I Drink Your Blood and I Eat Your Skin, Together Again (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

Okay, this film is not for everyone.  But I'll tell you what, it's sure for me.  1970's I Drink Your Blood is a crazy exploitation/ horror movie I like better each time I see it.  Of course, it helps that I keep seeing it in better and better quality.  I first saw it in theaters in the early 2000s via a print that had turned bright pink.  Then I got Grindhouse's restored special edition DVD in 2003.  And now in 2016 I've got their further restored 2 disc blu-ray set.

Update 5/8/17: For those interested in the second feature, I Eat Your Skin, I've just added a DVD comparison to the Alpha Video DVD, so you can see how the new HD transfer for that flick stands up to a previous SD release, too.
If you haven't seen it, I Drink Your Blood is one of those rare envelope-pushing 70s horror that really sets up the 80s wave, alongside films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Dawn of the Dead.  This isn't one of those myriad 60s and 70s flicks where the posters and trailers really try to sell you on how gruesome and depraved it is, only to finally present you with some completely tepid, dull talky with three men sitting around yammering about something vague and off-camera for seventy minutes.  I Drink Your Blood goes for broke.
A pack of Satan worshipers arrive in a small Upstate New York town, and rape a young woman.  Now the townsfolk to drive them out, but that's going to become a small war.  Sounds similar to the plot of a bunch of 70s sleazy drive-in fair, right?  But that's just like the first fifteen minutes.  Because in seeking revenge, the woman's nephew - who definitely earns his place in the pantheon of Great Horror Movie Kids, along with his young peers in films like Trick Or Treats, Nightmare and Beyond the Door 2 - comes up with a twisted plan inspired by his veterinarian grandfather.  He kills a rabid dog, takes its blood, and injects it into the cultists' meat pies, turning them all into foaming, homicidal maniacs.  Meanwhile, there's also a new dam being constructed, and the whole team of construction workers also manage to get infected and invade the town.  It's a blast.
There's non-stop violent murders, crazy LSD freak-outs, depraved sex and somehow a giant snake even gets caught up in the fray.  Lynn Lowry appears as a deaf, mute hippy, and everybody goes insane in their own, unique way.  If you're thinking this is sounding somewhat like George Romero's The Crazies, only crazier, well it is, but remember this one actually came first.  It's wild and nihilistic at the same time; like the horror version of Road Warrior.  Is the bizarre mix of characters a little bit silly?  For my money, that actually adds to it.  Is it a little low budget and clunky?  Sure.  Just like those classic, early Romero flicks only even more over the top, if you can imagine it.  A lot of people are going to be turned off by the superficial flaws, and those are bountiful; but if you can appreciate these grainy slices of cinematic dementia, this is one of the most entertaining.
A scene only in Grindhouse's restored director's cut
One of the great things about Grindhouse's releases, both the DVD and blu, is the inclusion of two cuts of the film.  Both the DVD and blu-ray edition present us with the full-length, "Uncensored, X-Rated Theatrical Cut," which runs 83 minutes and has all the frequently cut gore re-instated.  But then there's also the "Original Director's Cut," which restores multiple scenes including the terrific original ending via seamless branching, that the producers made him cut.  I 100% recommend the director's cut; it's even more awesome and gonzo.
2003 Grindhouse DVD top; 2016 Grindhouse blu-ray bottom.
And I'm happy to report the blu is a strong upgrade.  The original DVD was fullscreen 1.33:1; but for HD, they've not just matted it down to 1.66:1, they've uncovered new information on the sides.  The composition is so much better now; the full-frame was much boxier, with too much empty space.  The colors are also so much more natural.  You can tell from the damage in the first set of shots that the blu was sourced from the same elements as the DVD, so we're not exactly getting a wealth of new detail, but the HD, framing and corrected colors are a huge distinction already.  The inserted scenes for the director's cut are a little lower quality; they exhibit more scratches and dirt and generally seem a bit softer and more contrasty.  But those shots still benefit from the increased resolution.

Both releases feature the original mono track in 2.0, but the blu bumps it up to DTS-HD.  The blu-ray also adds English subtitles, which the DVD was lacking.
And now you may be thinking we're "already" up to special features, but there's so much, it's like we're just beginning.  First of all, the DVD was pretty packed.  And I have to point out, there's actually more than one version of the DVD.  There was a limited edition only available through Fangoria, which had a different cover, and another limited edition only available through Grindhouse directly.  That's the one I've got here.  It's hand-numbered from 500 copies (mine's #205), and is signed by the director David Durston and much of the cast on the inside artwork.  It also came with an exclusive signed insert by Lynn Lowry.  And there's a later, non-limited version.  But as far as what's actually on the disc, they're all the same.

There's a terrific audio commentary by Durston and star Bhaskar.  The scenes included into the director's cut are also available to watch as separate deleted scenes, and those also have optional audio commentary.  Then there's a silly but terrific half-hour featurette called The I Drink Your Blood Show, where Durston interviews several members of the cast and crew in his home, in the style of a late-night talk show.  He even talks to the ad-man who changed the title of his film on him (his original title was Phobia).  There's a stills gallery which also includes another audio interview with Durston playing over it, three minutes of outtakes, trailers, radio spots, a collection of Grindhouse bonus trailers, and a fold-out poster with notes by David Szulkin.  AND, there are several easter eggs, including a recording of Bhaskar doing the "evil king cobra dance"(!), a clip of Durston and Bhaskar recording the audio commentary, Durston singing an original song about being a horror movie director(!!), and a six minute clip from I Eat Your Skin, the film I Drink Your Blood famously played as a double-bill with theatrically.
Impressive, but it turns out Grindhouse was just warming up.  Two of the biggest additions to the blu-ray set are two complete additional feature films.  First we get Blue Sextet, an earlier film by Durston that features many of the case from I Drink Your Blood.  It's more of a micro-budget art film than a horror film, and lucky us, Grindhouse has unearthed the longer, European cut with additional sex scenes added to make it more saleable overseas.  It's presented in HD at 1.78:1 and looking like a pretty great scan from a print.  It's the story of a famous sculptor (Jack Damon, who played the heroic foreman in I Drink Your Blood) who commits suicide, and his six closest friends get together and try to piece together what drove him to it, each revealing darker and more twisted secrets they shared with the man.  It's not a horror film (though it has one brief, horror segment); but if you're open minded, it's pretty entertaining.

Blue Sextet also has its own audio commentary by Jack Damon, who also executive produced and co-edited the film.  And I definitely recommend listening to that if you've watched the film.  He is not afraid to speak very critically about everyone involved!  You rarely hear a commentary this honest.
2003 Grindhouse DVD top; 2016 Grindhouse blu-ray bottom.
Then the other feature they've included is I Eat Your Skin!  It's a weird Floridian horror film from the early 60s that went unreleased for almost a decade until producer Jerry Gross bought it and made it a double-bill with I Drink Your Blood.  It's a very different film, that will strike some familiar chords with fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000, as it's super dated and cheesy.  A famous author/ James Bond wannabe goes to Voodoo Island to write his next book, where a doctor is actually turning the local natives into bug-eyed zombies.  But if you're a fan of this dorky cult movie, this is its HD debut!  And I'm throwing in a screenshot of the clip from the 2003 Grindhouse DVD so you can see just how different it looks.  The blu is widescreen at 1.85:1, and this is no open/closed matte affair here.  It was an old, cut off the sides affair, now restored.  Just look; that's a massive improvement.

But wait, you shout!  It's not fair to compare the blu to a little movie clip that was a bonus feature on a DVD.  Let's see how a real, commercial release of this film sizes up.  Well, alright; here's Alpha Video's DVD, which came out the same year as Grindhouse's DVD.
Well, you know, it might not be fair to compare a real release to an Alpha Video DVD either.  haha  It's just as fullscreen, of course, but also as compressed and interlaced.  In fact, it's even more faded than Grindhouse's old clip.  I think they must've made an effort to improve the quality a tiny bit.

I should also point out that there is a longer cut of I Eat Your Skin.  That version has a longer intro and a few trims restored.  However, both Grindhouse and Alpha feature the more common, shorter cut.

And I Eat Your Skin has its own special features, too.  On the Grindhouse blu, I mean.  The Alpha DVD is completely barebones.  But here you'll find a great interview with the film's second unit director, who's almost as forthcoming as Damon.  There's a bonus trailer for a documentary about that guy, which looks like a lot of fun, and even better, a hidden Easter Egg of Elvira introducing the film!
On top of all that, Grindhouse has also secured a bunch of new features about I Drink Your Blood itself.  There's a great, hour-long interview with Durston where he goes over his whole career and is really interesting.  There are multiple clips of Durston, as well as several of the cast members, speaking and doing Q&As at different screenings.  Durston repeats himself a lot in these, but there's also new stuff to be found in each one.  Actors Jack Damon and Tyde Kierney also turn up to provide an all-new commentary track for the film, and they have a lot of fun with it.  We also get two German super 8 shortened versions of the film... I haven't seen those on a DVD since that old, Astro Filmworks DVD of Antropophagus. Of course everything from the DVD is ported over, easter eggs and all.  And there are a couple NEW easter eggs, including a short industrial film called Sanitation - Rodent and Insect Control, which I must assume is directed by Durston though no one's actually credited, and another interview clip of Durston talking about Bela Lugosi, who he acted in a play with early in his career.  That adds up to a lot of easter eggs, so don't stop poking around the menus until you've found 'em all.

This package comes in cool slip-box, with a booklet including the same notes from the DVD edition, plus new tributes to Durston written by Damon and Kierney.  And last but certainly not least, the first 3000 copies include a life-sized toy hypodermic needle, like the one seen in the film, as you can see in the film above.  Definitely one of the coolest packaging gimmicks I've ever seen.
Before I'm accused of over-selling this film, though, let me reiterate: this movie is not for everyone.  It looks dated and cheap, and while the casting is pretty great, you're not going to find a lot of subtle, naturalistic performances around these parts.  If you're used to glossy, 80s or modern horror, this is the polar opposite.  But if you like grounded violence mixed with over-the-top absurdia, mixed into one trashy, messy pie, this is the cream of the crop.  And Grindhouse has positively outdone themselves creating the ultimate possible edition.  Yee-ha!

2 comments:

  1. Terrific coverage ( as usual ) !
    I just ordered this yesterday, and was a little nervous as I had not seen any reviews yet. Well, all fears gone now, thanks to your detailed look at the Blu.

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    1. Yeah, even if you already have Grindhouse's DVD, you should be very happy with this upgrade. =)

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