Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, and Connie Mason
A film like BLOOD FEAST should be considered within the time it was made. While not brilliantly executed it’s still an important window into what the US (or at the very least, its film) was like in the early 1960’s. Considered the first splatter film, BLOOD FEAST is a surprisingly gory tale woven together with groundbreaking makeup effects and amateur acting. The effects are in no way as slick as the ones we see today, but the way Lewis lingers on them will make the most hardened horror fan squeamish. You’ve probably heard of the tongue gag in the film, and yes it’s as stomach turning as you might expect.
Dorothy Freemont is a socialite looking to throw a party that people will remember. She decides to hire Fuad Ramses to cater the soiree after he pitches her the idea of an “Egyptian” feast. What she expects is an authentic “ethnic” experience the invitees will talk about for years but what she gets is something far more sinister.
After being hired for the gig, Ramses sets about to gather the ingredients, body parts, from young women. All the women are about to engage in some form of sexual activity, taking a bath, or undressing in some capacity. This might be one of the first horror films to overtly slut shame the female protagonists. There is a loosely thrown together plot involving Egyptian mysticism that borders on if not crosses over into racist territory. Therefore, yes this film is misogynistic and racist by today’s standards.
Made on the heels of the Cuban Missile Crisis and in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, BLOOD FEAST was a reaction to those uncertain times. The “Red Menace” was beating us in the space race and Sputnik loomed over our heads. I in no way believe Lewis was speaking about those things in an allegorical or symbolic way, but I do believe the culture of fear crept into every frame of this gory little experiment.
The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, are always important when considering “classic” cinema. These are the terms, which older films can be fully, understood and assessed. Years from now a film like GET OUT might not have the same impact if race relations in the US have dramatically improved. But it will still give generations to come, a window into what the world was like in 2017. The Trump presidency, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the NFL protests all inform Jordan Peel’s directorial debut.
BLOOD FEAST is one of if not the most aptly titled films I’ve seen. This film will and should offend viewers on multiple levels. It’s innovative but poorly executed at the same time. Campy and disgusting. A film that has influenced generations of filmmakers, BLOOD FEAST is a must-see for any genre fan who wants a better understanding of where it all started. Its rough around the edges, the center, the left.... but certainly worth your consideration.
-High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
-English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
-Scum of the Earth - Herschelll Gordon Lewis' 1963 feature
-Blood Perspectives - Filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher on Blood Feast
-Herschell's History - Archival interview in which director Herschell Gordon Lewis discusses his entry into the film industry
-How Herschell Found his Niche - A new interview with Lewis discussing his early work
-Archival interview with Lewis and David F. Friedman
-Carving Magic - Vintage short film from 1959 featuring Blood Feast Actor Bill Kerwin
-Alternate 'clean' scenes from Scum of the Earth
-Promo gallery featuring trailers and more
-Feature length commentary featuring Lewis and David F. Friedman moderated by Mike Grady
-Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil
Just in time for Halloween, BLOOD FEAST will be available from Arrow Video on October 24th. You can pre-order your copy here.