Thursday, September 7, 2017

INNOCENT BLOOD (1992) (Warner Archive Blu-ray Review)


Label: Warner Archive
Region Code: Region-FREE
Rating: Unrated
Duration: 115 Minutes (International Version)
Audio: English DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 Stereo with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: John Landis 
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia, Anthony LaPaglia, Don Rickles, Chazz Palminteri, Angela Bassett

I caught Innocent Blood (1992)at the theater in '92 and I loved it - but I think I was in a minority at the time, it didn't go over all that well with the masses as I recall, including my friends. Here we have a bloodsucking comedy about a Parisian vampire who accidentally turns a maniacal Pittsburg mobster into a bloodthirsty vampire when she fails to kill him properly after feasting on his blood. The mobster, Salvatore "Sal the Shark" Macelli, is played by Robert Loggia (Lost Highway), an over-the-top portrayal as a power-crazed mobster, and that was before he was turned into a bloodsucker! The vampiress, played by the pixie-ish Anne Parillaud (La Femme Nikita) is a Dexter-ish sort of femme fatale, she has her own moral code, which prohibits her from drinking the blood of innocents, preferring only the crimson fluid of criminals, which is why she sets her sights on this particular Italian crime family, who are in the midst of a turf war. 

Once turned Macelli realizes the vampiric power he now has, and begins turning his crew into the undead, beginning with his Jewish lawyer Manny, played by comedy legend Don Rickles who is fantastic! He also turns two wiseguys played by future Sopranos stars Tony Sirico and David Proval. Realizing that she's unleashed a monster of the city Marie sets about to stop the ruthless mobster with the help of an undercover cop, Joseph Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia, Empire Records), who has ties to the crime family.  The comedy comes fast and furious in this one, mixed in with some sweet gore and awesome special effects from Steve Johnson (Poltergeist II: The Other Side). There's not a whole lot of fang-action, we get some tearing of flesh and bloodied faces as the vampires feast messily on their victims, and both Rickles and Loggia have visually stunning death scenes, especially Rickles who catches an intense ray of sunshine before going up in flames in sight of a hysterical nurse played by scream queen Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead)! That's a scene I feel is owed some love from Let The Right One In, which has a very similar vamp at a hospital scene, he blows up real nice! Not all the effects and visual trickery hold up though, there's a weird circling camera movement that feels like an ode to Argento's Opera (1987) that takes place in a church, meant to imply Maria can fly (or turn into a bat?) that falls a bit flat, and the red-eyes I loved when I saw it at the cinema doesn't hold up, but that cracked-skin, burning embers effects of the vamps going up in flames is still fantastic stuff. 

Loggia steals the show, at least when Rickles isn't on screen, particularly as the scenery chewing (and bloodsucking) mob boss, with great one liners like "I can hear an angel fart" and "I'm gonna grind you down to blood and screams", loads of great quotes in this one, so good. Parillaud as the pint-sized vamp-vixen is good but not great, her French accent sounds a bit odd when they modulate her voice when she's vamped-out, at one point sounding like Lou Ferrigno, but she does fine, she's very easy on the eyes. The love story with her and LaPaglia is dead on arrival to me, I don't feel the chemistry, but it pays off with a kinky handcuffed sex scene, her tiny body is undeniably sexy, and she bares it a few times. LaPaglia like Parillaud is decent, but he's fairly low-key and straight-laced, overshadowed by the deliciously blood-crazed performance of Robert Loggia, who is just so great. 

The movie is front loaded with director cameos, a bit of a trademark for director Landis, with Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) as a meat man, Dario Argento (Tenebre) as a paramedic, and Frank Oz (The Dark Crystal) as a morgue mortician. Also be on the lookout for special effects master Tom Savini (Day of the Dead) as a photojournalist and the beloved Forest "Famous Monsters of Filmland" Ackerman in a brief cameo. Another fun Landis-ism is the appearance of other movies on TV's throughout the movie, we get clips of people watching Hammer classic Horror of Dracula (1958), Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train (1951), the Harryhausen extravaganza The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms(1951) and Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954), all these clips brought to mind the Landis-produced HBO sitcom Dream On (1990-1996)which was predicated on TV clips. 

This one is criminally underrated, and too often maligned, perhaps owing a bit to the fact that Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula hit theaters the same year, this one sort of waned in its shadow, but this is well worth a revisit, a horror-comedy along the lines of An American Werewolf in Paris, it was even marketed in some foreign market as  A French Vampire in America, against Landis's wishes, but I can see the urge from the marketing department to make that connection to movie goers. 

The mix of mafia crime film and slapstick horror comedy is fun, it doesn't all stick when thrown up against the wall, but most of it sticks without overdoing it, the comedy is fun, the romance is just alright, and the horror is mixed well with the silliness. Landis does not get enough credit as a director these days, but this was a unique and original idea for a vamp flick and he executed it with his usual comedy-deftness, balancing the absurd with the grotesque. 

Audio/Video: Innocent Blood (1992) arrives on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive with a brand new 2017 HD master that looks mighty spiffy. Previously only available in an unattractive pan and scan full frame DVD for Warners we get a nicely opened-up 1.78:1 widescreen presentation revealing left and right information not seen on home video in the U.S. before - it's an eye-opener! Grain is nicely managed, the film has a certain early 90's ugliness to it, a gritty urban patine, but it's all nicely resolved in HD and the reds really pop, plus the black levels are nice and deep. 

The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo track and it does the job; crisp and clean, nicely balanced with some good stereo separation, the music scores from Ira Newborn (Mallrats) sounds great, plus songs selections from Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter, Prince and the New Power Generation and the Rhythm Syndicate. Optional English subtitles are provided. 

Warner Archive are not known for their newly produced extras, and true to form there are none here, we get only the trailer for the DVD, but there's is something new, this is the longer international cut (115 min) version of the film with over two minutes of never-before-released-in-the U.S. footage, it doesn't add up to a whole lot honestly, a few seconds here and there, some dialogue, a bit more of a burning Loggia at the end, but it's great to have this Landis comedy in widescreen HD and uncut!   

Special Features:
- Theatrical Trailer (HD)

Finally at long last Innocent Blood (1992) gets a proper widescreen HD release from Warner archive, they even sweeten the deal with a longer international cut we've never had in the U.S.. Sure, I would have loved a John Landis commentary or an interview, the guys is always a veritable treasure trove of Hollywood insight, but I am pleased as punch just to have this sweet looking widescreen HD version of the film on Blu-ray! It doesn't mix the comedy and horror as well as An American Werewolf in London, but then again, so few do, and that's a Hell of a benchmark, even for the same director.