Finally it was time for Herschell Gordon Lewis to make his debut at Zombie Club. This had been threatening since we reviewed the HGL collection in April of last year, but we just hadn’t gotten round to it. You know how it is.
And it nearly didn't happen tonight either. We turned up fully expecting to bear witness to Rawshark’s Ant Night, but the first movie of the two was a DVD-R which heavily misbehaved on Zomblee’s DVD player. I won’t ruin it for you by telling you what those movies were – you’ll just have to wait until next week – but let’s just say things looked worrying. We were half hour in, the drink was flowing, and the damned film stuttered so much it was near-on unwatchable. Sheesh.
Then Rawshark said, “I’ve got Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat in my bag”, at which point Zomblee pointed out that he still had the original Blood Feast DVD courtesy of Tartan Films.
So let’s get started, I’m hungry.
This evening's Zombie Club is bought to you by all of us in association with the Thank God Zomblee’s Now Got A New DVD Player Appreciation Society.
Blood Feast (1963)
Plot An Egyptian caterer kills various women in suburban Miami to use their body parts to bring to life a dormant Egyptian goddess, while an inept police detective try to track him down.
Jim This has always been one of those movies that passed me by, and by that I mean I’d read a lot about it and everything, just never got round to watching it. That was probably because of its age – 1963 it was made – which always put me right off it. Of course, with the benefit of hindsight I’m glad I never saw it, as watching it for the first time at Zombie Club was a real treat.
The plot as such centres around a creepy Egyptian caterer (“Snakes are Egyptian.” - Zomblee) in 60s Miami with huge eyebrows called Ramses. He is essentially killing people in order to serve them up at a special cannibal buffet which, if done correctly using the rituals in his book called ‘Ancient Weird Religious Rites’ (“There’s never a book called that!” - Zomblee), will resurrect his sacred goddess Ishtar. The buffet in question is for typical American teenager Suzette’s 18th birthday and has been organised by her mother because she knows how Suzette has recently got in to Egyptian culture by attending those lectures downtown with her much older Police boyfriend Pete.
And that’s about enough plot this film needs, because it’s not for plot that you’re watching it. I knew this film was going to be cheap, but I wasn’t prepared for acting as atrocious as the guy’s who played Ramses. “Yeah I was thinking Bela Lugosi too.” - Rawshark. Neither was I ready for actors obviously reading their lines off wherever they’d been taped; the hand bag, the cash register, a newspaper, the typewriter, you name it. “I think he was reading his lines off the ceiling in that scene. - Zomblee. Brilliant, and it gets cheaper. “That's the entire police station, just that little corner, with those two cops.” - Zomblee. He’s right too, and the hospital’s not much better either.
Then there’s the gore to consider. All right it’s not really stomach churning compared to the dizzying heights the Italians took the genre, but some scenes are really rather fun, especially considering it’s 1963. The tongue scene was well received (“It’s the tongue scene!” - Rawshark), as was the big pants scene (we all agreed that big pants were cool), the ridiculous Egyptian flashback ( “See, snakes are Egyptian.” - Zomblee) and then numerous random killings along the way up to the final Police chase across nowhere with no soundtrack because they’d ran out of money. That ends with a rewarding garbage truck accident, which rounds this drive-in classic up nicely. Bring on the next course.
"Leg Cut Off!"
Zomblee Yep, sorry about the DVD player fiasco tonight guys, but I’ve only just been told that the Phase IV DVD-R didn’t work on Rawshark’s player either so I don’t feel as guilty now. That said, I do need a new DVD player – an issue my girlfriend kindly addressed for my recent birthday – phew. So, Blood Feast. Herschell Gordon Lewis. The Godfather of Gore. The Blood Trilogy. This is the first instalment and it was very, VERY gory for 1963, so let's get stuck in.
This is one of those little films that every horror fan should see at least once. HGL is quite important in the horror world, though unfortunately most of his films are plain crud. That said, this is my second time with Blood Feast so I knew what was coming, no mistake. From the opening moments, the ever attentive Rawshark noticed that “There’s no attempt whatsoever to conceal the identity of the killer” while Jim’s keen eye detected “The biggest pair of pants I’ve ever seen in a movie”, and he’s right – victim numero uno’s vast pantage resembles a small, tight-fitting dress. A real tummy cover-upper - forget about Bridget fucking Jones.
This killer – Fouad Ramses – master of ancient Egyptian cuisine and associated human butchery – is one odd looking Bela Lugosi wannabe. His eyebrows are the stuff of legend, and as Rawshark noticed “He looks like someone from Stingray!” – a pretty spot-on observation there, Rawshark. Eyebrows (and general oddness) aside, he’s actually really good for a laugh, and also enjoys doing the "creepy hand-rub", and (as Jim has already mentioned) reading his lines off walls, ceilings - you name it. Look out for that 'far-away' look in his eyes when he's mid conversation - no, he's not trying to look all mystical, he really is reading his lines. And it's not only him - everyone in Blood Feast is at it, giving each other their lines on various props and whatnot. Great stuff.
The music in Blood Feastis shit. Boom boom, boom boom, boom boom. Etcetera. Then an organ. Then boom fucking boom. It's low-grade rubbish, but there's enough to watch (only just) to keep this turkey from being unbearable, groundbreaking gore and "tongue scenes" aside.
You've never seen a police station quite like the one in Blood Feast - a corner of a room with two chairs, a table and a big phone which only seems to make outgoing calls. And you know what that means? Yep, no one gets to say "Hello, Sheriff's office?"
What a bummer.
"They take all the young girls and they cook them to satisfy their goddess."
Rawshark The year is 1963 and Herschell Gordon Lewis releases his gore extravaganza on an unwitting US drive-in audience, causing moral uproar, social panic, and, I would imagine, the ruining of at least one or two first dates. Zip forward 43 years (43 years!!) and its finally time to bring the Godfather of Gore to the Zombie club dinner table.
Okay, so Blood Feast may not have aged that well, and the acting is worse than the Accrington Amateur Dramatics Society (no offence to the AADS), but there’s no doubting that Lewis’ historical blood-n’guts epic is still quite a lot of fun to watch in the company of like-minded film-freaks. There’s no nudity unfortunately, the opening scene of the girl in the bath caused Jim to highlight the fact that the ”bubbles carefully conceal breasts”, but the lack of flesh is more than made up for by the multitude of big pants, big bras and skimpy bikinis on display.
With a runtime of only 67 minutes, Blood Feast rarely drags, and despite the gore being what Zomblee called ”Blind Dead-style” (ie using cutaways and lots of blood), it has to be said that it still looks quite shocking even today as the camera lingers on post-murder victims. ”As far as blood-stained corpses go, it’s not a bad effort” said Jim after 30 seconds of staring at the latest sacrifice, and he’s not wrong. The tongue bit (waay too big for a human tongue) and the beach machete murder were pretty good too.
In summary, a historical ‘b’-movie with outlandish gore, strange book titles, cheap music (”You can tell the killer’s going away – the boom boom booms are getting quieter” - Jim), a purely perfunctory script, hammy acting and a trashy ending. It’s good, but it’s not as good as Two Thousand Maniacs.
”Well Frank. This looks like one of those long, hard ones.”
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Cast William Kerwin
Scott H. Hall
Runtime 67 mins
Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!
Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat (2002)
Plot A cannibal caterer kills various young women in preperation for a ritual feast for a long-dormant Egyptian goddess that has him under its control.
Rawshark This time the year is 2002, and Herschell Gordon Lewis returns to the director’s chair for the first time in 30 years (following The Gore Gore Girls in 1972), to finally film the long-awaited ‘official’ sequel to his much-loved / despised Blood Feast and this time round there’s a bigger budget, better special effects and much more allowance for ample nudity.
Actually, Blood Feast 2 is a surprisingly enjoyable film, with a much better line in humour than most of HGL’s previous efforts. In essence it’s the same story – caterer agrees to cook an Egyptian feast for a mother’s cute young daughter – but this time we have the added element of two value-for-money detectives on the trail of our entrails chef. The always-puking Detective Myers (Mark McLachlan) has clearly been taking (over) acting lessons from Tom Cruise’s early films and Detective Loomis (John McConnell) is perfect as his food-obsessed fat-cop foil (he eats something different in every scene).
Our new Ramses, the godson of the original, now called Ramses III, is much better value for money too, at first innocent, but soon corrupted when he stumbles upon a red glowy eye statue of Ishtar and falls under the god’s spell (”A bit of red light, and he’s anyones” - Zomblee). Add into the mix lots of lovely ladies, including Teasy Trixy, Lacey Undies and one who is half Cherokee, half Flemish (”What, Cherish?” - Jim) and lingerie shower montages (”Now that’s what I call a montage” - Zomblee), and you could say we were as happy as American teens at an all-night drive-in.
Some great running gags (check out the body of the dead husband), musical echoes of Orbital’s ”Satan! Satan! Satan!”, moments of gross-out comedy (wanking in the crème brulee being a particular high low-light) and a cameo from John Waters all add up to a McFeast of a movie, that whilst won’t fill you up, will certainly plug the gap for an hour or two.
“My dear Misty, you misunderstand me.”
Zomblee "Ohhh...moving cameras!" shouts an excited Rawshark, noticing before myself and Jim the invention of the wheel in Herschell Gordon Lewis' technical repertoir. At the beginning of Blood Feast 2, we are not only treated to "moving cameras" but characters who turn up missing, at which point Rawshark quite rightly enquires as to how anyone can "turn up missing". But this time HGL is one step ahead, because seconds later one of the cops says, "Hey detective, how can someone turn up missing?" Welcome back Herschell.
It seems Lewis spent a lot of years developing / updating his sense of humour - an element that although present in his earlier work, didn't hit the spot quite as much, at least not in 2006 anyway. This belated sequel is so much fun that although it's clearly cheep, its knowing and, dare I say it, postmodern jokes are totally appropriate to the subject matter - see for example the comedy duo of Detectives Loomis and Myers - a nod to THAT film we all know and love from 1978. And, as an added bonus, there's a plethora of female nudity invloved - most notably breastage - a feature that's slowly but surely becoming a pre-requisite of ZC line ups. "Hey can I show you my new bra?" asks a sexy chick to her mate at the beginning of what transpires to be a lingerie scene (changing in and out of) that we all really enjoyed. Oh, and there's at least one "pointless shower scene" (Rawshark) as well, though according to Jim, "Shower scenes are never pointless!"
Not only is the soundtrack a vast improvement from the first Blood Feast (apart from those "Satan! Satan!" shouts - what the hell are those all about?), but the police station has had a vast overhaul from the production design team. "The police station has an extra wall!" shouts Rawshark, at which point we realise that it actually has four walls, and another little room at the side. And phones that take incoming calls. And actors who look like they're not reading their lines off props.
Blood Feast 2 will shock, disgust and amuse you in equal measures - a credit to its aging director. Besides, any movie with a character called Lucy Undies in it gets my vote.
"Ms. Undies? It's the police! Open the door!"
Jim Talking of the aging director, there was some chatter tonight of in what order you'd shoot a picture like this, so as not to put to much strain on that old frailing ticker. The lingerie montage was the case in point, as Zomblee commented, "Are you sure that wasn't the last scene? That'd finish me off if I were his age!" Me too.
And considering his age, it's surprising how on the money Blood Feast 2 actually is. More than 40 years on it picks up the plot nicely, supposedly with descendants of the original characters. But it's more than just that, the relationships between the characters are also very similar, notably the lead cop character is again dating a (much younger) high school girl whose mother (the bitch) has hired Ramses to do the finger buffet (he he) at the girl's birthday party. Same old story then, with Ramses running a very similar looking diner. "The red drapes are still there." - Zomblee.
But as my learned colleagues have pointed out, Blood Feast 2 is played a lot for laughs, more intentional ones than in the original certainly. The irritating stab sound track of "Satan! Satan! Satan!" went down well, especially with Rawshark, as did the enlarged cop shop and the cop who talks like a young Tom Cruise. I too liked him, particularly how he felt the need to barf loudly at every dismembered body crime scene, but my favourite part of the movie was the reoccuring dead body of the guy that was ignored by everyone when he was alive. Dead he didn't do much better as people still step over him as if he wasn't there, despite him cropping up in half a dozen completely unrelated scenes. Brilliant, and quite crazy when you've had a bit to drink. In fact I'm pretty sure we had to wind that baby back a couple of times just to make sure we weren't imagining it.
Anyway, all good things must come to an end and so does Blood Feast 2, in one of the most hilarious, car crash, "let's wrap this up quick and go home" finales I've ever scene. In a 3 minute or so scene half the cast get wasted and, before you know it, you're taking the wine glasses down to the kitchen and tipping out the ash trays, while still musing over that reoccuring dead body. Would you really rather have it any other way? No, I didn't think so.
"Well without an autopsy i'd say the cause of
death was this corkscrew stuck in her ear"
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Cast John McConnell
Runtime 99 mins
Click on the icons above to purchase this title and support Eat My Brains!
Which ends another Zombie Club. Sure, it didn't start out as smoothly as these evenings usually do, but it ended well with us all chuckling our way through another blood bath, and a Herschell Gordon Lewis one at that. It won't be the last time we visit this fella either, Gore Gore Girls and Two Thousand Maniacs are both screaming for a Zombie Club outing and one of these days they're sure going to get one, don't you worry about that.
Incidentally, Rawshark's Ant Night copy of Phase IV doesn't work on his DVD player either (as Zomblee mentioned), and it's going to take him a couple of weeks to track down his brother's old video copy, so next weeks Zombie Club is going to be something a little different. Here's a hint, it's going to be called Don't Go to Zombie Club Night.
Now if you'll excuse me a I step over this reoccuring dead body on my way out the door, I'll bid you all good night.