Group of teens stray from their vacation boat and end up a madman’s prey on a remote island of cheesy horrors.
After getting curious about Bloodlust!’s release in last week’s shopping list, and the enthusiastic comment about it, I knew that as a fan of The Most Dangerous Game and Run for the Sun, and The Island of Dr. Moreau and any variation of those madman playing God on a remote island movies, I just had to check this one out. I have to say it is Le Fromage of the best quality and I was not at all disappointed. This is the 1961 teen, beach party version of the aforementioned plot with a low budget and silliness that makes it the lightest popcorn entertainment. Two young couples, Robert Reed and June Kenney, plus Gene Persson and Joan Lora, are on a vacation and hire a yacht to show them the sights. Bad omen number one: the captain is falling down drunk and passes out before long. Conveniently, they’ve stopped near an inviting island and decide to use the time to go there and have a little treasure hunt.
No sooner do they step onto the beach than a hunched brute moves the boat they rode in on. When they wander through the dense jungle, find and meet the man in the lone mansion on this island (Wilton Graff), he seems nice enough. He’s cultured and rich, with an expensive hunting hobby to keep him occupied, and the company of a number of servants, an unwell looking fellow (Walter Brooke) as his guest and even a wife (Lilyan Chauvin). But things get worrisome when Graff refuses to let the teens back out of the house that night, insisting they stay as part of his hospitality (hospitality is a big deal for Graff and you better accept and enjoy it). Later that night the teens are approached by Graff’s wife and that fellow who’s actually her boyfriend; they explain that they’ve been trying to escape for years to the other side of the island where the boats are docked, and will do so now that the teens can help distract Graff and his men. Meanwhile one of the couples wanders into a secret room and have to stifle their screams as they witness a body soaking in a tank, all kinds of bizarre tools and implements, a giant acid vat and a busy man carefully handling some peeled skin. A few days later as part of Graff’s ongoing hospitality, the teens are introduced to the special trophy cave to see the non-animal part of his exhibit, where they discover the clearly not-escaped Mrs. and her boyfriend displayed in a way that would make Mme. Tussaud jealous.
The dialogue is half baked and laugh out loud ridiculous with captain obvious statements and poor attempts at snark, reminiscent of the worst lines and comebacks on the Batman series. But somehow it works to have the teens play the Scooby Doo crew while Graff plays in a Universal 30s horror picture, and the effects are cheap but shocking and gory enough to satisfy. It’s silly how the teens spend so much time strategizing and questioning what they’ve just seen and each other what Graff’s intentions are, when they could just as easily ambush the chubby old smirking guy at any time. The script seems to forget to use June Kenney’s expertise in Judo, which is set up right at the start, but she does get a great opportunity to flip one of Graff’s goons into the acid vat where we watch him bubble away screaming.
Writer/director Ralph Brooke (who was also an actor in The Thin Man Goes Home) gives us all this, plus act now and get quicksand with leeches and a random raving lunatic wandering the jungle, a tree of death and Graff leering at the girls as he declares his plans for further hospitality. Best of all is the big hunt; Graff versus Reed and Persson and the yacht captain, whose job it was to deliver prisoners from the nearby penal colony to serve as prey, but messed up this time by bringing these innocent teens. That’s a bit of rehab for Graff’s character; he only hunted criminals and murderers, but oh well, may as well hunt these teens now too, since they’re here anyway. Bloodlust! isn’t the greatest version of this story, but I enjoyed it like I love a punk band covering a classic standard tune.