At the time this was made, in the places where it was made, I haunted Market Square in between my classes in art school. This movie makes me wistful because so much of the downtown Pittsburgh that I loved — and is long gone — was there, like National Record Mart, The Oyster House, Candy Rama, George Aiken, GW Murphy’s — and the film drives up Liberty Avenue to where Chez Kimberly once was, yet the movie makes what was once Pittsburgh’s most sinful street even most lust-filled. It also hits Shadyside and Bloomfield, which makes sense, because Tom Savini had to just walk a few blocks to the effects and perform his cameo as a photographer.
Pittsburgh wasn’t the original setting for this movie. Writers Mick and Richard Christian Matheson first wrote a story called Red Sleep that director John Landis rewrote with Harry Shearer. In that tale, Las Vegas was run by vampires, but the studio hated it. Landis found another story, Innocent Blood by Michael Wolk, and had enough freedom to do anything he wanted. He was going to make it in Philadelphia and set it in New York City, but Pittsburgh worked better for him. Another story that gets told is that Innocent Blood was going to be made by Jack Sholder with Lara Flynn Boyle and Dennis Hopper in the lead roles.
Anne Parillaud had just finished making La Femme Nikita and was a great choice for this movie, even if her accent made her difficult to understand. She said of the movie, “I fell in love with Marie in Innocent Blood because she wasn’t born a vampire; she never decided she wanted to be. For me, it was a parable to talk about how you deal with this problem, which is when you are different. You think or you live or you want something different from everyone else. People don’t follow you, because it’s scary. You are quite alone in your choices.”
Marie is living in the City of Bridges and making moral choices about whose blood she drinks, making sure to shotgun blast each victim so it looks like a crime and not her living off their fluids. Yet when she gets caught in the war between Salvatore “Sal the Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia) and Detective Joseph Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia). One night, when she tries to use Sal for his blood, a meal with garlic weakens her. He assaults her, she recovers by biting him but must run before she can turn him. This allows him to become a vampiric mob boss, which is a great idea, even if this film seems a bit small in how it realizes it.
That said, the cast is great. There are pre-Sopranos roles for David Proval, Tony Lip and Tony Sirico, Don Rickles as their consigliere who lives near the gift wrap house in Shadyside, Chazz Palminteri as a gangster, Luis Guzmán and Angela Bassett as a cop and an attorney and cameos from Linnea Quigley, Forest Ackerman, Frank Oz, Sam Raimi and Dario Argento as a paramedic!
Twenty minutes had to be cut the first time the MPAA saw this, then two more minutes to get an R. I wish there as an uncut version because I’d like to see if it plays better.
Landis was unhappy that this played in other countries as A French Vampire in America which is a great play on his more famous werewolf movie and a much better title than this got.