1977 was an interesting time for horror. Things were all over the board, really. Suspiria came out and made the more mystical giallo splash. The Hills Have Eyes introduced crazy, hill-people mutants. Then you had the more tame stylings of Audrey Rose and a more story based tale.
Blue Sunshine is another piece of the 1977 horror pie, but more dystopian, anti-drug, science fiction madness. But, while on the surface it has a rather "TV movie of the week" feel, I'm going to go ahead and call it a giallo film. I was watching it and it screamed giallo for me.
We open on a bunch of old friends having a party, like many giallo films do. It's a great way to shake out the dice roll of characters you'll be dealing with. From there, two players get pulled after one of the friends gets his hair pulled revealing that he's lost much of his hair. He runs off into the night and Jerry Zipkin (played by the rather haunting and creepy Zalman King) goes off to find him while his girlfriend Alicia goes off with some of the other friends to look in town. Sadly, while Jerry is out in the woods searching for his bald friend, the bald and very insane friend is back killing the ladies who stayed behind. He has freakish strength and an insane bloodlust. Jerry arrives too late to save the women, but runs off in search of the killer. They fight on a freeway and the bald killer is struck by a truck.
We get the classic "HEY! Stop that guy!" as Jerry runs off. Now, everything that happens after this could be avoided completely if Jerry just hung ot and explained things. "Yeah, we were having a party and this guy just went nuts. I went out looking for him, but he had circled back to the cabin and killed three people. I chased him out here and...he was hit by the truck." Done. Bald guy's fingerprints would be all over. Everything would be set. But, then we wouldn't have a movie. :)
Jerry runs off and is now the lead suspect in the murders. He contacts his girlfriend Alicia and the two of them start hunting for the truth.
Giallo. Right there.
Jerry - a man running out of time as the police search for him, looks for clues and investigates as he tries to clear his name. Alicia is a fantastic helper as she feeds him info and tries to keep the police off his scent. As Jerry dives deeper and deeper in, he reveals that the baldness and the psychotic behaviors are the results of taking an acid-like drug called BLUE SUNSHINE. As he gets closer and closer to the source, he gets closer and closer to being the next victim of these bald madmen.
The giallo elements abound in Blue Sunshine. Police search for the wrong man, believing him to be the killer. The man is forced to find evidence that will prove that he didn't do it. He has a helper who is placed into danger due to her efforts to help the man she loves. (Very much like Bird With The Crystal Plumage) And as the plot unfolds, we find that not everyone is as good as they seem. Knife welding, bald, crazy people sneak about with knives. Come on - giallo. :)
Blue Sunshine is an odd little film either way and well worth a watch - gialli or no. It has some really off the wall scenes and setups that I really enjoyed. The bald people with dark eyes was a fun little hook and seeing the crazed killer in the beginning sets things up for some great tension moments later. You know what happens when these folks go bald, so when characters start to complain about headaches and their hair starts falling out, they turn into ticking time bombs and you wonder who might get caught in the blast.
Zalman King is SO intense! He has these great personal space issues in the film where he just gets WAY too close to people with this odd look on his face. If I were a cop and I saw this behavior, I might think he was the murder for sure. That being said, he really does carry the film on his shoulders as he runs his investigation and he turns in a hell-of-a performance. R.I.P., Mr. King.
Jeff Lieberman wrote and directed and there are some fun set pieces here. He wrote and directed Squirm after this one. The story makes sense as well, for the most part. The sad thing is, they kinda end on a wrap-up word card at the end. It does the trick, but it would have been nice to have an actual wrap up with a doctor or scientist explaining what we just saw and the implications.
At any rate - check it. It's strange and I liked it. :)