BLOOD FREAK (1972) – Category: A neglected bad movie classic that deserves a Plan 9-sized cult following This film is so comparatively well-known that I considered not including it, but it’s one of my all-time favorites so I’ll include it but just keep the entry short. The lead character in this movie is a biker named Herschell. It’s possible his motorcycle is called Shlomo but I don’t have a second source on that. (Sorry, I was channeling an old Borscht Belt comedian again) No, the director Brad Grinter admits he named the character after legendary splatter film genius Herschell Gordon Lewis.
Herschell gets a job at a turkey farm and at one point eats a turkey (and when I say “eats a turkey” I mean he literally just sits down with a knife, a fork and a whole cooked turkey and wolfs it all down) treated with experimental chemicals by two mad scientists and … he turns into a man-sized turkey monster with an addiction to human blood.
No, this film is not an urban legend like some people think, it really exists. It all starts when our biker hero falls in with a group of drug-using 20-somethings, two of whom are your typical “good girl” and “bad girl” types, and who tempt our hero toward two different value systems. You see, this film is also an anti-drug metaphor with religious overtones, and an audience favorite in this flick is the sermonizing narrator.
This guy chain-smokes while sitting behind a desk and frequently is very VERY obviously just reading aloud from a script he has on the desk before him. He drones on and on about drugs and faith and keeping the body pure (yes, while smoking) and has a long coughing fit at one point, all of which is left in the film. If you broke into director Brad Grinter’s home in the middle of the night and threatened him with a hot soldering iron (which I have done by the way) I think he’d admit the coughing jag is deliberate. Heck, the narrator even glances off-camera at one point and gestures as if to say “Well? Have I fake-coughed long enough?” to the director.
When our hero turns into the turkey monster, well, really just a guy with a turkey head in place of his real one, he has a hilariously bizarre bedroom scene with his new girlfriend. He also starts nocturnal excursions to get his “fix” of human blood. Yep, it’s a very awkward analogy for the drug addiction the “bad girl” was pushing Herschell toward. He kills victims, slits their throats, cups the gushing blood in his hands and “slurps” it up with his turkey beak.
It’s even funnier than the earlier part where Herschell was becoming addicted to marijuana while overacting like a character from Reefer Madness. Does our hero (whose hairdo makes him look like a bulked-up Elvis impersonator) kick both his blood and drug dependency? Watch it and see.
********A bonus bad film from Brad Grinter which is not quite as fun-bad as this one is Flesh Feast, which was produced (i.e. “paid for”) by the elderly Veronica Lake, who also starred in it in her final film appearance. Lake plays a plastic surgeon who has pioneered the technique of having trained maggots eat away bits of people’s faces, thus reshaping them in the way she desires. No, I’m serious.
The maggot scenes are hilarious because many of the “maggots” are obviously just pieces of rice. Anyway, Lake falls in with a group of Nazis led by war criminals who were hiding in South America, Eichmann and Mengele style. She uses her maggots to alter their apperances so they can come out of hiding, but it turns out she’s just playing along to smoke out their leader-in-exile, who turns out to be Hitler himself.
When she gets Adolf alone so she can use her maggot-procedure to give him a new face, she reveals her true motives and has her maggots devour his face. Watch for the narrator from Blood Freak playing a newspaper editor here and the same papier-mache substance that made up the monstrous turkey head in that film is used for an alleged corpse in this one. Flesh Feast is pretty much the Citizen Kane of maggot-using-plastic-surgeon-meets-Hitler movies.
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