Director: David E. Durston

I could make comments like this time and time again, but when DVD first appeared, never could I imagine some of the dream releases that would someday surface. Back in 1970, on Cinemation Industries head Jerry Gross' want for a shocking, unconventional horror film, stage actor turned low budget director David E. Durston delivered I DRINK YOUR BLOOD. Originally filmed under the less elaborate title "Phobia," it's simply a fun-filled sleazefest and one of the best examples of everything a drive-in horror film should be. Now over 30 years later, we are finally getting a definitive version of the film on disc, loaded with extras, and Grindhouse has produced one of the best discs of 2003!

Here's the plot, plain and simple. A group of sorted hippie Satanists known as "Sons and Daughters of Satan" ride their van into a small town that has been deserted except for a select few. The group is lead by the longhaired Horace Bones (East Indian dance legend Bhaskar) and take refuge in an old rat-infested abandoned hotel. Two of their members rape a local girl, and her crusty grandfather (the local veterinarian) later shows up at the hotel with a shotgun. The hippies rough up the old man, give him LSD (causing him to go into hysterics) and set him free.

The old man's scene-stealing grandson Pete (Riley Mills) decides to carry out his own revenge. Since the cultists have no choice but to call on the town bakery for food, Pete injects their morning meat pies (beef or chicken, your choice) with blood from a rabid dog that he killed the night before. The shit hits the fan after breakfast is served, with those hippies who indulged in the tasty treats now foaming and violently mad. Worst of all, one of their group happens to now be a rabies-carrying sexual plaything who takes on an entire group of construction workers... and guess what happens then? All I can say is "Call the Red Cross!!!"

If this doesn't sound enticing to you, then your true appreciation of drive-in thrills should be questioned. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD belongs in a class with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT in terms of notoriety, shock value, and allure that could only be understood if you truly savor these types of films--the colorful actors, authentic locations, decent gore effects, energetic music score, fairly original story and solid "let's just make a twisted drive-in film" attitude of director Durston all contribute greatly to this. Shot on a low budget in Upstate New York as well as New Jersey, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD was one of he earliest movies to be given an "X" rating for its violence factor, but release prints were subsequently chopped up in various ways, depending on which theater it was shown at, and hence given the "R." As you probably know, this played on an infamous double-bill show with I EAT YOUR SKIN, which is a retitling of an older black & white (and highly inferior) Del Tenney voodoo/zombie flick. The comic ad art for this twin program also became frequently embraced by pop culture, and graced everything from monster mags to t-shirt fronts.

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD never received an "authorized" video release in this country, so in order to view it in the past, we had to rely on specialized dealers and foreign cassette versions--all of varying quality and different running times. Grindhouse has given us the first authorized release of I DRINK YOUR BLOOD in the U.S., and the results are excellent. It's presented full frame, and the open matte doesn't look bad at all for this title. The colors are bold (with only slight hints of fading), detail is distinct (night time scenes are now nice and clear), and the source print is in very good shape. The mono audio also sounds fine, and I could swear that some of the sound effects have actually been enhanced!

As I stated earlier, the disc is loaded with extras, and first off is a commentary with Durston and star Bhaskar. Durston is a joy to listen to and remembers just about everything, so you'll get a lot of worthwhile information. He talks extensively about the cast, the locations, the effects, and you'll be surprised to learn that most of the animals in the film were not harmed and that the "trained" rats on screen went on to star in WILLARD and BEN! Bhaskar (who unfortunately is in a wheelchair now after a tragic accident but has concentrated on being an artist in the years since) chimes in with some great anecdotes, has a great sense of humor, and is actually content to be associated with the film.

Four deleted scenes are included, and you can also watch them as part of the film in branching that allows you to view an alternate "director's cut." These were omitted by Jerry Gross and consist of longer footage of the grandfather's acid trip, some dialog between the young lovers, young Pete trying to turn himself in to a couple of patronizing policemen, and an alternate ending which I won't spoil. I actually thought the film works better without the scenes, but their inclusion is a fascinating addition to the disc, and having a choice to watch them as part of the film confirms how much care went into this disc's production (these deleted scenes also contain commentary by Durston). A few minutes of outtakes are included; they are basically just some trims and alternate takes from various parts of the film, but it's always fun to watch stoners operating a clapboard (the clapboard actually reads with the falsified title, "State Farm").

Better than the usual featurette is something called "The I DRINK YOUR BLOOD Show," which lasts for a concrete 30 minutes. This has Durston interviewing people from the film in his backyard, sitting at a table with celery-stemmed "Bloody Marys" before them! First up is Lynn Lowry who made her debut (uncredited!) in the film as the mute hippie girl. Next is advertising man Barney Cohen who appears briefly to tell how he came up with the exploitive title for the film. Next is actor Tyde Kierney, followed by Jack Damon (both play heroes in the film). Doing a "talk show" type special centering around a film in question on a DVD is an amusing idea, and it's certainly pulled off well here--with a good amount of humor and several awkward moments.

There is an excellent still gallery which shows photos from the film, as well as various publicity and personal pics of the film's stars (this still gallery gives you the option to listen to Durston speaking about his relationship with Jerry Gross). You also have the original trailer, a radio spot, and bios and/or filmographies on Durston, Lowry and Bhaskar (all accompanied by appropriate visual extras). There are at least three Easter Eggs, and I'll add right now that the disc has some of the coolest animated menus for a horror film on disc. There are trailers for eight other titles included, some which Grindhouse will hopefully release to DVD in the near future.

Lastly, is this special edition's packaging which is the icing on the cake. The insert contains liner notes by David A. Szulkin (who can also be heard briefly on the commentary and had a hand in this disc's production) and he nicely sums up the spirit of the film and why there's now cause for celebration. This liner notes booklet folds out into a Dayglo-colored reproduction of the original double feature poster. But the Piece De Resistance are autographs of Durston, Bhaskar, Kierney, and Damon--all scribed strategically on a beautiful photo layout printed on the backside of the cover. Lynn Lowry's autograph is included on a separate postcard--the famous shot of her holding the severed hand. What more could you ask for?

I DRINK YOUR BLOOD is instantly one of the best genre discs of 2003. This first edition is very limited, so go HERE quickly if you would like to order it. Trust me, it's well worth it! (George R. Reis)