MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY (1975) Blu-ray
Director: Juan López Moctezuma
Code Red DVD

Also an actor, theater director and radio presenter, Juan López Moctezuma was quite the renaissance man before directing his first feature. Moctezuma helmed three distinct horror movies in the 1970s, starting with THE MANSION OF MADNESS (released in the U.S. years after its production as DR. TARR’S TORTURE DUNGEON) and ending with the bizarre ALUCARDA. In between came MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY, the only of the three which was not a period piece, but rather a modern depiction of the vampire legend. Although MANSION and ALUCARDA have both been given deluxe DVD treatment by Mondo Macabro, this is the first time that MARY has been available legitimately in the digital age, and it comes via a welcomed Blu-ray from Code Red.

On a very stormy night, pretty young painter Mary (Cristina Ferrare, J.W. COOP) breaks into a house to use a telephone and ends up encountering handsome young beach bum Ben Ryder (David Young, S.O.B.), a fellow American trekking his way through Mexico, and they soon embark on a romantic partnership. What he doesn’t know is that Mary has an addiction that causes her to drug her victims’ drinks (whether it be coffee from a thermos or a glass of wine), stab them in the neck or chest and suck all the blood out of them. Being a successful avant garde artist, Maria encounters a number of people, both male and female, and is able to use her beauty and charm to allure her sexual partners, including an admirer played by popular Mexican actress Helena Rojo (AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD), who becomes a victim after the two take a hot bubble bath together. In the meantime, Mary’s estranged father (John Carradine, HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS), thought to possibly be dead, is also a tormented bloodsucker out to find and bring down his daughter; he too causes a trail of his own victims, including a sexy spitfire hitcher and a lazy gravedigger. With the cops investigating and leaning towards Ben as the likely suspect, Mary cpntinues her blood spree and is shocked to read the newspaper headlines about murders she didn’t commit, bringing on the notion of a copycat killer, or that her elusive and likewise afflicted father is responsible.

Shot in 1974, Moctezuma’s second directorial effort works better as an enjoyable exploitation piece than his more artistic genre films, and its narrative of a “living” serial killer vampire pre-dates George Romero’s MARTIN by at least two years (the themes of lesbian vampires, which this film embraces in part, was also a popular trend during the decade). With its somewhat gory killings, generous amount of female nudity (by both Ferrare and Rojo), several car chases and a gratuitous shark-stabbing scene (after it mangles some poor guy’s arm), all the ingredients are present to make this Mexican/American co-production (it was shot in English, with a few secondary characters speaking lines in Spanish, with no translation needed) suitable for drive-in and grindhouse screens. The fact that this was made with the drive-ins in mind – where parked theatergoers would look up at the screen every so often during their make-out sessions in hopes of catching a glimpse of something thrilling – is backed up a credit sequence which starts nearly 15 minutes into the running time.

Though Ferrare has been criticized for her performance, she actually pulls of well what her character is supposed to project. That she’s so innocent and docile in appearance (so much so that the police never suspect her, even though she’s connected to several of the victims) but psychotic enough to suddenly drug, mutilate and feed off her victims (sometimes following a seduction) to satisfy her addiction is quite disturbing. Although Ferrare’s acting career never really took off (known more to this day as a morning talk show co-host), she became a media sensation in the 1980s with her marriage (and subsequent divorce from) controversial automobile executive John DeLorean. This also caused MARY, MARY, BLOODY MARY to become a hot video rental item (at least in small circles) for “celebrity skin” seekers. Film legend and horror icon Carradine’s presence brings the film to another level, even though he did countless appearances in low budget films before his death in 1988. Carradine is seen in shoddy stick-on derma wax face make-up (his years of blood drinking is supposed to have brought on some kind of deterioration) and is garbed entirely in black, including a bandana that covers the bottom half of his face with like a bandit. Some reference books claim that the actor didn’t complete his scenes and left the production early, but it’s more likely that he was hired for only a couple of days so that his easily disguised stand-in could pad out his character's actions and do the more demanding things (such as stealing a cartoonish costume from a partygoer at a carnival celebration, and the doing the various foot chases). At one point Carradine is seen extending his arm and making a Dracula-like mesmerizing gesture, yet his arthritic hand is so painfully obvious (he wasn’t even 70 at the time of filming). Speaking of Dracula, seasoned film fans will recognize that a painting (hanging in Mary’s living room and representing her father’s decades-old likeness) was inspired by a publicity photo of Carradine in his second turn as The Count, in Universal’s HOUSE OF DRACULA (1945).

Recently, a DVD from a company called 3D Circus released this film from an old VHS transfer, but this is reportedly a bootleg and to be avoided at all costs. Code Red’s Blu-ray is the way to go, presenting the film in 1080p HD in a 1.78:1 anamorphic aspect ratio. The transfer was culled from a film element that shows some scuff marks and other light abrasions, but these are actually not frequent and the image is largely clean with well saturated colors and fine detail (only several night scenes display lesser detail). The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track occasionally shows its age, but performs fine overall. The one extra here is a solid video chat with Henri Bollinger (14:14), co-producer of the film (along with Robert Yamin). Bollinger comments that the thinking behind MARY was that If you produced a horror film at a reasonable budget, you would make a profit. Though he thought the script was excellent and artsy, it was not at all like what he expected when he saw the finished film, which was to be the first of a series of similar (which apparently didn’t happen). He also talks about getting the financing for the film, half of it coming from a Mexican source through Moctezuma on the condition that he would direct it himself (which there were no objections to). He goes on to say how Moctezuma was ecstatic, being a horror movie fan, that the producers were able to get Carradine and that there was the expected friction between Christina’s agent and John DeLorean over the nude scenes and content of the film. (George R. Reis)