Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pinoy Film Focus: Kulay Dugo ang Gabi (1964)

(Blood is the Color of the Night / The Blood Drinkers)

Director: Gerardo de Leon

Writers: Cesar Amigo, Rico Bello Omagap

Cast: Amalia Fuentes, Eddie Fernandez, Ronald Remy, Mary Walter, Celia Rodriguez

Runtime: 88 minutes

In the history of Philippine cinema, the name of the great Gerardo de Leon is enshrined for his invaluable contributions as early as the 1930s. These include several adaptations of the works of national hero Jose Rizal (Noli me Tangere, El Filibusterismo, and Sisa), as well as award-winning gems like Sawa sa Lumang Simboryo (Python at the Old Dome), The Moises Padilla Story, and Banaue.

Like most of the major international film auteurs, de Leon has dabbled in that genre enjoyed by many but scoffed at by many high-brow cineastes: horror. In the 1960s and 1970s, he joined fellow Filipinos Eddie Romero and Cirio Santiago in bringing Filipino films, co-produced by Americans and dubbed in English, to drive-in theaters and grindhouses. Many of these were cheap-looking horror films that nevertheless intrigued foreign movie-goers and showcased the talents of Filipino filmmakers. De Leon's Terror is a Man is probably the most famous and well regarded of these, but his "Blood Collection" merits special attention, if only for their very interesting take on vampires.

Kulay Dugo ang Gabi (Blood is the Color of the Night, really, but released with the more sensationalized title The Blood Drinkers) features Ronald Remy as the brooding vampire Dr. Marco, whose true love Katrina (Amalia Fuentes) has died. He attempts to resurrect her with lots of human blood and a new heart. He intends to get the heart from Katrina's twin sister, Charito, also played by Fuentes (presumably because, as a doctor of sorts, he knows that any other heart would likely be rejected by Katrina's body...or perhaps it's for a purely supernatural nonsensical reason). Despite phasing and hypnotic powers, hunchback and dwarf henchmen, and a bat familiar named Basrah, his attempts are continually thwarted, ultimately with a flare gun and the strong religious faith of a Catholic priest.

It is not supposed to work, what with Basrah being quite obviously a pathetic stuffed toy hanging by a string and with the heavy-handed, preachy speeches about faith in Jesus Christ saving everyone from evil. But it does. It's mainly because of the cinematography--the fog and the red tint to evil evenings that gives the film its name--and the vampire caricature played with gusto by Remy, but the small flourishes also work. The phasing powers, the ingenious use of flare guns, Dr. Marco himself using a gun (a vampire with a gun!), the unrequited right-hand woman (alluring Celia Rodriguez in her prime)... It all makes for a fascinating entry in the annals of vampire cinema that should be watched and appreciated by a whole new generation of horror and Filipino film enthusiasts. Certainly de Leon has produced much better films in his ouvre. But few are as deliriously fun to watch as The Blood Drinkers.

Image from Video 48

1 comment:

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