MAD: Innocent Blood

(1992 Warner Bros/Watched on DVD)

It began with the caption “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your screen”. I fed this into a translator and what came out on the ticker tape was “This has had the sides of the frame hacked off in order not to upset complete nincompoops with square TVs in 1998 who believe everything must be watched in fullscreen, otherwise it’s not the full… screen (as evidenced by those pesky bars at the top and bottom. “What was in those spaces that we were never allowed to see?” they thought. “Super important movie stuff, surely”. To that I say “Warner Bros of the Clinton era. Do not presume to know what MY screen looks like, for I live in the future! A fascist police state, wherein humans are transfixed by little glowing, oblong twit-machines from wake to sleep. In other words, butchering cinema is the polar goddamn opposite of future-proofing.

And don’t even get me started on that copy of Nixon I put in the other night, only to find it was one of those early crop of DVDs lazily ported from laserdisc, devoid of anamorphic justification, and thus a small rectangle in the middle of the screen surrounded by a sea of charcoal grey played out the movie with the blurry, artefact-strewn chaos of an explosion in a lard factory, viewed through a shoebox periscope.

This is all a great way of filibustering to avoid talking about Innocent Blood, one of John Landis’ underachievements. Ostensibly it’s about a pretty, French vampire lady who likes to walk around her gothic Pittsburgh apartment in the altogether and preys on mobsters. That’s about all we find out of her in the first minute and we learn nothing more throughout. It’s almost impressive how much information gets conveyed before those floodgates snap shut.

She bites a mobster in his car, then shotguns him and sets fire to it efficiently to ensure he doesn’t come back. Then we barely see her for twenty minutes while the dearly departed Robert Loggia as Sal the Shark viciously murders a whimpering, snivelling associate and Anthony LaPaglia reminds us what a handsome chap he was as an undercover cop who watches it happen.

He’s sort of a protagonist but not really, in fact we actually spend more of the movie with Sal, who tries to very roughly woo Marie the vampire in his penthouse. This is a man whose idea of consent is “Well, she’s here.” And whose idea of foreplay is “Are you done puking, because I gotta work in the morning.” She bites him, more out of self defence than anything, and gets shot in the process, escaping and not finishing him off. Then he wakes up in the morgue and finds himself a vampire mob boss, turns a few made guys. Then Marie and her new bed partner LaPaglia kill them all. That’s it. That’s the movie.

It’s confused and higgledy piggledy, takes WAY too long to get to the meat and then drops it like a dog that just saw a squirrel, rushing for the lobby before the surprised audience can check their watches. It feels like we saw the WRONG thirty minutes of film at some point, because it’s nearly two hours long and slow with it, yet it still feels unresolved and lacking in flesh. Maybe delve into some background for Marie, remember Interview With the Vampire was a popular book more than twenty years before the movie, and ain’t nobody filling screen-time talking about the poetic loneliness of immortality better than a vampire, a Highlander or a Wolverine.

Most of all though this feels like they had an effect that they were just dying to use, in this case glowing red contact lenses, and they built the film around this effect. It’s bright and colourful and ridiculous, and the pupils are always crooked so your monster looks boss-eyed. And when they glow green for no reason and then blue and orange when she’s having sex, it feels like they missed their calling manufacturing disco leisure accessories. If only they didn’t make you look both very silly and clearly blind. It’s such a weird moment each time, and they’re clearly so fake that you start to wonder if the whole head or the whole person is animatronic. And if that isn’t a critical failure of special effects I don’t know what is.

Angela Basset is criminally underused as an attorney. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen her used enough in any film, least of all Green Lantern, where she played the first big screen Amanda Waller. She was always my first pick for Storm during the 90s. Imagine an Ororo Munroe with that kind of gravity and stature. She’s tremendous and always leaves me wanting more. I could take all sorts of Bassets.

It gets an extra star because Maria looks nice and I liked seeing her take apart other vampires for her survival. Also Robert Loggia was clearly having fun, even if nobody else was. There’s also a rib-tickling moment when Don Rickles goes on fire and his arms come off.

Author: Alex Shaw

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