Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shadows of Blood (1988): or, Amsterdamaged

That's right--there is no poster for this movie.
In the late 80s, the port of Amsterdam is rocked by a series of brazen and motiveless murders. Local police are stymied, until they learn through Interpol that two vicious serial killers have escaped a French asylum and are currently engaged in a friendly competition to see who can deal the most Dutch death. One of the men (Barry Fleming) is a maniacal, hatchet-faced freak who nurses romantic delusions about finding true love, along with an extreme sensitivity about his male-pattern baldness. The other, played by his Mad Mad Mad Mad Magnificence Paul Naschy, is a grizzled, cigar-smoking old Spaniard, who turned to serial killing after a successful career as a b-movie horror star and champion power lifter...hey waitaminnit!

Shadows of Blood (1988, dir. Sydney Ling) is something of an oddity in Naschy's career. A flick so obscure it doesn't even have an IMDb entry--in fact, Paul is the only member of the cast whose IMDb page seems to exist!--the film was apparently a direct-to-video effort produced for the burgeoning Dutch VHS market. Like many of the early shot-on-video productions, this one suffers from terrible videography, laughable video effects, and incredibly amateurish acting from everyone but the Mighty Mighty Molina. While it's probably only of interest to hardcore Naschyphiles and obsessive DTV collectors, the movie still boasts enough MADness to make it an enjoyable waste of 70 minutes, at least for connoisseurs of trash cinema like your ever lovin' Vicar.


There is really no plot or character development to speak of here--we meet Fleming's killer window-shopping in Amsterdam, walking down the street like a regular (if funny-looking) tourist. On a busy thoroughfare, he sees a young New Waver coming toward him, and something behind his eyes just snaps! Without even checking whether all ist klar, Der Kommissar, he throttles the young punk on the hood of a nearby Citroen! Whether from lack of social engagement or crippling politeness, the other Amsterdammers passing by on the street take no notice.

"I told you not to put mayonnaise on my fries, but YOU JUST DIDN'T LISTEN!"

Later, Fleming meets Paul's character (who for sake of simplicity we'll call "Paul") and they discuss their newfound freedom and what they intend to do with it--which seems to be mainly random, motiveless stranglings. Of interest to Naschy fans here is that Paul speaks his few lines in English--though so heavily accented and with such strange inflection, he's clearly working it phonetically. (No shame there though--ALL of the actors in the movie seem to be reciting their lines phonetically, with the exception of a wisecracking Cockney detective on the Amsterdam police force, who seems to serve no other purpose in the movie.) I for one got a strong Lugosi vibe off Naschy's dialogue here, which of course made me giggle with glee.

"I crap bigger than you!"
Eager to show the youngster how it's done, Paul checks into a bed & breakfast. Moments after dropping his luggage in his room, he drags a chambermaid in by the throat! (In the first of many instances of somewhat effective black humor, Paul thoughtfully puts out the "Do Not Disturb" sign. Also, in the first of many instances of filmmaking flubs, we next see Paul stepping around a stage light to get to his mark.) Still spry despite his 55 years, Paul stalks his prey before executing a stunning leap attack!

As the bodies pile up, the Amsterdam police force finally takes notice. Though the tough-as-nails female chief orders her men to bring the killers in before Interpol can come in and trample the case, her elderly, Carlsberg-swilling flatfoots make no progress. Meanwhile Fleming strangles a hobo, and Paul one-ups him by walking into a cafe, ordering a dish of soup (or "soap"--it's hard to tell), and then strangling a Debbie Harry lookalike before his meal can even be served! A fellow diner, sitting literally the next table over, does nothing to help...though he may well have simply been paralyzed by Paul's mesmerizing manliness.

With no clues to go on (except presumably the DOZENS of eyewitnesses to every single murder!), the chieftess is forced to accept the help of an also-elderly Interpol agent, apparently sent over from their Department of International Standing Around with Hands in Pockets. (He's the best there is at what he does!) The agent fills them in on the killers' backstories, which include the fact that Paul has murdered 22 people, and his apprentice a respectable 19--not counting the latest additions. Together the crack task force investigate several tabacs, bars, and hotel bars, finding nothing but a series of suspicious-looking cocktails that must be immediately eliminated.

"Nope, no killers under the crumpets! Maybe at the bottom of this glass, then?"

From there on out, it's a series of curious events. Fleming strangles more random passersby. Paul throttles a few too--including one fat video editor (?), whom he takes out while wearing a Venetian plague doctor mask!--but later diversifies into stabbings and power-drillings. Things take a strange turn when Fleming starts courting a hollow-eyed local woman, who is not put off by his goblin-like face and penchant for killing people during lulls in the conversational courtship. Meanwhile Paul has an odd interlude wherein he meets an elderly Dutch serial killer to talk shop with, and later has his humanity reawakened by the not-so-skillful warblings of a homeless flautist. Seriously.

Fun fact: Naschy spent a good portion of the 80s touring with Jethro Tull
Things come to a head when Fleming senselessly murders the old flute-blower, which causes a rift in his friendship with Paul--a rift that's only exacerbated when Paul garottes Fleming's girlfriend before his eyes! Somehow the cops FINALLY catch up with the younger killer, leading to a foot chase and a showdown in which Fleming laughs like Dwight Frye on nitrous oxide and rips off his hitherto-unmentioned toupee! The police are powerless against such insanity, so it's up to Paul to put Fleming down like the rabid dog he is. As the chief of police stands by completely inactive--saying nonsensically via voice-over that "Perhaps it's better he gets away!" (wha?)--we get a flashback montage with strange video effects of blood-colored hands over the footage, grasping at the old killer while he offs victim after victim. Perhaps these are the "shadows of blood" that haunt him and inspire his murderousness? Director Ling leaves us to ponder this mystery as the end credits roll, and treats us to one of the most infectiously awful title songs I've ever heard in a Naschy flick.

Shadows of Blood is a terrible, terrible movie, and one that I'm sure Paul was not sorry to have left off most of his filmographies. Apart from a short write-up on the indispensible, there's little information in English about this flick, and many fans would probably say that's for the better. It definitely seems beneath Paul's considerable talents, and even the man himself seems to be uncharacteristically phoning in much of the performance, his eyes only on the paycheck waiting at the end. (Apart from those few lines alluded to earlier, most of Paul's acting here is done via broad gestures and pantomime.) Bad script, bad acting, a terrible Casio-fart score, and bad cinematography abound; it's little wonder that few if any of the other people involved have any further discernible film credits.

Your guess is as good as mine
Still, whether because of my own unique mental malformations, or because I'm always under the sway the Magic of the Mighty Molina, I admit to enjoying Shadows of Blood more than a little. The plot device of the competing serial killers isn't a bad idea, and the outlandish brazenness of their killings was a source of laugh-out-loud entertainment to me. Though I couldn't argue that it's anything other than one of the worst films in Naschy's long career, I nonetheless ended the flick with my trademark Naschy-induced grin on full beam. I was never bored by it, which is of course the gold standard for trash cinema in my opinion.

So for me and other Naschy completists, I would rate the film at 2 thumbs, something you need to see and might even enjoy. But for the average moviegoer, that rating would have to drop considerably, maybe even to the 1 thumb range. I freely admit to my bias--but what can I say? Naschy always makes me happy. Rest in peace, you wonderful madman. You are missed.

More images from Shadows of Blood (1988):





"Waiter, there's a Fly Girl in my soup!"

"Yeah, everyone keeps telling me Alcohol Niet Ils Ik Ru, but I don't believe it!"

That's right! KNEEL, PEASANT!

The Ghost Hand goes for Paul's Booty. Can you blame it?

Even Paul doesn't know what he was thinking


Darius Whiteplume said...

Wow. Love the '80s porno title style for the opening. It's amazing what you couldn't do with computers back then, eh?

Maybe no bystanders interfered because the Dutch are such a liberal and accepting people? "Who am I to judge?" they might say.

Jenn said...

Some meta-Paul, leap attacks (of course), and the ripping off of a toupee (amongst the other madness)? WTF!? And hell yeah! Thanks for this! Wherever did you find such a gem? Don't tell me if you'll have to kill me :)

The Duke of DVD said...

Ahhh, this is a gem, dearest Vicar! Not only did they include a leap attack, but who is to argue with the broad-daylight murders? Despite what sounds like a phoned-in Naschy performance, I still must add this to ye olde collection.

Thanks, sir!

J Luis Rivera said...

holy crap man, I need to see this. Can't believe it, I just can't.

P.S. I'm struggling to control the laughter.

Samuel Wilson said...

The last eight minutes can be seen, as I've just seen them, on YouTube. They are mesmerizing. You could run this in a museum and someone'll write a thesis on it like it was a work of art, "outsider" or otherwise. There's a level of bad where you don't know what'll go wrong next, and that sort of wild mystery keeps me watching the crappiest stuff. But WTF's with those little white clouds forming over Naschy's head? Thought balloons? Empty, of course, but it's probably better that way. Anyway, thanks for discovering this one for us, Vicar. We owe you the red-handed salute.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone!

@Darius--that screen is actually from the *end* of the movie, believe it or not! The opening title is just the blocky computer font, sans images. I don't know why they chose that...perhaps there were going for the sparse, minimalistic look? Some kind of dogme action? And perhaps you are right about the nonjudgemental Dutch--live and let live, and die, I guess?

@Jenn--This is definitely a deep cut from the vaults, to be sure! The meta-Paul even extends to the end credits, when they make the claim (in those computer-font letters, of course), that the film is "BASED ON THE TRUE STORY OF PAUL NASCHY"! At least the filmmakers were fans, I guess? PS--if you're very good, I might find a way to stuff this in your stocking...IYKWIM. ;)

@The Duke--if anyone on the planet would find the peculiar joy in this one that I did, it would be you, my friend! I'll send it over via Dwarf Henchman Express (tm) right away!

@J Luis Rivera--Thanks! It was nice to finally get back to long-form reviewing. Glad you enjoyed!

@Samuel--Well put! Also, I have added a link to the YouTube vid--thanks for finding it. While that clip does give one a fair approximation of the madness contained in the movie, I was saddened to find that it did NOT include the incredible closing song. I may have to see if my tech crew can manage to pull the must be heard to be believed!

Erik (Drunketh) said...

You probably already have about five million of these... but here's an award:

Francesca Paolucci said...

Best Wishes of a Happy 2012!

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