Directed By: Rod Hardy
Starring: Chantal Contouri, Shirley Cameron, Max Phipps
Tag line: "Surrender to an Unholy, Insatiable Evil"
Trivia: An artists' colony north of Melbourne was used for the cult's headquarters
The day she’s scheduled to start a month-long vacation, magazine editor Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri) is kidnapped and taken to a compound at an undisclosed locale, where she’s introduced to Dr. Fraser (David Hemmings), Dr. Gauss (Henry Silva), and Mrs. Barker (Shirley Cameron), the leaders of a bizarre cult that practices vampirism. They inform Kate that she’s a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory, the Hungarian Countess who, in the 16th century, murdered young girls so that she could bathe in their blood, and that, with such a prestigious ancestor, she would have a place of honor in their group should she agree to join them. Repulsed by the idea of drinking human blood, Kate refuses, forcing the doctors to try different methods to “persuade” her. Dr. Fraser believes that Kate must be free to do as she pleases, while Mrs. Barker pushes for more severe methods of enticement, including the administration of hallucinogens. Will Kate give in, or will she continue to fight the “thirst” in the hopes her captors will eventually release her?
The opening scenes of director Rod Hardy’s 1979 film Thirst, where Kate is first brought to the compound, reminded me in a way of the ‘60’s British TV series The Prisoner (like the lead character in that program, Kate is treated well, and the compound itself seems like an idyllic place, yet try as she might, she’s unable to escape from it). As for the facility, it operates as a sort of manufacturing plant for vampires, draining the blood from hundreds of human “donors” by way of a machine that attaches to their necks. The film’s best sequences, however, occur when Mrs. Barker orders that Kate be given hallucinogenic drugs to make her more cooperative. In a near-catatonic state, Kate, at one point, is convinced she’s back at home, but when she steps into the shower to freshen up, the finds herself bathing not in water, but blood (easily the movie’s most memorable image).
Chantal Contouri, who played a supporting role in Snapshot a year earlier, does a fine job as the frightened and confused Kate, and both David Hemmings and Shirley Cameron are superb as the cult leaders with differing points of view (Henry Silva, who was brought in to help Thirst appeal to an American audience, is wasted in a small role, though he does have a cool scene towards the end of the movie). And keep an eye out for Robert Thompson (he played the title character in Patrick) as a cult member, and Chris Milne (the boyfriend in Felicity) as one of the compound's many “donors”.
Unfortunately, the first half of the film, which is chock full of backroom meetings and discussions on how to convince Kate to stick around, was a bit too dry for my tastes (at times, it was downright boring). What’s more, the movie never explores its basic premise (Vampirism as big business) as deeply as it could have (the actual vampire sequences are few and far between). Though well-acted, Thirst is ultimately a missed opportunity.