Robert Reed will always be remembered for playing the ultimate sitcom dad…Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch. He played other roles throughout his career, but it’s hard to think of him as anything other than a Brady. So, needless to say, it’s a bit strange to see a much younger version of Reed appearing in a strange little B horror film. Let’s see if he can survive 1961’s Bloodlust!
Our story concerns four young adults out on a boating trip…Johnny (Reed), Pete (Eugene Persson), Jeanne (Joan Lora), and Betty (June Kenny). Also aboard is the often-drunk captain of the boat Tony (Troy Patterson). When they happen to spot an island off in the distance, our four heroes decide to take the dingy out to take a closer look. They soon find that the island is inhabited by one Dr. Albert Balleau (Wilton Graff), an avid hunter.
The two couples are forced to remain at Balleau’s estate rather than go through an animal-infested jungle to get back to their boat. It soon becomes clear, though, that something is not right with the good doctor. When the youngsters encounter Balleau’s wife Sandra (Lillyan Chauvin) and her lover Dean (Walter Brooke), they learn that the doctor, at times, enjoys hunting humans for sport. Further investigation reveals Balleau’s hidden dungeon where he stuffs and poses the human prey he has hunted down. When an attempt to escape fails, and Sandra and Dean end up as trophies, Johnny and Pete are forced to face Balleau’s skill as tries to hunt them down in the jungle.
This film was featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which probably gives it a bad rap which it doesn’t really deserve. Yes, the four young leads are not exactly top-notch actors. Even Reed doesn’t really excel here. I’m fine with him on The Brady Bunch, and his acting style here is pretty much the same, but he’s not convincing in this sort of role. He’s supposed to be this young adventurous guy and he comes across as…well…a suburban architect with six kids. One performance, though, really saves the whole cast…Wilton Graff as Dr. Balleau. It becomes clear early on that Graff is basically doing his best Vincent Price. I can’t say I mind it, though. It’s the right approach to give this part the cool, sinister vibe that it really needs.
The film also manages to be quite creepy. There is a scene where our heroes run across a woman’s body being preserved in a water tank which makes for a nice little shock moment. Balleau’s trophy room is also wonderfully weird. He poses the humans he’s hunted in the position they were in when he bagged them. We also get some fairly gruesome deaths late in the film…including a nasty death by crossbow, a guy getting dumped into a vat of acid (which kind of comes out of nowhere), and Balleau’s ultimate end.
There’s certainly plenty to mock about Bloodlust!, but I’d say that it’s perhaps a cut above the average MST3K film. With some decent scare moments and a solid performance from its villain, this ends up being a satisfying little shocker. Now we just need to find some more horror movies starring other Brady Bunch cast members. How ‘bout something with Sam the Butcher as a meat cleaver wielding serial killer?