What is it about H.G. Lewis’s flicks that are so much fun? They’re
not “good” by any stretch of the imagination--indeed, they’re often
downright atrocious. Case in point: BLOOD FEAST, the first of Lewis’
gore epics, which freaked out quite a few drive-in patrons during its
initial run. These days, obviously, it’s not nearly as horrifying; it’s
downright campy, in fact, but that’s a large part of its allure.
Ridiculous it may be, but it’s also fun.
BLOOD FEAST apparently came about because its creators,
writer-director-cinematographer Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer
David F. Friedman, had grown disenchanted with the “nudie cutie” and
“roughie” features they had been churning out, and wanted to find a new
market to exploit. The result was the world’s first splatter film.
It caused widespread shock, revulsion and even vomiting
during its 1963 release on the drive-in circuit (making it the
down-market equivalent of PSYCHO). BLOOD FEAST was also instrumental in
establishing a thriving exploitation film scene in Florida (even though
it was actually conceived in Chicago, from which Lewis and Friedman
relocated because the weather there was too cold).
Lewis--upon whom the title “Godfather of gore” was
bestowed due to BLOOD FEAST--and Friedman went on to finish out their
gore trilogy with
TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! (1964) and
COLOR ME BLOOD RED
(1965) before going their separate ways. As for BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN
EAT, it was a digitally shot production that appeared in 2002, nearly
forty years after the original BLOOD FEAST, but it wasn’t nearly as much
In a small Florida community a psychotic killer is on
the loose. One of his first victims is Gloria Schippers, a housefrow who
gets stabbed through an eyeball in her bathtub, prior to both her legs
Fuad Ramses is the killer, an Egyptian creep who runs a
novelty shop. He’s asked by the society gal Dorothy Fremont to cook an
exotic dinner for her daughter Suzette. Fuad agrees, promising to
prepare a feast like those enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians, who
regularly indulged in human sacrifice and cannibalism. What Dorothy
doesn’t realize is that Fuad is entirely serious about those last two
points, and endeavors to carry them out to the letter.
He kills again, with his victims being a young woman on
a beach, whose brain he filches from her skull, and another residing in
a motel, whose tongue he rips out, and yet another, whose heart he makes
off with. A fifth woman is subjected to prolonged whipping, apparently
to tenderize her flesh before Fuad dismembers and cooks it.
The cops, meanwhile, are investigating the murders. In
the process one of those cops, Peter Thornton, commences a sappy romance
with Dorothy Fremont’s daughter Suzette.
The day of Suzette’s party arrives. Fuad turns up with
his “feast,” which he plans to complete with the flesh of Suzette. But
just as he’s about to do her in he’s caught in the act by Dorothy, and
runs off. He’s pursued by Thornton to the town dump, where Fuad tries to
hide out in the back of a dump truck--just as it’s about to grind up its
contents. Bad idea!
Yes, this film is every bit as tawdry as can be
imagined, with lingering close-ups that only point up how incredibly
primitive the gore effects are (the whipping scene is the only one that
retains a fraction of its initial unpleasantness). Note also the absence
of nudity or four-letter words, which, as was hoped, caught the ratings
Lewis pads his 67-minute running time with much
extraneous footage (the climactic sequence of Ramses running through the
junkyard is dragged out interminably), making BLOOD FEAST feel a helluva
lot longer than its 67 minute run time. Yet the close-ups of Fuad
Ramsey’s fevered eyes before he kills are priceless, as is much of the
acting (one guy is constantly looking at his hand, apparently because he
couldn’t remember his lines and they were written on his palm).
The performances are so inept, in fact, that
they achieve a kind of surreal grace. Acting was admittedly a secondary
concern of Lewis, who has subsequently claimed that “as we battled for
theatrical playing time against major company productions, showmanship
and exploitation values were paramount. Acting talent ran a poor third.”
There’s also the rudimentary music score, accomplished
by Lewis himself. Particularly memorable is the organ music that plays
over the killings, giving the proceedings the feel of an especially
demented silent film.
The result is a film that is thoroughly bizarre, with
more than a hint of the surreal loopiness of the oeuvre of Lewis’ trash
movie contemporary Ray Dennis Steckler. Trend-setting it may have been,
but to this day you simply won’t find another movie quite like BLOOD
Box-Office Spectaculars, Inc.
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Producer: David F. Friedman
Screenplay: A. Louise Downe
Cinematography: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Editing: Frank Romolo, Robert Sinise
Cast: “Thomas Wood” (William Kerwin), Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn
Bolton, Scott H. Hall, Christy Foushee, Ashlyn Martin, Astrid Olson,
Sandra Sinclair, Gene Courtier, Louise Kamp, Hal Rich