• Blood Feast

    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: October 24th, 2016.
    Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
    Cast: Herschell Gordon Lewis, Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Larry Drake, Tony McCabe, William Kerwin, Allison Louise Downe, Lawrence J. Aberwood
    Year: 1963
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    The Movies:

    Last year Arrow Video released The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast, a massive boxed set compiling much of the late Godfather Of Gore’s work. A year later, and we’re now seeing single disc releases that appear to be mirror images of the discs that were included in that set. The first of these is a Lewis’ seminal 1963 film Blood Feast, with Scum Of The Earth included as a bonus feature.

    Blood Feast:

    “Nothing to appalling in the annals of horror!”

    After a great opening credits sequence in which blood spells out the movie title over an image of the Sphinx, we meet Mrs. Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton), a very proper woman who wants to throw a party for her daughter, Suzette (Playboy Playmate Connie Mason). She hires a caterer named Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) after he sells her on the idea of an Egyptian feast. As Fuad goes about preparing the meal, local ladies start disappearing and a pair of cops - Frank (Scott H. Hall) and Detective Pete Thornton (William Kerwin, credited as Thomas Wood) make the scene and try to figure out who has been killing these women and why. Yet all the while, Ramses prepares his feast... and his sacrifice to Ishtar!

    Fairly awful in terms of acting and direction, Blood Feast nevertheless delivers exactly what it promises. Insanely gory even by modern standards, this one knocked the socks off of sixties era theater goers and before you know it, this twenty-five thousand dollar production had cleared a few million in box office returns. Ever the promoter, producer Friedman came up with novelty barf-bags to hand out at theaters and even went so far as to bring nurses to screenings to help out in case people fainted. These wacky exploitation tactics worked wonders and the film made a killing in spite of the fact that it's really pretty terrible.

    As terrible as it is, however, it's hard for any self-respecting horror buff or drive-in fan not to have a good time with this one. Mal Arnold, who Lewis would later use in Goldilocks And The Three Bares and Scum Of The Earth is perfect as Fuad, delivering his lines with complete conviction and delivering one of the most thrilling gimp legged chase scenes through the suburbs of Miami you're ever likely to see. Connie Mason isn't much of an actress but she looks great here and handles her role just fine. Her relationship with Kerwin might not ever go down in the books are a romance for the ages but they make for a likeable enough pair. It's the gore effects though, that combined with Arnold's flat out weird lead role, that keep people coming back to this one. It's silly, splashy, gooey, gory and fun - sure it looks as cheap as it was and it's goofy as goofy can be but it never overstays its seventy minute running time and it's nothing if not entertaining, albeit sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Lewis would follow this up with a sequel, Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat in 2002.

    Scum Of The Earth:

    “From the shadows of their sordid haunts ... they slither like predatory beasts ... to stalk their prey! “

    Up next is Lewis’ first roughie, Scum Of The Earth. The film may not be as twisted and gory as some of Lewis and Friedman’s better known gore films but it sure has a lot working in its favor. The movie follows a pretty girl next door type named Kim (Vickie Miles) who has hopes and dreams of making it to the big time but winds up making a few missteps along the way. Thanks to some bad advice from a shifty gal named Sandy (Sandra Sinclair), when she needs to find a way to pay the bills, she falls in with a bad crowd and before you know it, wholesome Kim has got her fun-bags out for a filthy pornographer, Mr. Lang, bent on profiting from her ample cleavage.

    Eventually, Kim finds herself on the bad end of a black mail scheme and is forced from doing innocent cheesecake shots into taking harder, edgier photo shoots alongside a muscle bound hunk named Ajax (Craig Maudslay Jr.). Once the police get involved it's all downhill for poor Kim, who once showed such promise...

    Not quite as nasty as the first film on this disc (and made two years before it), Scum Of The Earth is still a blast. Full of wonderfully venomous dialogue (some so good that Something Weird co-opted it for their trademark introductory clip) that will have you grinning from ear to ear, it's still a fairly dark picture. The plot is goofy, contrived even, but it's got some welcome atmosphere and some nice camerawork. If that weren't enough, there's the presence of lovely Vickie Miles (or, if you prefer, Allison Louse Downe), who would later appear in Lewis films Suburban Roulette, Blood Feast as well as various nudist films made in the early sixties. She's at her most beautiful here and is the perfect choice to play a woman whose innocence we're all waiting with baited breath to see gleefully corrupted.


    The movies on this disc are presented in the following aspect ratios, each transfer is in AVC encoded 1080p high definition:

    Blood Feast: 1.85.1 widescreen, color
    Scum Of The Earth: 1.85.1 widescreen, black and white

    As to the image quality, print damage definitely shows up now and then. Blood Feast looks a bit better t than Scum, maybe the elements were in better shape, but each film has its share of scratches and damage. That said, it’s all very watchable. If you’re familiar with past presentations you’ll likely be quite pleased with how things shape up here in the video department. Some light noise reduction shows up in some of the films but colors are typically good on Blood Feast, even if they do vary from scene to scene depending on lighting, condition of the elements and other factors. The black and white Scum Of The Earth shows good black levels and decent contrast. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement don’t really factor into things here at all. The boxed set contained a bonus disc that offered up 1.33.1 fullframe versions of the two movies included on this set. That’s not included with this reissue.

    Audio is presented in English language LPCM Mono with optional subtitles presented in English only (selectable from your remote but not off of the main menu). Sound quality is fine, is low-fi in nature. Hiss is evident occasionally, but for the most part the tracks are clear enough and properly balanced.

    Extras start out on the first disc with an audio commentary on Blood Feast with Lewis and producer David F. Friedman. Carried over from the original Something Weird Video DVD release, if you haven’t heard this before it’s a blast. Lewis and Friedman are in fine form here, joking around a fair bit but also telling some great stories about where some of the ideas came from the effects, the cast, how Connie Mason wound up in the picture and of course, how much damn money this film made.

    In the eleven minute Blood Perceptions, filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy (who directed The Pact) and Rodney Ascher (of Room 237) talk about their affinity for Lewis’ output. McCarthy goes first, talking about how horror films escalated quite quickly in terms of their depiction of on screen violence, noting that Blood Feast opened the floodgates. Ascher talks about the film’s reputation as a bad movie, noting that it is actually a great movie, and talks up Lewis’ infamy and how his reputation only made him want to seek out more of his work. They talk up different aspects of the films – the extreme gore, the music, the surrealism inherent in some of his movie – and just generally offer up some informed and intelligent opinions on Lewis’ films, Blood Feast in particular. The best quote? “One of the most amazing things about Herschell Gordon Lewis’ movies is that they exist at all!”

    In the five minute archival piece entitled Herschell’s History the director spends five minutes talking about how he transitioned from working as a teacher to doing radio to then getting into working on live television and then ultimately film. He notes how his experience shooting commercials gave him enough experience that he could then shoot a feature, which his exactly what he did after he met David Friedman. He then shares some stories about shooting Scum Of The Earth, noting that it was a transitional picture for him and the importance of the film’s single one red frame and just as importantly, how he wanted the audience to know that what they were seeing in Blood Feast was absolutely fake (so as not to diminish its entertainment value).

    Up next, How Herschell Found His Niche sees Lewis on camera for seven minutes talking about how he and Friedman worked together on The Prime Time and how Friedman’s showmanship really brought an extra layer to the film’s success. He then talks about selling the movie one theater at a time, working together on The Adventures Of Lucky Pierre, how terrible the film was and just how well it really did for them noting that it broke the house records at its first theater after playing there for nine weeks. He then notes how budget became less of a factor for them, how they really only cared about making seventy minute features to play first at the drive-in’s, and some of the tricks that they used to do just that.

    The first disc includes another archival interview, this time featuring Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman shot together for the first time in over a decade. This was recorded on video tape in 1987 in Los Angeles. In this piece Lewis talks about what exploitation really is, Lewis’ filmmaking techniques, how he and Friedman met, how they never took filmmaking all that seriously and how they had a lot of fun together. They also share some fun stories about working in nudist colonies, how they got around various censorship issues, the circuits that Friedman frequented to get their movies shown and quite a bit more. This piece runs eighteen and a half minutes in length.

    Also on hand is an educational short film from 1959 entitled Carving Magic that features Blood Feast’s Bill Kerwin in a role. It’s a pretty goofy spot wherein some suburbanites gawk over how nicely dressed a housewife’s table is while Kerwin shows up with a turkey that is then carved – as we learn about the various cuts of meat and what they’re all about.

    A massive selection containing fifty minutes of outtakes from Blood Feast is included here, as is a Blood Feast radio spot and theatrical trailer.

    The Final Word:

    If you’ve already got the boxed set release, this single disc reissue doesn’t give you anything you don’t already have. However, if you didn’t pick that setup due to its rather expensive cost or maybe you just don’t need that much H.G. Lewis in your life? This is a fine alternative, presenting two of his best films in nice shape and with a load of extra features.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!