DeCoteau By Torchlight III: Blonde Heaven (1995)

Matty savours David DeCoteau’s scintillating slice of horrotica.  

David DeCoteau’s dreamlike vampire flick BLONDE HEAVEN is a film of bests. At its core is a fabulous performance from Julie Strain that, along with the bodacious B-queen’s turn in Jim Wynorski’s similarly sumptuous Sorceress (1995), ranks as one of her best roles. Lensed in eight days on sets left over from Richard Elfman’s Shrunken Heads (1994), Blonde Heaven is also an extremely visually arresting experience. It’s certainly among DeCoteau’s best-looking movies (which, given his pronounced aesthetic flair already, is really saying something), and it contains at least three of the best shots of the helmer’s career. The first occurs when a regular customer of the titular, blood-sucking escort agency — a wild animal and hunting nut — has a sexy lil’ safari with a couple of vampire madam Strain’s girls, the slinky beauties appearing utterly ethereal as they slowly sashay past the camera, lit only by flashlight. The second two take place during a meta cinema sequence, wherein slayer Jason Clow holds aloft a crucifix in the middle of a projector’s lightstream. DeCoteau then cuts to the cross’ shadow as it pins a be-fanged Raelyn Saalman against the big screen, Brides of Dracula (1960) style. Finally, Blonde Heaven represents the best of Full Moon’s erotic subdivision, Torchlight — even though by the time this sold-to-Cinemax programmer was given an actual physical release in August 2001, Torchlight had long since become Surrender Cinema, and DeCoteau, whom Full Moon boss Charles Band had tasked with overseeing Torchlight’s inaugural slate, was four films deep with his own Rapid Heart Pictures.

Why Blonde Heaven stands as the cream of the Torchlight crop is simple. As with another of the label’s finest, Mark Manos’ Huntress: Spirit of the Night (1995), which DeCoteau produced on the q.t., Blonde Heaven’s success rests upon the fact the copulation on display doesn’t feel out of step with the remainder of the movie. Consider DeCoteau’s preceding Torchlighters, Beach Babes From Beyond (1993) and Test Tube Teens From the Year 2000 (1994). While getting laid is part of their plots, the incredibly potent porking that DeCoteau unleashed sat at marked odds with Beach Babes and Test Tube Teens’ generally more jocular tones, irrespective of how well-crafted the humping itself was (in their unexpurgated versions anyway). Here, however, it’s par for the course; sex and vampirism are the bacon and eggs of horrotica, and DeCoteau — an avowed fan of fang-bangin’ horndogs Jess Franco and Jean Rollin — sinks his chompers into Blonde Heaven’s mix of creepy aesthetics and salacious succulence with gusto. It’s a high-spirited balancing act, albeit often quite arty. 

Prefiguring DeCoteau’s later ambient pictures such as Leeches! (2003), Speed Demon (2003), and, at the most extreme end of the spectrum, Beastly Boyz (2006) and the sprawling 1313 series, Blonde Heaven isn’t story-centric — which is strange as what’s there is good. Conceived by DeCoteau and writer Matthew Jason Walsh in late ‘91 as an alternative to The Lost Boys (1987) called ‘Dressed for Dark’ with Corey Haim, Billy Dee Williams, and Brigitte Nielsen all briefly attached to star at separate points, Blonde Heaven concerns a small-town cutie, Angie (Saalman), who comes to Hollywood chasing stardom but winds up at the amorous attentions of Strain’s neck-bitin’ brothel keeper Ilyana (or, as she’s called in the film’s R rated 2001 re-edit of the same name, ‘Morgana’). Echoing Dracula, Angie is the reincarnation of the immortal Ilyana’s ex love — but as Blonde Heaven unfolds, the nods to Bram Stoker are superseded by more topical allusions, with Ilyana’s talk of famous clientele bearing obvious parallels with the Heidi Fleiss vice scandal that was rocking the showbiz world as Blonde Heaven headed towards cameras. It’s actually a bit of a shame that DeCoteau doesn’t plunder this surprisingly ‘of the moment’ narrative thread — and just as gutting that neither he nor Kenneth J. Hall, who penned the shooting draft of the script, elaborate further on Blonde Heaven’s quirkiest touch of vampires being able to walk around in daylight. 

Still, it’s a minor quibble. As a work of sensory overload, Blonde Heaven delights. Angie’s desire to follow her dreams is our way in: it’s the very notion of dreaming that’s the key to unlocking DeCoteau’s feverish parade of impressionistic images, as checkered marble floors, ink-black shadows, and groups of sunglasses-clad ghouls, costumed as if they’re in Floodlands-era Sisters of Mercy, propel his mood-heavy vision of the eerie decadence that exists in the void between fantasy and reality. It’s an acquired taste for sure. But for those with a penchant for heady bursts of bonking surrounded by passages of slick, oneiric experience, Blonde Heaven is superior stuff. 

USA ● 1995 ● Erotic Horror ● 72mins (R)/80mins (Unrated)

Julie Strain, Raelyn Saalman, Michelle Bauer, Joe Estevez Dir. David DeCoteau (as ‘Ellen Cabot’)  Wri. David DeCoteau (as ‘Mack Milenko’), Kenneth J. Hall, Matthew Jason Walsh

Addendum 7/11/21:

Blonde Heaven scripter Matthew Jason Walsh reached out to us earlier this week with the following information about the film’s making:

“DeCoteau hired me to help develop and write Blonde Heaven in late 1991. I was twenty years old and it was my first writing gig on a ‘real’ movie. DeCoteau flew me out to Hollywood and got me a motel room about two blocks over from his office, where I walked every day and worked on the screenplay on his office computer. I think I was there for three weeks, and I turned twenty-one while I was there. I developed it as a vampire action movie that had a couple of erotic scenes, with a budget of around $1million. At the time, that was a fairly big budget. I titled the script ‘Dressed For Dark’ as a placeholder.”

“DeCoteau was meeting a lot with Academy Entertainment and it seemed like they were going to make it. There were a few ‘name’ actors being bandied around, like Corey Haim for the lead (he’d just done Prayer of the Rollerboys (1990) for Academy) and Billy Dee Williams in the role that ultimately went to Julie Strain. A few months later, Academy Entertainment either passed on the script, or were in the process of folding, so that’s when DeCoteau and Kenneth J. Hall decided to turn it into a horror comedy. It’s my impression that they did a page one rewrite. I’ve seen the original Torchlight/Paramount poster (back when Brigitte Neilsen was cast in Julie Strain’s role, and she’s standing in the same spot Julie Strain is standing on the final poster) that had my credit as ‘story by’. DeCoteau generously has me on as a co-screenwriter in the final version of the credits.”

“It’s also my understanding that Blonde Heaven was never released by Paramount (and that Torchlight folded soon after) because of the MPAA. The movie actually got an NC-17 because of the sexual content (even though the final poster has an R on it) and there was some tension between Paramount and Full Moon over cutting it down to an R, so Paramount killed the release and the last couple of Torchlight movies were released by Full Moon Entertainment on their own a couple of years later under the newly formed Cult Video sub-label. Without speculating over the legalities involved, Full Moon retitled Blonde Heaven and released it uncut a few years later as ‘Morgana’.”

Thanks, Matthew!

3 thoughts on “DeCoteau By Torchlight III: Blonde Heaven (1995)

  1. Nice article. Much like Cave Girl Island, Blonde Heaven was originally supposed to be released by Paramount in either 1994 or 1995, but was cancelled. However, I myself, have reason to believe Paramount may have issued screener tapes to various critics and video retailers before cancelling its release.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. What’s funny is that MJW said that Full Moon themselves released Blonde Heaven uncut as “Morgana” when the version known as “Morgana” is actually the heavily edited R-Rated version

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s