Trash or Treasure: INNOCENT BLOOD
“Trash or Treasure” is a recurring feature at Gordon and the Whale in which I return to a film that holds a special place in my heart (for a multitude of possible reasons) - and see if it is still deserving of that place. Have I been holding on to a piece of trash, or are my beloved films still bonafide treasure?
This edition of Trash or Treasure brings together two things I love in a movie now, and two things I loved in a movie when I was a kid - vampires and gangsters. The inspiration of the choice to (after many years) revisit INNOCENT BLOOD comes from a Twitter conversation I was having one night with our very own Kristal Bailey. She was watching BLADE 2, and it got me thinking about what has happened to vampires today. The much ballyhooed TWILIGHT franchise and True Blood television show has turned the perception we have of vampires into one that makes it okay for them to have feelings, be emotional, and even survive in daylight. Vampires today don’t even necessarily kill humans for heaven’s sake! In 1992, the great John Landis (AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, SPIES LIKE US) directed what I (at the time) felt was a truly great vampire film. Is it still a treasure, one that in this case would truly be a great rediscovery? Or is it a piece of trash that is more along the same vein as the wussified perception that we now have of vampires?
Marie (Anne Parillaud) is a vampire in the big city. A vampire with a conscience no longer content to eat just any human, has decided to feast on the Italian mafia gangsters of Pittsburgh. She goes about living her live by two cardinal rules: 1) Never play with the food and 2) Always finish the food. The most important of which is rule #2, that way no new vampires are created. One night she decides to feast on the mob boss Sallie "The Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia), and gets interrupted by one of his associates. Needless to say she doesn’t finish her food, and now her and undercover cop Joey Genaro (Anthony LaPaglia) must stop Sallie from creating a new undead criminal enterprise.
Right off the bat, the great thing about rediscovering this film is the cast. Let me rattle off some of the names that haven’t already been mentioned: Chazz Palminteri (A BRONX TALE, THE USUAL SUSPECTS), David Proval (The Sopranos), Tony Sirico (The Sopranos), Angela Bassett (VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN), Luis Guzman (THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO), and Don Rickles!! DON RICKLES!! There are even some brilliant cameos by horror icons like Tom Savini, Sam Raimi, and Dario Argento. There’s even a great sci-fi cameo that’s too great to spoil, and one that I think is incredibly fun to discover on one's own. So I have come to the pretty immediate realization that I had come across a film that I was not only destined to like a lot, but one that was meant to be revisited upon later when I would be able to appreciate all of the names I just listed above.
INNOCENT BLOOD isn’t all that innocent a film for a kid to have watched. As a kid there were certainly things here to appreciate, but I didn’t realize how great this film was at the time. The film begins with a noiristic voiceover from a very nude Marie waxing poetic about her disdain for being alone, and her need for food and sex. It’s an eloquent monologue that does a very good job of explaining all of the characters motivations for the entire film and it’s done all in one very well-written opening scene. As a horror film, it isn’t nearly as great as AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, but the moments of horror and gore here are certainly worth the time for any horror fan to invest their time.
If you insist on wanting vampires that have compassion for humans, are crazy about sex, and are capable of killing a human with absolute and reckless abandon, INNOCENT BLOOD can be the film that frees you from the expectation of seeing a pretty, pasty-skinned, and overly emotional non-badass on screen. This film shows how intimidating a vampire can be while still managing to be sexy and compassionate for the human race. TWILIGHT and True Blood could learn a lot from this amazingly wonderful film from John Landis. Let’s remember how awesome a vampire can be, and more importantly, how good a vampire movie can be.
Verdict: TREASURE. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of this film, or haven’t seen it in a long time you owe it to yourself to see this. If you love horror films (or if you think you really do), and have forgotten how scary a vampire can be, you need to see this.