Troy Donahue and Joey Heatherton in My Blood Runs Cold (1965)


(director: William Conrad; screenwriters: John Mantley/from the story The Girl Who Was Two by John Meredyth Lucas; cinematographer: Sam Leavitt; editor: William Ziegler; music: George Duning; cast: Troy Donahue (Ben Gunther), Joey Heatherton (Julie Merriday), Barry Sullivan (Julian Merriday), Nicolas Coster (Harry Lindsay), Jeanette Nolan (Sarah Merriday), Russell Thorson (Sheriff R. Seaton), Ben Wright (Lansbury); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Conrad; Warner Bros.; 1965)

An enthralling horror thriller, envisioned as a ghost romance story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An enthralling horror thriller, envisioned as a ghost romance story. The heart-throb star of the 1950s and 1960s, Troy Donahue, goes against type and plays a lunatic killer. It’s intriguingly directed by William Conrad(“Brainstorm”/”Side Show”/”Two on a Guillotine“) when he was at Warners. Though it’s filled with many flaws that make it seem incredulous and a weak ending that was overwrought with melodrama, I found that the interesting Donahue performance made it a must-see for his fans and those critics who previously believed his range of acting was too limited. Later on in his career Conrad made his Hollywood rep as an actor on the TV show Cannon.

“Blood” is based onthe story The Girl Who Was Two by John Meredyth Lucas, and is written by John Mantley. The title comes from a sonnet by Lord Byron.

The film is set in Dolphin Bay, California. The 21-year-old headstrong beautiful spoiled heiress, Julie Merriday (Joey Heatherton), is speeding in her luxury car while accompanied by her polite long-time easy going square lawyer boyfriend, Harry Lindsay (Nicolas Coster). He is also her father’s junior partner. Julie is recklessly going around the seacoast’s winding road, where a truck is stalled on the curve. As a result her T-bird convertible crashes into the motorcycle driven by the mysterious Ben Gunther (Troy Donahue). Julie and the passenger are unharmed, while the motorcycle is totaled but the driver is not seriously injured. Julie takes the hunky blond stranger to her family mansion to meet her gruff, possessive, ruthless businessman father Julian (Barry Sullivan) and her well-bred spinster middle-aged Aunt Sarah (Jeanette Nolan). Ben keeps staring at and calling Julie by the name of Barbara, whom he claims was Julie’s great great grandmother and relates a story that they were tragic lovers in the 19th century. He tells of her strict father not letting her marry the poor sailor and tells that it was him who impregnated her with an illegitimate child. When Barbara died at childbirth, the child was adopted by a rich family who gave the kid the name of Merriday. The family historian, Aunt Sarah, verifies that through the bastard child the Merridays got their name and wealth.

Hard as it may be to believe, Ben convinces Julie they are the reincarnations of Ben and Barbara. During a heavy storm they elope in his small boat to marry in Mexico. But the sheriff investigates the death of the Merriday family caretaker and the coroner declares it a murder by strangulation. Also the corpse of the real owner of the small ketch Ben is on washes ashore and his death is also by strangulation. A fingerprint check reveals that Ben is an escaped inmate from a mental institution, and the Coast Guard is called in to search for the couple.

Donahue got tired of playing the same goody-goody roles at Warners, where his film career kicked off playing opposite Sandra Dee in the 1959 A Summer Place. The popular actor made Jack Warner livid when he opted out of his contract with two years left because he wanted more meaty parts. The result was that he never got starring roles again. Donahue believes he was black-balled by the Warners in Hollywood.