Blood Feast (1963)
By: Michael Helms on April 5, 2005  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Siren Visual Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 4:3. English DD 2.0. 66 minutes
The Movie
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Thomas Wood, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn Bolton, Scott H. Hall
Screenplay: A. Louise Downe
Country: USA
While the Australian Office of Film And Literature Classification agonises itself about exposing the Australian general public to The Gore Gore Girls, the roll out of product on DVD bearing the signature of American filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis has otherwise commenced without fear or favour (the latter excepting gorehounds, of course). Although gore had splattered the big screen prior to the initial 1963 US theatrical release of Blood Feast (poke yourself in the eye with something like Dwain Esper's Maniac for instance...) there's no doubting Blood Feast was the first film to put it all together in the one in-your-face barely feature-length 66 minute package specifically designed for maximum impact. From the get-go Blood Feast is cheap, nasty, poorly acted, barely technically adequate, and reveals more unencumbered flesh than I recall since first viewing it 20 years ago, but it's intentions are clear: this film is not to be taken seriously. And you don't need to be drenched in chocolate milk from a de-nippled breast to see the joke.

The opening pre-credit sequence features a blonde in a bath who is immediately sliced and diced by a bug-eyed guy (Mal Arnold) who only stops to lovingly admire her innards as they cling to edge of his weapon. A timpani and organ score thumps and swells as the camera bumps around the bathroom when it's not locked down onto the shot of a radio issuing a murder report or the end of a lopped limb. Cut to luminous blood red credits that drip over the top of a model of a sphinx, the first piece of tacky egyptology on display and the key to tracking down the culprit behind the body count of seven women that has accumulated in a two week period and completely baffled the local Police Department. With no clue or clues the head of the Homicide Bureau just orders a warning to be broadcast over the radio every half hour. Next up we're in the shop of Fuad Ramses Exotic Catering as the fiend from the bathroom extols the virtues of having an original Egyptian feast to a snobbish customer organising a party for her daughter (Connie Mason) who just so happens to regularly attend an Egyptology lecture series that is also frequented by the lead detective (Thomas Wood). After some hypnotic persuasion Fuad's new customer leaves him to wring his hands and limp behind the scenes to a makeshift altar he has devoted to the Goddess Ishtar to whom he pleads undying allegiance. A newspaper headline announces, "Legs Cut Off!", as we check back with the still clueless Chief of Police who's bawling out his main detective in his cavernous sounding office. Meanwhile Fuad continues the body count by ambushing a couple on a beach. Fuad messily removes and fondles the girls brain without spilling a drop of blood on his pristine suit. Lewis throws a live snake into a splatter shot for no real reason while the boyfriend goes hysterical. The cops arrive and notice that the killer has taken one body part from each murder victim. Fuad goes home to start cooking but needs some seasoning. He's soon out and about again this time following a drunk couple back to a motel room where he busts in and rips out the female's tongue with his bare hands. Later, Connie comments to her mum that, "Murders take the joy out of everything." At the latest Egyptology class the lecturer introduces the topic of Ishtar which instigates a cheapjack flashback to ancient Egypt and the cult of the Blood Feast which lasted for 400 years but still exists today! After a bloody sacrificial chest stabbing Connie hooks up with the still clueless Thomas Wood for a date but as they settle down at the local make-out spot a special radio newsbreak sends our detective back to work. Soon he's at a hospital bedside attempting to interview a dying woman with half a face who actually expires but not before she can drop the word, "Etar". Meanwhile, Fuad stalks Connie's friend Trudy who had ordered one of his books, eventually abducting her and taking her back to his warehouse office where he whips her until she bleeds so he can collect her blood. Despite her friend having gone missing Connie's party goes ahead. Fuad convinces Connie to lie down on a kitchen bench and recite a prayer to Ishtar. Connie's mum disturbs the proceedings causing Fuad to go on the run. At the same time our amateur Egyptologist detective finally puts two and two together and races in the front door as Fuad leaves out the back. A chase leads to the local tip where the limping Fuad throws his trusty machete at the police before he hitches a ride in a garbage truck only to be accidentally crushed. Thomas Wood then steps in to summarise the situation to a colleague before they light up and blithely walk away from the death scene leaving the garbage man scratching his head. And so in a Miami tip Lewis brings his tale of blood and Egyptian catering to an typically trashy and satisfying ending.

40 years later Lewis revived his own long dead filmmaking career to come back to make the sequel but that's another story.
The sharp and super colourful transfer of Blood Feast is ideal preparation for the ferociously day-glo visuals of the Lewis biker entry She Devil on Wheels (coming soon from the fine folk at Siren Visual Entertainment). While Lewis developed his own movie blood (reportedly you can still buy it from the same place in Florida) and never once shies away from displaying it. The sometimes orange-redness of it only adds to the unreality of the whole enterprise.
No magic surround remix has been performed on this release of Blood Feast and it's doubtful if one ever could or should. No sound stages were used to shoot the film and a lot of the live sound recording was sub par (trashmeister Dave Friedman weilded the boom) as referred to above during a police briefing scene. However, there was some post-production dubbing involved but even there the hardly thespian cast were not up to it barely cleaning up what was already probably pretty inaudible. Lewis did spend a lot of time fixing his loping score which tends to dominate all the proceedings to the point where it will be living inside your skull for many days after viewing.
Extra Features
Blood Feast trailer, CARVING MAGIC an educational film of 20 minutes starring Blood Feast star Thomas Wood, and 49 minutes of outtakes from Blood Feast. All extras bear the Something Weird Video watermark at all times and utilise original materials that are more than slightly the worse for wear. The outtakes frequently borrow audio tracks from other SWV products. Although plentiful there's no extra scenes on display here (with the exception of a sunbathing/stalking scene) and besides demonstrating how lucky Lewis was to walk away with 66 minutes of usable footage (and many people might argue he wasn't) it only really functions as moving wallpaper.
The Verdict
A paean to trash aesthetics Blood Feast can still cause pain to innocent viewers and even hipper audiences. Quite simply it's a film that has to be experienced no matter how much it's talked up. Like it's limping protagonist Blood Feast possesses a strange power to confuse, perplex and gross-out. By turns it's lurid, lame and effective. Never in the history of cinema advertising has an ad line (the Lewis speciality) been more appropriate.
Movie Score
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