Bloodline (1979)


After the sudden death of her wealthy father, socialite Elizabeth Roffe (Audrey Hepburn, My Fair Lady) inherits her dad’s vast pharmaceutical empire, but someone in Elizabeth’s inner circle wants her dead too. Who wants to kill Elizabeth?

Reaction & Thoughts:

“It’s just people that terrify me. Particularly cousins.”

In my hometown, we have an old saying: “A monkey dressed in silk is still a monkey.” Despite the all-star cast, despite the luxurious sets and chic costumes, despite the glossy camera work, Bloodline (aka Sidney Sheldon’s Bloodline) is nothing but a good-looking piece of trash. Audrey Hepburn’s old-school elegance is the film’s saving grace.

The film fails miserably, though not for lack of talent in front and behind the camera. Bloodline was directed by well-regarded British filmmaker Terence Young (From Russia with Love) and shot by famed cameraman Freddie A. Young (Lawrence of Arabia). Ennio Morricone wrote the music score (it’s nearly identical to his score for Exorcist II: The Heretic!). All three gentlemen tried in vain to infuse life into dead tissue.

I can’t fault the actors, either. The stellar cast includes Ben Gazzara (Anatomy of a Murder), Omar Sharif (Doctor Zhivago), Irene Papas (Zorba the Greek), Michelle Phillips (TV’s Knots Landing), Romy Schneider (10:30 P.M. Summer), Beatrice Straight (Network) and Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger) as an inquisitive detective. James Mason (Odd Man Out) is particularly effective as a man with a gambling problem.

The godawful screenplay is the main problem here. Based on Sidney Sheldon’s 1977 best-selling novel of the same name, Laird Koenig’s (Red Sun and Inchon) script is tacky and messy. It has kinky sex, family bickering, blackmail, etc. It even has a bizarre subplot about a serial killer who makes snuff films! The climax, I kid you not, is like a Carol Burnett parody of Hepburn’s thriller Wait Until Dark (1967).

It’s amazing that Hepburn is able to give a good performance under these circumstances. Frankly, Hepburn is simply too old to play a naive heiress — it would have made more sense if they had made her character the wife of the dead tycoon. But nothing, not even a horrible script, can extinguish Hepburn’s inner flame. It’s pretty extraordinary to see her overcome every obstacle that the film puts in front of her. Hepburn radiates authenticity, and she alone makes you accept the most implausible plot twists.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Bloodline is probably Hepburn’s worst film. I will never understand how she turned down The Exorcist (1973) and The Turning Point (1977), but said yes to this turkey. The fact that she came out unharmed from the experience speaks volumes about her quality as a movie star and actress. Anyhow, like all super-bad movies, Bloodline is (unintentionally) funny and kind of entertaining in a sort of weird way. P.S. A longer cut does exist, but I haven’t been able to locate it. Color, 122 minutes, Rated R.

This is my contribution to The Audrey Hepburn Blogathon, hosted by Sister Celluloid.

18 responses to “Bloodline (1979)

  1. You were very brave to review this film, Eric! I saw this in her filmography and it definitely stood out from her other work. It quite reminded me of Doris Day’s turn in the “darker” MIDNIGHT LACE. Both ladies wanted to expand their cinematic horizons from the usual happy films they made. I wouldn’t go terribly out of my way to see this but it could be entertaining all the same. ☺

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I remember the advertising for this when I was in high school (the movie, not your review!), and at the time it wasn’t my kind of film, so I passed on it. Now, however, I do get a kick out of trashy crud, so I may follow that link above and give it a look. And I had NO idea Hepburn could’ve possibly been in ‘The Exorcist’! Good lord!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Audrey at 90: The Salute to Audrey Hepburn Blogathon Has Arrived! | Sister Celluloid·

  4. I’ve read Sheldon’s novel. It’s a pretty good mixture of melodrama trash and a mystery. But the movie adaptation is just godawful. Between a lot of bad performances, bad direction by Terence Young and poor editing, it was a disaster. I still believe the novel can be adapted with better acting and better talent behind the cameras.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the info about the book. I suspected as much. The Naked Face is another Sheldon story that doesn’t work as a movie. I did like the movie version of Other Side of Midnight (1977).


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