Bloodrage (1979)

Director Joseph Zito (here billed as Joseph Bigwood, which sounds like a fake “adult entertainment” name) has got serious form in the sort of thing we like here at the ISCFC. His credits: the second-best Friday the 13th movie, part 4; the best Chuck Norris movie, “Invasion USA”; an okay Chuck Norris movie, “Missing In Action”; and a totally decent Dolph Lundgren vehicle, “Red Scorpion”. Then, around the late 80s, he seemingly decided to bin off the movie industry, before briefly returning around the millenium and then leaving again (he’s now a TV producer in Egypt).

So what did the man who formed quality action around Chuck Norris do early in his career? Slasher movies, but really dull ones that are a bit like “Taxi Driver” and “Driller Killer” only nowhere near as good as either.

Back in the good old days, on-screen prostitutes were something other than drug-addicted victims of pimps and organised crime. I don’t know if things were actually better for them back then, but they seemed to have little solo businesses and had real relationships with characters (often cops). The lady here, Beverly, first insults her client, telling him to take more vitamins so they can have a better time next time, before welcoming a cop into her home, who she seems to have a warm relationship with. He knows her job and doesn’t care – ah, the days before real serious STDs!

Although you’d think everyone knows everyone in this town, as the cop leaves to buy a bottle of wine to enjoy with Beverly, he passes a creepy looking young man, Richie, in the doorway he doesn’t recognise. Richie wants sex, obviously, but is disgusted by her ways and slams her head through a window then chokes her to death. Now, if I knew a cop had seen my face, for quite a long time, I’d probably think twice about doing a murder; also, it seems a fairly busy area, with other drivers and residents of the admittedly rural location in the background. But he is able to dispose of the body and then leave town with no problem.

We’re then treated to his voiceover, making this the second ISCFC review in a row with a bad VO (“Blood Street” being the other). Charlie’s got all sorts of ideas about purity and whatnot, fairly standard slasher villain stuff, but he’s also matched with a great location – late 70s New York City. This is before the city began cleaning its downtown area up, and Zito captures, presumably guerilla-style, some of the sorts of people who called the worst parts of the city home.

The cop thinks Beverly has just left for New York, and decides to follow her, presumably to ask her to come back with him, settle down, etc. So he decides to go there too and try to find her, but has no luck. He befriends a few local cops (including former “Dillinger” and future Reservoir Dog, Laurence Tierney, who must have owed someone a favour), as Richie befriends a few of the low-lifes in his building, and then it sort of ambles on for act 2, as Richie does a shockingly small number of murders and the cop does basically nothing.

The final “action” takes place when the cop hears on the radio that the body of Beverly has been found back home, and flies into a rage. Now, I’m going to take a wild guess that 1980 New York had enough murders of its own to report on without having to mention those happening elsewhere, but what do I know? Oh, and Richie kills a dog, which I understand is quite important information for those of you who really don’t enjoy watching movies with those sort of scenes in (myself included).

Almost every positive thing about “Bloodrage” is related to its atmosphere. Everything is filthy and miserable, no-one is happy and I can’t imagine why anyone could bear living there if you were just trying to make an honest living and live a normal life. The acting is fine, as all the characters look nervous and unhappy – also keep an eye out for a cameo from one of the all-time great That Guys, Irwin Keyes, as “pimp in hallway”. There are some genuinely creepy images, too, like the old woman who stares back across the alleyway at him as he’s spying on one of the prostitutes in there.

The negative stuff is almost everything else. The pace is incredibly slow, and although it’s only 80 minutes long, it could have easily been 45 and no-one would have missed much of anything. And then there’s the ending, an astonishing, bizarre, abrupt ending that’s almost, almost, worth the cost of admission on its own. Seriously, I’d suggest watching the first half then skipping to the last five minutes, as I guarantee you’ll go “wait, what? Did that really happen?” as the credits begin to roll.

A minor, and justly forgotten, entry both in the slasher canon, and the career of its director.

Rating: thumbs down

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