Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The Thirsty Dead (1974)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are some things that defy explanation.  Why do we park in a driveway, yet drive on a parkway?  When the Bruce Banner turned into the Incredible Hulk, why was his shirt ripped to shreds, but his pants usually stayed relatively intact?   If the line at the ladies’ room is always so long, why not build more (or bigger) ladies’ rooms?  Why is a movie that’s about living people who don’t have an urgent need for consumable liquids called The Thirsty Dead?

Actually, The Thirsty Dead has its own set of interesting questions.  The story starts with two women being kidnapped by cloaked men.  The men take them to a small motorized boat in the city's sewers.  As they pull away, we see a doll floating in the water.  (First interesting question:  Is this supposed to be a doll or is it supposed to be an actual baby?  Second interesting question:  What’s the point of showing this to the audience?)

Cut to a scene in a river.  The boat pulls up to shore where everyone gets out.  We meet two other women who have presumably also been kidnapped.  The men take off their cloaks to reveal that they normally wear just about enough to keep the censors happy.  The women are taken to a small village where people worship a disembodied head that’s floating in a red liquid.  All of the people are either attractive or supposed to be attractive.  (The movie was released in 1975; since this was before I was born, I have no way of knowing how standards have changed.)

Baru (the only male character with any lines) eventually shows them around.  The people there have the ability to stay young by drinking a mixture of blood and some super-secret potion.  Laura, one of the four kidnapped women, is to be The Chosen One who can show them a new way or something.  The other three women are to be blood donors to keep everyone young and beautiful.

Laura doesn’t like the idea of living forever if it means draining people of their essential bodily fluids.  One of the other women, Claire, doesn’t mind.  She’d gladly trade places with Laura.  Sure, you have to spend the rest of your eternal life with the cult.  Who needs the outside world anyway?  Laura convinces Claire to escape with the rest of them, which they do pretty well until they stumble upon someone’s house.  The people living there give the four women shelter so that they can call Baru to come and take them back.

Shortly after bringing the women back, Baru realizes that it’s not right to keep the women there and helps them escape.  (Third interesting question:  Why help them escape so soon after bringing them back?  At least offer some lame excuse like, “I couldn’t do anything with the guards around.”)  Claire gets killed in the process, which the other three women get over pretty quickly. 

Baru takes them as far as he can, but soon ages rapidly.  Apparently, straying too far from the village means that your immortality is instantly revoked.  The remaining three women manage to make it to a road and flag down a man passing in a car.  The guards show up just in time to eat dust.  This leaves me with a fourth interesting question.  From what I can tell, the guards left right after Baru and the women did.  Baru and the women stopped several times to rest, but the guards didn’t seem to take any breaks.  How is it, then, that the guards didn’t catch up with Baru‘s party?

In the final scene, Laura is shown with the police, who have a plane flying around looking for the village.  There was at least one clearing, which should have made it easy to find.  The plane can’t see anything, which leaves the police to assume that Laura and the others are simply making up the story.  The people in the secret village are watching through some sort of telescope, apparently happy to cut their losses.

What I’m left with as a sense that this was a deeply flawed movie.  The acting is marginal at best.  The women don’t seem to be all that broken up about being kidnapped.  There’s no kicking or screaming.  In fact, Claire seems to be excited about the prospect of being sold into slavery.  (Why she’s so eager, I’ll never know.)  In one scene, the women spot a plane going overhead.  One of the women tries to call attention to the group, but does so with all the enthusiasm of someone that’s been drugged.

This movie was part of a nine-movie set called The Living Dead.  I’m not sure why it was included in this set, as there were no zombies, vampires or other undead to speak of.  It really wasn’t scary or spooky at all.  In fact, it’s one of those unintentionally funny movies.  The head that the cult worships has one line and it’s able to speak through the liquid despite not having any lungs.  (It’s possible that the head used telepathy, as the lip movements didn’t really match up to the words, but it‘s not really worth debating.)

Another interesting question is why movies use the plot device of one character drawing a picture of another character without ever having seen them.  This almost invariably indicates that the character that was drawn is someone special to the person that drew the picture or that the two people were meant to be together.  I’ve never really understood this.

There’s no nudity or profanity, although there were a lot of revealing clothes.  (Trust me: revealing clothing isn’t always a good thing.)  Most of the women wear something similar to a bikini, but slightly bigger.  Many of the women were attractive, but not all of them were much to look at.  As I said, the guards, all male, wear what can best be described as cloth diapers.

I think this could have been a good movie if you had gotten better actors, had some more attractive actresses, rewritten most of the script and actually put some effort into it.  I mean, it’s a PG movie.  How can you make a decent horror film that gets a PG rating?  I guess that’s one mystery for the ages. 

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