Sunday, May 24, 2009

Love Goddesses of Blood Island (1964)

Directed by Richard S Flink
Starring Launa Hodges, Billy Rogers, Carol Wintress, Dawn Meredith

"Do it, Desiree! Rip out her black heart!"

One of the more bewildering films in the Something Weird catalog - and that's saying something - Love Goddesses of Blood Island is a nudie-cutie without the nudies. It's also a hardcore gore film, one of the very first ever made. If you thought Werewolf in a Women's Prison was an odd genre mash-up, well, this one is infinitely odder. Essentially a lost film, a 20 minute highlight reel of Love Goddesses' more gruesome moments was tacked onto SW's Floridian horror double-feature DVD of Death Curse of Tartu and Sting of Death in 2002. At the time, those lunch-loosening clips were the only evidence that this insane movie even existed, until last year when Frank Henenlotter's cabal of garbage-pickers unearthed a twice-as-long chunk of the film for his Sexy Shocker series. At 47 minutes, this version is still missing a reel or two, but it does manage to tell the whole terrible tale. And given the glacial pace this beast moves at in this truncated form, perhaps we should be thankful we don't yet have an extended director's cut to slog through.

The awesomely named Richard Flink was the visionary behind this gory little messterpiece. A building contractor by day who also ran his own drive-in theater, the enterprising Mr. Flink was clearly inspired by his neighbor HG Lewis and the massive success Lewis's groundbreaking splatter bum-out Blood Feast experienced when it shocked and awed drive-in goers across America throughout 1963. Why not shoot his own version? Blood Feast actor William Kerwin was brought in to cobble a script together. The original title was Six She's and A He (that title - complete with misplaced apostrophe - is on the opening credits of this version), and was most likely influenced by some overwrought EC comic. There is a chance that the full version contains something resembling a sub-plot, but none is offered here. The film simply spits up an absurd premise and flounders around in it for a half-hour or so.

Said plot involves hapless astronaut Fred Rogers (Bill Rogers) - no relation to the beloved kiddie show host - who is forced to abort a mission and ends up floating aimlessly on a raft in the middle of the ocean. Eventually he washes up on the shores of Blood Island, a tropical paradise occupied by exactly six young women in gold lamé bikinis. The women drag him through the sand to their temple - quite obviously the pool area of a low-rent Miami Beach resort - where they feed him grapes, bananas, and roasted pig.

Then they shave him with a machete and inform him that he will not only toil in their fields all day long, but he will be forced to make savage love to all the girls in succession for the next six nights. Should he fail at this mission, he will end up like the last dumb motherfucker who washed up on Blood Island. Smash cut to: a mannequin head on a pike, covered in what looks like Vaseline, tomato sauce, and a cheap wig.

The women are heavily armed with spears and knives, so Fred is forced to accept this terrible fate. But first, he gets to listen to the amazing love goddesses theme song while watching the girls clumsily dance around the pool. The pool, by the way, is filled with milky water. Just what the hell is in that thing? Party time over, Fred gets to work plowing the fields and, later, boning all these weirdo chicks.

All the girls are clearly insane, but man-hating Rebecca (Carol Wintress) is especially sadistic. In one of the most demented scenes I've ever witnessed, she has a flashback to her encounter with the last sap that washed up on shore.

"I was the one who cut off that man's head," she nonchalantly tells Fred, referring to the rotting noggin-on-a-stick glimpsed in the film's opening. And then we see how it happened.
Rebecca is dressed in what looks like a space-girl outfit, complete with a teased-up pompadour. She circles around a man dressed in military gear. He is tied down to a concrete slab. As he squirms and screams in terror, Rebecca stabs him in the abdomen with an oversized knife. After opening a sizable hole in his belly, she jams her fist into the cavity and starts yanking out ropy intestines. Then she tears out the man's heart and shows it to him. After mercifully passing out, Rebecca uses the knife to hack off the dude's head. She leaves it there on the slab, dead eyes staring into the abyss.

"When your time comes," Becky warns Fred, "I'll again be chosen to use the knife."
Fred responds by staring off into space. I can sorta understand his reaction. She does have a tendency to drone on.

Desiree (Dawn Meredith) is Fred's next mate-for-the-night, but as they embrace for the ritual lovemaking, she whispers to him that she'll help him escape, as long he takes her with him. She explains that, like him, she accidentally washed up on the island. In her case, she escaped from a 'Japanese concentration camp' the year before, and has been trying to get away from these screwy broads ever since. Together, the two formulate a foolproof plan while dutifully humping for the benefit of the love goddesses peering in on them from the dark recesses of the jungle.

There's a good chunk of film missing here, so when we abruptly cut to the next scene, the effect is much like the on-purpose missing reel gag in Planet Terror. A bunch of horrible stuff has clearly gone down, but knowing exactly what is not at all necessary. All we really need to concern ourselves with is how currently-fucked Fred is. Tied to a totem pole, our blood-soaked hero writhes and screams as the girls - including his co-conspirator Desiree - circle him and stab him with spears. Eventually they tire themselves out, and while the other girls fall into a stab-induced trance, Desiree gives Fred the signal, and they haul ass out of there.

They make it all the way to the beach (burlap, Astroturf, and a couple buckets worth of sand) before the island's queen bee Aphrodite (Launa Hodges) shows up. Desiree wrestles on the Astroturf with her and eventually knocks her brains out with what is supposed to be a rock, but is very clearly a sponge. And then that maniac Rebecca shows up, and she blunders her way into a jaw-dropping gore-death.

With the remaining girls hot on their heels, an exhausted Desiree and a badly wounded Fred limp towards his raft, desperate to get off this cursed island. Will they escape the manicured clutches of the Love Goddesses?

There's no way around it: you simply must see this film. Yes, it's terrible, nonsensical and mostly tedious, but it's also completely and utterly insane. From the loony clarinet-driven space-age bachelor-pad ditties blaring away on the soundtrack, to the seriously awkward bikini dances and the actually-sorta-shocking lashes of proto-splatter, at times Love Goddesses seems like it was somehow beamed in from another planet or an alternate dimension, or something. How could anyone in 1964 dream up something so visceral, so maddeningly random, and so confusingly chaste, all at the same time? Why show a graphic disemboweling, but no sun-warmed breasts? Why shoot half the movie at an actual beach, and then the other half - including beach scenes - on a hilariously shoddy and unconvincing set? And what's in that fuckin' pool?

Unfortunately, we may never know the answers to these questions. The folks at Something Weird ran into a dead-end when they went looking for Mr. Flink. He produced 1965's hippies vs. jellyfish monster opus Sting of Death, but gave up the movie business shortly thereafter, and has yet to resurface. No one else involved with Love Goddesses is either still alive or willing to discuss it. So, this is pretty much it. 47 completely disorienting minutes of z-movie delirium courtesy of Richard S Flink, building contractor and cinematic visionary. That blistering Miami heat can surely fry a man's brains.

Availability: Love Goddess of Blood Island is available on DVD from Something Weird.

- Ken McIntyre

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