Arrow Video: Bloodtide (1982) - Reviewed

Richard Jefferies’; who would go on to direct the ultra-violent Scarecrows (1988), debut feature film is an interesting amalgam of genre and technique.  Blending the fever dream aesthetic of Suspiria and Messiah of Evil with art house sensitivities of late 70's European cinema, Bloodtide is ultimately an essential piece of low budget filmmaking.  Featuring a unique performance by James Earl Jones, eerie set pieces, and some of the most atrociously cheap monster effects to ever grace the screen, this is required viewing for diehard genre fans. 

Newlyweds arrive on a mysterious Mediterranean island searching for a lost relative.  Teaming up with an obsessed treasure hunter, the trio uncover a deadly secret buried underneath the island that threatens all of their lives.  Martin Cove and Mary Louise Weller are the newlyweds searching for Cove's lost sister, who is portrayed by Deborah Shelton (Dallas).  Most of Cove's performance is an afterthought, but his scenes, particularly during the final act are fairly intense.  Shelton is memorable as a hypnotic siren who may or may not be bound to the ancient evil plaguing the island.  Everyone is overshadowed James Earl Jones' hulking treasure hunter, endlessly quoting Shakespeare and Ahab inspired soliloquies as he pursues revenge.  Screen legend Jose Ferrer has an extended cameo as the esoteric magistrate of the island and his confrontations with Jones are essentially the entire film.  

The script, written by Jefferies and Nico Mastorakis (In the Cold of the Night) was extremely progressive, coupling Jones' character with a Caucasian women.  Their relationship is also relatively healthy, and (most likely due to Mastorakis' influence) the film does not shy away from sexuality, without being sleazy.  Unfortunately, the bulk of the kill scenes are laughable, as is the ultimate reveal of the creature. What makes Bloodtide a memorable experience, beyond the outrageousness of the monster's appearance, is the world that Jefferies creates around the principals.  He is a master at atmosphere and no space, be it on a sun-soaked beach or inside a spooky subterranean cavern, is ever wasted.   There are also a handful of masterful wide shots dappled throughout, courtesy of Aris Stavrou's vibrant cinematography.

Available now on a stunning Blu-ray transfer from Arrow or for digital rental, Bloodtide is the kind of film that works solely as a mood piece.  When the monster is involved, it slides back into genre fodder, but in between those moments are the elements of a masterful psychological thriller about sexual repression and cultural evils that pervade humanity still to this day.  Jones' commanding performance anchors the film, but it is the elements at work: an ethereal score by Shuki Levy and Jerry Mosely, preposterous special effects, and potent visuals that combine to create a film that has been forgotten in time, perhaps unjustly.  

--Kyle Jonathan