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Blood Feast

Blood Feast

1963, Dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis

Mal Arnold, Connie Mason


Pictures pilfered from The Bad Movie Report.

From the essay "Blood Feast and the Primal Act of Cannibalism" by Mikita Brottman:

Understanding the narrative of Blood Feast as a metaphor can help us come to terms with the way in which psychoanalytic evaluation of the patient needs to pay utmost attention to what is repressed in that patient's thoughts, words, writings, and dream-narratives, as the manifest content of such narratives can be regarded as a symbolic manifestation of what is not told: the story that is lost. The governing narrative of Blood Feast is a metaphor for the psychoanalytic paradigm, in which nothing is more significant than that which does not happen. For it is only by directing our attention to that which does not happen that we can start to pick up the clues to solving the puzzle of what did happen, once upon a time.

O.K., everybody take a breath. Now, all together: (coughing, under breath) "Bullshit! (hack, hack) Bullshit!"

That essay comes from the book Offensive Films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinema Vomitif, which can be roughly translated into "Pretentious Academic Essays About Films that Don't Need Them". But what can you expect from a book that features an essay called "Fecal Phantoms - Oral and Anal Tensions in The Tingler"? But, this isn't Iniquity Books, so let me get to today's topic.

What a glorious mess is Blood Feast. You think you've seen bad acting? Not until you've seen this. You think you've seen hackneyed directing? Not until you've seen this. You think you've seen primitive special effects? Well, O.K., you probably have. But not like this! Blood Feast was made by exploitation master H.G. Lewis when he got bored with nudie films. Lewis knew, as most male B fans know that the only thing almost as cool as a naked woman is gore, and so was born his "Blood Trilogy" consisting of Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red. All were marked by uniform awfulness, but they were the first gore films and as such have acquired a kind of historical notoriety. And I gotta admit, they're fun to watch. Let's explore Blood Feast.

Yup, that's meat all right.

Blood Feast takes place in the City of Closely Linked Events. A woman comes home and flicks on her radio to hear a report of a murder. The announcer urges all women to stay inside and lock their doors. She of course strips and gets into the bath with the book, Ancient Weird Religious Rites. Suddenly she is set upon by a googly eyed man with greyish hair. He hacks out her eye, and then chops off her leg with a machete, and we're only three minutes into the flick! All the while the minimalist, strangely effective soundtrack plays. After the credits sequence we cut to the local Stupid Police Department. The Chief is stupified, so stupified in fact that he can't remember his lines and must read them from his hand and various papers on his desk. His second in command, Pete Thornton is also stupified, so much so that he can only shake his head and say "This looks like one of those, long, hard ones" (insert juvenile snicker here).

Cut to Fuad Ramses Exotic Catering, where our murderer is behind the counter conducting business. His hair's really grey. Enter Mrs. Fremont, wearing a float from the City of Closely Linked Events Homecoming Parade on her head. She's looking for something different for her daughter Suzette's birthday, and Fuad suggests an Egyptian feast. She balks, but is no match for Fuad's hypnotic gaze. An Egyptian feast it is! She leaves, and Fuad gimps off to the back room where he keeps his makeshift altar to the Goddess Ishtar. His hair's pretty gray. He prattles on a about a feast and worship and we cut to the afore mentioned Suzette buying a paper. "LEGS CUT OFF!!" screams the headline. Fuad has struck again.

Cut back to the police station (it's really just a room) where Chief pounds on the desk, perhaps to prove that there's something in this scene more wooden than his acting. He and Pete note that this victim was a mamber of a book club. And Chief reads from his hand. That night at the beach, a young couple makes out at the beach. The guy wants to take it to the next step but the girl protests, concerned about the encroaching darkness and the fact there's a murderer about. The guy protests and insures her his protection which is of course worthless because Fuad knocks him out and then takes the girl's brain. The police arrive, and the distraught boyfriend, well, let's just say he's emoting. He is in fact guilty of such thespian wretchedness that my DVD player spat the disk out at me and wouldn't let me complete the scene. But Chief Mason reads from his hand, I saw that much.

Mrs. Fremont, you'll have to speak up. I can't hear you over that hat.

The cops then break the news to the girl's parents, who overact suitably. They tell our stupid pair that their daughter belonged to a book club. A book club you say? Of course the cops don't make the connection and Chief reads from his hand. After a brief shot of Fuad cooking and muttering to Ishtar, we go to a hotel where a very drunk couple are making their way to a room. If you're slick you'll notice the hidden motif in the music, or you can just listen to the DVD commentary track like I did and have Lewis himself tell you. The man leaves the woman alone in the room and along comes Fuad, whose hair isn't really grey. He enters the room and tears out her tongue with his bare hands. Then in the Fremont living room we are rightly introduced to Suzette (Playboy Playmate Connie Mason) as she and her mother create a scene of toxic badness.

O.K., that's over. That night Suzette goes to a lecture on Egyptian history with Pete. The discussion of ancient Egyptian blood cults makes mention of both Ramses and the Goddess Ishtar, but Pete doesn't quite get it. In a flashback sequence illustrating the sacrifice for Ishtar, a woman's heart is removed. Pete gives Connie a ride home and they stop off at a make-out spot at night. Nope, daytime. No, hold on, that's night. Listen carefully for someone yelling cues for Pete. Now I know there's a good deal of implausibility going on here, but there's gotta be at least a 15 year age difference between Pete and Suzette, not to mention he's a cop. Maybe I'm just a prude, but does that seem strange to anybody else? Back at the station the Chief reads his lines from his desk, and they get a call that there's a mutilation victim at the hospital. At the hospital the patient is hooked up to an IV that appears to be full of Guinness (if I ever need hospitalization, please let me be so lucky). Upon questioning, she reveals before expiring that she was attacked by an old man with wild eyes, who did it for "Eetar". Eetar? Ishtar? You guys getting anything here? And guess what the Chief does in this scene!

Well, back at Fuad's Exotic Catering, Fuad gets a mail order for his book, Ancient Weird Religious Rites. His hair's pretty friggin' grey. He calls the number on the order form and is told that Trudy, who ordered the book, is not home but at the Fremont residence. (In what kind of world would that happen?) So Fuad stakes out the Fremonts. In broad daylight. As Trudy leaves he attacks her. In broad daylight. Then he carries her off. On foot. In broad daylight. Pete then calls up Suzette and she invites him to her Egyptian feast. They discuss the lecture and Ishtar but Pete still doesn't get it. Back at Fuad's things are pretty messy with blood and meat lying around. He whips Trudy, and his hair's kinda grey. Cut back to the police station where Pete finally gets it!!!! He calls the professor who gave the lecture for corroboration.

Dontcha hate it when you wake up and this is the first thing you see?

The police arrive at Fuad's and investigate the back room. Before entering Chief apparently sends his hat around to the front of the store to look around. It comes back empty handed. After looking around in the dark they figure why not turn the lights on, and they find Trudy's mutilated corpse. Then Pete realizes what is about to happen at the Fremont's. Fuad has already arrived and is getting the feast underway, asking Suzette to accompany him in the kitchen to perform the appropriate blessing for the Feast of Ishtar. He asks her to be kind to an old man (because his hair's pretty damn grey) and attempts to sacrifice her. Mrs. Fremont walks in and screams, causing Fuad to shuffle away. The police arrive and give chase, but five able bodied police men can't catch up to one gimpy old man. Fuad hops into the back of a garbage truck for a ride, but is smooshed by the truck's smooshing device. Justice has been done in the City of Closely Linked Events.

IN CLOSING: Attention to detail. That's pretty much what damns the work of H.G. Lewis. The fluctuation of the grey in Fuad's hair depended on how much spray they had that particular day of shooting. Fuad's alternating gimpy leg. Really bad day for night shooting. Disappearing hats. It's hard to say who gives the worst performance in Blood Feast. Is it Mal Arnold as Fuad, who proves that every time a murderer extracts an organ or limb from a victim the murderer must turn it over in his hands and look at it? Is it Lyn Bolton or Connie Mason as the Fremonts, who show off more teeth than a third grade class picture? I forego the distraught boyfriend for he didn't have a substantial role, but believe me he made the most of his time. And Scott Hall, not the Scott Hall, but this Scott Hall doesn't really count because he was a grip assigned the role of the Chief when the original actor didn't show up. It's a tough call. The camera work is wretched. The script is wretched, no policemen are that dumb, and the level of coincidence is dangerously high.

It's my blood feast and I'll cry if I want to ...

But it's Blood Feast's ability to be made fun of and its historical value that make it worthwhile. Fans of the slasher genre will delight in seeing the genesis of such slasher tropes as the naked woman bathing (who's gonna die), kids making out in seclusion (who are gonna die), and the variation of the "Final Girl" theory. And while Fuad doesn't cut quite as imposing a figure as Jason or Michael Meyers, he's kind of a creepy guy if you think about it. But thinking is not what you're supposed to do with Blood Feast, and Herschell Gordon Lewis will be the first to tell you so. The man who directed, photographed, and composed the music for this film (Is there anything he can't do? Besides direct?) is up front about his product being subpar, but he is assured of his place in history.

See someone do a better job than me: The Bad Movie Report.

Offensive Films: Toward an Anthropology of Cinema Vomitif by Mikita Brottman is copyright 1997 Greenwood Press. Please don't sue me, the fact that you're a published author and I'm a pissant who runs a friggin' website is revenge enough, right?