Are you missing your local rep cinema’s 80s genre themed series? I know that I sure am, if only because I miss getting to go to theatres in general. Maybe I’m not missing the 80’s themed genre series with a ridiculous name specifically, but I am missing that air of discovery that comes with such programs. It’s the only true space to experience the gloriousness that is something like the guitar riff in Gulio Paradisi’s The Visitor.
The recent Arrow restoration of Dwight H. Little’s Bloodstone only makes this absence feel more pronounced. It’s almost certain that in the alternate universe where COVID never happens, I can only imagine the wave upon wave of rep cinemas that would’ve trotted out this schlock-y relic this fall. You can practically smell the popcorn, and hear some bespeckled host crafting an intro that has to tenuously balance the high-quality genre excesses with the film’s more problematic elements.
Problematic elements you say? Put it this way, thirty years have not been kind to Bloodstone. Is it more orientalist than any other film from the eighties set in South Asia? Perhaps not; but the best description I can have for the film is some kind of cross between Game of Death and the lost B-sides from Temple of Doom. There’s a noticeable amount of patanking going on, particularly on the part of the foppish Inspector Ramesh played by Charlie Brill, who I’m fairly confident is in some obnoxious form of brownface in order to play the role.
Luckily for the film, most of the overt racism is kept in the background to the film’s real action thriller based plot. When a priceless ruby returns to India, it winds up in the hands of the dashing Sandy McVeigh (Brett Stimley). This draws the ire of underworld kingpin Van Hoeven (Christopher Neame), who promptly kidnaps McVeigh’s new bride Stephanie (Anne Nicholas). McVeigh must then team up with taxi driver Shyam Sabu (Rajinkanth) in order to rescue Stephanie and take down Van Hoeven.
Bloodstone is probably best known for being the talented Tamil superstar Rajinkanth’s first English-language film. The rest of it falls into the frame of generic action thriller, although there are some delightful shades of camp here. It seems as if nine out of every ten lines Anne Nicholas utters had to be poorly ADRd, and many of the fight sequences are playfully silly. At one point, Shyam leaps off a burning bridge into the running rapids below, only to resurface moments later. Bloodstone was the second of two films that Little directed in 1988, the other being Halloween 4 so it was clearly a great year for him. Somehow, it feels like the much-maligned slasher is the better of the two films in this case, which feels patently funky.
Easily my favorite aspect of the film is its music. Indian composer Ilaiyaraaja crafts a phenomenal score, particularly in the opening moments. It’s no guitar chord from Gulio Paradisi’s The Visitor, but it still rips regardless. Yet, this feels like the high water mark of the film, which means that the film peaks mere moments into its opening credits.
Bloodstone is coming soon to Blu-Ray but is on the Arrow Video Channel now…