Released by: Lionsgate
Released on: September 27th, 2016.
Director: Jackie Kong
Cast: Rick Burks, Carl Crew, Roger Dauer, LaNette La France, Lisa Elaina
Year: 1987 Purchase From Amazon
Directed by Jackie Kong, the same Jackie Kong who gave us Night Patrol and The Being, 1987’s Blood Diner opens with a scene where two boys – Michael Tutman (Roxanne Osco as Roxanne Cybelle) and his brother George (Sir Lamont Rodeheaver) – are hanging out in their living room playing when their Uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis) crashes through the door, bloody meat cleaver in hand. He gives them an amulet and babbles at them about Sheetar before running out of the house and getting taken down by the cops that were chasing him.
Jump ahead some years and Michael (Rick Burks) and George (Carl Crew) are all grown up and running a diner in the heart of Los Angeles. But before we get to that, they dig up Anwar’s grave and swipe his brain which they somehow manage to keep alive in a giant glass jar. Why? So that he can help them arrange an ancient feast that will bring about the resurrection of their goddess! Given that they run a diner, they’ve more or less got everything they need – a fridge, all sorts of cooking gear and a pretty big kitchen. All they need now are some victims, but they’ve actually been working at that for a while now, serving up human flesh to an unsuspecting clientele. As the bodies start piling up and the guys get closer and closer to bringing about a new era of Sheetar worship, two tough L.A. cops named Mark Shepard (Roger Dauer) and Sheba Jackson (LaNette La France) hit the streets to put a stop to all of this… before it’s too late!
“First they greet you, then they eat you!”
Once you realize that the film was originally conceived as a sequel to Herschel Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast, the similarities it has with that earlier picture make sense – but this time around, things are pretty much played entirely for laughs. Oh sure, Blood Diner is gory but it’s never scary, it never tries to be. But it is a whole lot of goofy, icky fun. Director Jackie Kong is savvy enough to give her audience what she knows they want – plenty of bloody effects set pieces and kill scenes, ample nudity and lots of toilet humor. Hell, she even throws in some vomit, some great optical effects work, a floating brain/pair of eyeballs and a pretty awesome tooth-chested boobtastic Sheetar too! It doesn’t matter if the story is insanely derivative when it’s as much fun as Blood Diner is. Really, this one has everything but the kitchen sink – gratuitous topless aerobics, Nazi wrestlers, a giant puppet, a new wave band, massive hair, gaudy outfits, a deep fried head, a chief of police who punches his subordinates, and of course, a beautiful if dimwitted virgin if the form of a woman named Connie Stanton (Lisa Elaina).
The pacing is all over the place, but you won’t be bored. The film jettisons between gory gross out humor and wacky sketch comedy style set pieces with completely reckless abandon. None of the background characters ever really seem to notice what the Tutman’s are up to, or if they do, they don’t care. It’s a wonder the cops ever get around to dealing with any of this the way people react here. But the movie has charm, and loads of it. Yeah, fine, maybe nostalgia is clouding the view a little bit but it trashy, brainless entertainment is your forte, Blood Diner will serve up exactly what you need, so long as you don’t need to take everything in life too seriously. The actors all seem like they’re in on the joke, with Burks and Crew bopping about the film like they’ve just walked out of a vintage SNL skit and Godderis as Anwar’s disembodied brain somehow able to yell at anyone and everyone that crosses his path. It’s all completely absurd, and almost blissful in its wonderful stupidity.
Blood Diner arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.85.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer and it looks pretty great. There are a few spots where the colors have faded maybe just a bit but for the most part this is a really strong transfer. There are no compression artifacts here at all, nor is there any evidence of edge enhancement. Detail can vary a bit from scene to scene as different colored lighting options are employed for mood and effect, but overall it’s quite pleasing, texture too. There’s good depth to the image and pretty solid black levels too. Skin tones look fine and there aren’t any issues with obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement to complain about here. The movie was previously released by Lionsgate as part of a low cost multipack with a few other films. That transfer was fullframe and tape sourced – not surprisingly, this HD version blows it out of the water.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD Mono track. Again, things shape up pretty nicely here. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand even with some of the characters speaking in over the top accents. The film’s awesome score has good bounce to it but never overpowers the dialogue and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH only.
An audio commentary track with director Jackie Kong starts off the substantial selection of extra features included with this release. She says from the start that she’s going to try to provide some interesting technical information on the movie as well as some fun trivia and anecdotes. It’s a fairly scene specific talk, as she walks us through the film noting the text scrawl that opens the movie, how she made this for Vestron’s low budget division, Lightning Pictures, after the success of Night Patrol. She talks about how the art department created a ‘sense of timelessness’ for the film, who was responsible for this, how her daughter was cast as young Michael in the film, the use of doo-wop music in the picture and where a lot of it came from, and shooting the entire film on location throughout various areas of Hollywood. Of course, she also covers why there’s a nude aerobics scene in the movie, some of the effects featured in the picture, when and where dolly shots were used and why, reception to the film when it was first released, why there are so many sound effects used in the picture, working with the different cast members in the film, the infamous Jimmy Hitler scene and loads more. Kong has a really sharp memory and a lot of stories to share here, but so too does she really get into the technique and the reasons why the movie looks and sounds like it does. This is a pretty great track, well worth your time if you want to know more about the making of the picture.
From there, we move on to the featurettes. These can be watched individually or as one long featurettes running almost sixty-five minutes in length called Killer Cuisine: The Making Of Blood Diner. Open For Business, the first segment, interviews Michael Sonye (better known to some fans as Dukey Flyswatter), the man who wrote the film. He speaks quite candidly about how he was asked to by Jimmy Maslon (who owns the rights to a lot of the Lewis movies), the film’s producer, to write a follow up to Blood Feast, without wanting to play it too straight. Obviously Blood Diner took on a life of its own and here they explain how and why that happened, what their writing process was like and how Sonye wound up living in Maslon’s attic! Creative Consultant Bill Osco also pops up here to tell some amusing stories about working on the picture – and hey, if you ever wanted to know the role that anal lube played in the making of Blood Diner, this’ll answer your question! The second section, Queen Kong, is an interview with director Jackie Kong who was Maslon’s girlfriend’s little sister. Here she is interviewed about how and why she came onboard to direct the picture, how for the longest time people didn’t realize she was a female because the industry was so male-dominated, how she worked as co-producer on the picture as well as the director, finishing Blood Diner on a really small budget, the importance of laying everything out on paper before shooting, casting the film using actors with ‘zero experience’ by using the ‘Fellini school of casting,’ working with various members of punk rock bands on the film, elements of the original script that she changed during the production and loads more. This covers some of the same ground as the commentary but it also covers a lot of new ground, making it quite worthwhile and very interesting. The Brother Tutman segment gets actor Carl Crew in front of the camera to talk about playing Georgie in the movie. He talks about growing up in San Francisco, moving to Hollywood and how he got into the film business when someone wanted to rent his car. From there he came to the attention of a casting director, got an audition for Blood Diner and the rest of history! He also notes that he used to be a mortician, how he ran into a serial killer in his younger days, his thoughts on meeting Kong and the producers, and why he was asked to ‘be retarded.’ He looks back on it as ‘very fun’ and talks about how he actually did get hurt during the filming of the wrestling scene, how actress Tanya Papanicolas (who played Sheetar) always smelled like teriyaki, and what it was like working with the other cast members involved in the film. Drew Godderis, Uncle Anwar himself, shows up next and talks about his character, what it took to play such a role, his inspiration for the accent that Anwar uses in the movie, breaking down the balsa wood door in the opening scene and having to get it right the first time because of the budget, and how he basically shot all of his material in a day or two. From there we talk to Roger Dauer about playing Mark Shepard, changes that were made to the character during the shoot, why he dresses the way he does in the film, landing the part in the first place and his thoughts on the film. In Scoring For Sheetar composer Don Preston talks about how the movie itself was ‘quite unusual’ and how he tried to score to suit the characters and the strangeness of the film. He wrote the music in a couple of weeks and talks about how he approached the music with a classical approach, his thoughts on working with Kong, and how he wound up involved in this film in the first place. You Are What They Eat, the fifth part of the featurette, interviews director of photography Jurg V. Walther who talks about hoping to get a multi-picture deal with Vestron, working with the director, how he shot The Boogeyman before working on this film, how he got into cinematography, how for Blood Diner ‘normal wasn’t good enough’ and how he learned his trade in the first place. There are loads of clips and archival stills used throughout the movie and really, this is just an insanely comprehensive piece that a whole lot of ground. It’s really well put together, nicely shot and edited, and a genuine treat for fans of the film.
Lionsgate also includes an archival interview with crew member & Hollywood Book & Poster Owner Eric Caiden who worked as a project consultant on the film. In this eight minute interview he talks about working on the film when it was in pre-production, how he got involved in the project because of his love of H.G. Lewis movies, developing Blood Diner as a sequel, working with Dukey and his thoughts on the picture overall. The interview was shot in 2009, Caiden sadly passed away in 2015.
Rounding out the extras on the disc are two versions of the film’s original theatrical trailer, a few TV spots and a decent sized still gallery. Animated menus and chapter selection are also provided. The Blu-ray keepcase fits inside a slick foil-embossed cardboard slipcover.
The Final Word:
Blood Diner is the kind of goofy, gory horror comedy that could only have come out of the eighties but it was, is and forever shall be a whole lot of big dumb fun. Lionsgate, through their Vestron Video resurrection project, have treated this film like royalty. Not only does it look and sound better than most would have ever expected, but they’ve really rolled out the red carpet for the film in terms of the supplemental package that has been put together for this release. If you’re a fan of the film, consider this one essential.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!