Film Review

Peter Masterson’s Blood Red

Peter Masterson’s Blood Red is a fascinating film for many reasons and feels like a long lost relic that the sands of time have wrought forth unto the world of streaming and Blu Ray. Kind of like a classic, old school Hollywood historical melodrama with a bit of a Michael Cimino flavour, it tells the story of conflict and corruption in 1800’s California as an amoral Irish railroad tycoon (Dennis Hopper) tries to muscle an Italian vineyard owner (Giancarlo Giannini) out of his land to make way for development. The man refuses to sell or move which ignites a violent conflict between his hot blooded eldest son (Eric Roberts), a nasty enforcer (Burt Young) hired by Hopper to facilitate his goal by any means necessary and all the other local farmers who follow example and take up arms themselves. This isn’t a perfect film and editing feels a bit loose and unconstructed sometimes but I very much enjoyed and was swept up in the spectacle of it all, and any film with a cast this good deserves attention by default. Roberts has swagger and charisma as always, a very young Michael Madsen and Elias Koteas show up as cousins of his to assist in the ongoing skirmish, while Hopper is hammy and the only weak link in terms of acting and, as we know from his mad bomber film Ticker, he just *cannot* do anything *close* to a proper Irish accent and any attempts always take me right out of the scene in a fit of giggles. My favourite performance is from Julia Roberts, and this is the only film her and Eric have ever been in together and playing siblings no less, so it’s kind of a special thing for us fans of both. She’s terrific as his younger sister, showing true emotion and personality in a role that has barely any dialogue, but she’s present and very effective nonetheless. The film’s credits start and end with a slideshow of real black and white photos from that time period (similar to Malick’s Days Of Heaven) accompanied by a beautiful Italian song, and set up the atmosphere wonderfully. Much like this film details an important part of American history with its story, so too does this production mark a transitional period for much of its cast who were just getting started in their careers at the time and as such it’s a historical picture that is integral to both the history of the country overall and that of the Hollywood industry. Very strong film.

-Nate Hill

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