Ken Tucker
May 24, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Blood Ties

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Kim Johnston Ulrich, Patrick Bauchau, Michelle Johnson

We gave it a B+

With Blood Ties, executive producers Richard and Esther Shapiro (Dynasty, The Colbys) have enlivened their usual overwrought schlock. This TV movie is essentially about the conflict between a family of vampires and a group of ordinary human vampire-killers. But the Shapiros have apparently been watching Twin Peaks and reading Anne Rice, and they understand what was wrong with NBC’s Dark Shadows revival (three things: dull, not sexy, and dull).

Accordingly, they’ve made Blood Ties zippy and disorienting. For one thing, the vampires are the heroes — a despised minority trying to cut down on the blood-sucking, doing its best, as one says, ”to assimilate.” One witty twist is that these people detest the term vampire. ”Don’t use that word,” says our chief protagonist, reporter Harry Martin (Harley Venton). ”It’s an ugly word — we’re Carpathians.” Say, isn’t that near Transylvania? asks his new, non- vamp — er, non-Carpathian girlfriend (Kim Johnston-Ulrich).

Richard Shapiro’s script is overstuffed with plot and characters: Harry, ostensibly assigned to write a story about a series of ritual murders, spends an awful lot of time talking about real estate with his elegant slumlord uncle, played by Patrick Bauchau (A View to a Kill). Uncle may or may not be having an affair with his half sister (Blame It on Rio‘s Michelle Johnson), and his posh Long Beach house always seems full of glowering biker-Carpathians who rev their motors indoors and look like extras from The Lost Boys.

It’s pretty wild, and the goofy romantic dialogue (”What’s behind those dark Carpathian eyes, and what are all these damn secrets?”) will have you howling like the Wolfman.

Blood Ties climaxes with a violent clash between the vampire-killers and the you-know-whothians. The scene will probably go down in the history of camp for a few moments when Michelle Johnson (definitely a Carpathian, if you’re losing track) is chained to a chair. She heaves a great, weary sigh, and suddenly, the chains strain, the buttons on her low-cut blouse pop, and the poor, goggle-eyed sap guarding her thinks she’s coming on to him. He moves closer for a little kiss and — chomp! There goes his neck…

Blood Ties, a great hoot, was directed by arty auteur Jim McBride (The Big Easy, Breathless); it’s probably the best work he’s ever done. B+

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