Il prato macchiato di rosso (1973)

The Red-Stained Lawn or The Bloodstained Lawn was originally called Vampiro 2000 and infuses science fiction, Gothic horror and giallo all in one wacky package with a bloodsucking robotic cherry on top.

The film takes place in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. There, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization agent find a bottle of wine with blood in it. How could this happen to such a well-known vintage from Michelino Croci? What if the winery is a front for a blood smuggling scheme? And how would blood stay good in bottles? So many mysteries!

Dr. Antonio Genovese (Enzo Tarascio), his wife Nina (Marina Malfatti, All the Colors of the Dark, The Red Queen Kills Seven Times, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids) and her brother Alfiero (Claudio Biava) look for people with no ties — hippies, drifters, prostitutes and literally gypsies, tramps and thieves — to lure to an all expenses paid getaway at their castle. Folks like freewheeling musician Max (George Willing, Who Saw Her Die?) and his lover (Daniela Caroli), who have accepted an invitation to spend some time in the Genovese estate, along with the alcoholic tramp (Lucio Dalla, who would become a major singing star in the 80s), a gypsy (Barbara Marzano, The Bloodsucker Leads the Dance) and a sex worker (Dominique Boschero, Argoman the Fantastic Superman).

The bloodsucking machine is literally right out in the open, treated like a piece of pop art. You have to admire that level of out in the open when it comes to an Italian film killer. You also have to love that the killers have a shower that sprays wine and this doesn’t bother Max nor his never named girlfriend, nor does the hall of mirrors bedroom seem strange to anyone else. There’s also a curtain between rooms that totally looks like female anatomy and even more so a scene taking right out of The Laughing Woman.

Director and writer Riccardo Ghione only made four movies: this one, a documentary called Il Limbo, the hippy drama A cuore freddo and La rivoluzione sessuale, a movie in which 7 men and 7 women perform an experiment inspired by the sexual orgone energy theories of Wilhelm Reich. If that was crazy enough, it was co-written by Dario Argento. He would go on to write several other films, including the Joe D’Amato film Delizia.

I love that this movie stands on the line between arthouse and grindhouse with every decision it makes leaning away from the artistic and toward the prurient and bloody. Sure, there’s a message about how the rich subjugate the lower classes, but it’s also a film where Malfatti gives speeches about Wagner and how meaningless her victims are, all while a gigantic cartoony machine literally sucks young blood.

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