Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis (1963)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Jun 1 2006
Herschell Gordon Lewis often doesn't get enough credit for his revolution in cinema violence; a little picture named Blood Feast that cost $24,500 and became the world's first "splatter/gore" flick. Featuring dismembered body parts, beautiful bright red blood, and an infamous sheep's tongue, it can be argued that Blood Feast has influenced and impacted cinema far broader than just the "horror genre". Any graphic representation of screen violence, whether it be in an action film or a drama film, owes a debt to Lewis's exploitation classic. Even though Gordon changed the way the movies look at violence, and how audiences look at violence on screen, Herschell Gordon Lewis also gets way more credit than he deserves when it comes to his directing ability. Let's face it folks, Blood Feast makes Ed Wood look like Orson Welles. Lewis is one of the worst directors I have ever had the displeasure of seeing, but like with Wood, that doesn't necessarily mean a "bad" movie, right?
Blood Feast is about a dude named Fuad (Foo-ahd) Ramses who runs an "exotic" catering company. He's been running around town, chopping up various young women, gathering parts for a ceremony to bring back the Egyptian goddess Ishtar (by the way, don't go into this film looking for a history lesson). When a woman comes into his shop and asks him to cater a party she's having for her daughter, Fuad seizes on his chance for a "Blood Feast", and sets in motion plans to use the daughter as the final sacrifice that will bring back Ishtar.
Blood Feast is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. The acting is laughably bad, especially from Playboy Playmate Connie Mason. The editing (funny note, Gary Sinise's dad edited Blood Feast) is choppy and at times incoherent. The characters do the stupidest things possible, such as a cop who can't seem to piece together that Fuad is the killer even though it's basically told to his face. But the most egregious thing in the film is Lewis's "directing". Terrible framing and non-existant blocking abound throughout the film. Often times actors will be talking with their backs to the camera, and since the sound quality sucks, it's difficult to understand what they are saying. Not that it matters, because a newborn baby probably has more interesting things to say than anyone in the film. Probably one of the funniest things that repeatedly happens is that when Lewis tries to swivel the camera on the tripod, it seems to get "stuck" and instead of a smooth pan or zoom, you get jerky "start/stop" motions. Lewis certainly wasn't gifted in the directorial department, but when you have a great idea, in this case, using "gore" to sell your movie, then much of that technical ineptitude goes by the wayside.
The "gore" in Blood Feast is still quite impressive, even though it has lost all of its "shock" value. We never get to see any cutting or pulling out of organs, rather just what happens afterwards, with Fuad holding and squeezing various animal organs that are meant to be a woman's heart, tongue, brains, etc. But if you put your mindset into what it must have been like to see something like this in 1963, then the violence really does stand up. Nowadays, a severed limb is par for the course in a horror film, but even though the film hasn't aged well in most respects, at least the violence still has a certain charm to it that helps it stand the test of time.
Blood Feast is more of a curiosity than anything else. Anybody watching this expecting to be blown away because of its reputation will probably be disappointed, but it is still something that should be required viewing for all horror fans. A terrible movie with a revolutionary idea. Nothing more, nothing less.