Sunday, October 24, 2010

Blood Link (1982)

Craig Manning (Michael Moriarty) is a successful doctor whose medical research aiming at some sort of diffuse self-realization leads him into self-experimentation with his self-invented mix of acupuncture and electro shock, not exactly to the delight of his girlfriend and colleague Julie Warren (Penelope Milford).

Caused by his SCIENCE!, Craig starts to have strange dreams in which he seems himself murdering women who are all at the tail end of middle age. As if that weren't disturbing enough, Craig's dreams of murder soon turn into day dreams, complete with sleepwalking. The doctor has the strange feeling that he is not just experiencing violent fantasies produced by his own experimental treatment and the depths of his subconscious, but has opened the door to someone else's mind. Craig is quite convinced that the person whose deeds he witnesses is his Siamese twin brother Keith, and that his brother can sometimes see through his eyes too (how that's supposed to work without Keith having undergone Craig's treatment, I surely don't know). Keith, however, is supposed to have died at the age of seventeen in a fire that also killed the brothers' foster father. Still, Craig visits his foster mother Mrs Thomason in the home for the elderly she's now being treated in to ask a few poignant questions about Keith's dead. Turns out that Mrs Thomason was lying about Craig's brother all these years to protect him from police interest.

Now that Craig is sure his brother is alive, he just has to meet him and somehow "save" him from his murderous impulses. A new vision soon shows him that Keith is in Hamburg, so Craig decides to look for him there. This is of course a very bad idea, and before you can say "I toldya", Keith sets a plan in motion that will put the blame for his murders on his innocent brother.

The old tale of the good twin and the evil twin already had survived more variations than anyone should care to count when Alberto De Martino made this thriller, yet it is one of those basic set-ups which - if treated with care - have so much thematic resonance that they are always worth exploring.

It's also the sort of set-up that gives a willing actor an opportunity to really do some Acting. One can do that subtly, showing the on the surface identical twins to be completely different persons through slight gestures and minimal changes in posture and voice, or one can do it like Michael Moriarty does here, by wildly chewing the scenery as if it were the only thing standing between one and starvation. That's not really a criticism of Moriarty's performance here, mind you. Rather, the broadness of his performance fits perfectly to Blood Link's not exactly subtle script that mostly goes into the most obvious directions, but at least goes there with enough conviction and technical to make for an interesting film.

For most of the time, Blood Link is also a relatively logical film, at least if you're willing to buy into the whole good twin/evil twin business and into the telepathy. In an Italian film of this era, that's about as naturalistic and un-dreamlike as it gets. Only in the final twenty minutes, the script gives up on reality as I know it completely, and goes for a sleazy yet fitting finale that's based on Keith's impotence, only to end on a not very well prepared but really disturbing scene where the differences between the brothers have completely disappeared.

The ending would really work better for a film that's more dreamlike than the often rather straightforward Blood Link. This straightforwardness, however, comes with the territory of the film's director Alberto De Martino. De Martino is the kind of guy who is always able to make solid and well-paced films, yet his films seldom prove to be mad enough to be completely to my (admittedly sometimes dubious) tastes. In fact, Blood Link is probably as weird as it gets for De Martino (unless a until now unseen by me film will prove me wrong), and might be a film to watch especially for those viewers who can't cope with more dreamlike Italian films.

Even if you can cope with less normal films, though, there's no reason to avoid this one. It is a perfectly fine thriller with a perfectly hysterical lead performance.

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