Beast of Blood (1970) (90 minutes)
Directed by Eddie Romero.
aka Blood Devils, Beast of Blood Island, Beast of the Dead
Written by Beverly Miller and Eddie Romero.
Starring John Ashley, Celeste Yarnall and Eddie Garcia.
Follows The Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968)
Those unfamiliar with the works of Eddie Romero should make it a priority to search out a few of his titles. Romero is the John Ford, Frank Capra and Wes Craven of Philippine cinema all rolled into one, having directed war films along with dramas, comedies and horror movies. The film industry of the Philippines is a remarkable story in itself, a business that is now well over a hundred years old.
In the late sixties and early seventies Romero put a series of films together known as “The Blood Island Trilogy” which were low-budget shockers containing sex, blood and monsters. These films are devoid of the trash aesthetic of Andy Milligan, Andreas Schnaas and others. That’s not to say Romero’s movies are perfect. Camera angles seem haphazard, continuity cuts are awkward and the acting with the exception of Ashley is mediocre at times.
Our tale begins on the high seas just off Blood Island. It seems a certain Dr. Lorca (Eddie Garcia) has been experimenting on the inhabitants including the husband, Don Ramon, of his lover. These semi-scientific endeavors have left Don R. looking really hideous and in a bitter mood.
The survivors from the previous film [1968’s The Mad Doctor of Blood Island] are using the boat to get as far away from Blood Island as possible. All of a sudden Don Ramon jumps out from his hiding spot and slaughters the crew and causes the boat to explode. The scene is well staged and one definitely gets the idea that Don Ramon is one bad em-eff.
As luck would have it, Dr. Foster (Ashley) washes up on another island paradise, one devoid of monsters, giant man eating plants and Dr. Lorca. Don Ramon, seemingly indestructible, swims to Blood Island to find and kill Lorca.
When Dr. Foster hears of a journalist heading to the island to investigate his boat’s explosion, he joins up, hoping to end Lorca’s reign of terror. The reporter, Myra Russell (Yarnall) is easy on the eyes so Foster has an easy choice.
The intrepid crew finds Don. Ramon’s old mansion, which the natives believe is haunted. As Russell explores the spooky place, the good guys are attacked by Lorca’s men, led by the bald-headed Razak (Bruno Panzalan) a no-good evil henchman. They drag the poor reporter to Lorca’s secret laboratory, and Razak shows he’s not all bad for a murderer by preventing Myra from being raped. We find the Lorca is still alive from the last film but really unsightly, due to the numerous third degree burns all over his kisser.
Meanwhile, Dr. Lorca has subdued Don Ramon by cutting his head off and taunting him in order to get the monster to make small talk. Well Don Ramon isn’t ready to say he’s sorry quite yet, what with his body strapped to a gurney and his head in a glass cloche, bubbling green goo being pumped in to keep him alive. However, every time Lorca walks away, Don Ramon snorts a sinister laugh and flexes his hands, an ominous sign if there ever was one.
Dr. Foster finally arrives at Lorca’s laboratory where he shows the scientist his Don Ramon project and urging the monster to talk. Eventually the cavalry shows up in the form of the village chief and the townsfolk. Foster grabs Myra and splits after killing Razak. Lorca is left alone with Don Ramon as the laboratory catches fire preventing the evil doctor’s escape. Then it’s time for the dramatic high-point of the film, when Don Ramon’s body hops off the gurney and says triumphantly:
“Dawg doo me now, Loorcah!!!”
When I watched the film the first time I think I laughed so hard I almost passed out. The film pans out on Don Ramon’s head, still jarred, laughing remote ass off, while flames surround Lorca. Foster and Myra sail off into the sunset.
The film benefits greatly from the lush jungles of the on-location photography and the bizarre sounds from the outdoors and Lorca’s lab. All of these factors give the production a nightmarish quality.
Along with the dozens of Filipino-language films, Romero made English-language movies that became cult classics, like Black Mama White Mama with Pam Grier and Sid Haig (Lord, would I have loved to see Claudia Jennings in the Margaret Markov role!). Romero also directed a horror thriller based on The Island of Doctor Moreau [known as] The Twilight People also starring Ashley and Pam Grier. Some critics noted Romero has a simple, straightforward style. His films are never empty, yet always precise and functional, but never pedestrian. It is said Quentin Tarantino greatly admired Romero’s films.