• Gruesome Twosome, The / Taste Of Blood, A



    Released by: Arrow Video
    Released on: February 6th, 2018.
    Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
    Cast:
    Elizabeth Davis, Chris Martell, Gretchen Welles, Dianne Raymond, Rodney Bedell, Bill Rogers, Elizabeth Wilkinson, Gail Janis, Otto Schlessinger
    Year: 1967
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    The Movies:

    Arrow presents two more H.G. Lewis classics that were previously issued as part of their FEAST boxed set (reviewed here) as a standalone product.

    The Gruesome Twosome:

    “Think you've seen blood and gore? Think you've seen wild, way-out humor? YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET!”

    Shot in 1967, this gore picture revolves around a little old lady named Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis). She runs a wig shop and that wig shop’s claim to fame is that it uses only the finest in real human hair to create the products sold within its walls. They even advertise this outside – ‘100% human hair’ – it’s right there on the sign. Poor Mrs. Pringle also tends to the needs of her son, Rodney (Chris Martell), a hulking simpleton with a monobrow and shaggy hair.

    Also painted on a sign outside the store is another placard that reads ‘Rooms For Rent.’ Pringle makes some easy money on the side by renting out the rooms above the shop to nubile college girls – but on top of that, she also uses them as stock! See, after these girls get comfortable, she has Rodney drag them off to the back room and scalp them. Now you see why the whole ‘100% human hair’ thing is so important to the premise, right? He might scalp them with a big ol’ regular knife or he might use an electrical carving knife but either way, Rodney will scalp them for his mom and then play with their guts, cut off their heads and muck up their eyes. He’s a bit of a dick, that Rodney. He doesn’t mean to be, he simply doesn’t know any better, but still.

    This is all going fine for them until Kathy (Gretchen Welles), a bit of a wannabe detective, tries to find out what happened to her missing friend, Dawn (Dianne Raymond), whether her boyfriend Dave (Rodney Bedell) likes it or not. Well, it turns out that this friend was one of Pringle’s tenants, so it didn’t end well for her, but Kathy wants to uncover what’s really going on. Eventually, however, Kathy meets Rodney…

    Opened by a completely mind-melting scene where two Styrofoam heads (wig shop props) with faces drawn on them talk about the story before being stabbed, this one is played more for laughs than anything else but it’s still kind of great. There’s gore galore, all done in Lewis’ trademark cheapjack style, and some nice ladies to look at in various states of dress and undress peppered throughout the movie.

    Elizabeth Davis (who Lewis used a year later in How To Make A Doll) is fantastic in the lead. Never once is she scary but you never get the impression she’s supposed to be. Her dialogue has a lot of tongue in cheek goofiness to it and she delivers with just as she should, with the right balance of menace and macabre humor. Chris Martell (who had a brief but interesting career, popping up in Scream Baby Scream and Flesh Feast and credited as the assistant director on Sometimes Aunt Martha Does Dreadful Things!) lumbers about with all the goofy charm you could hope for. His character is dimwitted and obviously under the influence of his evil mother. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing but he clearly enjoys doing it. He’s a lot of fun to watch here. Throw in pretty Gretchen Welles as the heroine and yeah, this works.

    This is briskly paced, shot about as well as anything else Lewis worked on in the era, and it features another pretty neat score. Not the best of Lewis’ gore films but plenty entertaining and gleefully stupid in all the right ways.

    A Taste Of Blood:

    “A ghastly tale drenched with gouts of blood spurting from the writhing victims of a madman's lust!”

    Made the same year as The Gruesome Twosome, A Taste Of Blood introduces us to Miami’s John Stone (Bill Rogers). Like most of the characters in Lewis’ films, he starts off as an everyday, average guy. He’s a successful business man and he’s doing alright for himself, but when one day he receives a strange inheritance in the form of two obviously very old bottles of brandy, well, his life changes quite quickly. Intrigued by this strange arrival, John can’t help but want to sample the strange mystery booze, even if his lovely wife, Helene (Elizabeth Wilkinson), urges him not to.

    What John didn’t know, but will soon find out, is that the bottles actually contained the blood of one of his distant relatives – none other than Count Dracula himself! Shortly after drinking the ‘brandy’ John starts to change. His face becomes pale and corpse-like, he’s not too keen on daylight and he’s developing an unquenchable thirst for blood! He also manages to put poor Helene under his spell.

    If that weren’t weird enough, John starts to feel as if he should avenge the death of Dracula by hunting down and taking out the modern-day ancestors of those who put the original vampire to death. So John sets off to England to do just that, making his way through a few victims, but once he bites the neck of a peeler named Vivian (Gail Janis), he soon learns that none other than Dr. Howard Helsing (Otto Schlessinger) is picking up his trail.

    One of Lewis’ lesser horror pictures, A Taste Of Blood is relatively tame compared to the gorier efforts he was churning out around the same time. There’s some gore here, to be clear, but it’s not nearly as extreme or over the top as it is in the other films, mostly just some neck bitings, stakings and blood drooling. The movie is also remarkably long for a Lewis film and really would have been a better film had a more judicious editor been employed – this thing is only a couple of minutes shy of the two-hour mark. Regardless, if it’s less than perfect it’s still got enough to interest fans of the man’s work. We get a nifty burlesque scene, a few pretty ladies and some weird music. The opening credits are cool (one of Lewis’ most distinctive traits as a filmmaker in a lot of ways!) and there’s some neat colored lighting used throughout.

    Miami does a pretty shoddy job of doubling for England but Lewis doesn’t let that stop him. The scenes on the dock where the coffin is moved around are kind of neat for some reason. Bill Rogers is pretty cool to watch in the lead. Once he turns into the vampire, his face is perpetually covered in corpse-like makeup and a lot of times it looks like it’s rotting off of his face. He’s shot in close-up a lot, some of the camera angles used here are legitimately eerie. Still, this is low budget Lewis, nothing more than that – it’s not likely to give anyone nightmares.

    Lewis himself pops up in front of the camera playing a goofy British seaman. Apparently, the film brought Lewis to the attention of Roger Corman, who offered him a job that Lewis politely declined. Given the uptick in production values we see on display in this one, that’s really not all that surprising. This is well made in a lot of ways, it’s just a bit too long and, well, the story is basically Dracula so we kind of know how it’s going to end before it even really gets going.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Both films are presented on a 50GB disc in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. They’re framed as follows:

    The Gruesome Twosome: 1.33.1 fulllframe, color
    A Taste Of Blood: 1.85.1 widescreen, color

    As to the picture quality, print damage definitely shows up now and then and each film has its share of scratches and damage. That said, both transfers are 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 here and there but it’s minor. Colors are typically good but do vary from scene to scene depending on lighting, condition of the elements and other factors. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement don’t really factor into things here at all.

    Audio for both films 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, if low-fi in nature. Hiss is evident occasionally, sometimes more evident than others, but for the most part the tracks are clear enough and properly balanced.

    Extras? Sure! Lewis, sans Friedman as he wasn’t involved in these two pictures, gives up a commentary for each film on the set. Mike Vraney joins in on both tracks and the two cover all the bases you’d expect given past Lewis tracks. On The Gruesome Twosome they talk about how Lewis got the funding for the film, what he tried to do different with this one compared to earlier efforts, locations, how the filmmaking scene had changed for Lewis since he started shooting features earlier in the decade and, probably most importantly, how and why the movie was made to be intentionally comedic. On A Taste Of Blood we hear Lewis talk about how he was experimenting with different styles and genres in an attempt to keep trying to come up with fresh, new material to exploit. They also talk about the cast, which is quite interesting as this particular film has a lot of one shots popping up in it. Of course, there’s also some discussion about the influence of Dracula on the film, the locations and the final product.

    Moving on to the featurettes, in Peaches Christ Flips her Wig! the San Francisco performer gives us her thoughts on The Gruesome Twosome for ten minutes. She does the piece in full drag, talking up her experiences growing up in Maryland where there was a video store that would rent kids anything they wanted to see. This led to discovering Lewis’ films, and a ‘safe way’ to exorcise certain fantasies in regards to how to deal with bullies and survive in life!

    In It Came From Florida is an eleven minute long interview with filmmaker Fred Olen Ray who talks about growing up in Florida and the filmmaking scene that existed there, including Lewis’ Color Me Blood Red. He notes that there wasn’t much of a scene there in the sixties and how exciting it was that Lewis shot there. He also talks about a tax shelter that was put in place that certain filmmakers took advantage of and shares some amusing stories about occasionally meeting someone who had been involved in one of these low budget local productions.

    Herschell vs. The Censors is an eight-minute piece wherein Lewis discusses some of the censorship issues he had to deal with over his career. He talks about the difficulties of a pre-MPAA world where censorship was all done at a local level. This meant that restrictions differed depending on territory. He talks about taking advantage of the gradually relaxing worlds, dealing with church groups that didn’t like his films, and how the bad publicity always worked to his advantage.

    Last but not least, we get trailers for The Gruesome Twosome and A Taste Of Blood and some radio spots for The Gruesome Twosome (double featured with Something Weird). Menus and chapter selection are also included as is some reversible cover art featuring original poster art on one side and newly-commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil on the reverse.

    The Final Word:

    If you don’t have the boxed set release already, Arrow’s single disc reissue of Lewis’ The Gruesome Twosome and A Taste Of Blood is a lot of fun. The transfers aren’t the be all end all of Blu-ray perfection but they’re nice upgrades over what we’ve had in the past and there are plenty of extras here to sink your teeth into as well.

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





























    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Toyboy's Avatar
      Toyboy -
      Torn here - I love, love, love A TASTE OF BLOOD but have never warmed up to THE GRUESOME TWOSOME. What to do...
    1. Ian Miller's Avatar
      Ian Miller -
      The color fade in GT is pretty severe, and some of the SD inserts look pretty funky to me (soft, slow) so hang on to the DVD, but the scan of the actual film materials is great and worthy of a purchase. TASTE looks great, but I have yet to devote the time to a rewatch.
    1. Keeth's Avatar
      Keeth -
      I just purchased GT/ATOB and will pick up BF/SOTE soon. Not a huge fan of these films but I've got an itch to see them again. I can remember looking at photos of HGL movies in Fango while in the grocery store when I was a kid...
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