Sunday, September 23, 2012


PHENOMENALITY: *marvelous*

On the face of things John Landis' INNOCENT BLOOD sounds like a high-concept winner.  Exotic Anne Parillaud plays Marie, a moral vampire who only sucks the blood of destructive scumbags.  She happens to pick on the Pittsburgh-based gang of Sallie "the Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia).  Normally she needs to break the spines of those she feeds on, so that they won't rise again, becoming like her nearly-invulnerable *nosferatu.*

At the same time Macelli's gang-- which includes crooked mob lawyer Manny Bergman (Don Rickles)-- has been infiltrated by undercover cop Gennaro, who's hot to bust Macelli.  The mob finds out his true identity and puts a kill order on him, but Gennaro refuses to go into hiding and keeps trying to bust the gang-leader.

Marie kills one of the gang without undue incident, but her next encounter goes wrong.  She fangs Macelli but one of his hoods interrupts before she can break Macelli's neck.  As she flees she runs into Gennaro and stuns him with evidence of her vampire powers.  Later, the undead Macelli rises and, once he gets some sense of his new powers, gets the idea of convert his whole gang into super-powered vampires.  Marie and Gennaro team up to become "fearless vampire hunters."

INNOCENT BLOOD's FX-work is first-rate, and Loggia gives a visceral performance as the foul-mouthed Mafioso out for blood, literally.  Famed comedian Don Rickles acquits himself well in a completely straight role as the harried attorney trying to rein in his manic client.  And yet BLOOD is a little too by-the-numbers to ever "stir the blood," so to speak.

The failure of Michael Wolk's script is that  focal character Marie remains too much a mystery to make her interesting, and supporting character Gennaro is merely a standard dedicated cop.  Except for the ferocious Macelli, all of the gangsters are just one-note brutal goofs.  There's a lot of slick blood-and-gore, but without the hook of engrossing characterizations, the heroes' efforts don't take on any special resonance.  For that matter, even the fight-scenes aren't always consistent as to just what force is needed to take out the undead.

I've seen a lot of reviews that call INNOCENT BLOOD a comedy.  I think John Landis does have a lot of oddball scenes that have the feel of deadpan comedy, as when Bergman bashes Macelli with a shovel just to get his attention.  But in my opinion BLOOD doesn't have the tone of a real comedy.  So I term it a drama-- specifically a melodrama in which the monster-hunters are evenly matched with the monster, which is the basis of my terming it a "combative drama."  The interested may find this concept elucidated somewhat more on THE ARCHETYPAL ARCHIVE. 

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