DirectorHerschell Gordon Lewis
Release Date(s)1967 (February 6, 2018)
Studio(s)Mayflower Pictures (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C+
- Overall Grade: B-
Arrow Video re-releases two of their offerings from The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast multi-film boxed set with The Gruesome Twosome, and as a sub-feature, A Taste of Blood. While the former is about a woman who runs a wig shop and orders her mentally handicapped son to scalp unwilling patrons, the other is about a man who receives a mysterious package containing the blood of Count Dracula under the guise of wine, consequently but slowly turning into a vampire.
H.G. Lewis was often a filmmaker of extremes. Rather than blending horror and comedy together in The Gruesome Twosome, he would show one scene of extreme comedy, and then follow it up with a scene of extreme horror in another. The problem is, and this is pure opinion on my part, neither ever really work. The only thing that works in The Gruesome Twosome is the gore, of which there are only about four moments in which it appears. The rest of the running time is painfully slow and uninteresting, including a long, extended sequence of a girl following a potential murderer home and spying on him as he does things that are potentially heinous. One of his least entries, The Gruesome Twosome just doesn’t cut the mustard for me.
On the flipside is A Taste of Blood, which I would argue is a better movie, despite being substantially longer in the length. It has some of the qualities of its predecessor, but there’s more of a story here. There’s also less gore, hardly any in fact. A tale about a vampire running amuck was certainly a change of pace for Lewis at the time, and even he considers it “a cut above” many of his other movies. It’s a fairly standard person-turning-into-a-vampire tale, but for Lewis, it’s a step in a different direction. There are two things of interest to note about the movie. One is that the leading actor, Bill Rogers, did an uncredited overdub of the professor character in Samson VS the Vampire Women, which was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. The other is that if you pay close attention to some of the film’s score, you’ll notice a definite similarity between it and the closing credits score for the animated show Archer. Odd connections, I realize, but worth mentioning.
The following text accompanies The Gruesome Twosome before the film begins: “The Gruesome Twosome has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film was restored in 2K resolution from a combination of 35mm prints, as the original negative has been lost. Due to the extremely poor condition of the film elements available, this presentation exhibits extreme color fading that could only be corrected to a minimal degree through digital grading. This presentation also includes occasional instances of damaged and missing frames that were impossible to restore digitally. There is occasional loose audio sync but this is as per the original source materials.” As poor as it’s described by them, it’s not so bad that it can’t be enjoyed. It’s full of all of these problems and more, including what appears to be staining, which is usually at the center and top right hand side of the screen throughout the presentation. Still, it’s a natural-looking presentation, even with lower grade elements mixed in to complete it. The audio is presented via an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. It’s a narrow presentation with only decent dialogue and score reproduction, but also contains many of the same weathered element problems including crackle, hiss, distortion, and drop-outs.
The following text accompanies A Taste of Blood before the film begins: “A Taste of Blood has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film was restored in 2K resolution from a combination of the surviving sections of the original 35mm camera negative and sections of a 35mm print. The soundtrack was remastered from a 35mm print. Although the existing negative sections were in decent condition overall, the print sections were heavily faded and scratched throughout. Therefore there are occasional noticeable shifts in image quality during this presentation. There is occasional loose audio sync but this is as per the original source materials.” The better of the two transfers offered in this set by far, the presentation is primarily sourced from the original camera negative. While not totally perfect, leaving leftover scratches and speckling, it’s still quite clear and film-like. Good color reproduction and strong grain levels are present, but like its predecessor, contains multiple problems with the alternate footage used to complete it. The audio is also presented via an English mono LPCM track with optional subtitles in English SDH. Much cleaner and clearer than its predecessor, it still features sporadic drop-outs, mild hiss, and light distortion. However, the dialogue can be heard much more clearly, as can the score.
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D/D+/D+
A TASTE OF BLOOD (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): C-/C+/C
For the bonus materials, there are introductions to both films by Hershell Gordon Lewis; an audio commentary on The Gruesome Twosome with Lewis, Mike Vraney from Something Weird Video, and Jimmy Maslon from Shock Films; an audio commentary on A Taste of Blood, also with Lewis and Vraney; Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig!, an interview with the San Francisco performer who speaks at lengths about his love for Lewis and the films that inspired him to become a filmmaker as well; It Came from Florida, an interview with Fred Olen Ray which covers Florida filmmaking and its various aspects; H.G. Lewis vs. the Censors, an interview with the director about local censorship and angry moviegoers in the 1960s; and a Promo Gallery, featuring the theatrical trailer for The Gruesome Twosome in HD, a radio spot for The Gruesome Twosome and Something Weird double bill, and a trailer for A Taste of Blood, also in HD. Missing from previous DVD releases of each film are the Wigs-O-Rama and Nightmare at Elm Manor short films, as well as two separate art galleries.
Arrow Video’s treatment of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ body of work is to be commended. Despite not being armed with the finest film elements available, they’ve still managed to cull together watchable presentations and secured Lewis’ films for the future, regardless of my critiques of them. If you’re like me and you couldn’t afford to fork over upwards of $300 for the aforementioned Feast boxed set, this is another great disc that’s a little easier on the ole wallet, and there are bound to be more.
- Tim Salmons