Ten Shimoyma, best known for his acclaimed live-action take on the Shinobi series, returns with Blood, an action/vampire romp which will no doubt be confused with a popular anime of the same name. I’m, of course, referring to Blood: The Last Vampire, which went on to spawn both an OVA series (Blood+) as well as a well-received live-action film of the same name. While both properties feature blood-sucking baddies and samurai swordplay, however, Shimoya’s film owes more to the exploitative excesses of 1970’s European erotic horror than it does to its sailor-suited counterpart.
The film opens with a gorgeously filmed sequence in which samurai warrior, Ukyo (Jun Kaname), is stricken down whilst fending off a group of enemies. As he lay dying, the mysterious Miyako (Aya Sugimoto) comes to his aid, and, upon hearing his last request, the woman reveals herself to be a vampire. Miyako, however, does not intend to kill Ukyo, but, offer him the gift of her own precious life blood.
Flash forward to present day. A cold-case detective named Hoshino (Kanji Tsuda) is working on a fourteen year old murder case involving a young maid whose throat was slashed in a mansion belonging to one Miyako Romberk (yes, that Miyako). Hoshino is taken by the beauty of woman, and she is equally interested in him for reasons he’ll soon discover.
Miyako surprises Hoshino with the revelation that she knows the identity of the maid’s killer all along, despite maintaining her silence during the initial investigation. She points Hoshino in the direction of her former lover, Ukyo, who is now a major player in Tokyo’s criminal underworld. Hoshino catches Ukyo as he’s feeding on a nubile young girl, and, here, learns the horrifying truth about Miyako and Ukyo. Ukyo orders his men to get rid of Hoshino, but he’s rescued by Miyako’s high-kicking mute servant girl (Sayo Yamaguchi), who easily dispatches Ukyo’s men and returns Hoshino to her master’s mansion. Badly beaten, and on the verge of death, Hoshino feeds on Miyako’s blood, thus becoming a vampire, himself, and giving him the power to take Ukyo down.
Blood is a sexy and stylish hybrid of action cinema and erotic horror, with a capable cast, gorgeous cinematography, and ample amounts of violence and nudity. The only thing it’s missing is a decent script, as the film’s something of a narrative mess; one that’s chockfull of groan-inducing dialogue, most evident in Hoshino’s Chandleresque narration that’s meant to sound hard-boiled but comes off as half-baked. Still, I found it all rather charming in a throwback sort of way, and one can’t deny that the film looks marvelous, with candy colored sets and gorgeous photography (not to mention the bevy of exotic beauties bearing all for the camera).
Being that style triumphs over substance, here, it’s a good thing that Well Go USA did such a bang up job bringing Blood to Blu-ray. The film is presented in a razor sharp 1.85:1 transfer that is brimming with fine detail. The film’s overall color palette is actually quite cool, with lots of blues and grays, which stand in sharp contrast to the ultra vibrant blood. Blacks are rich and true, while a subtle graininess lends it a welcome filmic quality. The image is complemented by a solid 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack that is surprisingly subdued given the subject matter, but makes good use of the surrounds, offering some nicely immersive atmospheric effects.
Extras do not exist in this dojo. There are, however, trailers for other Well Go releases, presented in HD.
If sex, blood, and swordfights are your thing, Blood will certainly deliver. It’s all a bit schizophrenic, bouncing back and forth between vampire love story, high-kicking martial arts film, and “pink” cinema, but it’s never boring, the action sequences are top notch, and the film is just plain nice to look at. Well Go’s Blu-ray presentation is above average, with an exceptional transfer and solid audio, but the dearth of extras won’t win it any fans in the value-conscious.