Blood Feast Blu-ray Review (originally published 2017)
A catering store owner named Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) hatches a scheme to appeal to the ancient Egyptian goddess Ishtar by murdering coeds and combining their body parts as a blood offering.
Herschell Gordon Lewis, aka: The Godfather of Gore, who died just over a year ago on September 26th, 2016, is perhaps the most important bad filmmaker in the history of the medium. He was best-known for his groundbreaking gore films, which bent censorship laws and laid the groundwork for hyper-violent movies of all genres. He was also a one-time advertising executive, author, English professor, and studio director who has compared his movies Walt Whitman poems – “They’re no good, but they were the first of their kind.”
Though he had made “nudie cuties” and similar innocent sex comedies for a number of years prior to his foray into horror, the legend of Herschell Gordon Lewis really begins with Blood Feast (1963). Every vital piece of his burgeoning Splatter Movie formula is present – stiff performances from amateur actors (many of whom would show up in future Lewis projects), a bare minimum plot (the original script was reportedly only 14 pages long), eye-rolling jokes, and the best gore effects/production design that $24,500 can buy. Blood Feast is, by all logical accounts, an awful movie that checks every box on the neophyte filmmaker laundry list, yet it’s colorful, funny (sometimes on purpose!), and short enough (only 67 minutes) to be entertaining in spite of itself. The violence was somehow still shocking enough to keep the film banned in several countries until the 1990s. I suppose that Lewis’ clumsy approach lends an uncomfortable air to the footage – as if it could be a real snuff film (minus the mannequin legs and cow tongues). Blood Feast had a spiritual, but unofficial sequel in the form of Jackie Kong’s Blood Diner (1987) and Lewis himself made a belated sequel in 2002 called Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat.
According to their notes, Arrow scanned Blood Feast’s source materials in 2K and the completed film grading and digital restoration in house. Arrow issued the following statement in along with the complete Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast collection:
Although the best existing elements were sourced for this project and every attempt was made to present the films in this collection in the highest quality possible, some of the films still exhibit varying degrees of damage that could not be digitally repaired to our satisfaction....Throughout the restoration workflow process, our priority was to retain the original photochemical look of the films rather than create unwanted digital artifacts by heavy handed picture cleanup. Therefore, many of the films in this collection exhibit "warts and all" appearance, in keeping with their distribution history and physical condition.
Blood Feast is presented in 1.85:1 (the Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast set included a bonus disc with a 1.33:1 version of the film that is not available here) and is more detailed than its DVD counterpart, including tighter element separation (the use of soft focus and zoom techniques mean that patterns are usually somewhat fuzzy), though it’s the more vivid color quality that makes the upgrade really worthwhile. This is important, since the almost Technicolor-esque hues were one of the only things setting Lewis’ earlier movies apart from their grimy grindhouse counterparts. Grain levels vary, but tend to appear natural, rather than noisy/snowy. While flecks and scratches shimmy throughout, there’s very little in the way of actual compression noise or artifacts.
Blood Feast’s original mono soundtracks was transferred from directly from the 35mm prints and is presented in uncompressed 1.0 LPCM. The sound quality is particularly patchy, because so much of the footage was shot without production sound, though Blood Feast is generally more consistent than some of the other movies Arrow remastered for the bigger Lewis collection. Distortion effects are largely corrected, though there are still buzzes and pops sprinkled throughout. I’m reasonably positive that nothing could be done to make the vocal performances less tinny, so we’re just gonna have to live with it. The music, supplied by Lewis himself, tends to have decent depth and bass accompaniment.
Bonus movie: Scum of the Earth – Made the same year as Blood Feast and released several months later, Scum of the Earth (not to be confused with S.F. Brownrigg’s 1974 picture) was an early entry (the first, according to some sources) in the ‘roughie’ subgenre. Roughies obeyed the confines of period censorship by avoiding graphic violence and nudity, but actually tended to be more sinister than the splatter movies, because they derive their shock value from cruelty and blatant misogyny, rather than corny stage effects. While the barbarous torture and murder of women is a common theme throughout many of the director’s film’s, this extremely problematic subject matter can be overlooked when it’s doctored-up in ridiculously graphic violence and flamboyant performances. For what it’s worth, Scum of the Earth is comparatively well-made enough to feel like a real B-movie noir from the era. Lewis, who has expressed some regret for hatching the roughie trend, comes closer to achieving a dreadful tone here than he did during any of his actual horror movies.
Director intros (1:32, 1:11, HD)
Blood Feast commentary with director H.G. Lewis and producer David F. Friedman, moderated by Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney (obviously taken from the SWV DVD)
Blood Perspectives (10, 54, HD) – Filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy (The Pact, 2012) and Rodney Asher (Room 237, 2012) discuss the impact of Blood Feast.
Herschell’s History (5:18, SD) – A 2007 interview with Lewis in which he discusses Scum of the Earth.
How Herschell Found His Niche (7:15, HD) – Lewis on his early Nudie Cuties and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (including some HD footage from the film).
Archive interview with Lewis and Friedman (18:28, SD) – This interview was recorded in 1987.
Carving Magic (20:31, HD) – A 1959 informational short featuring Blood Feast actor Bill Kerwin.
Blood Feast outtakes (45:55, SD) – This reel of raw footage is almost as long as the movie itself and runs through music from the film.
Scum of the Earth Clean Scenes (4:36, SD) – These are alternate, ‘cleaner’ versions of some of the movie’s nude scenes.
Blood Feast trailer, radio spot, and theater announcement
The Adventures of Lucky Pierre trailer
Three Bares trailer
Bell, Bare and Beautiful trailer
The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.