10 October 2017

ARROW VIDEO PRESENTS: BLOOD FEAST (1963) and SCUM OF THE EARTH (1963). REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




BLOOD FEAST and SCUM OF THE EARTH! AN HORRIFIC DOUBLE BILL OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS HORROR MOVIE REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS.

BLOOD FEAST. (1963) DIRECTED BY HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS. STARRING MAL ARNOLD, WILLIAM KERWIN, CONNIE MASON, LYN BOLTON, TONI CALVERT AND SANDRA SINCLAIR.

SCUM OF THE EARTH! (1963) DIRECTED BY HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS. STARRING WILLIAM KERWIN, MAL ARNOLD, LAWRENCE J. ABERWOOD, SANDRA SINCLAIR, CRAIG MAUDSLAY JR. AND ALLISON LOUISE DOWNE.

The critics more or less panned BLOOD FEAST as being poorly written, amateurishly acted and badly photographed, but they were forced to admit that it was the first movie of its kind, the first movie to be so filled with blood and gore that it spawned the genre known as 'splatter.' They're not wrong there. There's more blood in this film than was spilled in the entire flippin' Crimean War.

I loved the film, personally, getting maximum enjoyment out of the things that the critics had slated, like the clunky dialogue, the hammy acting and the brazenly garish colours. It was influenced by PSYCHO and contained all the blood that the director, Herschell Gordon Lewis, felt was lacking from Alfred Hitchcock's finest film.

BLOOD FEAST was one of the earliest films, if not the first, to be classified as a video nasty in the UK. You'll agree with this classification when you watch the film. It shows womens' bodies being hacked up and their body parts being brutally yanked out and used for a stomach-turning, nefarious purpose.

Put simply, it's the story of a machete-wielding madman, Fuad Ramses, who owns a catering business in Miami. He is approached by a wealthy socialite called Mrs. Dorothy Fremont who wants him to cater a party for her daughter Suzette in two weeks.

Mrs. Fremont wants something unusual, though, something out of the ordinary, something her rich posh girlfriends won't have thought of doing themselves before, something everyone in their elite circle will be impressed by. Can Fuad Ramses, he of the outrageous horror make-up and bushy eyebrows, help at all...?

You bet Fuad Ramses can help. He'll supply a magnificent Egyptian feast, he promises, a feast that hasn't been served on this earth for five thousand years. Jolly good, says Mrs. Fremont delightedly, jolly good show, before skipping merrily back to her fabulous home without once asking Fuad Ramses for an estimate of the price. Tsk, rich people...

Fuad Ramses immediately sets about killing and mutilating the young women whose body parts he needs for his highly suspect and cannibalistic Egyptian 'feast.' His motivation for holding such a bizarre feast is to resurrect the Egyptian goddess Ishtar. What he's planning to do with her after she's been resurrected is apparently none of our business, haha.

In order to make this grotesque dinner party a reality, one poor woman has her tongue horribly ripped out by the madman. There's so much blood in this scene...! No wonder it's called a 'splatter' movie. There's blood 'splattering' all over the damn scene. 

Another woman is hacked to death while she's naked and helpless in her bath. That's quite a scene. It's like the notorious shower death scene in PSYCHO, only taken a little further. I'd put money on Alfred Hitchcock's having gone to the cinema to see this movie with his missus Alma and feeling more than a little chuffed with all the obvious homages.

The funniest scene in the whole film is when Fuad Ramses attempts to sacrifice the dopey clothes-horse Suzette on her mother's kitchen counter on the day of the party. Suzette, a truly stunning and curvaceous all-American blonde, is lovely to look at but there's not much going on upstairs, if you get me. Thick as a plank doesn't quite cover it. The lights are on all right but nobody's home kinda thing.

And isn't it a right coincidence that her beefcake cop lover Pete Thornton is studying Egyptian Culture in college right alongside Suzette, at the very time that Suzette is being targeted by a  savagely knife-happy serial killer who just so happens to specialise in Egyptian Culture himself? It's a happy coincidence, all right...

I won't hear a word said against this marvellous old movie. Hammy as it is, there's a superb attention to detail in the bloody special effects that look like they've been painstakingly hand-painted on, one carefully loving inch at a time. 

There's a shot of a dead woman's naked body covered in blood where the rivulets of blood (red paint, whatever!) run down her corpse both artistically and accurately. Someone went to a lot of trouble to present that shot just right and I will literally not hear a word against them.

SCUM OF THE EARTH, a black-and-white exploitation film by the same director, is even better in its own way. It's utterly shocking for its day as well, with nudity, rape and shocking violence towards women within its frames in addition to the girlie pornography at its core.

It was filmed in the same Miami locations as BLOOD FEAST, straight after filming for BLOOD FEAST ended, so if you think the settings look familiar, that's why. Herschell Gordon Lewis, often known as the 'Godfather of Gore' (yes yes, Lucio Fulci was called that too!) and as the founder of the 'splatter' sub-genre of horror films, deliberately shot the film in black-and-white to give it a dirty, gritty look. It works really well...!

It's the story of a sleazy low-rent pornography ring run by a total scumbag woman-hater called Lang. Mal Arnold, the killer from BLOOD FEAST, rather hilariously plays Lang's thuggish teenage henchman Larry here. I don't know what age Mal Arnold is in 1963, but I'm pretty sure he ain't no bleedin' teenager.

I'm strangely attracted to sexy older man Harmon the photographer, who's played by Pete the Cop from BLOOD FEAST. He's jaded and bored with his job, even though he gets to photograph naked women in various gravity-defying poses all day long.

Still, I've heard that when you work in a cake shop or a chocolate shop, you eventually get tired even of cake and chocolate. Well, whaddya know. I guess you can get too much of a good thing. Harmon's certainly seen it all, probably done it all too and bought the stained and grubby T-shirt to boot.

Sandra is his regular nudie model. He's seen more of Sandra- great name, by the way- than her gynaecologist ever could. Sandra wants to get out of this sleazy horrible business but it's a bit like trying to get out of the Mafia. Once you're in 'the Family,' you're there for life.

There's a ray of light for Sandra, however. She might be able to quit taking her kit off for nudie prints if she recruits some new blood for the porno ring. The girl she comes up with is a pretty, shy college student called Kim, who thinks she's going to be pictured on the beach with a smile and a beachball and with her cutesie-pie bikini firmly in place.

Harmon and Sandra cleverly apply pressure to the gullible Kim, who's saving up for her college tuition and desperately needs all the fifty buck notes they ply her with to take her kit off. Once they've gotten a few nudie pics out of her, she's blackmailed into doing even heavier nude stuff with other nude female models and also with Ajax, the in-house male 'model' and general thug-in-residence. He's more than willing to do anything that's required of him...

The violence Ajax is depicted perpetrating on defenceless women, on-screen and off-screen, is sickening to watch. It certainly highlights the terrible lack of protection for women in the sex industry, women who are controlled by men who use physical and sexual violence and emotional blackmail as part of their arsenal of weapons.

The clear bad guys here are Lang, Larry and Ajax, but Harmon isn't exactly as pure as the driven snow himself. He may not hit the girls but he puts pressure on them to strip for the camera and he lies his head off to them about what the various modelling' jobs entail.

Cute and sexy as he undoubtedly is, he's as guilty as the other guys morally, anyway. 'Scum of the earth' is the term the film-makers apply to them. Warranted or unwarranted? Almost certainly warranted, but of course the viewers can make up their own minds.

BLOOD FEAST is out now in a special Dual Format Edition from ARROW VIDEO in conjunction with FETCH PUBLICITY. In an act of almost unprecedented generosity, SCUM OF THE EARTH! is actually a Special Feature on the disc and it's every bit as good as the featured movie, if not even better, as I've already mentioned.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the 'Godfather of Gore' (shaddup about Lucio Fulci, will ya?) passed away in 2016 at the fantastic age of ninety years old. BLOOD FEAST and SCUM OF THE EARTH are two of his best films and ARROW VIDEO are selling 'em two-for-the-price-of-one. Do not miss this chance. It's the offer of a lifetime.

 AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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