Director: John Landis
Cast: Anne Parillaud, Anthony LaPlagia, Robert Logia, David Proval, Chazz Palminteri, Angela Bassett, Luis Guzman, Don Rickles
John Landis has always been an interesting director; he’s always had a great love for both comedy and horror films and this is very evident in the type of films he has made. For example, Landis is responsible for directing three of my all time favorite comedies: The Blues Brothers (1980), Three Amigos! (1986) and Coming to America (1988); three comedies which I re-watch on a regular basis because they simply make me laugh so much. How much do I love Landis’s style of comedy? Well, first time I saw Coming to America I made up a term for it, because Coming to America wasn’t just any old comedy film, for me Coming to America is what I like to call a ‘Super Comedy’ which in my opinion is a comedy that excels on all fronts. These are comedies that have excellent casts, excellent production values, a great script and are genuinely none stop funny films. I would add another John Landis film to that list: Trading Places (1983); again, to me, a none stop hilarious film. On the other hand, Landis has also taken his stab at horror and directed excellent scary movies like An American Werewolf in London and Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Point is, Landis is one of the all time greatest comedy directors, right up there with the likes of Mel Brooks.
Same as Mel Brooks, Landis likes to mix his comedy with horror films. And again, I have to go on and talk about yet another one of my all time favorite comedies: Young Frankenstein (1974). My love for Young Frankenstein is never ending, and again, this is a film I have never stopped watching; it’s a Super Comedy because it’s not only an excellent production with an amazing cast and screenplay (nominated for an Oscar that year!) but it is also a great Frankenstein film on its own right; which is the fail proof formula for a good spoof film; you not only have to be a good spoof, but you also have to be a good film within the genre you are spoofing. Case in point: Young Frankenstein, a good spoof of all those old Universal Frankenstein films, but also, a great Frankenstein film on its own right. The same can be said of John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London; a funny film, but also a great werewolf film. This delicate balancing act between horror and comedy is not an easy one to pull off, too much on either side can destroy your film (just look at Dracula Dead and Loving It (1995) to see what I mean) but when done just right, the results can be extremely entertaining and gut bustingly good.
Landis knows a thing or two about mixing both of these genres well. Films like Burke & Hare (2010), An American Werewolf in London, Schlock (1973) and the film I will be reviewing today: Innocent Blood are a testament to that. Landis has always had great fondness for horror films. In Innocent Blood you can see this love for the genre in various ways, for example, every time some one is watching television, a classic vampire film like Dracula (1931) or Horror of Dracula (1958) is playing. He’s also peppered the film with wonderful cameos from the likes of Sam Raimi who plays a butcher, Dario Argento as a paramedic, Tom Savini as a photographer and Linnea Quigley as a screaming nurse! Even Forrest J. Ackerman shows up at one point, so yeah, it’s safe to say that Innocent Blood was made by a director with a genuine affection for both horror and comedy films.
On Innocent Blood we meet Marie, a beautiful French vampire played by the beautifully exotic Anne Parillaud whom some of you might remember from La Femme Nikita (1990). Marie is a ‘good’ vampire, she doesn’t go around killing innocent people as the title might suggest; she actually feeds mostly on Italian Mobsters. But one day, when she decides to feed on the head of the Italian mafia a guy known as Sallie ‘The Shark’ Macelli (Robert Logia) she makes a terrible mistake: she doesn’t finish him off! Now if you’re familiar with vampire lore, if a vampire doesn’t finish off its victim, then that means that said victim will begin transforming into a vampire, which is exactly what happens to Sallie. His senses are so acute that “he can hear an Angel fart”. Problem is that once Sallie the Mafia lord realizes he has the powers of a vampire, he starts transforming all of his henchman into vampires as well! His plan? To become an unstoppable vampire Mafia family! Can Marie and her new love (who just so happens to be a cop!) stop The Shark’s plans before it’s too late?
Basically, what this film does is mix various film genres; it doesn’t limit itself to mixing just comedy and horror. No sir, on this one we get a mish mash of horror, comedy, gangster films, detective films and yes, why not: a romantic film. Now that’s what I call a plethora of ‘piñatas’! I mean genres. I thought the idea of having a Mafia Lord turning into a vampire was genius; I don’t believe I’d seen it before on any other film before or since, and the idea of him wanting to turn his cronies into vampires as well? Very original in deed. This being an Italian Mafia movie, we get to see the usual faces one can find in these kinds of films; the awesome Chazz Palminteri is here along with David Proval and a bunch of other actors you’ve probably seen in The Sopranos. The soundtrack is so very Mafia; of course you can expect a little Sinatra in there. But the absolute best part of the whole Mafia angle is Robert Loggia playing Sallie ‘The Shark’ Macelli; he absolutely steals the film from everyone, even from the ultra sexy Anne Parillaud and speaking of Parillaud, it’s obvious from watching this film that she has no problems with nudity whatsoever; that’s for sure. There’s lots of it on this one.
Other great things about this underrated vampire flick? The make up effects! John Landis has always had great make up effects on his monster films, American Werewolf in London for example has one of the best werewolf transformations ever committed to celluloid, still relevant, still awesome to this day. On Innocent Blood we get a couple of show stopping effects moments as well, like vampires bursting into flames and fading away as the sun hits them, cool stuff that is even better when we take in consideration that it was all done on camera, practically, not with computers. The vampires have these awesome looking eyes that turn into all sorts of colors, a very unique visual no doubt, but I’m sure it must have been hell for the actors to wear those contact lenses! On the negative side of things, though the ending is flashy and filled with a cool effects sequence, it might leave you scratching your head as to why it happened. All things considered, Innocent Blood is a very underrated vampire flick, a forgotten gem from the 90’s. You might not feel like it’s the greatest story ever told, because it isn’t, at heart this film is actually very simplistic in nature. But you’ll still find yourself having a good time because of all the comedic elements, the sensuality and the awesome make up effects.