Author’s note: apologies for the uneven quality of the pictures in this article.
A few years ago, when video shops were going under, you could find some obscure and pretty funny tapes on the cheap. Forget the billion copies of Caddyshack II and The Matrix Reloaded stacked up on tables – the real gems were 90s video shop era porn like Zane’s World, Edward Penishands and Hindfeld, the Video Ezy exclusives like Dating the Enemy, and films that never made it to DVD like Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred (or so I thought. Sell your VHS copies now before Vince McMahon makes ’em worthless).
But sometimes you’d stumble upon something so freaky and underground you’d have to question its origin. I paid 50c too much for a 50c tape containing a trailer for the Jet Li film Unleashed aka Danny the Dog…or so says the dodgy label. I also ended up with a tape of a 1976 slasher movie called Blood Voyage.
I haven’t watched it, and I don’t care to. I’m not even really interested in what it’s about; there are enough ironic comedy reviews of the movie online as it is. No, I’m much more interested in the poster, because the video’s cover art is what attracted me to it in the first place, and certainly went a long way toward sealing the $2 deal.
It’s one of those movies that never made it to DVD either, even though it looks like it should sit next to Lance Henriksen’s Spit Fire on the $5 shelf at Kmart or even worse, in one of those 10 DVD horror packs you see at Go-Lo. Despite this, it’s apparently been released on VHS several times. I have to presume that someone at the video distribution company hated the poster artist, because they abused the hell out of that image.
Here’s what I’m guessing was the first US video release:
Now okay, I can give that a pass. They’ve kind of embellished the Blood Voyager a bit, but you still get the idea that that boat isn’t going to be a safe place to be.
Eventually (slow, weren’t they?), the distributors realised the film’s potential as a late night camp classic, and marketed it accordingly. Here’s the second release:
They amped up the blood on his knife, so we’re now halfway through the voyage. In fact, if this is supposed to be a whodunit, why are they showing us the perp on the cover? Is this the ultimate spoiler? This would be like having The Sixth Sense‘s video cover be a picture of Bruce Willis’ grave.
When it was time for a cheap end-of-the-VHS-era re-release, someone called the colouring crew.
Now he looks like a demon, and his body is…too wide. Look at his right arm. He’s built like a tank. To be fair, this deformity is in the original, but it was way less visible there. At least this one restores the multi-perp scenario on the beach, but if it’s on the beach it ain’t a voyage. Did they get on the boat at the beach, or did they disembark on the beach? Plus, thanks for the second use of the title just in case we couldn’t see the first one.
Eventually, Blood Voyage made the voyage to international waters. Here’s the Japanese VHS:
No idea if that random screenshot is from the movie at all. At this distance it looks like he’s on some kind of stage show harness. At least it looks like a nice day. Good work too using the screenshot to cover up the guy’s mega-arm, and monotoning his colour is surprisingly effective. Still, that it’s brought to you by ‘Woo Video’ doesn’t do anything to dispel the reputation of the film as an unintentional comedy.
In the UK, the film is inexplicably known as Nightmare Voyage:
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was The Natalie Wood Story given the wildly different approach to the cover art. I’d argue that this is less effective, and even the title seems less campy as Nightmare Voyage. A small crew of four on a tiny boat, and one gets explosive diarrhoea, that’s a Nightmare Voyage. A train trip to Sydney Central at peak hour on the East Hills line, that’s a Nightmare Voyage. Yachting on into the moonlit night when your nagging wife falls overboard? You’re doing alright, comparatively. And so is she, when you think about it. Overboard started this way, and it turned out great for Annie Goolahee.
Looks like it came out in the Czech Republic too. Release a horror movie about an ocean cruise in a landlocked country? Good idea!
Damn, who’s this guy? We’ve never seen him before? He looks like he’s having the headache from hell, and he’s ruined a perfectly good shirt to boot. Now he has to go back to the shop before closing time and try to get a refund. THAT’S a Nightmare Voyage.
Anyway, the version I got had none of this. Here’s what got me aboard the Voyage:
Look at that. Look at it.
Someone did this. Why couldn’t they just use the poster art? Why did they have to redraw it? Why didn’t they hire someone who could draw? Look at his face. Look at his mega-arm; never before has it looked so dislocated. Look at his eyes! He’s the first Blood Voyage guy to look totally crazy rather than just enjoying the release of some pent up rage. This cover is chilling for all the right and wrong reasons, and for $2, it was an absolute bargain. Incidentally, K&C Video were a local Sydney distributor based in Chester Hill. Their address is printed on the video’s label, so it might end up on my other blog one of these days.
Turns out Blood Voyage did eventually make the voyage to DVD via an independent company called Digital Conquest, which transfers out of print VHS movies to DVD and sells them. Good idea, shame about the cover:
The Blood Voyage poster boy is a character named Mason, played by an actor credited as Jonathan Lippe. Lippe is a pseudonym for actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who in 2006 starred in an ad that would spawn a meme and make him an internet superstar.
Yes, the Blood Voyage guy so betrayed by artists all over the world is now this man: