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Blood Sabbath
Tonight's Feature Presentation

BLOOD SABBATH (1972)

Starring: Anthony Geary, Susan Damante, Dyanne Thorne, Sam Gilman, Steve Gravers

Written By: William A. Bairn Directed By: Brianne Murphy

The Short Version

Blood Sabbath is what happens when you let hippies try to make a horror movie.

It could have been more appropriately titled Boob Sabbath.

A witch coven vs. a water nymph?  What?

Yes, Our Hero is “Luke” of “Luke and Laura” fame from “General Hospital,” and Our Villain is “Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS.”

This one’s so far out that you have to see it, just to see how close your jaw can make it to the floor.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

HERB CREAM CHEESE.

Because I have a very strong suspicion that the people who made this film really dig the herb, if you know what I’m saying.  And cream cheese is just pretty much of a mess, but still tasty anyway.


Pairs Well With...

GIN.

Because gin is made with, like, all kinds of botanicals, and that’s like berries and fruit and flowers and nature and stuff, and that’s totally groovy.  Dude.

“Get his pants!  Get his pants!”


Dude.

Blood Sabbath is what happens when you let hippies try to make a horror movie.  This one is like, totally out there, man.  It’s supposed to be all about these evil witches and stuff, man, but it’s got acoustic guitar folk music, sunshine, fields with flowers, a water nymph, some anti-Vietnam stuff, tons of boobs –

Oh, that one got your attention, did it?  Just wait; there’s more.

Our story begins with acoustic-guitar driven folk music backed up by hippie lyrics of self-discovery.  No, I am not kidding.  A carefree looking blond dude whom we will later come to know as David (Anthony Geary, best known as Luke from “General Hospital”) is strolling through the sunlit hills, guitar over one shoulder, pack and sleeping bag on the other.  Wildflowers abound, there’s a pretty lake nearby, and nature is just, like, all there and groovy, man.

As he nears a path – it’s barely that, really, and certainly not a road – a van that we are already amazed to see is not a VW Microbus pulls up.  A young woman leans out the passenger window and asks David if he wants a cold beer.  When he says “sure,” she sprays him with it instead, and then flashes her boobs at him as the van drives off.  Not considering this a fair trade, David appears miffed, and heads over to a tree to unroll his sleeping bag and camp for the night.

He is awakened the next morning to the sound of loud music, courtesy of the group from the van, parked nearby.  David doesn’t want to be up this early, and so tries to return to sleep.  The camera, on the other hand, wants to check out the other camp, and it’s easy to see why.  The two men are still asleep, but the four women are wide awake.  Everyone is completely naked.  (Yes, guys, too.)  Deciding that these two guys are old hat by now, the four women decide to go next door for some fun, and as they traipse over, the cameraman shows us that there has apparently never been a boob shot or a butt close up that he didn’t like.  Finding David, the four women try to have their way with him, one awakening him by sticking her tongue in his mouth, the others trying to work his pants.  David, apparently an unusual male specimen, does not approve of this, and manages to push the horny ladies away so he can take off running.  The women give chase, but when David trips, falls, and hits his head on a rock near the lake, they decide to split, because they don’t want to be anywhere near if it turns out that he’s dead.  (This, by the way, is only the five minute mark.)

It’s hard to say whether he was or wasn’t actually dead, but it doesn’t matter.  A woman in a white dress steps out of the lake, and splashes water on him to make him well.  We will later learn that she is Yyalah, a water nymph (Susan Damante, Mountain Family Robinson).  David instantly falls in love with her; apparently, a gaggle of naked women don’t turn him on, but a woman in a white dress who casually walks out from under a lake does.  Over a little time, we’ll discover that she’s in love with him, too, but their love can never be, for she cannot love a man with a soul, something which she herself does not possess! 

Since David really wants to go over the top on the scale of “What would you do for the woman you love?”, he immediately sets off trying to figure out how he can get rid of his soul.  Calling Local Coven O’ Witches… Coven O’ Witches, do you read, over…

Blood Sabbath is one seriously messed up movie.  If there’s ever such a thing as “The Guinness Book of WTF” published, this flick will definitely have a prominent entry.  It’s billed as a horror flick (which it still is, kinda), plays like a peep show (I wasn’t kidding about calling it Boob Sabbath), and actually turns out to be the most demented hippie love story ever told, complete with ridiculous but strangely satisfying hippie- er, happy ending.

Blood Sabbath is just weird.  And yet, it’s just so damn bizarre that it’s ultimately compelling.  I don’t just mean as Bad Movie Night material, either (though it definitely is that); I mean as something more.  It’s kind of like the attraction people have to the Mutter Museum (of medical oddities) in Philadelphia, only this one is like Playboy comes to Haight-Ashbury at Halloween.  The stuff in there is horrible, but you still have to see it to believe it.

Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a movie centered around a water nymph?

Not that the water nymph is the star attraction, mind.  That honor would go to Dyanne Thorne (best known for playing the title role in Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS), who commands the viewer’s attention in every category as she portrays Alotta, Queen of the Witches.  ("Alotta what" is not really left to the imagination, if you get my drift.)  Thorne brings much more than her memorable figure to the part here, however; she absolutely revels in playing the role of the evil witch, and takes complete control of any scene that she’s in.  She brings it over the top without turning things into a farce (an amazing feat in these surroundings), still retaining that essential touch of manipulative evil even as she sexes it up and takes delight in the misfortunes of those subject to her plots and machinations.  Dyanne Thorne really is a wonder to watch here.

The same cannot be said for Anthony Geary, whom you will spend a lot of this movie scratching your head about.  While there’s no question that the script also needs to take some blame here, Geary takes the cues that emphasize David as being a whiny bitch and runs with them.  This so-called hero is a serious wuss, even when he’s engaged in violence and allegedly crazed with bloodlust.  Why exactly are all the women in this movie lusting after him?  I still have no idea.

But while we’re on the subject of lust…

As noted, Blood Sabbath could very easily have been called Boob Sabbath.  No fewer than eleven different women (and possibly more) bare their breasts in this movie, with most also going full frontal and rear, as well.  There’s also the aforementioned quick shot of two guys frontal.  The nudity overall is pervasive, happening early and often.  There’s also a fair amount of nude dancing, from “hippie white person’s interpretation of ritual dance” to some genuine belly dancing.  But I also meant what I said about the peep show: this is all looks and innuendo but that’s it.  There is one sex scene, but it’s essentially implied; the camera shows nothing really, and what little you do see is only half-visible while nature shots are played over it.  (It is interesting, though, how a movie built so heavily around peep show exploitation is at the same time built heavily around a pure hearted love story.)

As for the blood part of Blood Sabbath, the movie cheats on gore.  You never actually see a wound; you only see what happens after.  For example, there is a decapitation, but you only see the killer walking into the room in shadow; the very next frame is the model head with red stuff dripping out the bottom.  There actually is a Blood Sabbath ritual performed, but the woman whose throat is slit conveniently has massive strings of pearls around her neck that don’t break, so you never see a wound, just the blood pouring out.  On-camera knife fights also show no wounds; just victims falling down.  Blood Sabbath?  Not so much.  Definitely more emphasis on the Boob Sabbath.

As for the plot… hahaha.  It’s convoluted to say the least, but manages to stay consistent within its own world, to a degree.  Sure, there’s a lot of convenience and WTF material going on, but I guarantee that you’ve seen worse.  The love story is just plain saccharine, and would be totally out of place in pretty much any other horror flick, but the hippie overtones of Blood Sabbath somehow allow it a pass, and even as you’re telling yourself how overly sweet it is, you may be surprised to smile at the end, however loudly another part of your brain is screaming “oh are you f’ing serious?!”

What is interesting, though, is the direction that the script chooses to go in with regard to David’s backstory.  He’s out hiking in Mexico (there are just enough clues to finally pin his location down) because he’s trying to resolve some inner turmoil deriving from the time he served in Vietnam.  Audiences of the late 1970s and the 1980s will be more than familiar with Vietnam guilt subplots, of course, but this is 1972.  Saigon wouldn’t fall for another three years yet.  So this really is something else.

Kind of like Blood Sabbath in general, really.  Something else.  I suppose that sums it up just as well as any other words might.

Bottom line, Blood Sabbath is just plain bizarre, and stands as an example of what happens when hippies make horror movies.  Better thought of as Boob Sabbath, this one is heavy on skin to compensate for skimping on the gore, buts still hangs onto its horror billing by a tiny thread even as it tells a saccharine love story in the process.  More than simply being Bad Movie Night material, though, its very weirdness ultimately makes Blood Sabbath compelling for any genre fan, and if you can find it, it’s worth checking out just for the oddity.  (Suggested drinking game: pay up every time you say “WTF”.)

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, October, 2011


You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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