The Blood Trilogy Blu-ray offers solid video and mediocre audio in this fan-pleasing Blu-ray release
The world's first three gore films from legendary exploitation pioneers Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman get the high-definition treatment in this incredible blood-soaked Blu-ray edition.
For more about The Blood Trilogy and the The Blood Trilogy Blu-ray release, see the The Blood Trilogy Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 30, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
The current crop of "Splat Pack" torture porn directors—Eli Roth (Hostel), Neil Marshall (The Descent), Alejandro Aja (Piranha 3-
D), and James Wan (Saw), amongst others—owe their very careers to Herschell Gordon Lewis, the so-called Grandfather of Gore, who
almost single-handedly invented the splatter film in the 1960s with his "Blood Trilogy" of low-budget exploitation shockers. After making a series of
"nudie cuties"—cheap, campy softcore skin flicks that played in grindhouses—Lewis and his producer David Friedman wanted to tap into the drive-in
market, so they decided to make a full-color horror film with an unprecedented level of explicit gore. The result, 1963's Blood Feast, is widely
recognized as the first slasher movie, and its villain an early progenitor of the machete-wielding, mask-wearing killers to come. Feast was
followed quickly by Two Thousand Maniacs!—a kind of South-sploitation freakshow—and Color Me Blood Red, an art-world horror/satire
about a painter who finds the perfect hue in human blood. None of these films could ever be considered good in the traditional sense. The
acting is awful, the camerawork and editing is sloppy, the scripts only serve to get us from one kill to the next; Lewis basically applied a porno aesthetic
and work ethic to the drive-in horror film, spattering it all with crayon-red viscera. Even Lewis readily acknowledges the shoddy craftsmanship: "I've
often referred to Blood Feast as a Walt Whitman poem. It's no good, but it was the first of its type."
And Blood Feast, although it took its cues from earlier Roger Corman movies, really was the first of its kind; from its opening scene, the
combination of gore and nudity is amped up significantly from anything that had come before. The film begins with a woman undressing and hopping
into a bath with a book called "Ancient Weird Religious Rites." (The author clearly needs a lesson in adjective placement.) Suddenly, a maniacal
lunatic comes through the door, sticks a knife in the girl's eye while she screams bloody murder, and then hacks off her leg, filling the tub with
bright red viscera. The killer is Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold), an "exotic" grocer/caterer who worships the Assyrian/Babylonian goddess Ishtar—
erroneously referred to here as Egyptian—and is preparing the ultimate offering in her honor: a blood feast, complete with body parts sourced from
his young female prey. Fuad is essentially the great-granddaddy of Jason, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Meyers, and in his choice of victims you can
see the origins of slasher movie morality, as Ramses tends to kill girls who, if not outright "loose," at least suggest sexual willingness. Besides the
fact that it featured Playboy playmate Connie Mason, the film is perhaps most notable for a disturbing scene where Ramses cuts out a girl's tongue,
leaving her lying on a bed with her mouth gaping and blood-streaked, her dead eyes open and glazed over. Aside from the gore, though, Blood
Feast is an example of filmmaking at nearly its most inept; it's not quite Manos: Hands of Fate bad, but it's close. The film may have
birthed an entire genre, but even its retrospective camp value can't keep it from being a tedious viewing experience. I suggest fast-forwarding
through the interminable police procedural nonsense and going straight to the kills.
Lewis' second attempt at his self-described "super-gore" genre, 1964's Two-Thousand Maniacs, is slightly more entertaining, if only because
its premise is so much more ludicrous. (Yes, even crazier than an Ishtar-worshipping import grocer on a murder binge.) One of the earliest redneck-
sploitation movies—it had an undeniable influence on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre—Maniacs is about a Civil War centennial
celebration in the backwoods Georgian hamlet of Pleasant Valley, a nowheresville lined with Confederate flags and populated by Deep South
caricatures. The film puts a new spin on the concept of southern hospitality when the "chairmen" of the event, slack-jawed rubes Rufus (Gary
Bakeman) and Lester (Ben Moore), lure six Yankees into town with the promise of making them the—wink wink—guests of honor. And by "making
them the guests of honor," of course, Rufus and Lester actually mean "torturing them in increasingly theatrical ways." One poor northerner is torn
limb from limb when his hands and feet are tied to four horses going in opposite directions. Another is rolled down a hill in a barrel lined on the inside
with nails. The "Teetering Rock" contraption, which operates on the same ball-tossing principal of a dunk tank, crushes its victim under an enormous
boulder. Did I mention Two-Thousand Maniacs is also a guitar-and-banjo-based musical, or that it features a supernatural twist ending that
plays like a hairbrained take on a typical Twilight Zone episode? The campy WTF-factor is through the roof here, but once again, this doesn't
keep the film from being epically awful in just about every other respect. I understand why Maniacs remains a cult classic, and I can see
how it influenced later films, but really, "so bad it's good" only takes you so far.
Of the three films included in the "Blood" trilogy, Color Me Blood Red comes the closest to feeling like an actual film—you know, one with a
proper plot, character development, et cetera—even if that's not exactly saying much. It's also comparatively the least bloody of the three, although
it does have two or three good effects if you're looking for gore. Gordon Oas Heim—who, for a bit of trivia, was in Andy Warhol's Bad—plays
Adam Sorg, a down-on-his-luck but self-aggrandizing painter who gets accused by the local art critic of being an "artistic imposter" who can "do
better with his use of color." When his nagging live-in girlfriend accidentally cuts her finger on a nail, Sorg discovers that blood red is the perfect hue
to bring new life to his work. He starts by using his own, but when he gets too twitchy and faint from blood loss, he turns—naturally—to murdering.
In one of the few truly grisly scenes, he actually squeezes blood out of a girl's intestines to the put the finishing touches on a new piece. I suppose
what the movie lacks in splatter it makes up by having lots of top-heavy 1960s women in bikinis. Like the previous two films, the dialogue is totally
cornball—"Holy bananas! It's a girl's leg!"—and Lewis' direction is comically incompetent. The "Blood Trilogy" gets credit for the influence it had on
modern horror, but Lewis himself wouldn't make a film that was truly and consistently enjoyable on its own merits until 1970's The Wizard of
I was genuinely surprised by how great the "Blood" trilogy looks in its transition to high definition. Let's make one thing clear, though; there hasn't been
much—if any—visible restoration work done to the prints, manually or digitally. Flurries of scratches and white specks, side-to-side jittering, hairs stuck
in the gate, brightness flicking, color fluctuations, staining and streaks—all make frequent appearances here. Nonetheless, by the simple merit of being
transferred into 1080p, the films look remarkably improved over DVD releases, let alone old VHS copies. I'm not going to say the films are ever
sharp, but general clarity is enhanced and color looks fantastic, especially the sometimes literally eye-popping blood reds. It appears that there
may be some softening due to light DNR—additional emphasis on light—but grain is still visible and there's no apparent edge
enhancement or compression/encode issues. Minor color correction/balancing looks to be the only real digital work done here, and I think that was a
smart move on the part of Something Weird Video. If we're being honest, the print damage adds to the low-budget griminess. I'm not sure I'd ever want
to see a truly pristine Herschell Gordon Lewis film.
That said, I really wouldn't mind if someone took the time to clean up the soundtracks to these films. Even just a little bit. Because, honestly, they're
pretty bad. Between the frequent muffling and crackles, pops and hisses, and sudden increases and decreases in volume, these uncompressed LPCM 2.0
mono mixes can get grating fast. To some extent it is what it is, but I'm sure something could've been done to even out the levels and remove
some of the crinkles and tape hiss. Dialogue vacillates between sounding too far away and too bright and harsh—with occasional stretches where it's
moderately acceptable—and needless to say, dynamics are flat and shifted toward the tinny end of the spectrum. On the plus side, the music sounds
decent, especially the creepy organ score in Blood Feast—which Lewis composed himself—and the hillbilly banjo plinking and guitar strumming of
Two-Thousand Maniacs. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options whatsoever on the disc.
Audio Commentaries: Lewis and his pal/producer Dave Friedman reminisce about the making of all three films, prodded along by
questions from one of the employees of Something Weird Video.
Outtakes (SD, 1:37:36): Yes, you read that right, there's over an hour and a half of outtakes, from duplicate takes and unused material to
entire deleted scenes. All of the footage is silent, but it's been scored here with music from Lewis' films.
Carving Magic (SD, 20:36): A vintage instructional movie on—no kidding—how to properly carve a Thanksgiving turkey, directed by
Follow that Skirt (SD, 26:58): A short serial-killer film which consists entirely of a series of women getting dressed and undressed—and
sometimes dressed and undressed again—while a voyeur watches them, sneaks into their homes, and then kills them. After the last victim, he raids her
wardrobe and dresses up in drag, only to be caught by the cops. Pure, nearly plotless exploitation/titillation.
Trailers: Includes trailers for Blood Feast (1080p, 2:21), Two Thousand Maniacs (SD, 2:16), Color Me Blood Red
(SD, 1:29), and Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (1080i, 1:47).
Photo Gallery (SD, 6:52): A self-playing gallery of posters, publicity photos, and exploitation art.
Everyone has their own definition of what exactly constitutes "so bad it's good," and with their laughably stilted acting, poor editing, and insane gore
effects, the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis certainly qualify for many. Personally, as much as I like a good splatter film, I just can't get into the "Blood"
trilogy. Yes, the three movies have moments of deliciously kitschy absurdity, but you have to sit through long stretches of tedious cinematic
incompetence to get to them. I just don't have the patience to revisit these when there are so many legitimately amazing films out there that I've yet
to experience for the first time. Still, if H.G. Lewis is an icon of yours, you're going to love this release; the three films look much, much better-than-ever
in high definition, and the special features—which include commentaries on each film by Lewis and Friedman—are a serious deal-sweetener. (I wish the
audio could've been cleaned up a bit, though.) Recommended for horror nerds, gorehounds, and b-movie aficionados who have an appreciation for genre
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Image Entertainment will release Herschell Gordon Lewis' The Blood Trilogy on Blu-ray this fall. A collection of three of the "Godfather of Gore's" most notorious horror films, this set will include Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red. The ...