So, officially (to me, at least) Blood Feast isn’t a “Halloween” movie at all – it’s more of a big, plump Thanksgiving Day turkey surprise. Under-cooked enough to give you a terrible gut-ache, but stuffed with tasty treats for those willing to push on and make it to that pumpkin pie and ice scream. And yeah, you’ll scream maybe a few times too many if the late H.G. Lewis’ classic 1963 gore-fest isn’t up your alley, but it’s the film’s campy pull wrapped in that grue brew that makes this one entertaining.
Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) just so happens to be the caterer chosen by wealthy suburban mom Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) to cater a party for her pretty young daughter, Suzette (Connie Mason). Little does Mrs. Fremont know she’s hired a somewhat criminally insane man with a bit of a strong desire to chop up a bunch of nubile young ladies and use their body parts as sacrifices in order to resurrect the Egyptian goddess, Ishtar. Mua-ha-ha-haaa! I’m telling you, though – those damned eyebrows Ranses has would make me NOT want to hire him because they look like chalk-outlined squished caterpillars on his face. Now, go drink some recently cooled molten iron to coat your stomach while I spill out some more gory details on this gem.
As exploitation films go, you’re getting one of the most influential and yep, cheaply made (as in shot in 4 days for under $25,000) icky flicks that’s going to make you cringe as much from the lousy acting as it will from the bright red blood being spilled in the assorted death scenes. There’s no question this is a terrible film on a few levels, but it’s a mist-see for those who either never have seen it and like this sort of thing, or want to see how well Arrow’s excellent restoration job turned out. Injury to the eye? Check! Brains removed from one victim’s smashed skull? Yup. Bloody bathtub murder? Uh-huh. Lamb tongue substituted for a human one in perhaps the most memorable scene? Oh, yeah. There’s a bit more, but you’ll have to see for yourself.
At a tidy (but messy) 67 minutes, you get your prime cuts as a series of brutal murders takes place and a pretty damn inept police force tackles the cases. The film really doesn’t let you waste a minute in figuring out the weird Fuad is the prime suspect, but its quickie cheapie nature lets him do his dirty work just so you can check out all the gory details. Yes indeed, the kills here are well played and nasty stuff which is kind of amusing because when you consider the acting quality here, the death scenes end up working the best in terms of overall impact. At least the film ends on a crummy note for Fuad, who gets his in a bad way followed by a nifty quip from harried detective Pete Thornton (William Kerwin).
As you can probably gather, you’ll want to keep this one away from the kids along with the bonus feature, Scum of the Earth, Lewis’ 1963 black and white “roughie” about a modeling agency run by some pretty terrible folks. It’s a nice treat to see it looking so nice in its restored form, but don’t even go in with an eye set to modern expectations of fair treatment of women. Nope, it’s a pretty grim film with a few lovely lasses getting caught up in a nudie photo ring with seemingly no safe way out. The worst thing is it’s one gal who tries to get out who ropes another into the madness, so most of the cast ends up unlikable and the rest are kind of clueless to a point. Still, it’s worth a watch just to see how it all ends up.
You also get some nice bonus features here that add to the er, wholesome variety here:
Blood Perspectives – Filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher on Blood Feast
Herschell’s History – Archival interview in which director Herschell Gordon Lewis discusses his entry into the film industry
How Herschell Found his Niche – A new interview with Lewis discussing his early work
Archival interview with Lewis and David F. Friedman
Carving Magic – Vintage short film from 1959 featuring Blood Feast Actor Bill Kerwin
Alternate ‘clean’ scenes from Scum of the Earth
Promo gallery featuring trailers and more
Feature length commentary featuring Lewis and David F. Friedman moderated by Mike Grady
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
In other words, this one’s a keeper of a creeper if you’re into the bloody stuff and quite terrible acting on display. It’s certainly going to clear out your house if you decide to pop it in on Turkey Day as an alternative to football or if you have that annoying relative who wants to show up and talk politics at you all day and he’s the one who always leaves last because you tend to just nod and smile instead of telling him to shut up and eat. Just remind him as you press PLAY that you had the meal catered by Ramses and see where that leads.
Score: B+ (85%)
Review copy provided by the publisher.
An excellent Thanksgiving strategy.