Retro-review: New on BluRay/DVD from
MVD Visual/VCI Entertainment!
aka BLOOD RUBY
Directed by Curtis Harrington
Written by George Edwards & Barry Schneider (screenplay), Steve Krantz (story)
Starring Piper Laurie, Stuart Whitman, Roger Davis, Janit Baldwin, Crystin Sinclaire, Paul Kent, Len Lesser, Jack Perkins, Eddy Donno, Sal Vecchio Fred Kohler Jr., Rory Stevens, Kip Gillespie, Mary Margaret Robinson, Michael Alldredge, & Allison Hayes as The Fifty Foot Woman!
RUBY is a fun little spookfest with a solid dose of possession added in to spice things up in the final act. With a stellar cast, a moody setting, and a whole lotta grindhouse grainy flavor, this is one forgotten gem worth revisiting.
Piper Laurie stars as Ruby Claire, a small time vaudeville star and gangster mol who has an affair with a rival gangster which ends up getting him gunned down by her own gang. Years later, Ruby becomes the owner of a drive-in theater that plays ATTACK OF THE 50FT WOMAN every night and employs the thugs in her gang to run the place. Ruby lives on a house behind the drive-in with her mute daughter Leslie (Janit Baldwin), her invalid husband, and her bodyguard Vince (Stuart Whitman) who carries a torch for her. One night, Ruby’s ex comes back from the grave to take revenge on the gangsters who shot him down and torment Ruby and their daughter Leslie. Only Vince and a local psychologist Roger Davis stand in between the malevolent spirit and Ruby and Leslie, who has become possessed with the gangster’s ghost!
RUBY is kind of a schizophrenic story that doesn’t quite know if it wants to be a ghost story or a possession story. It works well as a ghost story cast against a gangster backdrop. I dig the idea of a gangster coming back to haunt those who shot him down. The parts where the spirit of the gunned-down gangster wipes out his killers one by one has a sort of DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW vibe where one by one these aged gangsters are taken out in mysterious and supernatural ways. These deaths are realized rather simply, with a powerful wind machine, maybe a ghostly image of the gangster or two, and some telekinetic bursts throwing the gangsters into the air or hanging them with a noose. There’s nothing spectacular about the kills, but they are a plenty and liven up the pace of the film.
The possession angle comes in rather late in the game. By the third act, it’s evident that the film was trying to cash in on the popularity of THE EXORCIST with Leslie writhing around on the bed, doing handstands, and bearing wounds just like the gangster had when he was shot down. Because actress Janit Baldwin is so all together odd in her demeanor, these scenes feel less like a rip off of the classic possession film and more a unique hybrid. These late scenes are truly unsettling when Leslie speaks in the ghost’s voice and twists and turns around, murdering those near her. Had the film evened out some of these scenes, it wouldn’t have felt like such an abrupt shift in subgenres.
The true draw here is Piper Laurie. Coming off of a stellar performance in CARRIE, Laurie dazzles here as a woman who felt she was destined for stardom, yet she is haunted by the past. The red tint of her clothing, jewelry, and hair make every scene with her sparkle and shine in a filtered and glamorous lens, though cast upon the old school, grindhousey film stock, it is more evident than ever that Ruby’s star has faded long ago. RUBY, at its heart, is a tragic love story and Laurie is able to carry the heft of those heavy emotions as well as communicate the schlock of the ghost/possession tale. While this one isn’t really swinging for the bleachers in terms of size and scope, for the small scale ghost story that it is, RUBY really does shine.
This special edition BluRay/DVD includes the original theatrical trailer, commentary with director Curtis Harrington & actress Piper Laurie, interview with Curtis Harrington by film critic David Del Valle, photo gallery, plus the director’s theatrical cut.