This review is a shortened and revised version of the one I wrote for Thirst in October 2004, which can be found here. For another view, Kevin Gilvear's review of the Synapse edition is here.
Kate Davis (Chantal Contouri) is kidnapped from her home by members of the Hyma Cult, a contemporary group of vampires who live off human "blood cows" at a high-tech "dairy farm". Kate, it seems, is a descendant of the infamous Elizabeth Bathory, and her destiny is to marry the cult leader. But first they have to persuade her of this...
Although Rod Hardy is the director, Thirst makes more sense as a Antony I. Ginnane production. During the Australian film revival of the 1970s, Melbourne-based producer Ginnane was intent on making a more commercially-oriented types of film, genre movies aimed at the international markets. This explains the the use of overseas actors (David Hemmings and Henry Silva here) and the intentionally non-specific setting. He received a critical bashing at the time, something which clearly rankles still, judging by his contributions to Not Quite Hollywood But watching his films nowadays on DVD I find that some of them certainly stand up quite well a quarter of a century later.
From an original screenplay by John Pinkney (his only screen credit), Thirst is flawed by a narrative that follows a straight line for a little too long, leading to pacing problems in the middle section. There are however some twists towards the end. Chantal Contouri is on screen for almost all the film and certainly puts a lot of physical effort into her role. Unfortunately she's a rather blank actress, and is acted off the screen by Hemmings especially. By this time, Hemmings had become grey-haired in his middle-aged, but his looks were still intact and he had yet to put on too much weight. He gives an understated performance as the cult leader which effortlessly steals every scene he's in. Hemmings would act for Ginnane again in the Simon Wincer-directed Harlequin (also released by Britfilms TV) before starting a not-especially-distinguished career as a director with the Ginnane-produced The Survivor. By contrast, the other imported star, Henry Silva, has little to do but glower and look menacing. Further down the cast, Rod Mullinar is solid in a limited role as Kate's boyfriend. Also making an appearance is Robert Thompson, who played the title role in Patrick: this is one of only two other feature films that he acted in.
Rod Hardy began his career in television and has spent most of his subsequent career there. He may be the only person to have directed episodes of both Prisoner: Cell Block H (simply Prisoner to Australians) and The X Files. Given the chance to work on the big screen in Scope (most Ginnane productions use the wider format), Hardy does a stylish job of work, helped by richly-coloured camerawork from Vincent Monton. Though much of the film is restrained, Hardy does pull off a couple of showstoppers: a blood shower, and one character's demise involving a helicopter and some power lines. Brian May's orchestral score, heavy on strings, is another plus.
Although it certainly has its flaws, Thirst is an intriguing contemporary horror film and certainly worth a look for genre fans and for that matter anyone interested in 70s Australian cinema in all its forms. (Despite what the cover scan to the left says, Thirst now carries a BBFC 15 certificate.)
The Disc: Britfilms's all-regions release is almost certainly from the same master used for the Australian (Umbrella) and American (Synapse) editions. It's a little soft, which may be in part due to the original filming, but it also has the colour banding which can be seen in a screengrab in Kevin's review, from a scene 44 minutes in. The aspect ratio is the correct 2.40:1 and the disc is anamorphically enhanced. The soundtrack is the original mono and is clear enough, though unfortunately no subtitles are provided.
Many of the same extras have come over from the other editions, though the UK loses the Ginnane/Hardy commentary track. However, Britfilms have licensed the 13-minute featurette "Thirst: A Contemporary Blend", the theatrical trailer and three TV spots. Also included are trailers for four other Australian films released on DVD by Britfilms: Doing Time for Patsy Cline, The Survivor, Storm Boy and Malcolm.