The Bloodthirsty Trilogy (1970-1974) (Blu-Ray Review)

The Bloodthirsty Trilogy (1970-1974) (Blu-Ray Review)
Rated: UR/Region A/1080p/Number of Discs 2
Available from Arrow Video

Inspired by the runaway success of the British and American gothic horror films of the sixties, Toho studios brought the vampiric tropes of the Dracula legend to Japanese screens with The Vampire Doll, Lake of Dracula, and Evil of Dracula – three spookily effective cult classics collectively known as The Bloodthirsty Trilogy.

The Vampire Doll (1970)
Directed By: Michio Yamamoto
Starring: Kayo Matsuo, Akira Nakao, Atsuo Nakamura
2:35

In The Vampire Doll, a young man goes missing after visiting his girlfriend’s isolated country home. His sister and her boyfriend trace him to the creepy mansion, but their search becomes perilous when they uncover a gruesome family history.

Toho, a company mostly known for Godzilla movies went at their first Vampire flick with the very Hammer influenced, The Vampire Doll. This is a slow-burn movie here and we can almost feel the dread coming off the screen from the opening moments of the movie. I won’t spoil it, but things start to feel a bit like Psycho as we follow someone and then switch to someone else, but it doesn’t take that long to make the switch. From there we have a bit of a cat and mouse game as all the stuff comes together to make the film what it is. I’m not the biggest Hammer guy, but I can appreciate the Japanese taking a swing at it. I also can appreciate how at times things can get a bit bloody here. Storyline wise it isn’t too bad what you get here, but the film might get topped by at least one of the others in this set.

Quality of Transfer: 95%

Lake of Dracula (1971)
Directed By: Michio Yamamoto
Starring: Midori Fujita, Chôei Takahashi, Sanae Emi
2:35

Lake of Dracula begins with a young girl suffering a terrifying nightmare of a vampire with blazing golden eyes. Eighteen years later, the dream is revealed to be a hellish prophecy when a strange package containing an empty coffin mysteriously turns up at a nearby lake.

I love the cinematography here in this movie. You could argue that we get that in all three, but this one just seems to be shot in a better way to me than the rest. We also have full on scary white-face horror going on here, which is a staple for Japanese horror and would be an even bigger deal years down the road with The Ring and all that. The two main vampires we have here look really gnarly and I mean that in a good way. The story manages to keep you interested enough, but the look of this one and the vampires all combine to make a nice little creepy vampire flick. Also, on top of the Hammer style these movies have, you’ll find a bit of a Mario Bava sprinkle on top of everything here as well.

Quality of Transfer: 97%

Evil of Dracula (1974)
Directed By: Michio Yamamoto
Starring: Toshio Kurosawa, Mariko Mochizuki, Kunie Tanaka
2:35

In Evil of Dracula, a professor takes up a new post at an all-girls school only to discover the school’s principle conceals a dark secret and the pupils are in grave danger.

Oddly enough, the movie we have here is perhaps the strongest of the set and is the one more like the Hammer films it is trying to play off of. The Bava flavor is here as well, but the movie certainly has the coolest vampire of the series even if it isn’t the cool looking (that’s still the last one with that honor). This is a bit of a moody film, but all of that works best for it. This is perhaps the best overall looking movie of the bunch and really seems to have some eerie about it from start to finish. If the mood is what you are looking for in a flick, you can certainly find that mood here with Evil of Dracula. No, Dracula never does seem to show up in these movies but the vampire we get here is a nice constellation prize none the less. This might be the one movie in this release that you find yourself going back to the most often once things are all said and done.

Quality of Transfer: 96%

Extras

– High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
– Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio
– Newly translated English subtitles
– Kim Newman on The Bloodthirsty Trilogy, a new video appraisal by the critic and writer
– Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin
– First pressing only: Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese film expert Jasper Sharp