‘Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!’
Blood Feast is a 1963 American horror feature film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Filming took place over just four days with a budget of $24,000 in Miami, Florida. Director Lewis wanted something realistic for the scene where a woman gets her tongue ripped out, in order to accommodate this a sheep’s tongue was imported from Tampa Bay and used in the scene.
Blood Feast is generally considered the first ‘splatter’ movie and is notable for its groundbreaking depictions of on-screen gore. It was unofficially remade in 1978 as Mardi Gras Massacre (with a character named Dr Lewis, in homage to Herschell).
A belated sequel, Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat, followed in 2002.
In 2016, an official remake was released. Herschell Gordon Lewis made a cameo appearance.
Fuad Ramses was described by author Christopher Wayne Curry in his book A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis as “the original machete-wielding madman” and the forerunner to similar characters in Friday the 13th and Halloween. Lewis said of the film, “I’ve often referred to Blood Feast as a Walt Whitman poem. It’s no good, but it was the first of its type.”
After the third film, producer David F. Friedman said, “I think that for now we’re going to abandon making any more ‘super blood and gore’ movies, since so many of our contemporaries are launching similar productions, causing a risk that the market will quickly reach a saturation point.”
In a suburban Miami house, a young woman arrives home and turns on her portable radio which broadcasts news of the latest of several recent murders. The woman turns off the radio and begins to take a bath. Suddenly a grey-haired, wild-eyed man appears in the bathroom and brutally stabs the woman in her left eye, killing her. The maniac hacks off her left leg with a machete and leaves with it.
Next day at the police station, detective Pete Thornton reviews the latest murder, noting that a homicidal maniac has killed four women without leaving any clues. The police chief orders Thornton to continue to pursue the case.
At Fuad Ramses Catering store, wealthy socialite Dorothy Freemont arrives, where she arranges for Fuad to cater a party for her daughter Suzette. Fuad agrees and tells Mrs Freemont that what he’s preparing hasn’t been prepared for over 5,000 years. Mrs Freemont wants the catering done in two weeks, and Fuad assures her that he will have enough time to procure the last of his needed ingredients.
After Mrs Freemont leaves, Fuad ventures to the back storage room where he has displayed a large gold statue of the “mother of veiled darkness,” the goddess Ishtar. Fuad is preparing a “blood feast” – a huge vat containing dead women’s body parts – that will ensure the goddess’s resurrection…
Buy A Taste of Blood: Amazon.co.uk
“Impossible to take seriously on any level, Blood Feast compels the viewer simply by topping itself in the gore department […] Legs are hacked off, skulls pulled open, tongues yanked out, and so on. Meanwhile, the laughs build up faster than any slasher spoof (“Leg Cut Off!” yells one newspaper headline), while Arnold delivers a hand-wringing villainous performance that actually makes Tod Slaughter look subtle”. Mondo Digital
“To argue that the film is good, in the sense of aesthetically achieved or polished, would detract from its attraction as a work of vibrant ineptitude, which by-passes aesthetic criteria in favor of visceral impact and raw shock. In this case the sult audience is in on the director’s joke rather than he and the film being the butt of the audience’s humor…” I.Q. Hunter, A Companion to the Horror Film
“Fuelling the film’s impact is the cheap, visceral low-budget filmmaking. With its garish colors and bloody close-ups, it feels like it is throwing itself at you. Like other films such as Last House on the Left and The Crazies, the rawness adds to the horror […] Blood Feast has a number of obviously tongue-in-cheek moments, a cast of untalented and easily-made-fun-of actors, and even a detective-hero whom we assume will catch the killer. ” David Elroy Goldweber, Claws & Saucers
“… Lewis’ listless direction shows all of the style and finesse of an early stag film (another genre with which he was fondly familiar). Blood Feast tastefully implies nothing, and instead plasters the screen in one lurid image after another, using as few camera set-ups and shots as possible for the minimal amount of coverage provided.” I Like Horror Movies
“As Lewis had intended, Blood Feast was a mindless, virtually plotless, but high-spirited orgy of gore for gore’s sake, which, upon its initial release to drive-ins in the South, managed to shock both the popcorn eaters and the neckers alike into wide-eyed, open-mouther attention.” John McCarty, Splatter Movies
In October 2017, Blood Feast was released in the UK and USA as a Blu-ray + DVD combo by Arrow Video with the following special features:
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD presentations
- English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Scum of the Earth – Herschell 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
Cast and characters:
- William Kerwin as Detective Pete Thornton
- Mal Arnold as Fuad Ramses
- Connie Mason as Suzette Fremont
- Scott H. Hall as Frank, Police Captain
- Lyn Bolton as Mrs. Dorothy Fremont
- Toni Calvert as Trudy Sanders
- Ashlyn Martin as Marcy, girl on beach
- Sandra Sinclair as Pat Tracey
- Astrid Olson as Motel victim
The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast: 17-Disc Limited Edition Box Set – Arrow Video Blu-ray + DVD (US and UK)
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