Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance (La sanguisuga conduce la danza) (1975)

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 satisfied.
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 Agatha-Christie-esque suspect 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.

1 comment:

Terence said...

I think the English dub was done by Doppiaggio Internazionale, the same folks who dubbed Female Vampire, Kiss Me Killer, and The Hot Nights of Linda. They're very different to the usual Nick Alexander dubbing crew (and not nearly as good). The most distinct recurring voices are the nasal guy and the drunk Italian.