Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: I Drink Your Blood (1970)

I remember finding a shitty-looking black and white photocopied looking clamshell VHS box of I Drink Your Blood (1970) on the shelf of my favourite video store many years ago. I had never heard of the movie, which made it interesting, and the shitty-looking box somehow made me all the more curious about it. It looked like the owners of the video store had made the box themselves – and probably the movie, too. It just looked like an ordinary blank VHS tape with a sticker slapped on it. The sticker just had the title of the move on it – not a fancy designed looking version of it, but simple looking text probably done on a typewriter.

Black and white add for I Drink Your Blood (1970)I figured that I Drink Your Blood (1970) must be some kind of special movie for somebody to have gone to all this trouble. Maybe it was so extreme that no official company would release it. I immediately took it up to the front to rent it

The guy behind the counter looked at it and said, “I’m not sure if this version is uncut or not. Let me know.”

“Okay, ” I said – but had no idea how to even tell if the movie was uncut of not. I had never seen it before. I’d never read about. I didn’t know what was supposed to be in it. How could I tell if something was missing?

I suppose if it had been really obvious, like someone is in the middle of saying something: “Alright man, I’m gonna take this axe and -” – when suddenly there’s an ugly looking cut in the film, and then we’re watching some dude’s horrified looking face as he says ” Whoa, man, why’d you go and do that?! You didn’t have to chop him thirty-seven times!”

Maybe then I would have thought that something had been cut out of the movie. As it was, I just didn’t know. I enjoyed the  movie, however.

A few years later, a friend invited to a bad movie night with some of his other friends. He asked me to bring some crazy movies. So I went to an independent store that had a lot of crazy movies in it. I mean rare bootleg tapes with cheapass photocopied covers, a lot like the one that I had rented years ago. And lo and behold, they had a copy of I Drink Your Blood. This box stated very clearly “Uncut Version – Never Before Seen!” So I rented it, along with a copy of other crazy looking movies, and took them to the all-night-movie-watching event.

Unfortunately, those guys already had so many movies that they wanted to watch, that they never even considered looking at anything that I brought with me. And I had to return the tapes the next day, so I didn’t even get a chance to watch them on my own. I had wasted my money that day, and the store went out of business shortly after that. I never did see the uncut version of I Drink Your Blood.

Now, thanks to Grindhouse Releasing, I own the super-deluxe Blu-ray of I Drink Your Blood, and it contains two different cuts of the movie; the uncut X-rated version, and the director’s cut. The director’s cut is actually a longer version of the movie – but not because there’s more gore and violence. It contains more story. Honestly, I’m not sure which version of the movie is better, so I am thrilled to have them both in my collection.

I Drink Your Blood was one of the first films to be heavily influenced by Night of the Living Dead (1968). Instead of zombies, I Drink Your Blood features people infected with rabies. The effect is similar, but almost more like the fast moving zombies of the distant future (such as in Dawn of the Dead (2004)). 

The villains in I Drink Your Blood, and the first ones to become rabid maniacs, are a group of satanic hippies. This might sound like a ridiculous and campy idea (satanic hippies?!) but at the time the movie was made, some people were actually afraid of hippies. Their music, their fashions, their use of drugs, their rejection of normal society – this all seemed strange and dangerous to “respectable” people. They just didn’t understand hippies, so it wasn’t a big leap to imagine that hippies might worship Satan, or be part of a cult.

And let’s not forget that Charles Manson and his murderous crew were basically hippies gone wrong. And they had just committed their crimes the year before I Drink Your Blood was released. Hippies were definitely ripe for exploitation by the horror genre at that moment.

I Drink Your Blood features Lynn Lowry in one of her earliest film roles. She may have made Lloyd Kaufman’s The Battle of Love’s Return first, but it came out after, so I’m not sure. In any case, she was pretty much unknown when she made I Drink Your Blood. Her part was small, and her character was basically mute, but she really stands out from the rest of the cast. That’s not to suggest that the other actors are bad. I actually think that many of them are quite good, but Lynn Lowry somehow makes the strongest impression. She has a lot of screen presence, and manages to draw focus in every scene that she is in. It’s no surprise that she would go on to legendary cult status, thanks to films like The Crazies (1973), Score (1973) Shivers (1975), Cat People (1982) – and this one, of course.

Lynn Lowry dropped out of film and TV acting for about ten years in the mid 1990s, but since 2005 she has appeared in more than a hundred movies – many of them independent horror and other other genre films. Here’s hoping she makes another hundred.

I Drink Your Blood (1970) is legendary #NotQuiteClassicCinema that every fan should see at least once. I’ve already seen it three or four times, and I will look forward to many more. It will always be a welcome sight on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977)

Greydon Clark is a name that I used to see on the backs of movie boxes in the 1980s, and in the credits of movies on late night TV. Unlike other names I recognized, like David Cronenberg or George A. Romero, I didn’t know anything about Greydon Clark – and watching a movie like Angels’ Brigade (1979) on TV certainly didn’t convince me that Clark was a great filmmaker. But somehow, over time, his name became a kind of second-string stamp of approval. It convinced me, on many occasions, that the odd looking film in my hand was worth renting – or buying. 

Greydon Clark made about 20 movies between 1971 and 1998 – and I have several in my collection: Black Shampoo (1976), Hi-Riders (1978), Angels’ BrigadeWithout Warning (1980), Joysticks (1983) and now Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977).

I wasn’t too sure if I had seen Satan’s Cheerleaders before, and watching it last week I’m still not 100% sure. I recognized the opening sequence (perhaps the first ten minutes or so), but the rest of the movie seemed completely new to me. I suspect that I started watching it on TV at some point and, for whatever strange reason, I stopped. I can’t imagine that I would have given up because I didn’t like it. For starters, it’s fairly bad right off the bat – but I mean “bad” in the kind of way that my friends I would seek out; a campy comedy about cheerleaders having fun at the beach – what could be better than that?

Secondly, I’ve always been a stickler for finishing movies. I had a theatre professor at university who advised us that we should never walk out of a play because “you can always learn something from it.” His advice made sense to me, and I realized that I had already been practicing what he was preaching in the way that I watched films. I wouldn’t have articulated it in the same way, but I don’t think I ever stopped watching a movie on purpose. If you had asked me why, I probably would have said “because you never know if it might get better.”

If I had to guess, I would say that I probably saw the beginning of Satan’s Cheerleaders really late at night and I just couldn’t stay up to finish it. Maybe I had a class first thing in the morning. Maybe I didn’t think I could fully appreciate it when I was already dead tired. Maybe I figured I would track it down and watch it properly at some point in the future. Whatever the case, I stopped watching the film and never got back to it.

Satan’s Cheerleaders has one of those titles that you never forget – and it’s certainly been on my must watch list for a long, long time. I think that the main reason I didn’t get to it before now is that I somehow convinced myself that I had already seen it. I may have been mixing it up with memories of Satan’s School for Girls (1973), a pretty entertaining made for TV movie with two of my favourite Charlie’s Angels (Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd) – but that’s another story.

Satan’s Cheerleaders is a weird cross between a cheerleader movie (a kind of sexploitation comedy, I suppose) and a Satanic horror film. It’s a fairly gentle, and almost tasteful (if you can use a word like tasteful to describe a movie about cheerleaders and Satan), example of those genres. It’s sexy in a silly way, and does have a few brief glimpses of nudity, but for the most part it’s about cheerleaders (and their teacher) in bathing suits, underwear, and skimpy outfits. As far as the Satanic “horror” goes, it’s pretty campy and low key. As I said to someone on Twitter: there may have been better cheerleader movies, there may have been better Satanic horror films – but there has rarely been a film that combined BOTH of those things.

Honestly, I can’t think of a single other cheerleader exploitation comedy/Satanic horror film. I may be forgetting something, but I’m going to suggest that Satan’s Cheerleaders is a fairly one of a kind film. This doesn’t exactly make it a cinematic triumph, but it certainly makes it interesting.

When I wrote about Greydon Clark’s Angels’ Brigade I noted the fact that he’d assembled a really amazing cast of old TV/film stars. He did the same thing for Satan’s Cheerleaders. John Ireland (Red River (1948)Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)) plays a small town Sheriff who may be more sympathetic to Satan than cheerleaders in distress. His wife is played by Canadian actress Yvonne De Carlo, who is perhaps best remembered for playing Lily Munster on The Munsters (1964-66). Genre royalty John Carradine plays a bum who tries to warn the cheerleaders. Sydney Chaplin (Charlie’s son) plays a monk (of Satan). And Jack Kruschen, a character actor who I’m sure we’ve all seen appearing on numerous TV shows (some of my favourites include Barney Miller (1973-82), WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-82), The A-Team (1983-87), Remington Steele (1982-87) – the list goes on and on). He was also in movies like The Apartment (1960) and The War of the Worlds (1953). He has a face that is instantly recognizable to anyone who watched TV in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. I could not have told you his name, but I knew him as soon as he appeared onscreen in Satan’s Cheerleaders. – as Billy the school Janitor, who procures victims for the local Satanic cult to sacrifice. My mind was completely blown, however, when I looked him up on the IMDb and discovered that Jack Kruschen was born in Winnipeg, my home town.

Jack Kruschen and his family apparently moved to New York when he was still a young child, and then to Los Angeles where he was discovered performing in an operetta at Hollywood High School.

Canadians are bad at celebrating our own success stories, and Winnipeggers can be even worse. Sure we hear about Monty Hall, Deanna Durbin, and David Steinberg. But over the years, I have learned about many born in Winnipeg people who went on to great success in Hollywood and elsewhere – who never get mentioned as former Winnipeggers. Gisele MacKenzie, Marjorie White, Ted Rusoff, Joanna Gleason… Jack Kruschen is just the latest (and possibly greatest) example, and knowing who he is will forever change the way I react when I watch one of the over 220 TV shows and movies in which he appeared. 

Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) is classic Greydon Clark – which means it’s 100% Certified #NotQuiteClassicCinema. People with low or no tolerance for “bad” movies will probably want to give it a wide berth. People who are looking for seriously scary Satanic horror will not find what they are looking for here. But those who appreciate the finer things in life, like Ed Wood, Al Adamson, and that low rent sex comedy you saw back in junior high school but can’t remember the name of, will find Satan’s Cheerleaders to be a welcome ray of sunshine on a rainy #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.  

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Legacy of Satan (1974)

In the world of adult cinema, Gerard Damiano is a legend. Or at least he should be, if for no other reason than he directed the notorious Deep Throat (1972). Sadly, one of the points that the documentary Inside Deep Throat (2005) touches on is that the kids today don’t really know who Damiano is – or at least they’ve never seen Deep Throat. And I’m talking about the kids who work in the adult film industry. This would be akin to the biggest Hollywood stars of today never having seen Citizen Kane (1941), or maybe Casablanca (1942) – which may, sadly, also be true.

I recommend watching Inside Deep Throat to get a sense of what an unbelievable phenomenon Deep Throat really was – and to learn about an important piece of pop culture history. Aside from that, it’a a darn entertaining documentary, and a story that will likely surprise you more than once.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Gerard Damiano was a good filmmaker. Some may have a hard time believing that of a man who mainly worked in hard core adult cinema, but at that time making X-rated films was not that different from making any kind of genre films. They were shot on film, had real stories, and were ultimately shown in real movie theatres. And plenty of mainstream filmmakers got their start making adult movies. Abel Ferrara, Wes Craven, Lloyd Kaufman and William Lustig all made at least one X-rated movie. Other serious-minded filmmakers found success is the adult film industry and remained there (or got stuck there, in some cases). Damiano, I suspect, is one of them.

Aside from Deep Throat, which was a massive success but not his best work, Damiano made acclaimed X-rated films such as The Devil in Miss Jones (1973), Memories Within Miss Aggie (1974), The Story of Joanna (1975), Odyssey: The Ultimate Trip (1977) and The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue (1981). Each of these films was well made, and seemed to be fueled by more creative ambition than the average adult movie. It’s not clear to me whether Damiano would have liked to cross over into making mainstream movies, or if he simply believed that that hardcore erotic cinema would (and should) one day merge with the mainstream and become the new mainstream. He can be seen lamenting the demise of serious adult cinema in Inside Deep Throat, and it’s hard not to agree with him.

Legacy of Satan (1974) is unique in Damiano’s filmography, as it is not an x-rated movie. I’ve heard differing theories about this. Some people feel that Damiano filmed an x-rated version, which was then edited by the distributor to create an R-rated horror film that could be sent out with Andy Milligan’s Blood (1973). This is a provocative theory, and there certainly have been X-rated films which were distributed in both “hard” and “soft” cuts. But I don’t think that it could be true in this case. First of all, there are no x-rated performers in Legacy of Satan. Damiano had already made Deep Throat, and other films like The Magical Ring (1971), so he certainly knew actors who were experienced in hard core sex films. If he had intended Legacy of Satan to be hard core, surely he would have cast some actors who had experience with that.

The main character of Maya is played by Lisa Christian, and this is her only credit on the IMDb. In fact, many of the actors in this movie have no other credits (or very close to it). John Francis, who plays Dr. Muldavo, has a respectable list of mainstream credits, including TV shows like Get Smart (1966-1969) and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). It seems unlikely that he would have suddenly decided to appear in an x-rated movie.

Christa Helm, who played “The Blond Blood-farm” in Legacy of Satan, was an aspiring young actress, who appeared on Starsky and Hutch (1975–1979) and Wonder Woman 1975–1979). She was murdered in 1977, at age 27, and that crime has never been solved.

Sandra Peabody is most famous for starring in Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972). She also appeared in some soft core films like Voices of Desire (1972) and The Filthiest Show in Town (1973). Perhaps that makes her the most likely candidate to star in a hard core film, but it appears as if she never did. And she only makes a brief cameo in Legacy of Satan as one of the cult members. 

The other theory about Legacy of Satan is that Damiano had intended to make an x-rated film, but then changed his mind and rewrote the script as a pure horror film. This seems, to me, more likely than the other theory, but I do wonder why people think that Damiano couldn’t have just decided to make a horror film in the first place?

Ultimately, none of this matters. Damiano has left us with a straight up horror film about a satanic cult. It only runs 68 minutes, which might be why some people think there is some missing hard core footage out there somewhere. I must admit that there were a couple of moments where the film seemed to have been edited (or censored), but I can’t find a longer cut of the film anywhere. My guess is they made a few trims back in the day, and the uncut version never got released. I suspect that all we are missing is a few seconds of nudity that made someone nervous, or some censor scissor-happy. But I guess we’ll never know.

Legacy of Satan is not a great film. It’s reputation is that it is terrible. The soundtrack music in particular seems to inspire a lot of negative comments. My experience was somewhat more positive than the average, it seems. I kind of liked the strange, dissonant, primitive synth score. People say it’s irritating, or an assault on the ears, but maybe that was the point, to make us uncomfortable and unnerve us. Whatever the case, I found it charming. 

The visuals and atmosphere are pretty good. There are a few moments of artistic beauty. The problem is that you have to have a lot of patience for a story that doesn’t move along very quickly. And, ultimately, it does feel a bit like something is missing. Perhaps the rumoured (but likely non-existent) hard core (or at least more graphic soft core) sex scenes would have done the trick to keep people more engaged. As it is, Legacy of Satan seems to lack some of the creative spark that makes Damiano’s adult movies some of the most admired of the golden age. 

Still, Legacy of Satan is a must see for fans of Damiano who are curious about what he might have been like as a non-adult filmmaker. It is also a must see for fans of extremely low budget, early ’70s Satanic horror films. It is unlikely to be the best example that you have ever encountered, but it should provide enough diversion for 68 minutes of your time. It is the kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that would work well as the third or fourth feature of an all night movie marathon on a #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn. I’m not sure if it will get many repeat screenings at my home drive-in, but I’m glad that I got a chance to see it, at least once.