The Godfather finds it bizarre. To yours truly, it's outright inconceivable that a genre-centric distributor such as Media Blasters would release THREE versions of this historic sequel with nary a phone call, e-mail or singing telegram to the very filmmaker whose name they so enthusiastically exploit. The return of Herschell Gordon Lewis after a 30-year absence from the slaughterhouse sinema he pioneered is, for rabid gorehounds, akin to a phoenix-like reemergence of Orson Welles to direct Rosebud's Revenge!!! Though surely Orson would've been afforded the requisite audio commentary on his "2-disc special edition" in which to regale we mortals with fanciful tales of the afterlife. Perhaps not, but without question the presumably extras-stuffed release would, at the very least, boast more than a passing nod to the original flick's unique place in movie history! Maybe even a filmography? Well, no, given Media Blasters' ham-handed handling of Herschell's latest, Orson would likely rate the same -- and that's BUPKIS!!!
[Deep breath.] Alrighty, do let me momentarily clamber down from this sniper's nest and sponge the bile-tinged foam from my mouth as decorum dictates my outrage be shelved long enough to properly herald a gooey dream come true for this and countless other horror fiends: a Blood Feast sequel unspooling right in our living rooms! GORY, GORY HALLELUJAH!!!
Ol' Fuad must've found time for an ice cream social or two outside his hobby of hacking up nubiles to appease the Egyptian, er, make that Babylonian goddess Ishtar, because now his GRANDSON has returned to reopen the exotic catering biz unaware of the shop's sinister past. Yet no sooner than the last board is removed from the windows, young Fuad Ramses III (J.P. Delahoussaye) fatefully switches on the whorishly hypnotic red light of Ishtar's supply room haunt and instantaneously succumbs to the family bloodlust. He too must prepare a feast. He too must brain as many babes as possible. He too must overact and drag his bum leg like the Elephant Man. Fortunately, Fuad's just landed the Lampley wedding and little Miss Tiffani (Toni Wynne) being the tasty little bride-to-be she is, naturally has a gaggle of equally delish maids of honor. All of whom are, uh huh, ON THE MENU!!! Hence the whole goldang point of this nostalgic exercise where silicon special FX are solely for Lacie Hundies' bodacious bosom. As many well know, the Godfather of Gore's time-honored gospel demands the nearest slaughterhouse be raided for a ghastly array of near-rancid entrails to be wrenched from these poor lovelies -- usually by slapstick aid of random kitchen utensils in this misadventure. A corkscrew to remove coed brain matter. A melon baller to pop peepers out. An electric carving knife to, um, well y'all get the idea. It's these comically outrageous eruptions of divine grue that'll reacquaint CineSchlockers with the H.G. Lewis of yon.
Although, even to such an unapologetic disciple as myself, the flick's sum total doesn't land comfortably within the Lewis lexicon. Despite its tumbled technical edges, the swoopy dolly shots and other haughty production miscues fail to honor the raucous run 'n' gun aesthetics of the original and its classic exploitation siblings. Then there's the script rife with dicey Zucker Brothers schtick such as a migratory corpse (played by investor Chris Mauer), an impromptu weather report, zany sound effects and an exhausting running bit involving a gluttonous detective (John McConnell) which crescendos with his puke-worthy tongue lashing of a cruller.
Melissa Morgan's ingenious performance as the deliciously self-absorbed Mrs. Lampley is really the only character, including Fuad, that'd easily survive the three-to-four-decade time warp into any of Herschell's previous movies. Whilst costars seem content to playact in a cartoon, she creates comedy through winkless bitchery. However post-production subtlety busters apparently sought to rectify her oversight by overdubbing a juvenile "SATAN! SATAN! SATAN!" stinger whenever Lampley enters frame. So beyond the glorious grue, the historic reteaming of Lewis and exploiteer David F. Friedman, the fan-friendly Blood Feast riffs and Ms. Morgan's welcome contribution, what else is there for CineSchlockers to revel in? How about final-reel savior John Waters' cameo as a priest on the prowl!?! That, dear readers, oughta curl your pencil mustaches!
12 breasts. 12 corpses. One dead cat. Chloroforming. Puking. Slow-mo lingerie party. Nose mining. Decapitation. Hammy Hamlet quotation. Wriggling maggots. Sapphic massage. Bloody organ fondling. Arm in a meat grinder AND a garbage disposal. Self gratification. Excessive feasting. Drooling. Suggestive crosswords. Throat slashing. Gratuitous "Rock, Paper, Scissors" game. Amazing redhead-to-blonde transformation. Gratuitous shower scene. One jail break. Multiple "Emeril" refs. Brainpan whittling. Arterial high five. Multiple disembowelments.
Huzzah to first-time screenwriter W. Boyd Ford for exercising the good sense to have Misty Morning squeal: "Hey! You just HAVE to see the new bra I got yesterday!" J.P. very nearly out emotes a bug-eyed Mal Arnold with: "I don't need you to SERVE appetizers. I need you to B-E-E-E-E-E appetizers!!!" Detective Loomis has an eye for detail: "Well, without a real autopsy, I'd say the cause of death is this corkscrew stuck in her ear." Mark McLaughlan shamelessly channels Deputy Fife: "Don't play coy with me Ramses! We know what you're up to! Harvesting human organs for the black market! SAVAGE! FIEND! WE'RE GONNA NAIL YOUR HIDE TO THE WALL!!!" However the flick's funniest moment is thanks to the Pope of Trash's attempt to recruit a pair of kindercare altar boys: "Hi, kids! Do you know what HELL is? ... Well, it's where bad little boys go. Do you want to go there? ... Then you should always hang around with priests!!!"
OK, see the flick, it's a gas! Yada. Yada. Now it's time for that furrowed brow again. "One source of outrage: I see several websites advertising 'The Director's Cut,' " Mr. Lewis tells me. "I had no involvement with any cutting and, in fact, have objected to several overlong scenes (one in which a girl wearing only part of a towel climbs stairs, to no purpose), lack of necessary repulsive death/strangulation noises accompanying the gore sequences, the final scene's lack of a zoom into Ishtar's severed head and the omission of one scene I specifically had asked to be included." Thankfully, Media Blasters who had indeed touted Release No. 2 as such, did have the foresight to rechristen this incarnation simply "Uncut" before it hit shelves.
"I also object to releasing Blood Feast 2 direct to video after shooting in 35mm color," Herschell continues. "Had we shot digitally, we could have had two cameras as well as the tool I missed most, a zoom lens." While it'd been a treat to see the flick in wide theatrical distribution, what's more tragic is this crude transfer that degrades the original 35mm so severely that it could easily be confused for a desktop digital production. From its acquisition announcement to its retailer pitches, Media Blasters promised the flick would be presented in anamorphic widescreen, yet only trotted out letterbox with an equally dodgy soundtrack. (No fault of crooners Southern Culture on the Skids, of course, but would it have killed 'em to make with a little more of Blood Feast's kettle drum?)
Anyway, we gorehounds gotta have this movie, right? Forget Blockbuster-aimed Release No. 1 with its R-rated cut and appalling cover art. The single-disc, Uncut Release No. 2 is the only recommended option, because Release No. 3's dubiously-appointed, hardly "special" edition barely warrants a rental. All three releases feature the Lewis teaser trailer, production photos (without captions) and reels for other titles including an extensive ode to Media Blasters' first in-house feature, Flesh for the Beast, plainly illustrating they really CAN produce high-quality extras when they wanna.
Despite its adornment with a SPECTACULAR illustration by Gary Pullin that brilliantly recalls the original Blood Feast poster, the little black hearts of CineSchlockers will sink when they crack open their two-disc sets to have the second "special features" disc tumble out in a plain paper sleeve. The greater indignity? The content! Barely 30 minutes in all and woefully unworthy of the $10 price hike. Probably best among the lousy lot is the fleeting "Behind the Gore" reel that wobbles a video camera in the general direction of FX slingers Joe Castro and Johnathan Thornton. The 12-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette, epic by comparison, dwells much too much on periphery players and crew members who have little to say. Probably by shear accident, there IS some amusing footage of Mr. Waters rehearsing with those aforementioned kiddos. Two deleted, or more accurately, "extended" scenes are included. One featuring that extra zinger Mr. Lewis wanted. As for what he didn't, there's a stag-reel easter egg that regurgitates all the flick's flesh. And finally, "On Set with Herschell Gordon Lewis" provides an ocassionally audible and all-too-brief glimpse at the man himself in action -- look even closer and you'll see yours truly in an enraptured state. My mood at the time of this writing is decidedly different given the poor performance of the distributor whose website promised a proper special edition tribute right up to their street date, yet delivered only disappointment. "I admit I'm getting worked up over this, because it strikes me as bizarre that Media Blasters never bothered to contact me," Mr. Lewis confides. "I'll just hope to one day make Grim Fairy Tales and do it my way." (2002, 99 mins [Uncut], 1.85:1, DD 2.0, Deleted scenes, Featurettes, Photos, Trailers.)
G. Noel Gross is a Dallas graphic designer and avowed Drive-In Mutant who specializes in scribbling B-movie reviews. Noel is inspired by Joe Bob Briggs and his gospel of blood, breasts and beasts.