Not to be confused with Jeremy Kasten’s terrible The Thirst, 1979’s Australian import Thirst, from director Rod Hardy, eschews Hammer or gothic interpretations of vampire lore for the more straightforward tale of a blood-sucking master race/criminal sect, and their efforts at a once-in-a-generation power-grab. The result, a solid genre production, stands as one of the top-shelf Australian horror flicks of its era.
Loosely based on the infamous myths surrounding real-life Hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory (which Julie Delpy is prepping for a movie, and have already formed the basis of the deadly videogame within the film Stay Alive), Thirst‘s story centers around innocent, pure, unsuspecting Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri), a young woman kidnapped by a bloodthirsty cult looking to reestablish and purify their bloodline. After taking her to a remote village that serves as the hub of their sleek, modern blood-processing facility, the group’s leadership council — consisting of Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings), Dr. Gauss (Above the Law‘s Henry Silva), Mr. Hodge (Max Phipps) and Mrs. Barker (Shirley Cameron) — tell Kate that she’s the descendant of Bathory, and begin a systematic campaign of brainwashing in order to prepare her for her unholy fate. According to the prophecies of the so-called “Hyma Brotherhood,” Kate must fulfill her destiny by marrying their leader, in convoluted fashion thus helping them quench their eternal thirst for blood.
There’s some good, old-fashioned puncturing of jugulars, yes, but Thirst is mainly a movie about identity, paranoia, group-think and madness, in which its characters just happen to be vampires. There are trace elements of The Wicker Man and THX 1138, and elaborate set-ups for the group’s “Vampire Festival” could also be seen, without too much squinting, as a bizarro-world forerunner for Eyes Wide Shut, a demonic cult ritual where grotesque tortures are laying the groundwork for further psychosexual experimentation. The acting is for the most part tastefully underplayed (as are the purely prurient inclusions — a fleeting glimpse of Countouri’s side boob during a bloody shower sequence accounts for its only nudity), and composer Brian May makes some interesting choices in a strings-powered score, all of which help lend an air of mannered legitimacy to this otherwise fantastical tale.
Presented in a regular Amray plastic case, Thirst arrives to DVD in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby digital mono tracks in English and Spanish. In addition to an isolated music score, cast and filmmaker text biopgraphies and a small-ish photo gallery, there are also three TV spots and the movie’s original theatrical trailer. The biggest bonus feature, though, is easily the feature-length audio commentary track with director Hardy and producer Antony Ginnane, during which they discuss the film’s $750,000 January-February shoot (the hottest months, down under), the late blessing of securing an unused dairy farm for location filming, and a chopper accident involving Hemmings. To purchase the DVD via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) B (Disc)