‘Innocent Blood’ French Vampire Hunting Mafia Goons? Fuggetaboutit!

Some directors have one movie that they can’t seem to break free of. When he was planning to do a music video for “Thriller,” Michael Jackson seeked out John Landis following the success of An American Werewolf in London. Jackson hadn’t seen The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon’s Animal House or Kentucky Fried Movie, his previous hits.

And following the fatal accident on the set of The Twilight Zone: The Movie, Landis spent the 1980s with some ups and downs. That led him to direct Innocent Blood, an almost forgotten horror comedy from 1992. After being acquitted in a crimal trial on the accident, Landis had a hit with Coming to America but a bomb with Oscar, an attempt to give Sylvester Stallone a comedy career. But there was another movie Landis wanted to make called Red Sleep about vampires overrunning Las Vegas. But in Hollywood, deals fall through a lot no matter how big the names are.

Warner Brothers let Landis direct another script written by Michael Wolk which would be Innocent Blood, released during the late summer of 1992. Sadly, it was about five weeks after Buffy the Vampire Slayer was released. Buffy got mostly bad reviews and even though it made over $16 million against a $7 million budget, it wasn’t the big success people had anticipated. And just like that movie, the story would’ve fare better if it was done as a TV show.

Blood is set in Pittsburgh during the winter when there is a gang war ongoing among the Italian Mafia organized crime units. Marie (Anne Parillaud) is a vampire with a code of morals and ethics. She doesn’t believe in feasting on innocent victims. But since there is a gang war ongoing, she prowls the nights looking for the bad guys.

At the same time, Salvatore “Sal the Shark” Marcelli (Robert Loggia) has just risen higher follow a bloodbath that has only escalated the wars. One of his associates is actually an undercover cop, Det. Joseph Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia) whose identity is exposed by the media when he is photographed at the crime murder scene of mobster Tony Silva (Chazz Palminteri) who had been killed by Marie. Initially rude to her, she worked her charm on Silva to get a ride under the pretense they’d have sex and feasted on it.

This leads to one of the movie’s funniest lines, “This guy’s about five quarts low.” Marie later sets her sights on Sal who takes her home under the same pretense. But when Sal tries to serve her garlic mussels, she rushes off to the bathroom where Sal tries to rape her. But Marie is able to feast on Sal, who manages to shoot her. And Marie gets away as Sal dies on the bathroom floor.

Apparently, vampires can be wounded or even killed by gunfire, if they haven’t feasted on blood after they turn undead. Sal is taken to the morgue after his associate, Lenny (David Porval) finds the body. But at the morgue, Sal comes back to life much to the surprise of the pathologist played by Landis regular Frank Oz. Despite being initially confused, Sal manages to make it to the house of his lawyer, Manny Bergman (Don Rickles), where he feasts on him to get better.

Gennaro goes with the other cops to Sal’s residence where he manages to chase after Marie who he witnesses fly through a church and growl at him with red eyes to stay away from him. As word gets around that Sal has killed Manny, Marie knows it’s already too late and tries to contact Gennaro for help to take him down. But Marie and Sal can’t be out in sunlight or they’ll die with their bodies burning up

It’s here where the movie drags after having a great premise. The problem is that Sal realizes that he can have his whole crew turn where they’ll be strong and invincible in organized crime as well as overcoming their rivals. The idea of Mafia vampires running around Pittsburgh could’ve worked. But since it was a different era and audiences weren’t too willing to consider the idea, the movie flopped.

But the whole movie feels like it’s the first half of a better movie. There’s too many scenes of Parillaud and LaPaglia trying to have a budding romance. By the time Sal has already built his army by biting on Lenny causing him to turn and they’ve bitten and turned the other gangsters, the movie’s climax is quick and over and done with before you really get into it. I mean, the whole sequence of the mobster standing around wondering what’s going on with Sal and Lenny takes too long especially just to have them all killed off easier later.

Landis said he liked the script and was given a lot of freedom by the studio to make it but didn’t have a big budget. I feel this means the script was more grandiose with the mobsters actually pulling off hijackings and crimes as vampires that was cut due to budget restraints, leading for several scenes to drag out. Produced on a reported $20 million in 1992, it grossed just $4.9 million and received negative criticsm. Film critic Roger Ebert said that the movie doesn’t follow through with the premise and Loggia’s performance get’s bogged down by special effects.

Parillaud was cast because of her role in the movie La Femme Nikita. Despite her thick French accent, Landis refused to dub her lines. I don’t know if that led to the poor box office or that LaPaglia wasn’t a big name at the time himself. Goodfellas was still very popular but audiences in the early 1990s were too keen on any horror.

By the end of the 1990s, mobster movies had become more popular. The Sopranos was making a hit on HBO and Analyze This and Donnie Brasco were well received. Incidentally, Palminteri would appear in Analyze This while both Donnie Brasco would feature actors Tony Lip and Rocco Sisto who have small roles in Blood. Lip would also appear in The Sopranos alongside Porval and Tony Sirico, who has a small role in Blood.

I’m still surprised someone hasn’t decided to make this a TV series the same way Buffy was resurrected as a popular TV series. Nikita was also a Canadian series that aired in America for five seasons on the USA Network. There’s a lot to work with here that in the right hands could become a popular show.

What do you think? Please comment.

Published by bobbyzane420

I'm an award winning journalist and photographer who covered dozens of homicides and even interviewed President Jimmy Carter on multiple occasions. A back injury in 2011 and other family medical emergencies sidelined my journalism career. But now, I'm doing my own thing, focusing on movies (one of my favorite topics), current events and politics (another favorite topic) and just anything I feel needs to be posted. Thank you for reading.

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