Blood Feast (1963)
Herschell Gordon Lewis is one of those icons of splatter films I'd yet to be truly exposed to.
Yes, I reviewed one of his tamer forays into exploitation, "She Devils on Wheels," but it was hardly in the category of "Blood Feast," one of his signature sloppy, slippery gore flicks.
It is his first foray into horror after half a dozen or so comedies, and it shows. You see a lot of guts on screen, but the actual acts of violence are blatantly obscured, ending with the villain pulling out entrails and showing the audience.
The baddie is a serial killer who is mutilating young women. His name is Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold), a caterer who is obsessed with ancient Egyptian rituals (with a name like that, how could he not be?). He's a mousy guy with a limp, but he rocks some silver eyebrows and a nylon pate that would make Burt Reynolds envious.
The cops are hot on his trail, if by hot you mean hanging around the station wondering who the guy is and why they can't find clues on how to catch him. They're appropriately dumb movie cops, perpetually angry, and we rarely see them doing actual police work.
In the meantime, a Mrs. Freling comes to Ramses' shop and asks about an "unusual" spread for a party for her daughter. Ramses' eyes light up as he suggests an "Egyptian Feast," which Mrs. Freling doesn't know involves cannibalism and human sacrifice.
There is a trio of best line candidates in the morass of flaccid dialog. One comes when the police learn what an "Egyptian Feast" is, leading to one of the cops to blurt out "Call the Fremonts, fast! And for Pete's sake, don't let them eat anything!"
When Mrs. Fremont learns the same news and that her caterer is a serial killer, and that her meal is likely mostly human flesh, she dryly notes "Oh dear! The guests will have to eat hamburgers for dinner tonight."
Finally, Pete, to a colleague upon his realization that this case won't be easy to crack: "Well Frank, it looks like one of those long hard ones! " None of these lines are delivered with any sort of irony whatsoever, which makes them all the funnier.
Unfortunately, these kinds of classic schlock lines are in short supply in this film, filled instead with clumsy, talky exposition that swiftly furthers the story without being all that interesting.
Lewis' visual palette, however, is pretty interesting, splashing vivid reds against a backdrop of olive greens and grays, giving the film a dated look where the nasty bits really pop off the screen.
There's also a fun, schlocky final chase that seems to move in slow motion, ends at the back of a garbage truck that seems to move in slow motion as Ramses hop-drags away from the lead-footed cops, who were presumably still working in 1994 when OJ Simpson had his famous chase. It appropriately enough ends at the back of a garbage truck.
While it's not the most entertaining or creative slice-and-dice picture out there, Lewis is a prolific gore hound who is still working today (His "Grim Fairy Tale" is set to open in 2009). Seeing Lewis cut his teeth and sharpen his surgical implements, makes "Blood Feast" a must-see for fans of the exploitation genre.
Rating: 4 Yaps out of 5