Directed by Eddie Romero & Gerardo DeLeon
Starring John Ashley, Kent Taylor, Beverly Hills (Beverly Powers), Eva Darren, Mario Montenegro
When thinking of a country churning out films, one doesn’t usually think of the Philippines. But they had been making movies there since the beginning of cinema itself. In the ’30s, there were five major studios running there. And of course, making horror films was something they dabbled in, just like here in the states.
In 1959, a film called Terror is a Man was made, directed by Gerardo de Leon, which was sort of a take-off on H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau, which was a big hit. The island where this scientist was doing his nefarious deeds was called Isla de Sangre…better known as Blood Island. Director de Leon became one of the leaders in the Philippine movie business, starting as an actor before going behind the camera. Eddie Romero was a young kid working as a writer, haven being first published when he was only 12 years old. After a story he wrote when he was 16, it got the attention of de Leon, who contacted Romero to see if he’d be interested in joining the film business, which he promptly did. By the time Romero was 22, he had directed his first film. In the ’60s, Romero was working with Hemisphere Pictures out of New York. They had started making war and combat films, but Sam Sherman suggested to them that horror pictures always did well at the drive-ins and that they should make move into that genre. They bought and re-titles some older Pilipino pictures like Terror is a Man, which they re-titled Blood Creature, and Blood is the Color of Night now being called The Blood Drinkers, and Curse of the Vampires was changed to Blood of the Vampires, which were doing really well. So the idea to come up with more movies with Blood in the title became the goal….and a short time later, we get Brides of Blood, the first entry in what would become known as the Blood Island trilogy.
Made in 1968, it was followed up by Mad Doctor of Blood Island (1968) and then Beast of Blood (1970). While Brides isn’t really connected to Mad and Beast, they are all set on place known as Blood Island. Each film was made in the Philippines, directed by Romero and de Leon, while the last one was directed by Romero alone. But one thing with this title that was different with the movies usually being made there, this one had some American stars as the leads, where they usually used local actors, like Eddie Garcia or Ronald Remy. But here in Brides, we have Kent Taylor, Beverly Hills, and John Ashley. Kent was a big name at one point in his career, starring in more than a couple of popular TV series. But that was years ago and now he was appearing in low budget fare like this one, as well as soon to be appearing in Al Adamson in features like Satan’s Sadist and Brain of Blood. But no matter what he was appearing in, or the budget, Taylor always gave it his all and took his roles very seriously. Hills (real name Beverly Powers), had appeared in high profile pictures like Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as well as Roger Corman’s Comedy of Terrors and even with Elvis in Kissin’ Cousins. While she is not Meryl Streep, she was most likely hired for her looks and a couple of other assets. But the real star here is John Ashley, who would appear in all three of the Blood Island films, as well as making quite a few more titles over there.
Ashley plays a member of the Peace Corps, who arrives on the island to help them make progress with their farming, education, and the likes. Joining him on his trip to the island is a scientist (Taylor) and his wife (Hills), who is there to study the possible effects from some atomic testing that was done near the island some time ago. Right when they arrive, they witness a strange funeral, where the deceased seems to be in pieces. They soon find out that it is a victim of a sacrifice, and that the small village has ‘returned to ways of our ancestors. And we’re not too proud of it.” They are sacrificing their daughters to some sort of monster called the Evil One, with whatever pieces that are left are then thrown into the waters off the island. Great resort area, huh? Ashley and company try to discover what exactly this Evil One is, as well as figuring out what else is going on there, such as why there are killer trees that attack small children! There is one sequence where we see a small boy being trapped in the branches, legs kicking about, while the villagers try to kill the large carnivorous plant! Fine family entertainment here, folks!
Now, one thing that new viewers have to understand about these movies is that they were made for the teenage drive-in market for that time, and not trying to be the next Citizen Kane. And that is exactly what they did. The monster here looks more like a mutated Michelin Tire Man, with an ever constant loud growling coming from its huge pointed teeth filled mouth. But as cheesy as it may sound, or even look, I still think it is a great monster and damn amusing, mainly because it is something so different than what we’ve seen before. The producers of this film worked on coming up with a new kind of bizarre monstrosity, one that has a particular fancy for naked girls tied to stakes awaiting for its arrival, only to literally tear them apart! And that is exactly what they did. Cheese or not, it is something like you’ve never seen before, both in the creature, as well as what you see happening on screen.
Ashley does a great job in the lead hero lead, but then he always did. One entertaining part of the movie is seeing the expressions on Ashley’s face once he arrives on the island and sees all the women around. His face tells is all. From what Sherman and Romero say during their interview and commentary, it seems that Ashley really liked making movies in the Philippines due to the female population there. The more you watch these movies, you’ll start to see a lot of familiar faces, besides Ashley. One such actor is Bruno Punzalan, who appears in all three of the Blood Island movies, not to mention being a staple in the Pilipino movie industry. His face is pretty easy to remember, so you’ll start to notice him a lot, usually playing a thug or some sort of henchman.
If you aren’t familiar with the sub-genre of Pilipino horror, then I would highly recommend checking out this movie, as well as the other two films in the series. In fact, there are quite a few titles from this sub-genre that you might find worth your time.