(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own)
It makes total sense director of An American Werewolf In London (1981), John Landis, would eventually do a vampire movie, and in some countries it even goes by the alternate title, A French Vampire In America, which also makes a lot of sense. Innocent Blood is what it’s known as in the U.S. and all I remember of when I first saw it on cable was that I liked it, and some of the vampire encounters in the final act creeped me out. It was the crazy eyes they have. “Eyes” in horror movies have always affected me, either scaring me shitless (i.e. Salem’s Lot, An American Werewolf In London) or traumatizing me on a profound level (i.e. Horror Express). More on Innocent Blood’s “eye thing” later . . .
I like when Landis tackles a familiar monster he puts his own spin on the myth. He did that in his werewolf movie and he does it here in his vampire flick. In fact it has a little bit in common with Near Dark (1987) (another superb and original take on vampirism) in that the term, “vampire” is never uttered, fangs are never used, holy objects don’t seem to apply, and none of the vampires turn into bats, mist, or wolves. Though there is one unexplained scene in a church where our “good vampire” is making an exit and its done POV style, where the camera is sweeping around the room, and when she goes out the doors, it switches out and we see the doors burst open like an invisible force went through them. Plus there was a person in the room who ducked, but he never explains what he saw. Was she in bat form? She couldn’t have been invisible, since the dude saw it coming and ducked. The “new tweaks” Landis puts on his vampires are they can be killed as easily as shooting them in the head, or breaking their necks (wounding them anywhere else won’t do the trick), and, as I mentioned earlier, their “crazy eyes!” In “kill mode” they’re mostly red, but there are other vampires who sport green eyes in kill mode, and in “sex mode” the eyes change constantly from green, to red, to purple. Other than this, the more common staples are present and accounted for; they burn to death under sunlight, must sustain themselves on a diet of human blood, have strength and agility far superior to that of any human, garlic is a deterrent, and being bitten will turn you into one.
Our main vamp is a hot, French female by the name of Marie (Anne Parillaud) who has more morals than your average bloodsucker. She’s been around for a long, long time and at this stage in her life lives mostly for feeding and fucking. She’s selective about both, feeding mostly on the scum element of mankind, but gets in over head when she lets a potential victim irritate her to the point where she feels he has to die. This victim ends up being Salvatore “Sal the Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia), a mafia kingpin. Her M.O. for feeding is pretty straight forward; after the kill is made she covers her tracks by blowing the head off, which obliterates the evidence of a neck wound and prevents the victim from coming back as a vampire, because, honestly, who needs the competition, right? Unfortunately, the unusual lack of blood can be discerned by an astute medical examiner, something she hadn’t ever taken into account, I guess. She fed on one of Sal’s goons, Tony (Chazz Palminteri), the night before, but fucks up big time when she takes out head honcho Sal the night after. She even admits she should have let this one go, but by the time she has his neck open and shooting blood everywhere in the bathtub of his secret “fuck house” it’s a little late to turn back. Before he “dies” he gets the drop on her though, pulling his gun and plugging her twice in the stomach. Weakened and with his driver, Lenny (David Proval), armed and dangerous, and trying to get to her, she’s forced to flee.
You know what this means now, don’t you? Sal is going wake up in a morgue and officially become just like Marie, worse than her, actually, since he lacks any morality what so ever. This is bad, and now she needs to get to him and finish the fucker off for good. This is where undercover cop, Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia), comes into the picture. He’s been undercover in Sal’s mob for a while now, but blows it when he shows up at the crime scene of Tony. Ousted now, he’s forced by District Attorney Sinclair (Angela Bassett) into protective custody, but he’s still a damn good cop and manages to track Marie after getting himself to Sal’s crime scene. They met once before, and she seemed to like him even if he has “sad eyes.” Marie ends up befriending him later and using him to get to Sal, Joe learning he’s in cahoots with a bloodsucker and that this bloodsucker inadvertently made another worse bloodsucker, well, they come to a mutual agreement that Sal really has to die now.
This brings me to what Sal has planned. Slowly coming to grips with what he is, he plans to take over, and not just the city, I don’t know, maybe just the city, but the way he spoke in one scene, I felt world domination was in his sights. He starts converting his men into the bloodsucking undead, starting with his attorney, Manny Bergman (Don Rickles), who ends up giving us an impressive meltdown in the hospital from an accidental exposure to sunlight.
The final act is cop and vampire versus vampire kingpin and his vampire goons in the upstairs of a strip club Sal owns. There’s a homage to a scene in Abbott And Costello Meet. Frankenstein (1948) where Lou is strapped to a gurney while Dracula and the Wolfman fight around him, and he’s freaking out because he’s being used a tool to keep the Wolfman at bay. There’s a scene similar to that with Detective Morales (Luis Guzman) tied to chair, screaming his head off while Marie and two of Sal’s vampire goons fight around him. I like how they eventually nail Sal, attempting first to blow him up on the street, where we see firsthand being set on fire does nothing but fuck up your complexion for a while, but we see as he’s “monologuing” neither Marie or Joe look all that concerned. Why? Because he’s holding a gun, and what does he eventually do with that gun? He just calmly shoots Sal in the head and kills him. Simple and to the point. I liked that. And as an audience we saw that as a possibility and by God the character followed through with what we all assumed should happen.
The movie ends with Marie and Joe as a continuing couple (they had sex earlier in the movie too), for how long? Who knows? Who cares? It was a great ending. The scum of the earth undead died and the good vampire lived to see another day, with her new boyfriend tow. Sometimes you just need to see an ending like that.
The movie also has some notable cameos from FX artists Tom Savini and Steve Johnson, the former as a reporter, the latter (who also did the effects for the movie) as a doctor, his then girlfriend/80s Scream Queen Linnea Quigley as a nurse, horror director Dario Argento as a weird paramedic, Forry Ackerman doing something shady involving whatever he’s got in a trunk, Sam Raimi as a guy in charge of a meat packing company, and Frank Oz as a pathologist.
Most of the movie takes place at night, with only a few scenes occurring in daylight. Just a random observation I made. Never thought I’d ever see Don Rickles this close to a horror film. Another worthy entry, if you ask me, in the vampire/vampire comedy sub-genres.
It’s about time Warner finally updated this movie on disc. Up until now it’s been languishing in full frame DVD form since 1999. It did get an upgrade in 2004 but that was just to get it out of the now antiquated snapper case it was initially released in. And the only place you get it in widescreen was off occasional viewings on cable. This past September 19 Warner blued it through their MOD sub-label, Warner Archive, and as an extra treat it’s the “international version.” I never new there was a three-minute longer version released overseas. You can buy it here on Amazon or at WBshop.com.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.78:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English SDH subs only
Yet another excellent upgrade by Warner!
Extras included . . .
- Theatrical Trailer
This is one of those rare Archive releases I wish there had been extra features on like a commentary, would love to hear a commentary by either Landis and/or the cast, and some talk from Steve Johnson on the effects. That being said, the presentation of this widescreen blu-ray is what primarily matters and in that Warner gets an A+.