March 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Thirsty Dead

If you had an idea for a trashy little film and little money to make it with, and it was the 1970's, it was a foregone conclusion that you would somehow find yourself in the Philippines. For a of chunk of years in the 70's, it was the place to go. There is even an awesome documentary on the subject (Machete Maidens Unleashed!). Unfortunately, a few bucks and an idea does not always result in a winning movie. In order to find the good ones you will often find yourself wading through piles of junk. That wonderful thought brings us to the movie at hand, a rather dry little thing called The Thirsty Dead.

The movie was directed by Terry Becker who had directed some television episodes, but was mostly known as a television actor whose high point was playing Sharkey for three seasons on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. The movie was based on his own story, turned into a screenplay by Charles Dennis and Lou Whitehill. The end result, quite frankly, is not worthy of such a groovy title as The Thirsty Dead. The PG rated film feels like a made for television affair and easily could have been cut down for an hour on television without losing anything of importance.

The story of The Thirsty Dead is a simple one that leaves plenty of room for improvement. If they cut out all the dull stuff and expanded the screenplay, maybe added in a little sleaze of the era and this could have been a perfectly serviceable little exploitation flick. Instead, what we get is some nonsense wrapped in boredom.

If there is one thing to be learned about the Philippines during this era it is if you are in Manila, plan to be abducted. As this story begins we learn reports of young women being found completely drained of blood. Creepy. Later that night, we witness a few women being abducted by men in robes. Among the women are Laura (Jennifer Billingsley), a stewardess, and Claire (Judith McConnell), a dancer. They, along with a couple of others are marched into the jungle by Filipino's with shaved heads to a remote area filed with caves.

Here they learn what is actually going on, it is a blood cult (where all the members either escaped the Logan's Run set or rejects from an alien world on Star Trek). The kidnapped women are used as blood sacrifices to allow the cult members eternal life and youth. They are ritually bled, healed with magic leaves and put back into their cages, having aged some years until they are old and of no use to the cult.. Of course, these women are not too keen on the idea, especially Laura, who is offered membership because of her resemblance to a former high priestess. Oh yes, they also have their former leader's head in a red box on an altar.

It all sounds pretty exciting, toss in a couple of escape attempts, a sympathetic cult leader (John Considine) and an evil high priestess (Tani Guthrie) and you should have an interesting little film. Sadly, the presence of the women in a Filipino cave, the drinking of blood, and little clothing does not lead to exploitation worthy sleaze. It is all kept, well, very PG, and very dull. To be sure, the rating is not the reason for its failure, but the glacial pace and the multitude of scenes where they are just walking around the jungle just kill the non-existent momentum.

The Thirsty Dead is hardly a must see, despite the great title. However, if you feel the need to fall asleep, this will certainly help.

Not Recommended.

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