In turn-of-the-twentieth-century Ireland, Count Richard Marnack (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) visits the local theatre and invites its acting troupe to his island/castle home. The Count is quite taken with ingénue, Evelyn (Patrizia de Rossi), who bears a striking resemblance to his wife, now missing some years. The rest of the troupe, brazen Cora (Krista Nell), lovers Rosalind (Marzia Damon) and Penny (Lidia Olizzi), and diminutive stage hand, Samuel (Leo Valeriano) accompany the Count and Evelyn to the castle, as their theatre is closing. Upon arrival at the castle, the group is greeted by stern and comely, Sybil (Femi Benussi), the housekeeper, the holier-than-thou butler, Jeffrey (Mario de Rosa), and lecherous groundskeeper Gregory (Luciano Pigozzi). None of the latter three are particularly thrilled that the Count has brought guests. A lavish dinner is prepared, and the Count tells a ghoulish ghost story: both his grandfather and his father murdered each’s respective lover by beheading each with an ornate dagger, only to then after the act, jump from the top of the castle to his death in the sea. The dagger is still in the house, and the Count wants to take Evelyn as his new wife. Spooky.
The Bloodsucker Leads
the Dance (La sanguisuga conduce la
danza) (1975) feels like it was made by children who have discovered
several unique facets of the human psyche and are eager to tell the world about
them: 1) men are ineffectual and unnecessary; 2) women have sexual desires and
desire to act upon them; and 3) lesbianism actually exists and is awesome. If the ancient pharaohs made these findings
and had inscribed them with detailed hieroglyphics, then maybe they would be
provocative. From the first act of Bloodsucker and from my synopsis above,
one would intuitively think that the Count’s story and his bourgeoning
relationship with Evelyn would be foreshadowing of the story to come. Wrong.
Poor Samuel is the biggest pussy. The first act devotes itself to a rather
lengthy expositional sequence where Samuel visits each of the troupe’s
actresses: Cora asks Samuel to tie her
corset, but he cannot do so, because he is distracted by her exposed
breasts. The lovers Rosalind and Penny
want to be left alone for love-making but are disturbed by the ogling of
Samuel. Finally, Samuel does nothing but
whine and bitch to Evelyn that they should not go to the castle, because he is
afraid. Samuel does little more than
bitch and moan after arrival to the castle.
After their first breakfast, Cora is feeling particularly randy and
wants a man. She doesn’t even factor
Samuel into her decision. (The actor’s
diminutive stature only magnifies his personality.) Prior to the discovery of the first victim of
Bloodsucker (it is a horror film, by the way), a precious scene plays: Rosalind and Penny are fucking. The cute young maid enters their bedroom with
a pitcher of water. She stares at the
lovers for an inappropriate amount of time before clearing her throat and
announcing she has brought their water.
Rosalind removes her lips from Penny’s nipple to tell the maid thank you
and that she should leave. Back in the
maid’s chambers, where she shares a room with the other cute young maid, she
stares at herself topless in the mirror.
The other maid asks what she is doing.
She says that she saw two of the lady guests making love in their
bedroom. “How is that?” The other
asks. “But they are two women.” The maid confirms what she saw is true and
asks her chamber mate if she thinks her
breasts are beautiful. Yes, she
replies. Very beautiful.
Cora finds the most desirable man on the island, save the
Count, in a fishing hut and has a shag.
At dusk, her head is found in the courtyard, and the dagger is
missing. Is anyone going to do anything
about it? Not really. Conveniently, a storm
rises and keeps the island isolated. The
heads of ladies keep popping up in the second act of Bloodsucker. The Count can
only throw up his hands, and Evelyn can only lose her shit. The pious butler, Jeffrey, thinks the murders
are the work of the punishing hands of God, and angry Sybil seems oddly
Bloodsucker Leads the
Dance is directed by Alfredo Rizzo and has this odd antiquated feel to it,
like the cinema of Amando de Ossorio.
Rizzo, who was in his seventies when he filmed Bloodsucker, seems tripped out at the sexual mores of the young
people of his time and was eager and child-like to capture it. He was also not well-versed in the tropes of
modern horror: all of the killings occur
off-screen; the foreshadowing leads nowhere; and Bloodsucker incredulously yet tidily resolves itself with an
confrontation scene at the end. The
cinema of Amando de Ossorio was odd and antiquated, like Tombs of the Blind Dead (1971), in a surreal, often unintentionally
hilarious, atmospheric way. Bloodsucker just comes off as weird. The pastel lighting, with an abundance of
natural light, makes the nudity and sex, appropriately and ironically, softcore
and the rest of the dramatic action, lithe and rather inconsequential. At any moment in the film, Bloodsucker feels as if it could just
stop and not go on at all. The English
dubbing lacks any of the familiar voices of Italian cinema of the period, and
it, too, sets the film aside, kind of casting it as foreign and
theatrical. Three lovely beauties of the
genre, Benussi, de Rossi, and Nell, each provide nudity in Bloodsucker, and clearly this inclusion was a marketable asset of
the film. Rizzo and company, however,
failed to note that each was a competent and charismatic actress, two of whom
were underutilized. Benussi often just
stares at the characters like a stern matron while de Rossi really only
animates her “flabbergasted” face. Nell
gets to have fun as the sexually adventurous Cora, but Bloodsucker is really only leading her character to its
(relatively) lengthy fuck scene and later to her death scene. Stuart phones in his role, and I do not blame
him as his character really has no weight.
All criticism aside, Bloodsucker
Leads the Dance is an old, European genre production with the inherent
charms of the production, like authentic settings, cool music, and beautiful
actresses. The lack of irony and the
lack of a compelling story or atmosphere will see Bloodsucker viewers seeking de Ossorio cinema for remedies.