Combustible Celluloid
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With: Anne Parillaud, Anthony LaPaglia, Robert Loggia, Don Rickles, David Proval, Rocco Sisto, Chazz Palminteri, Tony Sirico, Kim Coates, Angela Bassett, Luis Guzmán, Tom Savini, Frank Oz, Forrest J. Ackerman, Elaine Kagan, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento, Linnea Quigley, Teri Weigel
Written by: Michael Wolk
Directed by: John Landis
MPAA Rating: R for vampire violence, and for sexuality and language
Running Time: 112
Date: 09/25/1992

Innocent Blood (1992)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Vampire Mafia

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though he's mostly known for his comedies, John Landis also has a taste for horror, as indicated by An American Werewolf in London (1981) and his famous Michael Jackson Thriller video. However, Landis was always more interested in making personal films than straight horror films, which meant that they all have to have some tongue-in-cheek quality, as well as his trademarks: female nudity, cameos by other filmmakers, and the phrase "See You Next Wednesday" stuck somewhere inside.

So Innocent Blood is more about its ideas than it is about being scary, and if you're a fan of Landis and you're OK with all that, then it's a terrific movie. It begins well, with our heroine, a French vampiress, Marie (Anne Parillaud), wandering around her room naked. We learn that she dines carefully, selecting her prey and killing them before they can transform. She sets her sights on some "Italian" food, or a gang of local mobsters. On a whim she goes home with a mob boss called Sallie "The Shark" Macelli (a scenery-chewing Robert Loggia), but is interrupted before she can kill him.

So Sallie turns into a vampire and quickly uses his new abilities to rise to the top again; it's not long before he plans on turning his men into vampires, creating a powerful, undead mob. Next we have poor Joe Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia), an undercover cop that has worked his way into Sallie's organization. Unfortunately, Joe's boss (Angela Bassett) decides that his job is over and outs him in front of reporters. Marie latches onto Joe and they reluctantly team up to stop Sallie before his evil plan can come to fruition.

Landis and screenwriter Michael Wolk make the most of this situation, coming up with all the jokes they can find. When Sallie tries to serve Marie a dish of clams, the garlic sends her reeling. When Sallie discovers he can't survive in the sunlight, he takes refuge in a meat locker and pulls up a rump roast as a pillow. The filmmakers are less concerned with the logic of this world. Like Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark, they never mention the word "vampire," but they also only loosely establish the rules of the creatures. With Marie and Joe working together, you'd think she would offer up some handy tips on how to defeat Sallie, but she does not.

Filmmakers Sam Raimi and Frank Oz have a couple of lines and appear in more than one shot. Dario Argento and Forrest J. Ackerman appear much more briefly. "See You Next Wednesday" appears, slightly out of focus on a marquee across the street from a strip club. Landis includes plenty of nudity inside the club -- including a shot of the famous Playboy playmate-turned porn star Teri Weigel -- as well as a sex scene between our two heroes. Maybe Landis' concerns are shallower than those of other filmmakers, but at least he gets them in there. So Innocent Blood isn't really scary, but it is funny, clever, and entertaining. And three out of four ain't bad.

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