Blu-ray Review: Blood Feast

As Halloween approaches, it’s good to revive the classics to truly get into the spirit of the season. Hammer had frightened audience by showing a little blood in cinematic color. Herschell Gordon Lewis coated the screen in a gushing artery with a few organs tossed in to gross out mild audiences when Blood Feast arrived in 1963. Like LeBron James, Herschell took his talents to Miami to claim his title as Godfather of Gore. Over the last 50 years, his legendary exploitation film has kept up its cult as part of midnight movies and the horror shelf at VHS. Thanks to a restorative transfer from Arrow Video, Blood Feast is bloodier than ever and perfect for a scary evening in October.

There’s been a lot of gruesome murders in Miami that are confusing the police detectives. The murderer isn’t stealing their money. He just seems to want various organs from these unfortunate women. The police don’t have much to go on. Luckily the viewers aren’t kept in the dark to the identity of the killer or his motives. He’s Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold), the owner of a local Egyptian grocery store that also caters authentic meals. He’s providing organ sacrifices to the goddess Isis statue that’s in the back of his store next to the pizza oven. Fuad gets extra lucky since a rich socialite wants to give her daughter an amazing birthday party with an ancient Egypt theme. Fuad is looking for a way to celebrate Isis with a traditional blood feast. Is he going to get paid to create his ultimate sacrifice rite?

Herschell made a film that understood how to bring in a crowd hungry that wanted to be grossed out at the drive-in. He has a fantastic title that doesn’t merely tease the audience. He gives them a blood feast on the screen. The film is barely an hour long so even with the rather clunky acting, it’s not a burden to make it to the end. This is a film that knows why you bought a ticket. You want to see some blood on the screen and not any real soul searching. By flipping between the cops and the killers, the audience isn’t preoccupied by a Whodunit plot. The people in the seats are concerned about how bloody and nasty will things get on the screen. The infamous tongue cutting out scene goes way beyond Hammer’s The Mummy. Blood Feast maintains all its exploitation charms after half a century.

The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The 1080p resolution is stunning. I’ve seen the film in various incarnations and nothing comes close to the detail of this transfer. The grocery store products are identifiable. The blood is so red that it pops out of victims. None of the tricks get exposed. The audio is LPCM 1.0 mono. The levels are fine for a quicky production. The movie is subtitled.

DVD has all features of Blu-ray.

Scum of the Earth (73 minutes) is a black and white film made by Herschell Gordon Lewis a few weeks after he wrapped on Blood Feast while still in Miami. The movie gives the dirty truth about the dirty picture industry. A photographer lures an innocent girl from being a swimsuit model to dropping her top. There’s an option to let Herschell introduce the film.

Blood Perspectives (10:55) brings together filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher to discuss the impact Blood Feast had on them.

Herschell’s History (5:19) is an archival interview with director Herschell Gordon Lewis about how he got into filmmaking.

How Herschell Found his Niche (7:15) lets Lewis discuss filming at nudist camps.

Archival interview with Lewis and David F. Friedman (18:28) has the duo talk about their working relationship during the time as indie filmmakers and the exploitation theater world.

Carving Magic (20:32) is a intage short film from 1959 featuring Blood Feast Actor Bill Kerwin and Carol Burnett Show‘s Harvey Korman.

Outtakes (45:55) proves not every frame shot on location was used in the finished film. There’s some more adult moments. There’s also bad effects shots.

Alternate ‘clean’ scenes from Scum of the Earth (4:36) puts the ladies in bikini tops.

Promo gallery featuring trailers and more to get the audiences pumped up for this gore filled indie release.

Audio commentary featuring Lewis and David F. Friedman lets the two relate the joy of making a low budget gross out film in Miami in the early ’60s.

Arrow Video presents Blood Feast. Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis. Screenplay by: Allison Louise Downe. Starring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn Bolton & Scott H. Hall. Running Time: 67 minutes. Rated: Not Rated. Released: October 24, 2017.

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