Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Blood Trilogy!

"The Blood Trilogy" by producer David F. Friedman and director Herschell G. Lewis is an fascinating relic of the horror film's bygone days. Horror films had been of a particular kind from their beginning, largely psychological terrors limited in their ability to showcase gore by the strict limits of studios and censors. The development of the drive-in trade and the impact of Hammer Films with its color remakes of classic Universal features began to break that longtime hegemony down and more brusque and vivid portrayals of horror became possible. By modern standards these three films are still somewhat quaint, the special effects so artificial that confusion with real events is impossible really, but they were in color and that was sufficient for the time. 

Blood Feast is the first of these from 1963, and my favorite. It concerns a mad adherent of an ancient Egyptian cult who kills women and ritually consumes parts of them in service to his gods. He is humble caterer by day and a vicious killer by day-for-night. Now this movie ain't in anyway scary, the events too weird and the production too low-budget with mediocre and bad acting salted all through it to convince, but it does offer a fascinating picture of a man gone well and truly mad. 

Two Thousand Maniacs is the second installment from the same team a year later in 1964 after the amazing success of the Blood Feast. This low-budget effort made use of a town now disappeared into the bowels of Disney's Florida fortress of fun -- Disney World. The town folk there were happy to have a movie being made in their midst and supply the bulk of the not really "two thousand maniacs" from the title. These maniacs are ghosts from the Civil War who in Brigadoon fashion appear every one hundred years to take some measure of vengeance on the "Yankees" they waylay. They concoct weird carnival like deathtraps for their pleasure. It's the strong performance of a Lewis regular named Jeffrey Allen who makes this movie memorable for me as he's a rare professional actor among a multitude of lesser types. It's the favorite of most folks, but I find the tortures a bit too overbaked for my money. 

And finally the third instalment of this "Blood Trilogy" from 1965 is a weird number titled Color Me Blood Red which has a plot very similar to Roger Corman's Bucket of Blood. A mad painter grows increasingly difficult and vicious due to his inability to create art that satisfies him. He kills him girlfriend and her blood becomes the medium through which he is able to create masterpieces for which there is a market. His problem then is to get more of the life-giving substance to make more art and to that end he kidnaps a buxom young lady and that leads to more trouble for everyone. It's a relatively tight plot but the acting is tiresome and its a race to the end for the characters and the viewer as to which will lose interest first. 

Herschell G. Lewis went on to make more movies in this category dubbed "gore" though he parted ways with his longtime partner Friedman. His later efforts such as The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls are much less interesting than this initial trilogy which does have some sense of pushing fresh boundaries, if nothing else. Gore for gore's sake is utterly boring to my eye, but creating images an audience hasn't seen before is a worthy goal for a filmmaker. 

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