DirectorHerschell Gordon Lewis
Release Date(s)1963 (October 24, 2017)
Studio(s)Friedman-Lewis Productions/Box Office Spectaculars (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: A-
Move over Jason Voorhees. Step aside Michael Myers. Blood Feast is here, one of the great forerunners of slasher films, made long before the genre even existed. Put together by independent filmmakers Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman, Blood Feast served as an appetizer for the films to come in Lewis’ catalogue of low budget horror. Originally a director of softcore and “roughie” films, this splatter classic put him on the map for many cult film fans.
As a story, there isn’t much to Blood Feast. The star of the film is obviously the gore, and some of it is quite effective, particularly the scene in which a woman’s tongue is ripped out. Everything surrounding the gore is questionable on many levels. In all honesty, the film isn’t good. In fact, it’s quite poor. The performances, the dialogue, the cinematography – all of it is clearly amateurish. However, the film makes up for its shortcomings with charm and enthusiasm from its director. It’s not the kind of bad movie you can laugh along with constantly because of how terrible it is, but it’s never boring either. It exists in its own weird universe.
Herschell Gordon Lewis films have always been an acquired taste. They were always the dingiest of the dingy at the local video store, and the poor quality of those old VHS tapes made the films all the more mystical and engaging in an odd sort of way. Described by its original one sheet as “Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!”, Blood Feast is a bizarre time capsule of a movie. It’s definitely fun to watch, and somewhat of a rite of passage if you’re a younger horror fan and seeing it for the first time (at least it was in my day).
Recently, Arrow Video released a boxed set of most of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ films called The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast. This is essentially the same disc in that boxed set, minus all of the other films. This release also carries the same 2K restoration of the film, which was overseen by James White of Arrow Films. If you’ve ever seen this film on VHS or DVD, you’ll find this transfer to be a revelation of sorts, but it comes with a caveat. Seeing things clearly in such high quality loses a little something for me. As I stated previously, Blood Feast has always been a movie that’s benefited from lower quality home video presentations. Being able to view it in the best quality possible, at least to me, makes it a little less effective. I could be alone in that, but it’s worth mentioning. That being said, it’s still a stunning presentation of the film, featuring solid grain levels with deep blacks and excellent brightness and contrast. Colors are also dramatically improved. Red and blues are especially potent, while skin tones are fairly accurate. It’s also a mostly stable presentation with next to no film damage leftover other than extremely mild speckling and an occasional camera flash. It’s so clean that crossfaded scenes are more obvious than they already were. The only audio option available is an English mono DTS-HD track with subtitles in English SDH. What could be done with the soundtrack to improve it has been done. However, not all of the built-in problems could be fixed. It’s mostly clean and clear and everything comes through with good fidelity, but there’s still an occasional dropout, including an obvious one at around the 43-minute mark. Overall, it’s a stellar presentation of the film that long-time fans will be happy with.
The extras for this release also include Scum of the Earth, an early film from Herschell Gordon Lewis, presented in the best possible quality with English mono DTS-HD audio and subtitles in English SDH. Both it and the main presentation also come with an introduction by Lewis as well. The rest of the extras include an audio commentary on Blood Feast with Lewis and producer David F. Friedman, moderated by Something Weird’s Mike Vraney; Blood Perspectives, which contains interviews with filmmakers Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher about the film; Herschell’s History, an archival interview from 2007 with Lewis; How Herschell Found His Niche, a new interview with Lewis; an archival interview from 1987 with Lewis and Friedman; Carving Magic, a 1959 short film featuring actor Bill Kerwin (AKA Thomas Wood); a set of outtakes from the film; “clean” versions of scenes from Scum of the Earth, which are SD-sourced; a promotional gallery, which includes the trailer, radio spot, and theater announcement for Blood Feast, as well as trailers for The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, and Bell, Bare and Beautiful (all directed by Lewis); and a DVD copy. Not included from Something Weird Video’s DVD and Blu-ray releases is an image gallery of exploitation art, the short film Follow That Skirt, and the trailer for Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore.
Arrow Video’s treatment of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ pre-slasher cult classic (as well as its smuttier counterpart) is to be commended. I can’t imagine experiencing this kind of quality with all of the films from the aforementioned boxed set. But, if you’re like me and couldn’t afford to fork over upwards of $300 for that set, this is a great disc regardless, and as of this writing, is quite easy on the ole wallet.
- Tim Salmons