Anatomy of a Nude Scene: 'Innocent Blood' Finds John Landis Trying to Get His 'American Werewolf' Mojo Back

In our weekly seriesAnatomy of a Nude Scene, we're going to be taking a look at (in)famous sexscenes and nude scenes throughout cinema history and examining their construction, their relationship to the film around it, and their legacy. This October, we're heading back to Horror Town for a quartet of scary movies with great nudity! This week, John Landis attempts to recapture the horror-comedy magic of An American Werewolf in London with 1992's Innocent Blood.

Like a great many directors whose work comes to define an entire decade, John Landis struggled to maintain his relevance into a new decade, in this case, the 1990s. His run from 1978's Animal House to 1988's Coming to America is pretty undeniably incredible, with several smash hit comedies and the genre-defining music video for Michael Jackson's "Thriller." However, Landis' reputation took a major hit when three actors were killed on the set of his segment for Twilight Zone: The Movie, and a string of commercial flops in the 90s more or less made him unemployable.

One attempt he made at recapturing some of his former glory was 1992's Innocent Blood, a horror-comedy in the vein of Landis' own 1981 smash-hit An American Werewolf in London. The director had a deal to make a film for Warner Brothers, and set out to adapt an existing script titled Red Sleep. Landis'pass at thescript, co-written withHarry Shearer, centered around a group of vampires who run Las Vegas much like the mafia. The script was rejected by Warner Bros, who felt it would be too expensive to make such a niche project, with Landis himself later admitting that it was far too crazy to actually shoot at that time.

Instead,WB offered him a script by Michael Wolk titled Innocent Blood, which was far less sprawling and ambitious, not to mention a lot cheaper to shoot.The film had actually already been set up by Warner Brosto be directed by A Nightmare on Elm Street 2's Jack Sholder and starring Lara Flynn Boyle and Dennis Hopper. When creative differences put the project into turnaround, the studio hoped that Landis could come in and work some of his magic. The first thing he did was set out to recast the two leading roles, ditching Boyle and Hopper in favor of La Femme Nikita's Anne Parillaud and Robert Loggia.

The film centers around a female vampire named Marie (Parillaud) living in Pittsburgh and adhering to a strict moral code wherein she onlydrinks the blood of mafia criminals. When shefeasts on a local crime boss (Chazz Palminteri) and then blows off his head with a shotgun to cover up the crime, she lands not only on the mafia's radar, but also a beleaguered undercover cop (Anthony LaPaglia) looking to avoid an all-out mafia war. Marie next attempts to bump off another crime boss (Loggia), but fails to kill him after biting him, turning him into a vampire and unleashing an entirely new type of evil that must be extinguished.

Absolutely no disrespect meant to Mr. Loggia, but one can imagine that Dennis Hopper in the role of an unhinged mafioso vampire is something that might have made this an all-time cult classic. Instead, it's a film that squanders nearly every opportunity it has to do something fresh and original with the vampire mythos, in much the same way American Werewolf did for withits mythology. The film is also missing another key ingredient that made AAWIL so spectacular and that is a big centerpiece visual effects showcase. The 1981 film had an incredible transformation scene, whereas this flick features a couple of blood soaked creative kills and not much else.

When Landis made AAWIL, he shot a much longer sex scene between Jenny Agutter and David Naughton, but it would be a casualty of cuts made to avoid an X rating. Better to cut the sex and leave the violence intact. Ten years on, he didn't have to be quite so precious about the balance and amped up the sex big time. Parillaud's Marie is a sexual being, using her body to get what she wants time and again. Of course, the catch is that once she meets a man who actually inflames her passion—LaPaglia'sDetective Joseph Gennaro in this particular case—she has to keep the beast at bay.

Just as the film's third act gets cooking, Marie and Gennaro go to a seedy motel where she lets him handcuff her before they have sex. Yeah, the cuffs are not long for this world...

There's a touch of Landis cheekiness in there, but mostly it plays like a scene out of any old softcore flick one might catch flipping through premium cable in the 90s. That sort of became the tragicpattern on the down side of Landis' career, pale imitations of past glories—Beverly Hills Cop III, Blues Brothers 2000, The Stupids. None of them worked and Landis eventually packed it in, though he returned to directing in the new millennium to varying,though arguably much better, degrees of success.

Ultimately, Innocent Bloodrests in that realm of forgotten 90s horror-comedies—along with, strangely enough, An American Werewolf in Paris—that couldn't bottle lightning in the same way as the 1981 original. It's a shame, too, because one never wants a single film to stand as the lone, shining representative of a genre. So many others have tried, some lean to far toward the comedy, some toward the horror, but none have struck the balance so masterfully as An American Werewolf in London, the gold-standard for horror-comedy now, and likely forever.

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