Sunday, January 12, 2014

BLOOD MANIA (1970)


Directed by Robert O’Neil
Written by Peter Carpenter, Tony Crechales & Toby Sacher
Starring Peter Carpenter, Maria De Aragon, Vicki Peters, Reagan Wilson, Jacqueline Dalya, Leslie Simms, Eric Allison, Arell Blanton, Alex Rocco & Reid ‘Chip’ Smith

Ridgeley Waterman (Eric Allison) is dying. Bound to his bed by a debilitating illness he relies on the ministrations of his daughter, Victoria (Maria De Aragon, who is most famous for playing Greedo in Star Wars, but I really liked her in WONDER WOMEN (1973)). His protégé Dr. Craig Cooper (Peter Carpenter) checks up on him and makes sure that Nurse Turner (Leslie Simms) keeps Ridgeley away from the brandy.
Unfortunately, for Dr. Cooper he has a dark secret. During medical school he did some abortions and now a blackmailer (Arell Blanton, who’s character doesn’t have a name, but he manages to bring his sleazy A game to the table.) has him by the short and curlies for 50 large.
Luckily, Victoria has a thing for Dr. Cooper and wants him for herself. After seducing him she realizes that if she kills Daddy with an amyl nitrate that all of his money will be hers and she can give him the money to stave off the blackmailer.
The deed is done and the lawyer (Alex Rocco playing it as sweaty as possible in his short screen time) arrives with the will. The will and Ridgeley’s other daughter, Gail (Vicki Peters) (Insert dramatic music here).
Victoria isn’t worried. She is the one that took care of her father. She is entitled, right? Yeah, except Daddy has a few secrets of his own and one of those involves getting all rapey with Gail so with that kind of guilt he naturally gives Gail all the money.
Victoria snaps and is placed under sedation.
Now Dr. Cooper has to seduce the other sister to get his blood money, but something unexpected happens; he falls in love. I would like to mention at this point that Dr. Cooper did start the film with a gorgeous girlfriend, Cheryl (Reagan Wilson) who was willing to give herself to the blackmailer to help out. It didn’t work, but her heart was in the right place. Cheryl gets swept under the rug pretty quick. Poor Cheryl.
Victoria appears to have recovered from her violent tendencies and they send the nurse home and leave her bedroom door unlocked. After all, what could happen? She has made nice with her sister. Everything is warm and fuzzy. Right?
It takes Victoria about five minutes to locate a really heavy lamp and pummel Gail to death. Dr, Cooper suspects something is rotten at the Waterman estate and heads over in time to discover the body. In a panic he hides the body and starts to piece together a plausible alibi.
That’s when Victoria screams. He looks to the door and sees the dead body of Gail standing there. She falls to reveal the blackmailer and Dr. Cooper, realizing what this means snaps. His mind gone his gaze is one of madness as the screen freeze frames.
BLOOD MANIA is a blueprint for every erotic thriller ever shown on Cinemax. It has gorgeous settings, lots of nudity, a sinister sub plot and terrible acting. It’s on the scale of an R rated soap opera.
Now, the director knows his exploitation stuff. Responsible for both ANGEL films (You know, Honor Student by day Hooker by night) and it shows here with the material. The execution though comes across as arty farty. Some of the camera work is fine, but some of it appears very posed and stilted. I’m not too surprised as there are two cinematographers for this; Gary Graver and Bob Maxwell. Some is shot very natural, I would give those shots to Graver and then the weird camera angles and posed situations are probably Maxwell’s. Of course, I could be completely wrong, but I doubt it.
BLOOD MANIA still works. Sure, the clothes are dated as is the dialogue, but the basic plot still plays for the fan of the erotic thriller.
I do find it funny that the lead villainess, Victoria has become famous for a part where we can’t even see her. As Greedo we don’t even hear her voice, but because of the Star Wars phenomenon she has become very popular.
The one I feel sorry for here is Peter Carpenter. IN only four films, starting with Russ Meyer’s VIXEN! BLOOD MANIA is his third film. One of two that he helped write as well. A decent looking fella with rugged good looks, Carpenter collapsed from a cerebral hemorrhage. I imagine he would have had a long career in film and to be cut short so soon is a shame. Plus, the ending shot of this film shows he could play crazy. He would have been really good at crazy.
In the end BLOOD MANIA trail blazed the way for uncountable erotic thrillers, showed us what Greedo looks like naked and gave us Alex Rocco at his sweatiest. Bravo BLOOD MANIA! Job well done.

EXTRA SPECIAL EXTRA PART!

I have the honor of being an acquaintance of Gary Kent. Gary Kent is a stuntman, director, actor, writer. You name it and he has probably done it better than you. He also wrote this awesome book called Shadows & Light that you can buy HERE.
Anyway, I saw that he was the production manager for this film so I picked his brain a little and he answered my inane questions.
Thanks, Gary!

What was your role in Blood Mania?

On this film, the mgt of, and directing of the film, were difficult, as the budgets were low . We had some great people on crew, though, guys like cinematographers Gary Graver and Bob Maxwell, etc. I some ways, I miss those days where you just got a camera, a couple of friends, and just went out and got it done!!!

Peter Carpenter seemed like one of those talented people that was taken too soon. What are your memories of him?

Peter Carpenter was a very nice guy. Very good looking, sure of himself...he had many ventures going besides film , and was on the phone a lot talking to his various endeavors and their minions. He was always in a good mood, had a dynamite girl-friend, joked with the crew, thanked everyone at day's end...

Vicki Peters (Gail in the film) comes across as the epitome of stupid blonde in the film. What was she like in real life?

I do not remember Vickie well, except that she was also a nice person, very polite and not a diva in any sense. Kept to herself and a friend or two most of the shoot.

Alex Rocco as the lawyer seemed to be trying to get as much attention as possible in the movie and played it super sweaty even though no one else in the scene was perspiring. What was he like on the film?

Alex has always seemed a  bit full of himself to me...and this proves it...enough said?

Finally, do you have any personal remembrances from the making of the film? It comes across as the blueprint of the erotic thriller that used to be the mainstay of Cinemax late night.

This film helped spawn the career of Director Robert O'Niel...I had worked several Richard Rush films with him as a prop man/set-dresser, me as a stuntman...suddenly he was directing, and as I was doing some production managing at the time, he asked me to join him on his films...it was a great relationship, and we are friends to this day. He was just down here in Austin, where they showed some of his other films at the Alamo. Good times were discussed over dinner and drinks.



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