Archive for April 1963

Blood Feast

April 2, 1963

When asked in a 1982 interview if he’d ever been offended by a film, John Carpenter opined, “Yes, I have. There was a movie called Blood Feast…”

This notorious item, the work of cult favorite and “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis, was the first real American splatter film (of course, foreign movies ranging from 1960’s Jigoku to the Hammer films all the way back to Un Chien Andalou had been distributing plasma for years). As such, it enjoys an avid following that has nothing much to do with its quality — or lack thereof; in fact, its fans treasure its very dearth of professionalism.

The story is supposedly about an insane old Egyptian caterer (Mal Arnold) who sacrifices buxom women to Ishtar, but the movie is really about how much grossness Lewis can get away with. In the first scene, the maniac severs a woman’s leg in a bubbly bathtub, and the camera stares at the stump. One actress, Astrid Olsen, was hired because she had a mouth big enough to accommodate the stage blood, cranberry sauce, and sheep’s tongue Lewis stuffed into it (to simulate her tongue being ripped out). The climax is hilarious, from the attempted sacrifice on a kitchen counter to the limping maniac leading the police (these are the slowest cops in film history) on a merry chase and ending up crushed in the back of a garbage truck. Observes a detective, “He died a fitting death, like the garbage he was.”

The script is credited to Allison Louise Downe, who seems like a person sorely in need of rediscovery by exploitation fans. She appeared in various nudies under the auspices of Lewis and his producer David F. Friedman, and was either a writer or assistant director on many Lewis films. She even did make-up and special effects on a few of them. She also posed for Playboy photographer Bunny Yeager (who also found a muse in Bettie Page in Florida). Google Downe’s name (or her nudie pseudonym Vicki Miles) and you find very little. Who was this woman who had no problem showing her body and writing scripts in which women’s bodies were torn apart? That’s a biopic I’d like to see, or a memoir I’d like to read. Getting back to the topic at hand: The movie’s stars, Thomas Wood (as a detective) and Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, are legendarily terrible. Lewis detested Mason, but she was in his next movie, Two Thousand Maniacs.