Sunday, 28 February 2010

Blood Feast

1963
Dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis

An Egyptian caterer (!) with ridiculously bushy eyebrows and a gimpy leg messily kills various blonde-bombshells in order to use their body parts to resurrect a bug-eyed Egyptian goddess. His bloody work is not at all hampered by ludicrously inept detectives not hot on his trail.

This ‘plot’ synopsis is basically a load of old nonsense thrown together in a feeble effort to resemble a story that is really only required in order to connect a series of unrelated and astoundingly
badgraphic murder scenes - usually involving bland actresses and buckets of corn syrup and red food dye. Produced by exploitation guru David F. Friedman, and
rudimentarilyeconomically directed by marketing genius extraordinaire Herschell Gordon Lewis, Blood Feast abounds with an irresistibly impish glee and carefree abandon. With not a shred of decency or taste in sight, hoary old conventions such as plot and story are flung aside in favour of countless close-ups and lingering shots of blood-soaked boobs and shoddily acted scenes of carnage and makeshift mayhem. Hurrah!

Blood Feast holds the dubious honour of being the first ever ‘gore movie’ or ‘splatter film’ – a craze that rippled out from this flick and continues to make waves today, as cineplexes are cluttered with all manner of films whose plotlines could be described as nothing more than a vague means to connect scenes of depravity and sadism. Back in the early Sixties all this was new and subversive and naturally audiences thirstily lapped it up as they clambered to catch a glimpse of what would become a milestone in horror cinema.

Anyone who has seen Blood Feast will know that it is a film specifically designed around a number of grisly special effects-heavy set pieces in which buxom-bosomed blonde lovelies are hacked, slashed, decapitated, de-tongued and generally slathered in their own gore – all in the name of entertainment! These moments are sprinkled sporadically throughout a vague and plodding story with an emphasis on gross out gore effects and titillating shots of lingerie clad ladies having their tongues pulled out/ limbs lopped off/eyes gouged out by a sweaty Egyptian caterer with a gammy leg, Bela-Lugosi-wannabe eyebrows and sporting a copy of ‘Ancient Weird Religious Rites’. Which incidentally is perfect bath-time reading.

Prowess and subtlety are not words in Lewis’ vocabulary, and we wouldn’t want them to be. The film’s very raison d’ĂȘtre is to provide audiences with an abundance of graphic and violent imagery and showcase the splattery effects. Everything plays second fiddle to this notion. The acting in Blood Feast is gobsmackingly awful and yet wholly amusing. Stare! as Connie Mason flicks her hair and knows stuff about history and Egyptian culture! Be aghast! as actors read their lines from auto-cues! Shocking scenes of bad acting and depraved performances litter Blood Feast. This exchange is just one example of the sort of staggeringly bad dialogue and woeful delivery one can expect whilst wallowing in the sordid experience of watching this film. Yay!

As dated as the special effects are, a couple of them still manage to retain a bizarre power – particularly those featured in the shot of the dead girl on the beach; her head a bloody mess, all kinds of red wet stuff is splattered out on the sand behind her… The scene in which a woman has her tongue slowly ripped out of her throat whilst flailing around a grotty motel room is also strangely disturbing.

This sublimely trashy film clearly falls into that favourite category of ‘so bad it’s oh so good’. Completely tensionless, the film more than compensates with its sheer entertainment value. With no redeeming qualities whatsoever – which is pretty much why it is so damn good – Blood Feast is cheap, nasty and bloody brilliant.

I watched this from the bottom of my wine glass at a recent screening in Belfast’s Safehouse Gallery as part of a new film night dubbed Texploitation. Organised by local comedians and fans of exploitation movies, Texploitation is set to take place at least once a month for the foreseeable future. For more info, simply follow the linkage…

10 comments:

Hotrod said...

Great review James! I'd forgotten how eerily disturbing that tongue-pulling scene was.

Thanks very much for the linkage also.

Sarah from Scare Sarah said...

I must admit, I do love a bit of depravity and sadism.

Jenn said...

Oh James, how I love you for writing this up. One of my all time favorites. I've seen it countless times over the years and it never gets old. I even wrote a short story and a fake article for trash paper Weekly World News inspired by the illustrious BLOOD FEAST. And I had HG sign my poster for it at a convention a few years back - it's one of my (many) prized possessions.

Rock!

WriterME said...

Great review! I'm a big fan of HG Lewis and his work. If you have the time, be sure to check out Two Thousand Maniacs!, also by Friedman and HGL, featuring stereotypical Southerners who take their revenge on six Yankees they have abducted to celebrate their centennial.

I was lucky enough to be present at the world premiere of HGL's (currently unfinished) latest movie, The Uh-Oh Show, at the Abertoir Festival. Can't wait for a proper release of that :)

As you pointed out, these movies are not very good. However, the enthousiasm and creativity of the gore effects more than make up for it, and a fun time can be had by all!

Stac said...

This movie tickled me so much. The lead "actress" is just so, so bad, with some of the worst delivery ever, and yet I could watch it every day! I loved personally how clashtastic this film was-- who the fuck paints their wall that color?! And why did they have actors dressed in day-glo colors that would result in retinal detachment as the wardrobe battled with the sets for who had the brightest and most off-putting color?

I love Herschell Gordon Lewis, and would kiss the man on the mouth if the opportunity presented its self!

C.L. Hadden said...

Oh.My.God.
That first clip of Tony on the beach just may well be the funniest thing I've seen in months. I could laugh
just thinking about it.
Thank you!!

(Oh, and everyone should wear dress slacks and a button down dress shirt during hanky panky on the beach.)

James said...

Hotrod - No, thank YOU for providing me with the opportunity to watch this sick filth. I adored it! Can't wait for Blacula and Chatterbox... 'I hope ya brought ya can-opener' ;o)

Sarah - I too must admit I also love a bit of depravity and sadism. Luckily we're in good company.

Jenn - Are your short story and fake article for Weekly World News online anywhere?? I'd love to check them out - maybe you could post 'em on Cavalcade? If HG signed anything of mine you can bet it would be a prized possession too!

WriterME - A few years back I taped Two Thousand Maniacs! off the TV (I MUST be going back a few years if I'm talking about 'taping' stuff from the TV). Unfortunately it had no sound. I watched it anyway (don't ask), but obviously didn't enjoy it as much as I would have with sound.
You went to Abertoir?? I've yet to make it there - I'd love to go though as I used to study at Aber. Are you based there yourself?

Stac - Isn't Connie Mason just the dreamiest? That vague, faraway look in her eyes - you CAN'T fake that sort of acting. She's a keeper.
I too would kiss HG on the mouth after watching Blood Feast. He is one classy bitch.

Chris - I think, rather unsurprisingly, that Blood Feast was Gene (Tony - boy on the Beach) Courtier's only role to date. I guess his acting techniques were just way too progressive for audiences. Talk about method. Though what kind of method, I'm really not sure though. And just for the record - dress slacks and a button down dress shirt during hanky panky on the beach are HAWT!

Hotrod said...

Oh we'll DEFINITELY be showing Two Thousand Maniacs in the future - it's pretty much the very definition of Texploitation! Hell, if I thought we could get people to stay I'd even have an all day HG Lewis marathon....

WriterME said...

Hotrod: HGL marathon sounds amazing!

James: I'm based in Cardiff myself. Went to Abertoir last year as part of the Uni of Glamorgan Grand-Guignol work: the organisers had asked us to do a play there. Was the production assistant/effects person for that (playing around with stageblood is fun!).

I enjoyed it a lot and, if I can make it, I will go again this year. The atmosphere and the movies on offer are terrific; great mix of types of horror.

Carl (ILHM) said...

Its impossible to hate these garbage horror films, they have such a terrible charm in the low budget effects and horrendous acting. I had the honor of meeting the man, the legend last year at the cons, and he is such an intelligent and gentle person. So funny that his films are among the goriest and most notorious in the history of gore cinema!