INNOCENT BLOOD (1992) Blu-ray
Director: John Landis
Warner Brothers Archive Collection

John Landis, the director who brought us AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, delivers another foray in the supernatural with INNOCENT BLOOD on Blu-ray. Or better yet, you could call it, “CARMILLA MEETS THE SOPRANOS.”

Detective Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia, COLD STEEL, ANALYZE THAT) is deep undercover, having infiltrated the Pittsburgh Italian mob run by Salvatore “Sal the Shark” Macelli, (Robert Loggia, BIG, INDEPENDENCE DAY). The ongoing mafia wars are leaving bodies all over the city, attracting vampire Marie (Anne Parillaud, NIKITA) to a possible new feeding ground. Despite being a vampire, Marie has a moral code; she only feeds on criminals. Gennaro bumps into Marie one cold night, but she declines his offer for coffee because she detects he is not what he seems to be. As she turns to leave, she is nearly run over by Gennaro’s gangster buddy Tony (Chazz Palminteri, BULLETS OVER BROADWAY). He offers her a lift in his car and Marie asks him, “Do you want to see a great view?” Parked with a night view of the city, Marie brings out her vampire side and kills Tony. Then she uses a shotgun to erase the bite marks and blasts the head from Tony’s body to prevent him from returning as one of the undead.

Gennaro goes to the crime scene and blows his cover. The press run a photo of him revealing his true identity as a police officer, which doesn’t sit well with Macelli. He wants to find Gennaro and put a bullet behind his ear, much to the consternation of his attorney Manny Bergman (Don Rickles, X: THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES, KELLY’S HEROES), and warns his client he may be indicted at any time. As Macelli approaches his car, one of his lieutenants introduces him to Marie who calls him a pimp and a goon. Impressed by her brassiness, he offers her a ride, so they are driven to Macelli’s hideout to enjoy a late dinner — with each having a different idea what “dinner” is. He offers her a classic Italian dish that includes garlic, prompting Marie to make a run for the bathroom to get away from the smell. Marie is forced to kill Macelli but he alerts his bodyguard, forcing Marie to escape before she can ensure that Macelli won’t be turned into a vampire.

After hearing the news of Macelli’s death, Gennaro tracks Marie’s trail from the crime scene to a thrift store, and she warns him to stay away. Meanwhile, Macelli revives in the morgue and escapes to Bergman’s house. When the news of his resurrection reaches Marie, she commandeers Gennaro’s car and they attempt to track him down. Marie and Joe are separated, and Gennaro is captured by Macelli’s goons but is eventually rescued by Marie, and they hole up in a motel. They carefully enjoy one others company, while Macelli is vampirizing his goons left and right at a strip club. Gennaro and Marie arrive on the scene and kill all the vampire gangsters (apparently a bullet to the head will do the trick). The duo finally confronts Macelli, as he proclaims his plan to take over the city, until Gennaro puts a bullet in his head and he crumbles into ash. Marie attempts to take her own life by waiting for sunrise but Gennaro proclaims his love for her and she realizes that he makes her feel alive, so ”why not?”

Anne Parillaud had just finished her star-making role in NIKITA for director Luc Besson before making INNOCENT BLOOD. She was certainly the hot commodity at the time, poised to make her American debut. For a vampire, she is different: she casts a reflection in mirrors and appears to consume flesh as well as blood along the lines of the vampires in Tony Scott’s THE HUNGER. Robert Loggia obviously enjoys his role as “Sal the Shark” and creates a very dangerous Mafia character. But he also chews scenery the entire time (nearly literally), and delights in his transformation from a dapper don to a vampire. An example would be when he learns of his powers as a Nosferatu, he proclaims, “I can hear an angel fart!” Anthony LaPaglia puts in a fine performance, as his character is similar to Tony Leung’s character of “Alan,” from John Woo’s last Hong Kong film, HARD BOILED. Leung is a detective who has infiltrated one of the larger crime families and is beloved by the older gang boss. Alan takes his marching orders, and kills other gangsters, but he is forced to kill his older boss to switch sides to another gang. Likewise, LaPaglia’s character spent three years getting close to Macelli and his lieutenants, but knows that Macelli is going to order him to whack somebody as a loyalty check sooner rather than later. He wants to stay in his undercover role, but is conflicted by having to actually murder someone on command.

Director John Landis walks a fine line between horror and black comedy with INNOCENT BLOOD. There are comedic moments in the film, but not to the extent that it falls into the comedy genre, yet the picture never takes itself too seriously. As usual, Landis incorporates classic horror films via TV broadcasts throughout the picture, including BEAST FROM 20,0000 FATHOMS, DRACULA and HORROR OF DRACULA. He also continues his trademark of using music motifs by featuring “Night” for the opening credits and Frank Sinatra’s “That Old Back Magic” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” in critical scenes. Landis’ recurring gag of “See You Next Wednesday,” continues with its appearance on a movie marquee. Landis got the title from a scene in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY when astronaut Frank Poole’s parents say the line during a recorded video phone call and it has appeared in some form in nearly all of the director’s films. Cameos include Muppet master Frank Oz, director Sam Raimi, make-up wizard Tom Savini, Famous Monsters of Filmland editor Forrest J. Ackerman, director Dario Agento and "scream queen" Linnea Quigley.

Warner Brothers Archive Collection presents INNOCENT BLOOD in 1080p High Definition in a 1.78.1 aspect ratio. Audio is DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 Stereo. It comes with English subtitles and the film’s trailer. Both audio and video are crystal clear. But the big bonus of this Blu-ray release, is that this is the “International” version of the film, struck from the earlier German DVD cut, and has two minutes of footage not included in the U.S. theatrical version. The US film was rated “R” while this presentation is “Unrated” but it certainly deserves an “R.” I don’t know which specific scenes were restored, but there is a long shot of the morgue as Macelli makes his escape that is quite disturbing. You’ll know it when you see it. With the two main characters beginning a relationship, one has to wonder if there are any ideas for a sequel? Fuggetaboutit! (Jim Flack)