Blood Sabbath (1972)

Also known as:
Yyalah

A wonderful little film from the golden era of cult cinema, the seventies, Blood Sabbath has a lot going for it, although I suspect it's not hugely well known. First off, you've got the presence of Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S. star Dyanne Thorne, lending her obvious physical attributes and charisma to the proceedings. There's a dreamy, sort of pastoral-hippy feel to the film that makes it quite endearing. Add a high level of nudity throughout, along with some interesting and sometimes thoughtful plot developments, and this little tale of naked witches and spirits makes a good addition to any fan of oddball cinema's collection. Did I mention a brief appearance by Russ Meyer mainstay Uschi Digard? Now you're paying attention, aren't you?

A young Vietnam Veteran, David (Anthony Geary) is wandering and camping in the countryside, drifting and homeless. A combi-van full of young people approaches him in the woods, seemingly friendly but one girl (unmistakeably Uschi) flashes her breasts at him, and spits her drink on the hapless man. Later, as he sleeps in his camp, a naked group of girls from the drugged-out, drunken revellers attack him and seemingly want to both molest and rob David! He runs - weird, huh? - and falls into a ravine near a river. The girls flee the scene, thinking they've killed him. A beautiful girl (Susan Damante-Shaw) comes out of the river and sprinkles water on his face. David wakes up and instantly falls in love. The girl, called Yyalah, wants to stay but can't for some reason. She says she will return the next day, though.

David wakes up to find he's being looked after by Lonzo (Sam Gilman), a grizzled old farmer who lives alone. After a few days Lonzo tells him he should move on, but David finds Yyalah again. Yyalah takes him to her cave where she goes when "The Spirits" are angry with her. The red-caped leader of the local coven of witches, Alotta (Thorne) looks on from a hiding place, with interest. Hearing of the couple's love, the evil woman casts a spell to make David fall in love with her. Eventually, Yyalah tells the besotted David that their love can never be - she is a water nymph who does not have a soul. The only way they can be together is if David somehow loses his soul. The lovesick man vows to find a way.

Lonzo agrees to let David stay a few more days. He takes him to a cantina in their village. It turns out they are in Mexico - and Lonzo is the implementer of a regular sacrifice to the witches so that their failing crops will flourish. The sacrifice is a girl-child given to the witches, who proceed to take the child's soul and turn her into one of them. Remembering accidentally killing children in Vietnam, David asks the local Padre (Steve Gravers) about giving up his soul, which drives the embittered priest to ranting wildly at the villagers about their corruption. Later, David interrupts Lonzo, who is bringing a child to Alotta, and convinces the old man to let him take her place. He will give up his soul and then join Yyalah. Lonzo reluctantly agrees.

Alotta agrees with the exchange and amidst much nude cavorting by the young witches, David lies on a wooden platform and has his soul stolen. He leaves, but agrees to return to Alotta on the moon of the Sabbath. In the meantime, the Padre visits the naked witches, and sees that they plan a blood sacrifice of one of their number. He swears that he will smash the coven. After he leaves, Alotta attacks his voodoo-doll likeness with pins, and as they all laugh, the doll gushes blood. David reunites with Yyalah and they consummate their love. Both are ecstatically happy. Later though, Alotta's spell takes hold and David returns to the sacrifice, drinking the murdered witch's blood. In a daze, he returns to Yyalah and she flees the sight of her lover with blood caking his face. Yyalah goes to Lonzo and tells him that Alotta is up to no good. Yyalah goes to confront Alotta and is attacked at the witch's coven. She resolves to fight back and protect David. David is mesmerised by Alotta into decapitating the Padre and giving her his head - this happens off-screen, although we do see the Padre's head later, quite a good fake head for a low-budget film! Alotta then half-convinces, half coerces through magic, Lonzo into attacking Yyalah and David. Yyalah kills him with a knife.

David goes to confront Alotta, and tricking her into think they are going to have sex, kills her with Yyalah's knife. With her dying breath, Alotta curses him to be "killed by his own people". The witch dies, and as David leaves the cave, the combi-van from the start of the film begins to chase him down. Running madly, he remembers his own brothers-in-arms shooting down on him in error, back in Vietnam. Did he die in Vietnam? Has David been a lost, wandering ghost ever since? Can he die again, and be reunited with his beloved water-spirit lover?

I've got a soft spot for this one, folks. Though obviously extremely low-budget, there's just something about it. The acting is pretty over-the-top all 'round, it must be said. Dyanne Thorne certainly seems to be enjoying herself as the evil and occasionally topless witch. Director Brianne Murphy seems to infuse a soft-focus sense of nature and pagan-ness to the film which is refreshing. The blood is minimal, except for the severed head scene, but there is oodles of nudity on display for fans of the exploitation elements. It's even got a good score by 'Bax' with a couple of good folky songs opening and closing the film. In the right mood and on the right night, Blood Sabbath will leave you with a bit to think about once it's over. Was the lead character a ghost all along? I'm not sure. I do like the ending, though. There are still a few tiny romantic fragments left in your old Uncle Boris, which can respond to the odd sentimental ending. I'll say no more.

Worth tracking down if you can, there's more to it than loads of nudity - it's actually quite a unique little foray into pagan romanticism. And there's that cameo by Uschi too.

© Boris Lugosi, 2006.


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Review written: 03/28/2006 10:54:00