Saturday, December 3, 2016

Episode 30: Blood Feast (1963)

“For Pete’s sake, tell ‘em not to eat anything!”

As a certain bee-hived, big-breasted, black-dressed Queen of B-cinema once said, “Hey, does anybody know what that movie was about? Uh, I’ll tell ya what it was about: it was about an hour-and-a-half too long!” In the case of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast, it was about 67 minutes too long. That’s right, the notorious film that outraged critics and introduced the world to gore in its extremist form isn’t even technically a feature, as it’s several minutes shy of a proper running time. I’m beyond grateful for that, however, as I don’t know how much more of this mess I could withstand. Over-acted, over-written, and just plain-old over-the-top, Blood Feast is far from one of my favorite cult films, but seeing as how it holds such cultural significance, how could I gloss this one over? And let’s face it, there’s just as much to mock—if not more—as Stephen Tyler’s The Last Slumber Party and Nick Millard’s Criminally Insane (stay tuned).

Yeah, yeah. I’ve mentioned more than a handful of times that these commentaries are meant to pay homage to the films, not ridicule them. But there isn’t much to praise when it comes to the many Herschell Gordon Lewis endeavors of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Okay, his films may be a shallow cut above the likes of Doris Wishman or—dare I say it?—Ed Wood, but I don’t think even he took them seriously while they were in production. It’s clear in this case, the focus was more on making money than making something good (or at the very least passable). How do you make money in the film business? You attract an audience, of course. How do you attract an audience? Well, showing them something they’ve never seen is a pretty good place to start, and in 1963, filmgoers had yet to see grisly shots of severed limbs, a human tongue pulled from a cavernous throat, and a bizarre ritual called an “Egyptian Blood Feast,” which would ultimately resurrect an ancient goddess known as Ishtar (not to be confused with the 1987 Warren Beatty flop).

I hadn’t seen the acquired taste known as  Blood Feast (see what I did there?) until I was well into my twenties, when my horror fanaticism started to fizzle. I was far from the genre-obsessed adolescent, who happened upon the H.G. Lewis splatter opus during John Waters’ 1994 cult classic Serial Mom, which includes brief clips of Blood Feast’s bloodiest and most gratuitous moments.

Funnily enough, Marcel Walz’s re-interpretation of Allison Louise Downey’s original screenplay premiered at Fright Fest less than one month after this episode was originally recorded. Funnier still, I didn’t even know there was a remake until yesterday, when I started assembling material’s for this blog post. After a little snooping around, I happened upon a review penned by Dread Central’s Matt Boiselle. Based on the synopsis, I can only assume that the 2016 version of Blood Feast is yet another in a long, long line of in-name-only “remakes.” I mean, this version is set in France, for cryin’ out loud, and Fuad Ramses (played this time around by Robert Russler, better known by genre fanatics as Ronald Grady of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2) has a wife (Caroline Williams, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2), daughter, and runs his own diner while working part-time at an Egyptian museum. Though their review was more than favorable, I think I’ll skip this one.

Anyhoo, for this episode, I used the version of Blood Feast included in Something Weird Video’s 2011 Blood Trilogy Blu ray. The 1.78:1 transfer clocks in at exactly 1:07:12, so feel free to watch along, but don’t be surprised if my nonsensical ramblings are slightly more entertaining than the actual film—and that’s something I don’t think I’ve ever said before. .

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