Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Drink Your Blood Director David E. Durston, 1921-2010

David Durston, 88, director of the New York film I Drink Your Blood (1970), died on May 6 in West Hollywood.

Durston started out as an actor and TV producer, working on "Your Hit Parade" and a number of other programs in the 1950s. Although some of his early TV credits are a bit fuzzy (you can read a dissection of his more questionable credits here), his most well-known film remains a highlight (or low point, depending on you disposition) of 70s exploitation cinema.

I Drink Your Blood was commissioned by Cinemation founder Jerry Gross. Durston delivered a frothing horror hodge-podge that freely mixed elements of Night of the Living Dead with the Manson Family and even Sweeney Todd. In the film, a hippie cult injests rabies-tainted meat pies, which transforms them into foaming-at-the-mouth psychotic killers. They in turn infect a truckload of construction workers, and before you know it there's a whole horde of machete- and axe-wielding hydrophobic "zombies" running amuck.

Gross released the film on a classic double-bill with I Eat Your Skin (actually, a retitling of Del Tenney's black-and-white Florida-made Zombie, 1964), and Blood became one of the first films to receive an X rating because of violence (see below).

He followed up with Stigma (1972), which featured Philip Michael Thomas as a doctor investigating a venereal disease outbreak in a small community, and the adult films Boy-napped (1975) and Manhole (1978) using the pseudonym "Spencer Logan."

UK writer Stephen Thrower, who featured Durston in a lengthy chapter in his book Nightmare USA, has posted a number of great images of Durston and his films at his blog, Seven Doors Hotel.

Although I Drink Your Blood has turned up on a number of grey market labels over the years, Grindhouse Releasing gave us a definitive director's cut a few years back. On June 8, Code Red is set to release Stigma on a special edition DVD, complete with a commentary from Durston.

From BoxOffice, January 18, 1971

Appeals Board Sustains X For 'I Drink Your Blood'

NEW YORK -- The X rating given to "I Drink Your Blood" has been sustained by the Code and Rating Appeals Board.

In an appeal brought by Cinemation Industries Inc., the film's distributor, the Appeals Board heard statements on behalf of "I Drink Your Blood" from Jerry Gross, president of Cinemation Industries and producer of the film, and Michael F. Mayer, an attorney.

Appearing on behalf of the Code and Rating Administration was James Bouras, who said that CARA's decision to rate the film X had been based primarily on the brutality and violence portrayed in the film.

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