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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Thirst: Special Edition

Thirst: Special Edition
1979 (2008) - Synapse

One of the key elements that make the vampire legend so immortal is its malleability. It's been used as the core of horror movies, comedies, superhero movies and action flicks. It can be taken literally or it can be used metaphorically. It's possible to make a vampire movie that has none of the traditional trappings or even uses the word "vampire" at all. Thirst walks a fine line between traditional and metaphoric vampirism. And while it might not be a home run, its uniqueness makes it a fun and intriguing addition to the vampire canon.

Chantal Contouri stars as Kate Davis, a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory, the notorious Blood Countess. She's abducted by an aristocratic cult that believes drinking human blood is the ultimate act of class warfare, bestowing them a vigor and power that ordinary folks just don't have. Obviously someone from such a distinguished lineage would be quite a get for this band of bloodsuckers. So they bring her to a blood farm, where drably dressed lower caste members volunteer their blood for the elite's pleasure, for conditioning. It's the vampire as Scientologist!

Directed by Rod Hardy from a script by John Pinkney, Thirst is an odd, not altogether satisfying movie. The central premise of the elite cult of vampires is very strong but not exploited to its full potential. The movie also carries a strange, stop-and-start structure with one too many false climaxes. The story feels a bit padded, like a good short story expanded into a so-so novel. But Thirst has enough going for it that I really kind of dug it. Its premise is unusual enough that it keeps you wondering exactly where the movie is headed. If nothing else, I never felt like I'd seen this story told before. Hardy stages the movie's key moments with style. Even during a prolonged psychotropic fantasy sequence that shows the story being stretched nearly to its breaking point, it's never dull and often quite engaging. At its best, the movie reminded me a bit of The Wicker Man (the original, of course, directed by Robin Hardy... no relation to the director of Thirst as near as I can tell). The cast, which also includes cult icons Henry Silva and David Hemmings, is quite good. Their performances make you wish the script had been developed just a little bit more. As it is, it's a perfectly engaging little movie with shadows of the truly great cult classic it could have been.

Synapse has reissued Thirst as a special edition that appears to be identical to one produced by Elite Entertainment a few years back. It looks pretty darn good and sounds OK. Extras include the trailer, three TV spots, filmographies for just about everybody in the cast and key crew, and a photo gallery that includes vintage advertising and soundtrack album art. There's also an interesting audio commentary from director Rod Hardy and producer Antony I. Ginnane that helps put the movie in context with its Australian contemporaries like Mad Max and My Brilliant Career. You also get Brian May's entire score as an isolated music track, a feature that seems to be dying from DVD and Blu-ray these days thanks to convoluted rights issues but is always a pleasure to see included whenever possible.

There's no way I can tell you that Thirst is a great, unsung gem and you've gotta see it no matter what. But for folks like me, who basically enjoy the vampire movie but feel like we've seen it all, Thirst is well worth seeking out. It's different, it's entertaining, and it delivers the goods. When the worst thing you can say about a movie is that it's only good when it should have been great, there's probably something there worth checking into.

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B-/B-

Adam Jahnke

Adam Jahnke - Main Page
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