Directed by Peter Masterson in 1980, Blood Red is set in the late 1800s and stars Giancarlo Gianni as Sebastian Callogero, the patron of a Sicilian family who have moved from their homeland to California where they hope to make a new life for themselves working a winery. Things are going alright for Sebastian and his family, their hard work is paying off but tension arises when a railroad man named W.B. Berrigan (Dennis Hopper) decides that the Callogero's land is in the way of his expansion plans. Berrigan tries to talk Sebastian into coming to an amiable deal but he's not interesting. He and his family have put too much blood and sweat into this endeavor to just walk away from it.
Berrigan, however, is a very determined man and so he enlists the aid of a man named Andrews (Burt Young) to rough up the Callogero's and force them to hand over the land. When Sebastian's wayward son, Marco (Eric Roberts), sees what is being done to his father he and the old man let bygones be bygones and help save the family business. He and his friend Enzio (Michael Madson) decide that they're going to do just that, and a war of sorts erupts between the Callogero clan and Berrigan and his army of thugs.
Blood Red is pretty much just as bad as its reputation would have you believe, and that's a damn shame when you look at some of the people involved in the picture. Peter Masterson (more prolific as an actor, having starred in films like The Exorcist and The Stepford Wives in the 1970s) has trouble with the pacing here and can't get much out of his cast in terms of memorable performances. Eric Roberts is the main culprit here. He spends most of the movie looking completely full of himself and strutting about seemingly more intent on showing off his muscles in the glistening California sun than in crafting an interesting character. Enzio is a one note character, there's nothing memorable about him and Roberts, who is definitely capable of creating something interesting out of some typically bland roles, doesn't really seem all that interested in trying here. Michael Madson is amusing enough to watch but not really given enough to do to make a huge impression and cameos from Eric's sister Julia (yes, that Julia Roberts) and from the great Burt Young are fun but fairly fleeting.
But wait… what about Dennis Hopper? Well, he's really the main reason anyone would want to see this. He's decked out in some amusing wardrobe selections here in an attempt to make him look like a fancy man of the old west. It doesn't work. He also has a pretty strange ‘Irish' accent used throughout most (though not all) of the movie. This also doesn't work. What does work? His penchant for chewing scenery in that special way that only he could chew scenery. On that level, he delivers and he plays his character in what is best and accurately described as ‘always angry' mode. Sadly, it's not really enough to save this one.
Blood Red was nicely shot and makes use of some good, and to the film's credit, very effective California locations but we've seen this story told dozens of times before and often with more enthusiasm and creativity than we see here. The middle section of the film is fairly languid and by the time we get to the big finish, which should be tense and exciting, we're bored. A movie can be bad and still entertain us and it can be cheaply made but still fun. It can feature novelty casting and still succeed and it can feature an unoriginal script but still manage to bring something new to the table. Blood Red doesn't do this and inducing boredom really is the worst thing that a movie can do, a sin from which the finale can't really recover.The Blu-ray:
Olive Films gives Blood Red its Blu-ray debut in a nice AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen. Detail and texture are definitely advanced over previous presentations not only in close up shots where you'd no doubt expect it but in medium and long distance shots as well, where the grit of various locations comes into play visually speaking. Grain is present throughout but never overpowering or distracting while black levels look good. Skin tones seem accurate and colors are nicely reproduced. No noise reduction or edge enhancement is ever noticeable, this is a nice picture.Sound:
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track and it sounds pretty solid. Clarity is good while hiss and distortion are non-issues throughout playback. The score and effects, gun shots in particular, have good presence. No problems to report here, this no frills mix gets the job done quite nicely.Extras:
Aside from a menu and chapter selection there are no extras on this disc.Final Thoughts:
Blood Red is, unfortunately, a dull and uninspired affair that decent camerawork and an interesting, albeit bizarre, performance from the late, great Dennis Hopper cannot save. Olive's Blu-ray looks nice enough and features good audio but it is devoid of any real extras. Unless you're a western completist or a diehard fan of any of the principals and need this to round out a collection, it's a pretty easy movie to live without. Skip it.