Dark Blood is a movie that will stay with you; not only because of the extreme situation surrounding the film, but because it is an exceptionally visualized film.
Dark Blood (Berlinale)
In 1993, director George Sluizer ended production of his film, Dark Blood, when the lead actor died unexpectedly. I’m too young to have much to say about River Phoenix. I was five when he died, and I don’t remember the media rampage that followed. I grew up knowing him as the rough kid in Stand by Me, and as young Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade. My strongest opinion about his acting career was that, as a kid, I wished he had also played Indy for the TV show that aired in the early 90’s. Later I saw more of his films, and learned a bit more about his life and tragic death. He falls in the catalogue of other talented artists whose time came to an end far too soon. When I heard Dark Blood was showing for the first time before a public audience, I knew I had to be sure to see it.
George Sluizer made an effort a few years ago to save the footage shot for Dark Blood after hearing it was to be destroyed. After his own brush with death, he made it his mission to try and put the film together as best as he could. The film works well considering there are large scenes that were never shot. George Sluizer makes up for some of these scenes by inserting still images from the set and narrating the scrip’s dialog and scene direction. The result is like finding an old childhood toy you had long forgotten about. The film is haunting–old and new at the same time. Exactly what you would hope it to be, and calls back on a form of thriller genre that we seem to have forgotten how to make.
The film tells the story of an actor and his wife on a road trip, looking to escape life for a moment before Harry begins work on a new film. The Bentley they are driving breaks down in the middle of the desert, and Buffy, Harry’s wife, sees a light in the distance that brings them to the house of Boy, a young widower with Native American roots whose wife died of cancer. The surrounding dessert is downwind of a former nuclear test site. Boy, who is pained with loneliness, falls for Buffy. The couple stays with him, believing he will help them get their car fixed. Eventually, the couple fears he will never let them leave because of his love for Buffy. The heat of the desert and the desperation of the situation sink in on the two, and they start to fear for their lives.
Dark Blood is an experience that unfortunately most people will never get to see because of legal issues regarding the films ownership. Technically, the footage belongs to the studios insurance company, who knows–nor cares–about the importance of piece. They are likely familiar with the films value on a monetary sense, and since the film is now more of an artist rendition, it will likely be impossible to secure the funds that would be required to garnish distribution. Topics addressed about death and loneliness are chilling, knowing what fate falls on River just a few days after the scenes were shot. Dark Blood is a movie that will stay with you; not only because of the extreme situation surrounding the film, but because it is an exceptionally visualized film, well produced with a captivating story. If you ever have the opportunity to see it, it is worth whatever effort it might require.