whenever the chlorophyll pedophile attacks his victims, cinematographer Justo Paulino masturbates his zoom bar, sending the lens pulsing frantically in and out, just a little, sending ripples across the viewer’s retina as the image jumps towards the eye, then away again, twice a second. I felt like my temporal lobes had been trampled by boys.
Green on green.
The waterfalls and scenery are quite nice, the naked girls welcome, the gore is rather impressive and horrible, the acting has that same dreamy flatness (quite different from the nativity play mix of tension and ineptitude in HG Lewis) and as with the other Philippine horrors I’ve seen, there’s a nice feeling that the usual genre conventions may not apply, everything’s up for grabs. Now I need to find BLOOD DEVILS…
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The Blood Island Vacation (Brides of Blood / The Mad Doctor of Blood Island / Beast of Blood / Brain of Blood)