Monday, July 18, 2022

Bloody 70's Horror Double Feature: Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1972) + René Cardona's Blood Feast (1975) (VCI Entertainment Blu-ray Review with Screenshots )

Bloody 70's Horror Double Feature: 
Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary (1972) 
+ René Cardona's Blood Feast (1975) 
Blu-ray + DVD Combo 

Label: VCI Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free, 1 
Rating: R
Duration: 90 Minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1)
Director: Juan López Moctezuma 
Cast: Cristina Ferrare, David Young, John Carradine, Helena Rojo 

A pretty American artist named, Mary (Cristina Ferrare, The Weather Man) is traveling through Mexico in her VW van on a dark and stormy night when she has some engine trouble. She pulls off the road to find a phone to call for help but finds the neaby house to be empty. While exploring the house she is startled by Ben (David Young, Nightbreed), a fellow American hitchhiking his way through Mexico and who also took shelter from the rain in the house. It's an awkward meeting but they stay the night in the ho.e and the next morning he helps here repair her van and they hit the road together, with a blossoming romance quickly evolving between the pair. While traveling through Mexico they stop off to enjoy the scenic beaches, but wherever they go bloodless corpses seem to follow. The authorities are baffled by the mysterious deaths, but they quickly set their eyes on Ben who seems to be in the vicinity of each the murders. 

What we as viewers are privy to that Ben and the authorities are not is that sexy, seemingly innocent Mary has a secret, a bloodlust - she's the culprit, and she has been leaving a trail of corpses from the U.S. down into Mexico. Why she craves blood is not explained fully, its apparently genetic as we learn her father (John Carradine, The House of Seven Corpses) suffers the same malady, but it does not appear to traditional vampirism as she loves the sun, enjoys meals, and does not sprout fangs. Much like George A. Romero's Martin or the German film Bloodlust, both of which this pre-dates by a few years, Mary is not growing fangs and biting necks, but instead obtains the groovy red stuff by poisoning her victims, usually through a beverage, and then stabbing them in the neck and heart with a knife, then lapping up the crimson elixir from their flowing wounds. 

Mary struggles to defy her bloodlust to maintain her new relationship with Ben which genuinely seems to bring her happiness, but regularly disappearing to find new victims, to spare him of the knowledge of what she truly is, whatever that might be. Things become more complicated with the arrival of a dark figure wearing a blacl trench coat, mask, and hat which begins pursuing her, all the while leaving behind blood-drained victims of his own that he murders with a switchblade knife. The look of this second killer adds a slasher/giallo vibe to the proceedings. Between the cops incorrectly zeroing in on Ben and the mysterious figure chasing her things eventually come to a head and Mary is forced to choose between her bloodlust or her lover.

Directed by Juan López Moctezuma (Mansion of Madness, Alucarda) this is a film with plenty of uneasy atmosphere but also feels a bit disjointed and uneven, which I would attribute to the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach that is a bit too ambiguous for its own good, and a somewhat undefined performance from Ferrare, who is a very sexy presence but just sort of floats through the film, but she does exude a sort of sexy vulnerability, but alsp deadly, quality the role need at certain times, but the character needed to be fleshed out a bit more. 

There's plenty of nudity and sex throughout, even a bit of decent early 70's bloodletting, with Mary seducing a wealthy patron and later a lesbian art gallery proprietor Greta (Helena Rojo, Aguirre, the Wrath of God), before poisoning their beverages (wine, coffee) and stabbing them with a knife she conceals in a decorative hair barrette, then draining them of the blood. Be aware there's some animal cruelty on display in a scene at Mexican beach, where a man has just been attacked by a shark and a group of men can be seen beating and stabbing the culprit shark in the surf, then dragging the toothy predator's corpse to the beach.
While Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary is not on the same level of Moctezuma's Mansion of Madness or Alucarda it is an atmospheric South of the Border chiller with some attractive exotic locations, some interesting ideas, a couple of decent car chases, and cool cinematography from time to time, plus there's plenty of nudity and a bit of bloodletting - it's not great but I didn't hate it.  

Label: VCI Entertainment
Region Code: Region-Free, 1
Rating: R
Duration: 62 Minutes 
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1)  
Director: René Cardona Jr.
Cast: Anjanette Comer, Hugo Stiglitz, Zulma Faiad, Christa Linder

The René Cardona Jr. (Cyclone) directed Blood Feast aka Night of 1000 Cats is a decidedly lower-tier slice of catsploitation starring Hugo Stiglitz (Tintorera) as a Hugo, a wealthy playboy weirdo who lives in a crumbling stone mansion with his loyal man servant Dorgo (Gerardo Zapeda, Night of the Bloody Apes). He spends his seemingly ample free time flying around Alcupoco in his helicopter looking for women, creepily hovering over their pools eyeballing them and occasionally tossing down a rope ladder and inviting them up for a spin. Surprisingly this approach actually works, such as with Cathy (Anjanette Comer, The Baby), a married woman with a kid, whom he lures in and starts a romance with, eventually showing her a secret room in his mansion only a few people have ever seen, a weird fenced in pit area housing what the alternate title would have believe are a thousand cats. He also shows her a trophy room which houses his late father's weaponry collection and animal trophies, including a massive taxidermied polar bear among other game animals, all of them creepy. 

Hugo also shows her a special collection of his own, a macabre collection of the pickled heads of his former lovers - apparently these tours the last stop of his soon-to-be exes.  That's not all though, he also feeds the flesh of the women to his horde of furry friends, then has Dorgo burn the carcasses in a furnace. The finale features Cathy realizing the severity of the situation and fleeing for her life, managing to accidentally release the cats, who in turn are quite happy to bite the hands that have fed them so well for so long when he is injured. Not a terrific film by any stretch, but not uninteresting in it's crapulence either, the worst stuff is the obvious padding, like the numerous unnecessary scenes of Hugo cruising the sky in his helicopter, it's pretty clear that Cardona got the helicopter for a good deal and was gonna use it as much as he could. The best scene for me is a fast-edit of Drago being fed to the cats after finally beating his master at a game of chess..

As with Mary, Mary, Blood Mary this has some unfortunate animal cruelty on display as well with Stiglitz's character tossing a cat twenty feet into the air over a fence into the cat-pit - it's pretty clear that he actually threw the poor feline, though it does seem unharmed. The gore is pretty tame, but we do get some mince-meat viscera (supposedly his victims cut-up into tiny pieces), and some fake heads in glass jars that look awful but are still schlocky fun. Stiglitz has always had a weird charm for me, I can't put my finger on it, but he does ooze a confident swagger that is so very 70's. 

Audio/Video: Both titles arrive on a single double-feature Blu-ray from VCI Entertainment in 1080p HD widescreen, advertised as new nestorations, but there is no mention of what the source is for the restoration, though I would hazard these were release prints based on condition. These were fairly mediocre restorations and the disc authoring leaves a lot to be desired - the image is waxy and murky, there's plenty of unrestored print damage, and the image is soft. Depth, clarity and color of the Blu-ray presentation advance over the over the accompanying DVD versions but are still far below expectation with compression issues, black crush and a heavy blue/green leaning evidenced throughout. Worsening matters is that despite advertising uncompressed PCM audio we get lossy 2.0 mono with optional English subtitles. It's a serviceable track but  there's nothing remarkable about it. 

Extras come by way of video essays by author/film Historian Dr. David Wilt for both films, each run 40+ minutes in length. Its recorded on a video conference video app and has a slightly stodgy film lecture quality to them, with Wilt getting into the history of the film producers, the director and the cast. I picked-up quite a bit of knowledge about the production company, cast and crew I wouldn't have know otherwise, and I did appreciate that they were included. The blurb on the back cover indicates trailers are included but there were none to be found on either the Blu-ray or DVD discs. 

The three-disc set arrives in a flipper tray Elite keepcase, a single Blu-ray houses both films and we get a pair of DVD's housing the individual films on separate discs with the essay for each film present on the disc. I would also note that the VCI needs to step-up their QC standards, not just in terms of audio, ideo and disc authoring, but the text and content of their wraps; the time code for Mary, Mary, Blood Mary indicates it's 101 minute long, but the actual film tops out at 90 minutes. Likewise, it advertises trailers for the films which are not present on the Blu-ray or DVD disc. 

Special Features:
- Mary, 
Mary, Bloody Mary Video Essay by author/film Historian Dr. David Wilt (42 min) 
- Blood Feast Video Essay by author/film Historian Dr. David Wilt (44 min) 

Screenshots from the VCI Blu-ray: 

Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary 

Blood Feast 



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