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Blood Feast (1963)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Thomas Wood, Connie Mason, Mal Arnold
Not rated, 67 minutes

BLOOD FEAST might not be the first film to feature graphic onscreen gore, but it was the first to use blood and guts as its primary selling point. Filmed in harshly lit 16mm and saturated in a garish early 60's south Florida color palette, the film tells the tale of mad Egyptian caterer Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold) who is hacking up ladies in order to assemble a gruesome feast for an obscure goddess named Ishtar. While Fuad slices and dices, Detective Pete Anderson (William Kerwin, billed as Thomas Wood) spends his days romancing June 1963 Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, in between visits to gory crime scenes.

Is there anything objectively "good" about BLOOD FEAST? Not in the normal sense of the word. The acting is uniformly terrible, with cue card reading Connie Mason being the worst offender. Even at his best, Herschell Gordon Lewis could be considered a barely competent filmmaker, and while he manages to successfully capture images on film, he does so in the most uninspired style possible. His single take, one-camera-in-a-room approach (with a few closeups here and there) do little to mask the fast and cheap nature of the production. Despite it's technical incompetence (or perhaps because of it) BLOOD FEAST has a fuzzy and surreal charm. The minimalist horn and kettle drum score, the poorly executed attempts at humor, and most importantly the things-we-found-in-a-butcher-shop-dumpster gore effects all help make the film the seem like an accidental art film. It belongs to a rare breed of cinema that is so awful it transcends any measure of quality and becomes something else altogether, a la MANOS: THE HANDS OF FATE or CATHY'S CURSE.

Despite its charms, the film is deathly dull at times, with some of the talkier scenes making the film seem much longer than it actually is. Quite an accomplishment for a film that barely breaks an hour running time. HG Lewis would hit his stride and deliver his most purely entertaining film, the Hillbilly ghost/gore epic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS!, the following year.