Arrow Video: Bloodstone (1988) - Reviewed

Director Dwight H. Little will mostly be remembered among filmgoers as the man who made Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Marked for Death.  But sometime early on in his career, he crossed paths with cult Greek director Nico Mastorakis who helmed such horror gems as Island of Death and Hired to Kill.  Together they would create a film that would shape the career of Tamil movie legend Rajinikanth as well as introduce two disparate film industries through most unlikely means.

Written by Mastorakis and co-produced by Ashok Amritraj and Sunanda Murali Manohar, the group devised Bloodstone, an Indian set action adventure film clearly coasting on the crest wave left by the Indiana Jones films.  Prominently featuring Tamil action star Rajinikanth in his first English language role and co-starring Brett Stimely and Anna Nicholas, the film concerns a stolen ruby pursued by dangerous criminals as well as law enforcement which accidentally winds up in a newlyweds’ luggage. 

Clearly Mastorakis’ idea of an Indiana Jones film or Romancing the Stone, the film has that same cultural disconnect between setting and tone as the Allan Quatermain movies from Cannon Films.  While Rajinikanth has great onscreen presence while performing many of his own stunts, the other cast members don’t have a lot in the way of memorable performances and much of the action is anticlimactic. 

Save for some wild over-the-top explosions, some dangerous stunts involving cobras and evil henchman being taken out in gusto fashion by Rajinikanth and a distinctly Indian setting, Bloodstone is mostly remembered for linking Hollywood to Tamil-spoken ‘Kollywood filmmaking by way of a Greek filmmaker.  Bloodstone isn’t all that dissimilar from Jake Speed in terms of being a low budget Indiana Jones swashbuckler but how it came to be remains most unusual.

Though it bridged the gap between Hollywood and Rajinikanth’s journey, the film is not without various elements that date it, particularly the ridiculous chief inspector hot on Rajinikanth’s trail.  Played by Charlie Brill, a New York based actor, with his Jim Henson sounding voice and wobbling head, he is the epitome of a racist stereotype cartoon caricature, a transparent curious object inviting both ridicule and scorn.  A shame because it feels like a slap in the face to Rajinikanth who clearly worked hard to get to where he was in his career at the time. 

Brown-faced bobble-head goofball aside, Bloodstone also tends to squander the other supporting characters and the final showdown doesn’t offer thrills so much as it simply transpires and ends.  There wasn’t a whole lot to take away from this one but the role it played in Rajinikanth’s career was an important one and that Hollywood shook hands with ‘Kollywood thanks to the mediation of Greek filmmaker Mastorakis is something of a minor triumph in film history.  The film itself is dated, dry and kind of dull but the opportunity it presented to Rajinikanth makes the film still a worthwhile viewing in this day and age.

--Andrew Kotwicki