Saturday, January 11, 2014

DEATH FORCE/Vampire Hookers (Vinegar Syndrome DVD) - From the Filipino Underground

Lately I’ve been reviewing many of the newer Drive-In Collection features and double/triple features from Vinegar Syndrome. These have been risqué offerings that usually focus on “uncut” skin; People who are alive, in the prime of their naked youth and fornicating viciously on camera usually to satisfactory if not somewhat comedic effect. Not that I’m tired of getting my rocks off to B or C or Z grade filth, but it’s time to retreat into a slightly older release from Vinegar Syndrome that I didn’t have the chance to review until now. The pairing of Death Force and Vampire Hookers is astoundingly well played. They are nothing alike and yet compliment each other well. One is an action packed, Kung Fu-sploitation flick and the other is a softcore puerno flick with John Carradine delivering some of the best lines in his career matched with some of the hottest vamps of the night you’ve ever seen. It almost seems like an unnatural composite. These films seemingly have nothing in common save for their grade (that of a C grade feature or B- if you’re a gentle critic). The nexus is actually Filipino exploitation filmmaker, Cirio H. Santiago and of course an adequate amount of camp violence.

Let’s take a minute to understand Cirio H. Santiago. I am relatively new to his work, however I must confess that I saw Vampire Hookers as a wee bitty boob stalker when I was young and in need of accessible spank material. You can always rent an R rated horror movie from the right video store clerk. The back room or restricted section or book is much harder to come buy, especially when an angry parent comes knocking. Many of his movies focused either on black heroes or Vietnam war stories. He was also beloved by Quentin Tarantino who took names of characters from some of Santiago’s movies. For a filmography of Santiago’s movies, stop over HERE. Some of these titles have to be seen to be believed and others seems like parodies of movies that may be altogether serious works of fiction (or as serious as Santiago’s budget would allow).

Before we get started reviewing the movies individually, make sure to pick up this double feature release HERE. I’m a big fan of both of these movies after enjoying them though I have to admit that Death Force is the better picture altogether.

(aka Vengeance Is Mine)

Synopsis from Vinegar Syndrome – (1978)After being left for dead, Doug is rescued by two Japanese soldiers, living on a remote island, who teach him the ways of the samurai. Upon returning to the USA, he quickly exacts a bloody revenge…Presented uncut and under its original title, VENGEANCE IS MINE!
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
110 minutes / Color / AR: 1.85:1

My first experience with Santiago sans an early spank off session with Vampire Hookers in my youth was an overtly positive one. Death Force is a strong narrative that follows Vietnam vets back into the really real world, vengeful and ready to take on the baddest bad guys. At first I thought I might be watching a later, more subdued Blaxploitation picture, but soon realized that this is clearly a Kung Fu-sploitation movie with a dash of Blax and hint of War-sploitation. In short, Santiago has designed a movie that can be funny at times, overtly serious with a real social message at others and then a rich and creamy blood bath complete with Western style ending complete with plenty of the red stuff to go around.

Fear the vet with the Samurai sword for he is the bringer of great death and awesome retribution. Plenty of good dialogue with powerhouse action sequences that end in the baddies escaping just at the most opportune moment (you’d think our hero would learn to kill the REALLY bad guy first). I strongly recommend Death Force. Come to think of it, it’s really an Western in many ways, but I really don’t want to spoil the big finish. You’ll see what I mean. You’ll have nearly expect an Ennio Morricone score at the end.

(aka or Cemetery Girls or Ladies of the Night or Night of the Bloodsuckers or Sensuous Vampires or Twice Bitten)

Synopsis from Vinegar Syndrome – Vampire Hookers (1978)After their commanding officer goes missing, two American sailors discover a group of female vampires who pose as prostitutes to lure men into their secret lair.
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
79 minutes / Color / AR: 1.85:1

After watching John Carradine in The House of Seven Corpses and the interview contained therein, I was really happy to discover that I was about to watch yet another picture with the horror icon (even if he doesn’t want to be called a horror icon) in short sequence. His role in Vampire Hookers actually exemplified better the type of work that Carradine considered his favorite. It’s nearly Shakespearean in quotation and sometimes there are quotes directly from the great master. That doesn’t stop Vampire Hookers from living up to the gaudy, exploitative name that was clearly designed to get the drive-in movie crowd in the back seat, perhaps with eyes on their dates instead of on the screen.

Most of Vampire Hookers seems to be a Scooby Doo esque mystery involving sailors who are trying to figure out why they are being lured to the cemetery to enjoy the company of some working vamps. The sailors turn the whole thing into a slapstick, unexotic, uncreepy mess of physical comedy at times truly detracts from the potential eeriness of the picture. One might say that the overt orgy of vampires might detract from the horrific nature of the movie, but I’d say that they simply make the viewer more keenly aware of his senses and provide an acute physical response to the film that prepares him for a more lurid, terror tale. In short, maybe he’ll be afraid a vamp chickie will bite off his pee pee. It’s a stretch. Perhaps the late 70’s pimp gear worn by our vamp pack is enough to put the sillies right back in you.

Please do not go into Vampire Hooker prepared for a scare flick. It’s got some cool moments where Carradine really turns it on, but you can tell he may not have realized just what kind of picture he was making. One of the true predecessors of modern day sexy vamp flicks (along with early 70’s Hammer).

-Doc Terror

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