I Drink Your Blood was the first Grindhouse Releasing project that Schlockmania purchased in its original DVD incarnation a decade ago. At the time, it set a standard for how rare and offbeat genre fare could be treated on home video. The Grindhouse gang revived this title recently for a new, expanded blu-ray edition. Not only does it preserve what was great about the old DVD, it gives it a beautiful hi-def makeover and a jumbo assortment of new, worthwhile supplements that take you deeper into the world of early ’70s grindhouse filmmaking.
It all starts with a new 1.66:1 HD transfer that improves upon the DVD incarnation: there are new levels of detail and an added richness to the color. It’s also impressive how good the starkly-lit nightime material looks here. The original mono mix is given a DTS presentation that makes this vintage soundtrack robust: the shivery analog synth element of the score really gets a boost here.
All of the extras from the original DVD are carried over and are supplements with enough new extras to fill a second blu-ray. Here’s an in-depth breakdown of what you can look forward to…
Commentary 1: This track dates back to the original DVD version and offers a lively pairing of director David Durston and Bhaskar. It’s a good overview of the experience of making the film, starting with Durston’s real-life inspirations and cult research before getting into a discussion of the challenges of production (trouble with locals on location, some battling with Cinemation’s board of directors). You also get some interesting background on Bhaskar’s multifaceted career.
Commentary 2: a new track featuring actors Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney. They go deep into an actorly perspective on the film. They provide a wealth of information on their castmates, including who did and didn’t participate in the film’s revival and why as well as a few eyebrow-raising stories about Bhaskar. They also have some interesting, thoughtful commentary on the acting process related via anecdotes on particular scenes.
Deleted Scenes (6:00): these are the four additional scenes also included in the director’s cut version of the film. Optional commentary is provided by Durston and Bhaskar to explain the motivation for the scenes and why they were cut.
Outtakes (3:11): quick montage of brief bits of footage from the cutting room floor, including a lot of slates. It gives you a feel for the speed and economy of the production.
Mahoning Drive-In Show (5:48): a quick featurette on a 2015 revival screening of I Drink Your Blood that took place at a drive-in. It caters to the nostalgia film fans feel for the drive-in setting, with several testimonials from the film’s diehard fans geeking out over seeing it under the stars (look out for a couple who bonded over their love for the film).
The I Drink Your Blood Show (28:53): A fun chat show-styled featurette in which Durston hosts some cast members at his house – Lynn Lowry, Damon, Kierney – for quick interviews. Lowry rhapsodizes about how the film was her intro to “sex, drugs and rock & roll,” Kierney tells a story about getting his head cast and Damon remembers how they creeped out the locals during the shoot. Barney Cohen also pops in to reveal how he devised the film’s title and tag line.
David Durston Interview (59:52): a new comprehensive interview with Durston recorded before his passing. He covers a variety of topics to warm up: his formative horror and showbiz experiences, his careers on Broadway and in t.v. and his early films. From there, he moves into a series of anecdotes about I Drink Your Blood: there are several tributes to cast members, the controversy around its use of animals, how he got one actress to cry in a key scene and his feelings on the film’s release title. You even find out about how he worked with John Huston on an unproduced project.
New Beverly Reunion (34:59): a featurette taken from audience-shot footage of a 2003 reunion screening that included Durston, Lowry, Kierney and Arlene Farber. Eric Caiden and Johnny Legend host the affair, which includes a Durston intro and a lengthy post-screening Q&A. There’s a lot of info covered elsewhere on this set but the fun of the reunion is contagious and it’s nice to see Farber, who tells a cool story about how she was cast in The French Connection.
Cinema Wasteland (17:11 and 3:49): two segments from a convention that Durston appeared at. The first is a Q&A session that also includes Lynn Lowry, who reveals her connection to the beginning of Lloyd Kaufman’s career. The second, quicker segment is a brief chat with Durston at his dealer’s table in which he expresses appreciation for the film’s new generation of fans.
I Eat Your Skin: the first of two bonus feature films is a ’60s black-and-white film by Del Tenney that was rescued from obscurity to be the b-feature to I Drink Your Blood. It has some voodoo zombies but it actually more of a pseudo James Bond-ish adventure piece on a budget, complete with a pre-ratings board lightness on bloodshed and raciness. Exploitation fans will be interested in it as a curiosity piece – and the transfer looks gorgeous.
Swamp Man (18:14): an interview with William Grefe, a regional genre film director who served as the 2nd unit director on I Eat Your Skin. He reveals how Tenney got into the filmmaking business and then goes into plentiful detail on the shoot. He reveals he directed 90% of the exteriors and put together the crew. He also offers some thoughts on the cast and tells a funny tale about pointing out to Tenney why he needed a retake on one camera setup. Also included in the same area on the disc is a trailer for They Came From The Swamp, a fun documentary on Grefe’s career.
Blue Sextet: the 2nd bonus feature film on this set is a David Durston film that preceded I Drink Your Blood. It’s a mixture of late ’60s sexploitation with Jacqueline Susann-style plotting as a group of friends gather to remember someone who apparently committed suicide. Each roles out a tale about their pal, who wasn’t so nice in retrospect and you get plenty of fleshy, sleazy thrills, including a surprise Grand Guignol setpiece that got Durston the gig to make I Drink Your Blood. It’s fun stuff for vintage exploitation fans, with nice use of NYC locations and good photography by Joe Mangine. It also benefits from a strong new transfer.
Blue Sextet commentary: Jack Damon returns to do a commentary for this film, which he starred in and co-produced with Durston. He covers a lot of production details like locations and why the film was shot M.O.S. There’s a great tale about an ill-fated shoot in Puerto Rico, some intriguing info on the early ’70s indie film scene in NYC and some frank critiques of his castmates. A good, extremely candid listen for sexploitation buffs.
Bios And Filmographies: a set of text screen bios that cover Durston, Bhaskar and producer/distributor Jerry Gross. They’re all well-written and packed with captivating info, particularly the excellent and in-depth Gross bio penned by David Konow. These also feature some bonus video clips: in addition to trailers, there are radio spots for Stigma, footage of Bhaskar doing the “cobra dance” and – best of all – video footage of a cult movie award ceremony where Durston is introduced by L.A. Times film critic and I Drink Your Blood fan Kevin Thomas.
Additional Extras: theatrical trailer (one of the all-time classics), some bombastic radio spots, six still galleries, the usual, colorful reel of Grindhouse Releasing trailers and plentiful easter eggs (Schlockmania’s favorite involves Durston singing a song about exploitation filmmaking).
Liner Notes: A nice full-color insert booklet that features an engaging, fact-filled appreciation of the film by David Szulkin plus tributes to Durston by his actors Tyde Kierney and John Damon.
To read Schlockmania’s film review of I Drink Your Blood, click here.