In “Thirst,” the Brotherhood, a shadowy blood-drinking cartel, create modern-age vampires

By on July 26, 2019

We’re going down under to Australia once again for another Ozploitation cult classic from our friends at Severin Films, director Rod Hardy’s Thirst, about the Brotherhood, a shadowy blood-drinking cartel of self-proclaimed supermen who are trying to create “a vampire master race.”

Watch Thirst (1979) — transferred in HD from the original negative for the first time ever anywhere! — on Night Flight Plus.

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Thirst was released in late September 1979 in the U.S. and Australia, three years after Anne Rice’s debut novel Interview with the Vampire had been published to huge popular acclaim, resurrecting interest in modern-age vampires once again.

It was one of the very first films to attempt to bring blood-thirsty vampire cults back to life by staging everything in a world where modern industrial farming methods are used to create a blood supply for vampires.

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Hardy thrusts us headlong into tale about an advertising agency executive, “Kate Davis” (Chantal Contouri), who awakens at the beginning of the film to find herself sitting inside a coffin, lit by surrounding candles, with a few tears running down her face.

Is this a recurring nightmare?

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Kate, it’s soon revealed, is then kidnapped by the Hyma Brotherhood.

They believe she is an ancestral vampire baroness, a descendant of Elizabeth Báthory, a real 16th Century Hungarian countess and reputed serial killer whose noble family from Báthory owned land in the Kingdom of Hungary (now shared by Hungary, Slovakia and Romania).

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The Brotherhood believe drinking blood is the ultimate aristocratic act because its “vital human essence” gives power to the elite.

The Brotherhood drive Kate to their “dairy farm,” a hospital/factory-like clinical compound where — under watchful eyes and extensive psychological conditioning by the sadistic “Mrs. Barker” (Shirley Cameron) and the evil “Dr. Gauss” (Henry Silva) — they “bleed” brainwashed and hypnotized humans and harvest and consume their blood, milking them like “blood cows.”

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Kate is re-programmed and indoctrinated into the ancient vampire world which they believe is her true inheritance, renewing her deep-down “thirst” for blood.

This ultimately leads to a grand ceremony in which Kate gets to practice her newly-renewed skills on one of the farm’s other kidnapped victims.

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Kate is then released back into the outside world again, where she is watched by the Brotherhood — who all disagree about how to proceed with their diabolical plans — to see if they’ve succeeded, and whether or not her new-found thirst for blood has turned her into their new vampire queen.

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Kate snacks on her friend and co-worker “Martha Pearson” (Amanda Muggleton), but she apparently draws the line when it comes to feeding on the neck of her architect boyfriend, “Derek Whitelaw” (Rod Mullinar).

The Brotherhood abduct her again, this time also kidnapping Derek too, which goes against the wishes of some of the other members of the blood cult.

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“Dr. Eric Fraser” (David Hemmings) takes Kate to the dungeon deep in his lair, where he’s cut a nice little slice into Derek, perfect for blood-sucking, and it is there that Kate finally succumbs to the Brotherhood’s dark desires to become “one of them.”

Along the way, we’re treated to traumatic flashbacks to Kate’s childhood, human zombie cows, and a Grand Guignol-esque blood shower, while her persecutors tempt her with blood cocktails which they promise will perk her right the fuck up.

Read more about Rod Hardy’s Thirst below.

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Rod Hardy

Screenwriter John Pinkney’s original story for Thirst was apparently inspired by the 1971 Belgian horror film Les Lèvres Rouges (Daughter of Darkness), in which Delphine Seyrig plays the mysterious Hungarian countess, Elizabeth Báthory.

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Australian director George Miller — whose fourth film, Mad Max, arrived in theaters to international acclaim the same year Thirst was also released — was originally supposed to direct this relatively low-budgeted film ($750K Australian, which in today’s U.S. dollars is just $528,150).

Unfortunately, Miller and producer Antony I. Ginnane didn’t see eye-to-eye on the film’s tone: Miller actually thought it is was all supposed to have been a comedic spoof, like Love at First Bite, which had been a box office hit earlier that same year.

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After Miller dropped out, Ginnane brought in a TV director to direct — which was something he frequently did — which is how Miller’s friend Rod Hardy (b. 1949 in Melbourne, Australia) got to lens his feature film debut.

Chantal Contouri had appeared in a supporting role in an earlier Ginnane-produced horror film, Snapshot, and she’d worked a lot in television. Ginnane believed she was perfect for his film’s leading lady (many critics didn’t agree, however).

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Ginnane also sought out British actor David Hemmings and American actor Henry Silva (he’s featured, along with the late Rutger Hauer, in our vintage 1988 “Night Flight Goes to the Movies” episode devoted to movie villains) to bolster the film’s cast in supporting roles, as they were both well-known to Australian audiences.

Hemmings would later direct The Survivor, another Ginnane-produced Ozploitation film we have on Night Flight Plus.

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The artists’ colony of Montsalvat, north of Melbourne, was used as the blood cult’s headquarters.

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Thirst — promoted with taglines like “Surrender to an unholy insatiable evil” and “This ancient evil is now a modern industry” — is today considered a cult classic, and a wholly unique twist on vampire films, although it turned out to be the only horror film Rod Hardy would ever direct.

Hardy spent the 1980s directing lots of episodic TV and mini-series, including American dramas like “Battlestar Galactic,” “Burn Notice” and dozens more.

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Watch Thirst — and other Ozploitation cult and vampire films — on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.