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  Innocent Blood In A Criminal Vein
Year: 1992
Director: John Landis
Stars: Anne Parillaud, Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Loggia, Don Rickles, David Proval, Chazz Palminteri, Kim Coates, Elaine Kagan, Rocco Sisto, Luis Guzmán, Tony Lip, Marshall Bell, Angela Bassett, Leo Burmester, Frank Oz, Sam Raimi, Tom Savini, Linnea Quigley
Genre: Horror, Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Marie (Anne Parillaud) hasn't fed in the six days she has been in Pittsburgh, and she is famished, so mulls over her options. Eventually, night having fallen, she settles on Italian to satiate her appetite and leaves the hotel room in search of her meal. Meanwhile, not too far away, there's a low level hood who has been invited to this diner for a meeting with his boss Sal "the Shark" Macelli (Robert Loggia) who is not best pleased with the way he has been filtering off funds behind his back. After a heated discussion, the boss is about to murder the underling with a toaster oven when one of his henchmen, Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia), intervenes which sends Sallie into a rage. Who does Joe think he is?

Who Joe actually is quickly turned out to be an undercover cop, but he's rumbled by the bad guys shortly after we discover this thanks to his picture appearing in the paper identifying him as such. But isn't this a horror flick? What's with all the gangsters? By the stage Innocent Blood (a curious title since there may be blood spilled here, but it is far from innocent for the most part) was released, vampire movies had been casting around for something new to do with what had by now become clichés. So we had to accept the usual bits and pieces, the blood sucking, the not able to endure sunlight, the allure of the eternal life of the undead, but in Michael Wolk's screenplay (the only one he ever had produced) there was the mobster twist.

Which isn't a dance, it was the hybrid of horror and gangland thriller that intended to inject new blood into a very familiar set of tropes from both those genres, and under John Landis's direction there was a definite tribute being paid to what had gone before while still stating this was something fresh for the modern nineties era. Of course, it turned out the path the style actually took over the next few decades was the romantic one, after the Francis Ford Coppola version of Bram Stoker's Dracula set the benchmark for what audiences expected to see from their vampires. This leaves the would-be innovators that went in the "wrong" direction somewhat orphaned as far as attention, even aficionados, went, and Innocent Blood has been neglected in spite of its pleasing eccentricities and Loggia's outsized performance.

In fact, it was a little neglected at the time, with comparisons made to Landis's classic An American Werewolf in London finding this lacking - it was even renamed A French Vampire in America in some territories against the director's wishes, but didn't help the middling box office any. However, seeing him return to the horror genre was always going to generate some interest, and although this never became one of the big cult movies that Landis had enjoyed, there are those willing to stick up for it, and the promise that more would respond if they had ever heard of it and/or given it a fair try. Perhaps it would be better sold as more of a gangster yarn than a shocker, because if nothing else it was savvy that such tales would be big business, on television too (there are a fair few faces recognisable from The Sopranos here).

In a nod to the way the word "Mafia" is never mentioned in The Godfather, nobody says "vampire" (though it does show up in the end credits if you're patient, as if the temptation was too great), even though that is plainly what Marie is. The first victim we see her bump off, eyes aglow, is Chazz Palminteri, and his death baffles the authorities but when she tries to do the same to Sal, she doesn't finish the job and he survives, leading to the curiously potent notion of a vampire gangster boss dead set on turning his employees into fanged bloodsuckers. Can Marie team up with Joe and put paid to the dastardly scheme, or is America about to be flooded with criminal monsters? If this had been made a few years later there would have doubtlessly been a more apocalyptic tone to the grand finale, with blokes in cheap suits leaping around the screen, which is what makes a less ambitious work both of its era and oddly comfortable, in spite of the gory wounds, exploding veteran stand up comedians and a bondage-tinged sex scene. Plus you can play spot the cameo. Music by Ira Newborn.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Landis  (1950 - )

American writer-director who made a big splash in the comedy genre, starting with The Kentucky Fried Movie, Animal House and The Blues Brothers. An American Werewolf in London was an innovative blend of comedy and horror, and remains his best film.

Mega-hit Trading Places followed, but after a tragic accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie, Landis' talent seemed to desert him, and he offered up some increasingly unimpressive comedies. He returned briefly to horror with Innocent Blood, and after a long spell away helmed Brit comedy Burke and Hare; he also directed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Black or White" videos.

 
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