BLOOD FEAST (1963) – The Dungeon Review!
In the past I have referred to Blood Feast as a “guilty pleasure”. Where ever did I pick up that miserable bit of lingo? I don’t feel guilty about loving Blood Feast at all! I’ve seen Blood Feast no less than a dozen times over the years and it never gets old. I’ve never seen Blood Feast look better than it does on Something Weird Video’s Special Edition DVD! It comes with outstanding supplements including rare outtakes, the theatrical trailer, commentary from Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman, an impressive collection of promotional material and lobby cards for Herschell Gordon Lewis films with a heavy emphasis on Blood Feast and an entertaining instructional film called Carving Magic; Swift and Company’s “how to” on carving various meats with home economist Martha Logan! It features a young Harvey Korman (The Carol Burnett Show) and William Kerwin (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, A Taste of Blood)! This DVD and Herschell Gordon Lewis’ tremendously fun and gory feature are an absolute treasure!
Blood Feast’s first victim is killed prior to the credits rolling. Nudity and gore seconds in! The poor gals eye is gouged out and her leg is removed below the knee!
We are taken to the office of the Homicide Bureau Chief of Detectives. They have quite the case on their hands with seven killings in two weeks! The D.A.’s office is getting hot and they have no clues. All the women have been found badly mutilated with various limbs removed.
“Well Frank, this looks like one of those long hard ones.” -Detective Pete Thornton
“Are you Mr. Ramses? I’m Dorothy Fremont. I heard about you from a friend of mine; Annette Dupuis.” Mrs. Fremont is looking for something unique for a birthday party she is throwing for her daughter Suzette.
“Have you ever had an Egyptian feast?” -Fuad Ramses
Fuad Ramses pays his respects to the Goddess Ishtar with a large shrine in the back room of his store. Ramses will pay her the ultimate respect when his Blood Feast awakens the Goddess from her 5000 year slumber!
Marcy and Tony are making out on the beach and it is getting late. Needless to say the recent brutal killings of young women has everyone frightened and Marcy would like to go home. Tony convinces Marcy otherwise; “Hey baby, I’m here. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you. Now prove you love me.” Tony gets his ass knocked out cold and Ramses helps himself to Marcy’s brains. Tony is pretty torn up and can barely hold it together when the police question him. Feeling guilty Tony? You stupid dumbass! It is entirely your fault Marcy’s brains are all over the beach asshole! Marcy’s folks are pretty upset too.
“I made her a white dress and now she’ll never wear it.”
Another victim; this one had her tongue ripped out!
Detective Pete Thornton and girlfriend Suzette Fremont attend a weekly lecture by Professor Flanders on ancient Egyptian history. This particular week they are learning about Ramses and the Cult of Ishtar. The Cult of Ishtar was a blood-thirsty cult who held a yearly festival that took place at the beginning of spring. For six days and nights the people would party lustfully and on the seventh night the young women would be slaughtered; their blood drank and their limbs eaten!
Suzette and Pete share a kiss but are interrupted by the radio announcing that another young woman has been attacked. The woman; Janet Blake lay in critical condition in the hospital. The doctor tells the detectives that it is the most brutal attack he had ever seen. Apparently the woman’s face was hacked away to the bone and both of her eyes were gouged out. They speak to Janet who tells them that he was an old man with crazy eyes and mentions the name “Itar”. Despite just coming from a seminar on “Ishtar” about a blood thirsty cult that removes and eats the limbs of young women Detective Thornton does not make a connection.
Suzette and friends hanging out by the pool. In the commentary Lewis and Friedman called this scene “padding”. Yep. But Oh! What joyful padding it is! The segment ends with the snatching of Suzette’s friend Trudy Sanders.
Pete calls to check in with Suzette and informs her that they have not yet located her friend Trudy. She tells Pete about her mother’s surprise of an Egyptian feast hosted by Fuad Ramses. Ramses? Egyptian feast? The wheels finally begin to turn! Pete calls Professor Flanders to ask if he was familiar with a Fuad Ramses. Flanders tells Pete about Ramses book Ancient Weird Religious Rites.
Fuad Ramses begins preparing the feast.
Meanwhile Frank and Pete pay a visit to Fuad Ramses place of business where a horrific scene awaits them.
“For Pete’s Sake tell them not to eat anything!”
The feast is about to be served but there is one last thing Fuad needs. He must have the guest of honor give herself to Ishtar. “Oh my Ishtar. Take me unto yourself.” She must, of course keep her eyes tightly shut while she says this.
“Lust, Murder, food for an ancient Goddess who received life through the perverted death of others.”
Now look what you’ve gone and done! You made Ishtar cry! She may just be a store mannequin painted gold but she’ll always be a blood-thirsty Goddess in my eyes!
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman were best known for Nudie Cuties when they decided to make Blood Feast. Nudie Cuties were generally light on story with the express purpose of showing a lot of naked or partially naked dames. The Nudie Cuties were travelling a path that Lewis did not want to go down. Always looking to break new ground and go in directions that the big film companies would not, Lewis and Friedman discovered gore. Not surprisingly Blood Feast received terrible reviews when it was released but always the showman, Mr. Lewis knew that even bad press was good press. No one had really seen anything quite like Blood Feast before; its graphic violence and gore was ground-breaking in North America. Color in film was still a relatively new concept in 1963. There was never a need to be concerned about whether blood looked realistic in the past and the standard stage blood was an oddly unnatural color. To make the blood more realistic Lewis added Kaopectate to the mix. Many theatres showed Blood Feast with the gore scenes cut out much to the filmmakers dismay. If it wasn’t for fearless low-budget filmmakers like Herschell Gordon Lewis there may have never been a Friday the 13th, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre or a Nightmare on Elm Street. Blood Feast was my first foray into the wonderful world of Herschell Gordon Lewis and it is still one of my very favourites. There are no surprises in Blood Feast whatsoever. The viewer is aware of the killer from the get go and what his motivation is. We have no attachment at all to any of the victims with the exception of Trudy; who we meet for all of about three minutes while she frolics in the pool. The fun comes in watching it all unfold while the daft detectives attempt to solve the case. I mean really?! How could Detective Thornton not have had a revelation at the ancient Egypt seminar when it was mentioned that young women were sacrificed and their limbs were removed for the feast of Ishtar? Immediately afterwards he speaks to a victim who leaves the “s” out of Ishtar and he makes no connection?! Just the same, William Kerwin who plays Detective Pete Thornton is actually not a bad actor at all and is a likable fella. Kerwin has made appearances in several Lewis flicks and I always enjoy his presence. Mal Arnold who plays Fuad Ramses is really the show-stopper though. His quirky, over-the-top performance is one of a kind and is completely unforgettable. They added grey to Arnold’s hair in an attempt to make him look like an old man which he clearly was not. Just to make sure we knew they intended Fuad Ramses to be an old man it is mentioned verbally several times that Fuad Ramses was in fact an old man! And what was with those crazy eye brows?! Lewis does not have a lot of love for his star Connie Mason and it is clear at times that she did not know her lines. That said, I have seen far worse performances and actually found her quite inoffensive and likable. Now be nice Mr. Lewis! Blood Feast is a film I have watched multiple times and will continue to watch in the years to come. It is an extremely efficient film without a second of downtime. Even the “filler” scene with Suzette and her friends at the pool does not trip the film up for a second. It flies by far too fast for my liking! Blood Feast has ground-breaking gore, a wild and imaginative premise and an outrageous Killer you will never forget! “Nothing so appalling in the Annals of horror.” And Nothing so entertaining! My highest of recommendations; a perfect score!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn Bolton, Scott H. Hall, Christy Foushee, Ashlyn Martin, Astrid Olson, Sandra Sinclair, Gene Courtier, Louise Kamp, Hal Rich, Al Golden