Thursday, April 7, 2011

'Blood Sabbath' is odd and very 1970s

Blood Sabbath (1971)
Starring: Tony Geary, Dyanne Thorne, Susanne Damante, Sam Gilman, and Steve Gravers
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

A Viet Nam vet (Geary) haunted by the war, meets and falls in love with a water nymph (Damante) in an isolated stretch of back country. Desperate to make this impossible relationship work, he sells his soul to the evil leader of a local witch coven (Thorne) for the promise of being able to be with his beloved. Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but it all ends very badly.

"Blood Sabbath" is another one of those movies I really wish I could like more. I love the general atmosphere of the film--the story is one more suited for a fantasy setting, with our troubled warrior having fought in the Crusades or the 100 Year War instead of a modern conflict. The characters, the setting, the way the story unfolds... everything has a fairy-tale story book quality to it that stands in odds with the modern trappings of the film. In fact, one possible interpretation of what we see is that it's an "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"-type story with everything that happens is the main character's dying fantasy.

As interesting as the script and atmosphere of the movie is, it is brought low by some pretty awful acting by just about every cast member, and by a special effects team that was either incompetent or not given enough money or time to do even simple jobs right. Nothing says "crappy" like a severed head prop that looks nothing whatsoever like the actor from whom the head was supposed to have been severed. The seemingly unending scenes of naked and semi-naked witches performing jazz dances don't help the movie any either--you know something's wrong with a film when naked chicks can't even seem to spice up the proceedings. (Although, it could also be that I've seen too many movies with witch covens doubling as the Backwood Jazz Ballet Dancers... it seems that being willing to take your shirt off and having some minimum ability to dance were the requirements to be a witch in the 1970s.)

And if there's one thing I'm glad went away with the 1970s, it's the use of crash-zooms and fish-eye lenses to show altered mental states. I don't think it's a bad representation--I've had some fever dreams or my own drug-induced stupors that have felt like that--but I can't think of a time when I didn't see that used in a film where it wasn't overused. This is no exception.

Still, it you've got absolutely nothing else going on, "Blood Sabbath" might be worth checking out just for the quirky fantasy vibe running through the film. It's not worth getting on its own, however; even if you Netflix it, try to find it on a disc with some other film, so you can get your money's worth.