Director: Robert Hartford Davis
Redemption/Image Entertainment

Although British filmmakers seemed to have exhausted every possible scenario for big screen vampires by the early 1970s, there still seemed no end in sight. Director Robert Hartford-Davis gave it a stab with BLOODSUCKERS (aka INCENSE FOR THE DAMNED), based on the 1960 novel Doctors Wear Scarlet by Simon Raven. This attempt at a modern vampire film which equates bloodsucking with sexual perversion, is for the most part a muddled affair, but at times has enough ingredients to make it interesting. Edited together quickly due to production problems, the director later disowned the film and it remained unreleased in England for years until the producer salvaged the “uncompleted” project, adding voiceover to make try and make sense of it all. This tampering is also evident in the final shot, which challenges the entire, unusual premise.

While in Greece doing research on mythology, a young Oxford Don, Richard Fountain (Patrick Mower from THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and CRY OF THE BANSHEE) disappears and is not heard from by anyone. It seems he fell under the spell of a mysterious and beautiful woman named Chriseis (played by WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH's Imogen Hassall) who is into vampirism and the occult. A search party flies to Greece in a desperate search, and includes British military man Derek Longbow (Patrick Macnee, immediately after the run of "The Avengers" TV series) friends Tony Seymore (Alexander Davion from PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES) and Bob Kirby (Johnny Sekka), and fiancée Penelope (Madeleine Hinde). After various run-ins with local thugs and discovering a girl’s mutilated body, they find Richard under a hypnotic trance and have a hell of a time bringing him back to England.

BLOODSUCKERS’ premise of vampirism as a sexual perversion is intriguing, but the execution is messy. Some good ideas include having Mower’s character impotent (and possibly bisexual), making vampirism his only means of sexual satisfaction, and his rousing anti-establishment speech at a stuffy Oxford dinner is a witty statement on the counter culture of the period, but all this is done in such a hasty, underdeveloped manner. The scenes shot in Greece are beautifully lensed but bog down into too much talking and a lot of overacting. Macnee is excellent as usual, but his part is rather brief (he, or rather a dummy falls off a cliff early on). Peter Cushing appears in a marquee-value cameo (he didn’t get to go to Greece) but is not wasted in a somewhat touching role of an Oxford professor, causing tension and contradiction for Mower’s character. Edward Woodward (THE WICKER MAN) also does an amusing bit as an anthropologist who tries to explain vampirism in a very progressive way. In a non-speaking role, Imogen Hassall is bewitchingly beautiful, and it’s still disturbing to know she committed suicide in 1980 at the age of 38.

This release of BLOODSUCKERS marks a double-dip for Image Entertainment. The title is also currently available on a Something Weird drive-in disc with its orignal U.S. co-feature, BLOOD THIRST, but this single release is an improvement. The print source used here runs a good two minutes longer, restoring some of Ms. Hassall’s nude scenes, as well as nudity during the acid-induced satanic orgy sequence. This version’s title actually reads “Bloodsuckers,” while the Something Weird edition bares the onscreen title "Freedom Seeker.” The print source is cleaner here, with decent, if somewhat pale colors. At times the picture looks a little soft or grainy, and some of the nighttime scenes are too dark. It’s presented full frame, as it should be matted to its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio (generous headroom and a boom mike’s shadow are in check). The mono audio is very good, with dialog being extremely clear.

The only extra is a lengthy still gallery with productions photos (in both black & white and color), poster art, and pressbook materials. If you’re a completist, you’ll want to double-dip here for the more uncut version and overall better transfer. Keep your Something Weird disc for BLOOD THIRST, and check out this one for a more rewarding presentation of its co-feature, a missed opportunity of British horror. (George R. Reis)