There was no mention of Audrey Hepburn’s comeback vehicle from 1979 in this week’s new documentary about her life, and unsuspecting viewers will find out why if they give Terence Young’s widely-forgotten thriller a whirl. This is a perfectly abject, yet genuinely entertainingly bad venture playing to the weaknesses of all concerned. Sure, you like Audrey Hepburn, but would you cast her in a giallo about snuff movies? Throw in some jarring sex scenes which reflect the wrong-headed belief in the late 70’s that sex would help sell a tired Sidney Sheldon adaptation like this, and the soufflé fails to rise. Why not garnish with an Ennio Morricone soundtrack that side-tracks into vapour-wave techno, then simmer on a low heat with an incredible cast (Gert Frobe, Omar Sharif, James Mason, Ben Gazzara) and you’ve got a genuine dumpster fire to warm yourself by.
Hepburn sets aside her dignity to play Elizabeth Roffe, whose father ran a huge big-pharma company until his death in a climbing accident. Elizabeth takes over, dazzling the board with her acumen, but gradually becoming aware that her father was the victim of industrial espionage. It turns out that her company’s film stock has been used for a series of filmed prostitute murders, and Elizabeth has to figure out who amongst the board are the culprits. Of course, they make a right bodge of killing her off, tampering with the brakes of her big yellow car when it seems much simpler just to bump her off as easily as everyone else.
That scenario eventually settles to a lot of Hepburn wandering around deserted factories while trying to identify her mystery assailant. The star still looks great, and has a chic wardrobe to boot, and the glamorous European locations sweeten the deal. The dialogue, however, is very much of the ‘Godammit Marjorie’ boardroom shenanigans level, and while this might have been an airport bestseller, it translates to the screen as turgid in Young’s hands.
Bloodline is a bad film, but attractive in its wrong-header adherence to an adult entertainment formula. It’s a dud, sure, but it’s incredibly glossy, packed with the stars of yesteryear, and the score is striking, although not always for the right reasons. Everyone concerned quickly moved on, but Bloodline captures a grasping Hollywood machine in full malfunction mode, a glutinous, nasty soap-opera worth commending to bad movie fans.