Blood Freak (1972)
Ed Wood would have been mighty proud of this absolutely insane little film. H. G. Lewis, its other obvious inspiration(?), might have been just a touch disappointed. Fans of cult cinema should look out for this DVD - it's an absolute gem. It seems to be the first disc that comes ready for hours of "Mystery Science Theater 3000"-style mocking.
Heck, the main feature on its own is enough to fulfill the jesting youth of today. To quote the box, it's "the world's first turkey-monster-pro-jesus-anti-drug-gore-film." Incidentally, it's also the last, a situation that I would prefer to see continued. As enjoyable as Blood Freak is, I think there's only room in the world for one of its kind.
Musclebound Herschell (Steve Hawkes) is a God-fearin' biker in Florida. He bumps into good girl Angel on the highway, and she takes him home, where he meets mixed-up pothead sister Ann (what kind of parent names one kid Angel and the other Ann?). The hunky dude is caught between Jesus and the lure of drugs, but Ann in a tight bikini brings him to the side of the latter. A few tokes and he's a twitchy, desperately addicted spaz (which is, of course, what marijuana DOES to people...*suppressed chortle*).
If that wasn't enough foreign substance for him, his poultry farm employers feed him chemical-laced turkey meat. As we all know, such a combination will invariably turn a person into a turkey-headed monster (who makes gobbling noises) with a thirst for the blood of junkies. Of course, that's what happens. Mayhem ensues.
Let's just get one thing straight - there's nothing in this film resembling a good movie. Nothing. Even Plan 9 from Outer Space was a better constructed film (pacing-wise, it was actually quite reasonable). However, Blood Freak is anything but boring, and that's what makes it so cool.
Central to the film's success is one ploy copied straight out of the Wood Playbook: the bizarre narrator. Instead of Criswell, though, we get co-director Brad Grinter, smoking a cigarette while defining "catalyst," smoking while ruminating on the nature of the Universe, smoking while discussing faith and temptation. When he's speaking out against entering foreign substances into the body, he chokes while inhaling and launches into a coughing fit which he seems more than a little embarrassed about.
Hawkes, a refugee from a pair of foreign Tarzan flicks, brings a lot to his role. Like Mickey Hargitay's body, the hairdo of the X-Men's Wolverine, and the accent of Peter Stormare. This is not Great Acting. This is piss-poor acting, only made to look superior by the fact that most of the rest of the cast is twenty times WORSE. Hawkes (who currently runs a private animal preserve) would later call this a "low point" in his career. I'd hate to think it was the highlight.
For those who see the word "Blood" in the title, and are wondering if this "turkey" (ha!) is in the same gang of gore-sploitation from the early 70s as The Wizard of Gore - it is. Sort of. The red stuff does flow freely, and there is a severed limb in here. But, we're not even given the decency of good corn syrup. The rapidly escaping plasma appears to be Cherry Kool-Aid™. The butchered body part? Plastic. Oh, and all the good stuff happens within a 20 minute period. You have to deal with a lot of "hip" dialogue in between (like that wacky catchphrase "You dumb bastard," which is having a resurgence as we speak).
On top of 80 minutes of Mike/Tom/Croooow-ready fun, Something Weird Video has been kind enough to provide lots of background featurettes. We get Hawkes in a godawful 28 minute short The Walls Have Eyes , which threatened to overtake Orgy of the Dead for most pointless and suicide-inducing scenes of gratuitous nudity.
After that, there's five Short Subjects. "Brad Grinter - Nudist" features the director enjoying the benefits of a naked lifestyle - and the audience gets a full view. Ergh. "Narcotics, Pit of Despair" shows the fall of a high school athlete as he goes straight from beer to pot to heroin. No doubt this and Reefer Madness were the main sources of drug research for Blood Freak. "Beggar at the Gates" is actually quite an interesting look at the ways religions have adapted with the times, circa the 1970s (including the Neo-American Church, which is all about the LSD). "Turkeys in the Wild" is the world's single most boring study of the mating habits of turkeys. Skip it. "A Day of Thanksgiving" is good old-fashioned American propaganda with lots of thankfulness and whatnot. Pure kitsch from a bygone era.
Blood Freak is a film for the kind of folks who use "Psychotronic" in everyday conversation. It's an altogether different kind of bad film, one that must be seen to be be comprehended. It is conceivable that it was made as a parody or as a satire, but it really doesn't show. It's just so-bad-its-good - in the most bizarre way imaginable. Gobble, gobble.
According to Hawkes, the producers ran out of money, and the actor was forced to finish the project on his own.