Friday, July 22, 2011

Unbelievable!

BEAST OF BLOOD starts at the exact point MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND left off. A colorful action sequence at sea dispenses with MAD DOCTOR leading lady Angelique Pettyjohn (not seen here) and clears the way for lovely journalist Myra (Celeste Yarnall) and native girl Laida (Liza Belmonte) to make smoochies with John Ashley’s heroic Bill Foster. Also joining Ashley is Beverly Miller, who was Ashley’s producing partner, and Eddie Garcia, replacing Ronald Remy as the mad doctor Lorca. Miller’s acting as the captain of the ship returning Foster to Blood Island is terrible.

The third in the so-called “Blood Island Trilogy” is the best, even though it veers away from horror toward pulp adventure. Lorca, who survived the fire at the end of MAD DOCTOR, albeit with eyepatch and burned face, is now doing head transplants at his lab in the deep jungle. He keeps Don Ramon, the mutated monster that blew up Foster’s boat during the precredit sequence, alive and twitching on an operating table, while its head survives nearby (Lorca even talks to it!).

Eddie Romero, directing alone after sharing the chair with Gerardo de Leon on BRIDES OF BLOOD and MAD DOCTOR, maintains the gore and nudity and adds visual flair. Ashley was gaining more confidence in his chops as an action star as the Blood Island series wore on, perhaps because he was now getting involved in calling shots behind the camera. Like Pettyjohn in the previous film, Yarnall (THE VELVET VAMPIRE) really doesn’t have much to do except get kidnapped and pop her top. She’s in tune with the screenplay’s men’s adventure tone and certainly game.

Ashley never returned to Blood Island, but he did remain in the Philippines through most of the 1970s. THE WOMAN HUNT, SAVAGE SISTERS, and THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (a barely disguised takeoff of the Blood Island movies) were a few of the potboilers he was involved with as a star and producer. He eventually became a fulltime television producer, emerging from his performing retirement only occasionally to narrate the opening titles for Stephen J. Cannell’s THE A-TEAM and HARDCASTLE & MCCORMICK series.

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