8-7-73, Clovis, New Mexico – The ultimate Regional Horror Double Bill of all time!
Ever since renting the Regal Video of Blood Freak at the Video Connection through The 90’s, I knew that my Exploitation interests were going on paths that were beyond the norm. From all of the latest titles to choose from, a low-budget film made in Florida about a Turkey Monster feeding on the blood of addicts hosted by some aging smoker put onto VHS and put into a cheaply produced Clam Shell box was the tape I picked about 5 times, maybe more (I’m sure someone might just say “Once every two months for five years alternating with She Devils on Wheels!”).Watching Blood Freak, and stone cold sober may I add, was like the like hearing the words “This is the way, step inside” – and, yes, Joy Division’s Closer was the album that brought my music habits into a darker scene back in my early High School years when things were turning Day-Glo in The 80’s.
Blood Freak was THE TEST after years of catching Ed Wood movies on Channel 7, renting HG Lewis films, viewing films like Reform School Girls in some aging double screen cheap seat in a strip mall (that’s the Greenwood Cine if anyone’s interested – one week after playing the Franklin Park Cinemas!). The ultimate mark of passing it would be liking it and wondering where in the hell would it play!
Here’s the skim of the story – Herschell, a strong Nam Vet biker trying to lead a clean life after a time with drugs, gets a gig at the local Turkey Farm thanks to befriending a hot Bible Chick on the freeway who’s father owns it. Along the way, Bible Chick’s hotter sister, hosting a drug party, gets him going on the Pot once more,; her dealer “friend” is called out for getting him hooked once again through the sneaky way (The classic poolside chat with the sister with a “Box of Band Aids”); and the workers at the farm are into experiments with drugged food of which Herschell becomes a willing test subject right away. This leads to the gory dream that composes most of the second half of our story with our hero turning into the legendary Turkey Monster that feeds on the blood of addicts – all of this interrupted by some chain-smoking narrator going on and on about catalysts and fate. The whole ugliness of the thing sucks you into a world that can be only created on the cheap in the Early 70’s in Florida and the use of paper-mache for the Turkey Head certainly deserves an award of some sort while the buzzsaw through an amputee’s wooden leg is a moment in WTF Movie history.
Steve Hawkes, still recovering from a fire that hit the set of a rip-off Tarzan film (and you can see the scars on the left arm more clear in the restored version), proved that he can actually act decent enough, especially for a film co-directed by Brad Gritner, and I wonder if his throwing the dealer onto the floor was a mix of showing off his muscle and knowing that this is going to be some cheap flick that will be seen by hardly anyone in it’s original run (I can just imagine him thinking “I traded in being Zan of the Jungle for THIS?!!!!”). Gritner, our story-teller in this film, was infamous in the Florida film scene for a few of his Nudie Cuties, a genre that he was still making well into the 70’s with films like Never the Twain, legendary crap like Devil Rider, appearing in Musical Mutiny and The Love Pirate, and creating Flesh Feast – the jaw-dropping film where Veronica Lake came out of retirement to play a crackpot doctor with some anti-aging formula and deals with Hitler at the end and plays with rice doubling as maggots. Hawkes should have known better, but thinking that a successful Horror film could help him was a reason why this exists, and a history reportedly with one of the original financiers backing out leaving Hawkes and Gritner to count the pennies on their own only adds onto the cheapness this film exceeds in.
With most of the cast right from the Brad Gritner players, including Heather Hughes as Angel, this seriously throws the viewer into a mess of bad acting that’s the most unbelievable…in everything, except for the hacking cough Gritner has near the end of the film. This is movie making at it’s the lowest cost (I’m sure including film stock), the music by Gil Ward sounds perfectly like a jam tape of some stoned out basement band up-chucking the same riffs over and over, and the mix of preaching with gore is something to see. One more thought: I wonder if Dana Cullivan, the bad sister, ever changed her name and appeared in other films.
Receiving an official X rating in Dec. 1972 when the Preacherman Corp. brought it over to the MPAA, things were going to get a little tricky for it’s life on the cinema circuit. Sadly, the first run hardly played in a manner not unlike that of the legendary El Paso-made Manos: The Hands of Fate – a few plays then goodbye. However, in 1976, a second run company called Clamil decided to give it another attempt in a time when a lot of Exploitation companies were buying up distribution rights to films from dead companies although there was certainly a big difference between something like Independent International giving two Inga films another round of success and some lower-level company playing a film for a second time that not many people wanted to see in the first place. It was re-rated R in 1976, but that seriously did not help matters at all.
One second run play was in, of all places, Fairbanks, Alaska. The future Something Weird Video class-sick Psyched by the 4D Witch was also another Clamil Pick-Up (this time from Emerson, who also handled Manos!)
1-26-76, Fairbanks, Alaska
By the way, meet Brad Gritner!
The oh-so swinging Drug Party on the cheap!
Then, something weird happened before Something Weird happened…it was slotted in with the HG Lewis Gore Trilogy at this showing! What comes around!
1-16-76 – Palatine, Illinois – In a return engagement of The HG Lewis/David F. Friedman Gore Trilogy, someone at the 53 had the clever idea to also play Blood Freak as well! Hawkes’ character was named Herschell, it was filled with some of the craziest cheap effects around, and I’m sure some wicked Horror fiend somewhere actually heard of it and already knew that this was a perfect fit.
It also played with a showing a couple of weeks later.
2-13-76, Brighton Drive In, Illinois!
By the Early 80’s, it wound up as a video that was released by Regal Video, home to quite a few crackpot Horror flicks, some of them ready to be rented by people like me at the Video Connection. Something Weird Video’s classic DVD is a class act which rocks!
Celebrate Turkey Day with a real “Turkey” of a film!