Color Judge Ike Oden candy apple red.
"A nightmare of pure gore in BLOOD COLOR."
Celluloid gorehounds will forever be in debt Herschell Gordon Lewis and David Friedman, whose seminal sickie Blood Feast started splatter cinema as we know it today. Without Lewis and Friedman, there would be no John Waters (Serial Mom), Peter Jackson (Dead Alive) or Frank Henelhotter (Basket Case). Films like Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, and Color Me Blood Red changed the landscape of horror movie filmmaking, not because they were well directed, acted, or produced—but because they dared to combine sex, blood, and guts in a way no other filmmakers had yet dared. Image and Something Weird Video collects these Lewis/Friedman joints together on Blu-ray for the first time with The Blood Trilogy:
Two Thousand Maniacs
Color Me Blood Red
The Blood Trilogy is about as grindhouse as one can get on Blu-ray. Each film is chock full of utterly nauseating set pieces of stage blood and animal parts. Deaths are inventive and often morbidly funny (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not), anticipating the rise of slasher films over two decades before the cycle began.
The only element as prominent as gore is sex, which, while not always explicit, dominates the atmosphere of each movie. Lewis, a director with experience in the "nudie cutie" subgenre of the 1950s and '60s, never allows the films to stray into the territory of pornography, but I'll be damned if he doesn't let maintain the threat of it in sleazy, micro budget guerilla style.
The Blood Trilogy is a cinematic trifecta united only by these elements and, of course, the Lewis/Friedman creative stamp. Though each is an exercise in gore, the films are quite different in terms of narrative content.
Blood Feast is the most pure gore film of them all, a freshmen exercise in bloodletting with a low-budget energy all its own. It is also not a good movie. Really, its hardly a movie, but rather a no-budget reminiscence of Dragnet with a half assed investigatory plot stringing together chunk blowing death sequences. The acting is uniformly stiff and stilted, the pacing drags, the scripting is nonexistent, and the cinematography amateurish at best. It is made watchable only by its genuine energy, ineptness and awesomely achieved gore. Blood Feast is an endurance test to sit through, an uphill push that greatly rewards its audience with its amazing ick factor and film history pedigree.
Two Thousand Maniacs is a substantial improvement over Blood Feast, a total black comedy that invites the audience to be accomplices to the ghoulishly over-the-top murders of unsympathetic tourists. Aside from the film's protagonists, Lewis makes all of the victims bland or vapid, making it hard not to root for the ensemble cast of hayseed killers. If Blood Feast draws parallels to Dragnet, Two Thousand Maniacs plays out like an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies gone horribly wrong. Intentionally campy and often quite amusing, Two Thousand Maniacs ranks among the greatest of Lewis' efforts. The kills, which include a painful barrel roll and a suspenseful boulder crushing, are hilariously Grand Guignol, pre-dating the comedic splat-stick subgenre later perfected by a pre-Middle Earth Peter Jackson and pre-comic adapting Sam Raimi.
As the last film on the set, Color Me Blood Red falls short of the quality of Two Thousand Maniacs and Blood Feast. Color Me Blood Red is the most polished movie on the set. Not only that, but the premise excels as interesting riff on Roger Corman's A Bucket Of Blood formula, veering away from overt black comedy and toward intense character study of murderous artist, Sorg. Gordon Oas-Heim delivers a compellingly prickly performance as the central character, especially in the first half of the film. Lewis stumbles in the second half, diverging the narrative's attention from its psychotic protagonist and onto a cast of teenagers ripped straight from a Gidget-style beach movie. These teenagers are meant to be fodder, but never quite bleed their way onto Sorg's palette. With minimal gore, the film caps off The Blood Trilogy on a whimper, rather than a blood curdling scream.
For their Blu-ray debut, I can only say the 1080p transfers are astonishing improvements over previous releases. Blood Feast looks the best, sporting robust colors (especially bright reds), a very sharp image and fine detail, especially for a film of its age. Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red don't look quite as good, but come very close, compromised only by more dog-eared source material. Given the grind house status of the films, the major flaws (scratches, dirt, frame drop-offs) only add to the shoestring authenticity.
Audio is a more utilitarian affair, offering up LPCM mono tracks lacking bells and whistles, but sounding very clear. There are some instances of popping and distortion, and one case of a strange dialogue drop into baritone during Two Thousand Maniacs, but again, with films of this age and budget, such discrepancies aren't deserving of harsh criticism.
Extras are ported over from the original Something Weird releases of the films. Included are some very talkative commentaries with Lewis and Friedman for each film that offer a wealth of information on the making of the movies. The pair hash things out like old friends and give a lot of perspective and background on how these films were put together, making the tracks a fine resource for aspiring gore-nographers and genre aficionados alike.
Also included is a pair of standard-def short films by Lewis, one an infomercial style piece advertising knives ("Carving Magic!") featuring a cast of Lewis regulars, while the other is a virtually silent gore piece ("Follow That Skirt!") with enough nudity and gore for a single Lewis feature.
Outtakes (over an hour's worth), trailers, and an exploitation art gallery for each film round out the extras.
Despite Color Me Blood Red's lackluster showing in the plasma department, The Blood Trilogy is well worth exploitation fans' time and money, especially on Blu-ray. Long time Lewis fans worrying the transition to hi-def might rob the films of their gritty edge will be pleased to know that the format only heightens the sleazy experience, retaining previous bonus content and making a strong argument for owners of older editions to double dip.
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Scales of Justice, Blood Feast
Perp Profile, Blood Feast
Studio: Image Entertainment
Distinguishing Marks, Blood Feast
Scales of Justice, Color Me Blood Red
Perp Profile, Color Me Blood Red
Studio: Image Entertainment
Distinguishing Marks, Color Me Blood Red
Scales of Justice, Two Thousand Maniacs
Perp Profile, Two Thousand Maniacs
Studio: Image Entertainment
Distinguishing Marks, Two Thousand Maniacs
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