Sunday, September 16, 2012


I watched THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND (1969) the other day. This Filipino horror film was a hit on the drive-in and grind house circuits of the late '60s and it's easy to see why. It's got all of the requisite ingredients: gore, nudity, sex, action, violence and a clever marketing campaign.

The story concerns a bonafide mad doctor operating on an island named "Blood" (so the title is accurate). It seems he has the weird idea that injecting chlorophyll into a leukemia patient will somehow save the man's life. It doesn't. Instead, it creates a hideous monster who escapes from the doctor's hidden cave laboratory and goes on a rampage. With green blood running through his veins and dripping from his fangs and claws, the creature has a fondness for nude young native women (of course) and regularly rips them apart.

A pathologist from the mainland has come to Blood Island to investigate the weird goings on. The pathologist is played by American actor John Ashley (who is win-place-and-show in the Chuck Woolery look-alike contest). Ashley was an actor of extremely limited range and talent but he enjoyed living and working in the Philippines in the late '60s and early '70s and he helped finance and produce a series of low-budget horror films directed by genre auteur Eddie Romero.

Accompanying Ashley is the lovely Angelique Pettyjohn whose biggest claim to fame was an appearance in "The Gamesters of Triskelion" episode of the original STAR TREK TV series. According to production notes, Pettyjohn later starred in some porno films under the new name "Heaven St. John". Again, a very poor actress but she's easy on the eyes and she does perform a semi-nude scene with Ashley which drive-in and grind house audiences must have surely appreciated.

Pettyjohn's father is the island drunk who has been helping the mad doctor in his crazy experiments. Also on the boat to the island is a young man who is the step-son of the mad doctor and the son of the monster (as revealed in the final reel).

The mad doctor walks with a cane and at various times resembles a bizarre cross between Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove and Liberace. Dr. Lorca continues his crazed experiments before he meets his fiery demise (along with the pathetic creature) in an explosive finale (which occurs after a fight-to-the death between Ashely and the doctor's bald, mute henchman).

THE MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND is badly dubbed with horrific day-for-night cinematography. The scenery is beautiful, the acting atrocious, the script ridiculous and the pacing sluggish. There are scenes of natives dancing and performing a ritual sacrifice that serve only to pad out the running time and the movie would move much faster without them. Still, it touches all of the bases in terms of a formulaic horror film and when the monster's dead, the movie is (almost) over. A final scene on the boat leaving the island leaves audiences wondering if the horror will continue.

The promotional campaign for MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND involved the distribution of "green blood" to theater patrons. Movie goers were encouraged to drink the concoction (which appears to have been merely water with green food coloring) before the start of the film to protect themselves against the "curse" of the creature in the film. A short prologue is shown at the beginning of the film in which various clean-cut, all-American young couples are seen imbibing the "blood" in a group to ward off evil. Seen in hind-sight, the scene calls to mind a similar, large scale drinking of a colored liquid: the deadly Kool-Aid that the followers of Jim Jones drank as part of the legendary Jonestown mass suicide in the late '70s.

MAD DOCTOR OF BLOOD ISLAND is the kind of lurid trash that was regularly found on drive-in screens and urban grind house theaters back in the day. It's the kind of movie they don't make anymore and while no one will ever re-evaluate this film and determine it to be an unsung and under appreciated masterpiece, it's fun to watch at least once.

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