Stay For the Sinner's Blood

"Can any woman see the climax without feeling the knife?" is a question I often ask myself.  It's also the tagline for a gonzo sixties sleazefest called Sinner's Blood, new on blu-ray from Dark Force Entertainment.  Think Last House On the Left without the Bergman influence.  I had put off checking it out because I'm not a big fan of biker flicks in general, and 60s exploitation tends to feel pretty tame once you've seen stuff from the following decades (I can still remember as a kid renting Blood Feast after hearing for years what an insane gore-fest it was and what a disappointment that turned out to be).  But this really isn't a biker flick, though there is a biker gang in the movie, and it sure ain't tame. 
Not that Sinner's Blood is some kind of a gore fest either.  It's a sleazy sex and violence fest, full of rape, incest and drawn out, sadistic stabbings.  It's also so off-beat, unpredictable and at times curiously chipper, that it's oddly compelling even if you're not just in the market for envelope pushing.  I've read people try to describe how it doesn't really have a plot, so much as it is a succession of things that happen, and I think I've put my finger on it, because there is a straight-forward story in a sense, with events all leading into each other, and even some dare I say "subtle" foreshadowing.  It's because there really isn't a protagonist.
Two girls arrive in a small town from Chicago to stay with their aunt and uncle after their parents die.  They're both hotties, of course, but one is a heavily telegraphed good girl and the other is obviously the bad girl.  They seem like our leads but they slowly fade into the background, acting more as catalysts for everyone they run into.  Because every man, and even some of the women, go completely ga-ga over them.  And everybody in this town is a total nutcase, from the local biker gang with a homicidal loose cannon in their ranks to the town preacher who screams at people that they're animals.  So dangling this additional temptation in front of them all is just a propulsion for them to spring into murder, voyeurism, betrayal, LSD freakouts and the least titillating orgy you'll ever witness.
What a weird piece of Americana.  You could write it off as just softcore porn, because clearly this film is just dying to linger on as many bear breasts as possible.  But it's such a weird story going on, clearly with some kind of demented artistic vision pushing it along.  And sure, there's an amateurish level to it all where actors sometimes stumble over their lines and the production values are cheap.  But the cast is also really going for it, and they're clearly making an effort to come up with creative camera angles and pack the story with locations, tons of characters, weird dialogue and all sorts of things some hack rushing out a cheap sex flicks for a quick buck would never bother with.  Mind you, I'm not arguing that this is a good movie; but it's not unworthy of your time.  It's a heck of a time capsule and you'll never be bored.
Sinner's Blood has been a grey market staple for ages.  There's an old Genesis Home Video DVD with a copyright 1987, that only makes sense when you realize their back cover is a copy of the old VHS tape.  There's also a Cheezy Flix DVD.  All 1.33 VHS rip stuff, until Code Red picked it and decided to do it properly in 2012, giving it both a "brand new 1.78:1 (16x9) transfer from the only surviving 35mm print" and an additional "full frame version with a new scene from a 3/4" tape" on the same disc.  It was the definitive go-to edition until now, as Dark Force have released it on blu-ray as Volume 20 of their Drive-In double feature series (paired with Rivals, already fully covered here).  Now it's got a "new 2K scan from 16mm blown up to 35mm original internegative with extensive restoration and color correction."
1) 2012 Code Red DVD (print); 2) 2012 Code Red DVD (tape); 3) 2023 Dark Force BD.
So before I say anything else, I want to say Sinner's Blood has never looked half this good before.  This is a huge revelation.  I'm going to point out some flaws, but if you're a fan of this movie, this is an essential double-dip, putting everything that came before it to shame, even Code Red's DVD, which clearly put in the effort of giving us two transfers.

One is fullscreen (1.29:1, counting the rolling video bar along the bottom), and the other is widescreen (1.77:1 with very slim pillarboxing).  You can see why he included a full-screen option, since the widescreen version doesn't just matte the film vertically, but loses picture from all four sides.  Dark Force's transfer is 1.33:1, including even more picture around all four sides, though it feels excessively open matte, frequently with a lot of head room.  I wouldn't be surprised, though, if this is sort of a NotLD situation, where the filmmakers were still green enough to have framed for fullscreen simply because they weren't professionally seasoned enough to plan for theatrical matting.  I don't think it's true, though, what Dark Force said in their video promoting this release about going 1.33 "because that's technically the shape of a drive-in screen."  It's not, almost all drive-ins are widescreen (and certainly, the Midway and Santee drive-ins, highlighted on this disc's cover and menu screen respectively, had 2.39 screens).  So that's a little weird, but hey, this new blu still looks great.
Sure, it has plenty of dirt, scratches and hair in the gate, but it's still far less damaged than the green emulsion-riddled print Code Red used.  And critically, Dark Force didn't use a print but an internegative with far more detail and clarity.  Some of the close-ups on this disc look amazing.  And oh god, forget about Code Red's fullscreen transfer, which is so blockly, it looks like it was ripped from an old 240p Youtube post.  It's interlaced, too (the widescreen version isn't, and of course Dark Force's isn't), but you can barely tell because the image quality is so bad.  And yes, Dark Force's color correction is another big improvement, looking far more accurate and attractive than Code Red's faded, red and yellow leaning transfers.  It does have a weird flaw in a few shots, though, where the darkest parts of the shot are actually brighter than they should be, making a character's dark pants, for example, look like they're glowing.  You can see it a bit around the legs of the girl in the plaid shirt in the first set of comparison shots, and more extremely in that shot of the looking through the hole in the wall.  The above close-up is a perfect example, where it gives a greenish hue in the shadows of his hair, his collar and the eye further from the camera making them stand out in a way those areas shouldn't.  That gets a little distracting, I've gotta be honest.  And the older transfers don't have this problem.  But I still wouldn't trade Dark Force's new restoration for the old ones in a million years.

No subtitles this time (despite them being on Rivals), but Dark Force has bumped the mono audio to DTS-HD.  It still has crackles and light hiss, but it sounds better than Code Red's, which didn't have subtitles either.  Well, Code Red's widescreen transfer has less his, but the dialogue isn't as clear.  And their fullscreen version sounds awful.
Dark Force's disc is also the longest, most uncut version going, along with Code Red's fullscreen version.  If you were wondering what that "new scene" reference was about on the Code Red case, their widescreen version is missing some footage.  It cuts the first line of dialogue, replacing it with an Exclusive International Pictures title card not on either of the other editions.  It's also then missing the Cinema International Pictures logo that's cut later into the opening credits.  But the key differences are that the widescreen version cuts a lot of the lesbian scene out, as well as the final scene of violence/ nudity (which makes the film's ending even more confusing than it normally is), both of which are intact in the two fullscreen versions.  So it's not really a difference of a single "new scene," but several cuts.  And judging by the running times on the backs of their cases, the Genesis and Cheezy Flix DVDs are more heavily cut.
Code Red also hooked us up with a couple extras.  Well, one really.  They interview one of the lead actors, John Talt, who plays the emotionally disturbed creeper (if that narrows it down at all?).  And it's a fun one.  He does call the film terrible multiple times, but he has some good memories and insight into the film, which is good because anyone who sees this movie will definitely be coming out with questions.  Besides that, there's just a couple bonus trailers for other Code Red titles.

Sadly, Dark Force drops the interview.  So the new BD doesn't have any extras apart from the drive-in interstitials, where they play trailers and theater advertisements between the two features, which is admittedly fun.  But it's a real shame about the interview.  That's some value lost right there, and it feels like an unforced error not to slap it on.  It's not like none of the Drive-In series can have extras; Who's Child Am I?/ Weekend Murders had an audio commentary and on-camera interview.  Oh well.
This release does come in a colorful slipcover.  And it's two totally demented films looking better than they ever have before.  I only picked this release up for Rivals, but Sinner's Blood drew me in so much, I picked up the Code Red DVD just for the interview.  So at the end of the day, I'd say this is a high recommendation for the very niche audience that would be interested in these movies, but certainly not for, you know, sane people.


  1. I just watched the Blu last night. While the daylight scenes looked tremendously better, the nighttime scenes were really awful. Compare the scenes of the gay bikers being caught in the act. The CR widescreen was perfectly clear and crisp. The DS Blu looked like it was smeared with blue vaseline. They screwed up the night scenes, I'm not sure how, but it looks like an extremely amateur attempt at fiddling with the brightness and contrast levels.

    1. Yeah, something is going on in many of the darker elements. Sometimes part of the image that should be darker than what's around it is actually brighter. I guess this is the result of chemical damage they weren't able to properly correct...?