Film Review: BLOODY MOON (aka Die Sage des Todes/The Saw Of Death) (1981)

Film Review: BLOODY MOON (aka Die Sage des Todes/The Saw Of Death) (1981)

Jun 18, 2018

BLOODY MOON (1981)
Director: Jess (Jesus) Franco
Writer: Rayo Casablanca
Stars: Olivia Pascal, Christoph Moosbrugger, Nadja Gerganoff, Alexander Waechter, Jasmin Losensky, Corrina Drews, Ann-Beate Engelke, Peter Exacoustos, Maria Rubio

You never know when a movie to review will just seemingly fall into your lap, at the most unexpected time.  This is one I ‘stumbled upon’ at a “Euro-Sleaze” double-feature screening.  That could be considered a good or a bad thing…It all depends on how you feel about the works of beloved Spanish cult director JESS FRANCO.

Cult Spanish horror from a certain time period was all in the service of the “triple-B’s”: Boobs, Blood and Beasts (be they human or supernatural) with some kind of loopy plot built around it, and BLOODY MOON fulfills those requirements in spades.  From the top, we meet a young woman, pushing someone around in a wheelchair near an ornately beautiful house.  She seems hypnotized by the sight of the full moon, (gotta work that title in somewhere, right?)

Elsewhere on the grounds, we also get to meet the disfigured and deranged Miguel (ALEXANDER WAECHTER), who impersonates a girl’s boyfriend at a masked pool party happening there, at a nearby girls’ school. The girl takes him back to her room, thinking it’s the boy of her dreams…but unmasked, Miguel is more like the creeper of her screams.  He doesn’t take the rejection well, to say the least, and stabs her to death with a pair of scissors.

Flash-forward about five years later (these movies have the tendency to do a lot of time-hopping).  Miguel is finally ready for release from the asylum where he’s been held for treatment, and his pretty, and pretty well-endowed sister, Manuela (NADJA GERGANOFF) has come to take him back home.  As it turns out, she’s the one seen earlier, pushing the person in the wheelchair.  On the train ride back, Miguel appears to be disturbed by a girl he sees in one of the cars…a girl who strikingly resembles the one he killed.  Manuela becomes concerned when it appears that her bro’s been at it again, but – false alarm! The lady, Angela (OLIVIA PASCAL) is very much alive, and more annoyed than terrified by the stalkery way Miguel stares at her.

Not apparent until later, it seems that all three of them have the same destination, the “International Youth-Club Boarding School of Languages”, owned by the wheelchair-bound Countess Maria Gonzalez (MARIA RUBIO), who just happens to be Miguel and Manuela’s aunt.  “The Contessa” as she’s known in these parts, isn’t quite as evil as old Nathan Grantham from that famous CREEPSHOW segment, but she is just as cantankerous and crotchety, not real happy to see her niece and nephew.  But most especially her niece, whom she is sure is only hanging around to wait until she checks out, so she can inherit the school, the house and everything that goes with.  Countess Maria is a bit more tolerant towards the handsome head teacher of the boarding school, “Jared Martin lookalike” Alvaro (CHRISTOPH MOOSBRUGGER), who seems to be sympathetic towards Manuela.  Or is he?

 

Meanwhile, Angela has hooked up with her new friends upon arriving at the school: Inga (JASMIN LOSENSKY), Laura (CORINNA DREWS) and Eva (ANN-BEATE ENGELKE).  Girls will be girls, and less than their studies, all they can talk about is the school’s hot gardener/handyman, Antonio (PETER EXACOUSTOS), who is naturally making the rounds among the gorgeous young student bodies (pun intended).

Naturally, the fun begins when we learn of two things: Miguel has the hots for his sister, Manuela, and their ‘bond’ is what drove him batshit crazy in the first place, the night he killed that girl in Bungalow Number 13…where? You got it – at this school.  And thing two: seems “The Contessa” was absolutely right about someone – if not Manuela – being unable to wait for the old bat to cease breathing, as she is burned alive in bed with a torch, by some unseen murderer.

 

Lots of the usual silliness abounds, with the girls all vying for the attentions of Antonio, when not also speculating about their hunky headmaster.  But where the girls’ concerns are all about languages, body and other kinds, Angela’s got her own problems. Miguel recognizes her from the train, and to say that he’s a bit obsessed with her is putting it pretty mildly.  Manuela’s made it plain that their incestuous dallying can’t go on, because of all the people who judge and don’t understand them.  She manipulates her crazy sibling, by expressing the wish that they could “somehow get rid of everyone else, so things can be as they were before.” She knows he will take her seriously, and will comply with making her wishes come true…by starting with Angela!

And in the best tradition of these nutty, disjointed ‘WIP’ (Women-In-Peril) Euro gorefests, Miguel’s (if he is the killer!) first attempt to snuff out Angela fails, when Eva interrupts, and therefore becomes Unlucky Victim Number One. Finding her friend’s dead body in the bedroom, a hysterical Angela goes to Antonio to get help.  Naturally, when they return to Bungalow 13, Eva’s body is gone.  Antonio, then Inga and Alvaro who join them, all chalk it up to a bad dream they believe Angela had, just thinking that her friend is dead.  It’s ‘Jess Franco giallo time’, however, so we know that not only is Angela being gaslighted, but things are about to get super-gory up in here! And as things progress and the body count rises, the biggest question of all is the identity of the killer…or killers.  Is it anybody but the duplicitous Manuela and her crazy, sick brother? Maybe, but all bets are off on the mentally-handicapped handyman, “Bueno”, (OTTO RETZER), a trope from the olden days that’s more ancient than dirt, and just as tired.

A tumbling boulder, whispered threats through her headset in class, a snake that almost kills her (and snake-lovers beware…the scene of the snake being killed isn’t faked!), the usual creeping shadows following her – this is what Angela “did last summer”, and if she can’t make anyone believe what she’s seeing and hearing, she’s about to be “done” as well.  But the chief set-pieces here are the ‘murder-death-kill’ variety, and as Grand Guignol goes for this time period, the practical stuff isn’t half bad!

The “Saw of Death” of the original title is the highlight, of course, when the “mysterious” killer (who’s about as mysterious as Ronald McDonald – even the not-so-sharp audience members will figure out the killer in the first act) lures Inga to an abandoned saw mill, where he beheads her with it.  But not before a random boy tries to save her, only to be mowed down with the killer’s car when he goes chasing the kid.  (One of the most memorable “WTF?” moments I’ve seen in a while.)  Besides Eva’s unimaginative dispatching with a knife and Inga’s death, there’s also Laura’s inevitable demise, by red-hot fireplace tongs (now that’s different!)

When Angela discovers the remains of all three of her dispatched friends in her room, she flees to the main house where she finds a seemingly sympathetic Manuela, who offers her a spiked drink to help “calm her nerves.” (Gee…never seen that one before, have we?) And that’s the cue for the third act to go apeshit with more double-crosses, triple-crosses and deaths, which it blissfully does.  Non-fans of Euro-trash/slash and low-budget giallo will probably turn this off before the first murder is even over, but this isn’t who it’s intended for.  Die-hard fans of Franco, Juan Piquer-Simon and their other compatriots will have a field day, of course, right down to the terrible dubbing job and laughable soundtrack.

Strange how I realized well after the fact, that if you excise the nudity and about two-thirds of the gore from BLOODY MOON, you have all the makings of a classic grade-Z TV movie potboiler. Which when you get right down to it, shows you exactly what the creators of drive-in movie fodder did back then. The joys of a filmmaker like Jess Franco don’t lie within the quality of his films, (Ha! What quality?) but in his tenacity and determination to give the audience a finished product, regardless of whatever resources were lacking on either side of the camera.  Nobody was hired here for their acting skills, I imagine, especially during the topless scenes (and there’s quite a few with both live and dead girls, as is Spanish gore-horror tradition). And the script was actually penned by production manager ERICH TOMEK (credited here as “Rayo Casablanca”).

The co-German/Spanish production looks great if nothing else, shot in beautiful Alicante, Spain, which stands in for the resort of Costa del Sol, the place where the school is allegedly located.  Plus, we do get the ‘Hitchcockian’ bonus of Franco himself, appearing here as Miguel’s doctor.

So consider BLOODY MOON to be an entry for “Franco-philes” only! Or of fans of this whacked-on-crack subgenre, at the very least.  Non-fans I imagine will award this with a less-than-zero rating, but for doing what it does, for the audience it’s meant for, I give it two-and-a-half out of five stars.

(And sidebar: Yes, GERHARD HEINZ’S way-overused main ‘love theme’, sounded like a knock-off of “The Pina Colada Song” to me, too!)

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