Long before every device in our possession became a source of interactive entertainment there was the Friday night horror flick. Typically, a group of friends would converge on the nearby, broken down grind house movie theater prepared to hoot and holler at the screen. Some would shout out warnings to the perspective victims as other would yell words of encouragement to the deranged serial killer on the loose. While far from the futuristic gaming units the young people are accustomed to now the old school way was a whole lot of fun. Even sixty years later these film persist in our memories and thanks to the ongoing initiative by Image Entertainment of bringing cult classics to Blu-ray we can relive this pivotal experience in our initiation as cinephiles. For many of us these flicks made ob shoe string budgets over a long weekend helped establish a lifelong love affair with movies. Not only is Image brining these cult classics to disc in many cases such as the one discussed here are in high definition. These Blu-ray editions actually bring back these good times in a way that has far better video and audio then possible in any of the old grind houses. The offering under examination here is a great representative sample of the genre, ‘Blood Trilogy’. This collection of movies is considered classics in the grind house faire commonly referred to as ‘splatter movies’. The king of this particular sub genre was virtually invented by the master of gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. His films defined an era of cinema constructed on the simple precepts of gruesome special effects and liberal use of gratuitous nudity. While those elements of horror films are overly utilized in the current horror environment back then they were just what the target audience of teen aged boys craved. The difference between then and now comes down to some subtle degrees but essentially Lewis made sure there was a creepy story to drive the action. Unlike the modern tend of ‘torture porn’ like Tourista’ and ‘Saw’ Lewis’ flicks had a solid central plot.
For those of us that grew up taking in flicks in the dank grind houses the name Herschell Gordon Lewis was one we saw repeatedly in the credit roles of our favorite horror films. The stories his films presented were carefully crafted by a master story teller. A Lewis flick was like a summer campfire story come to life. If you don’t remember those summer night tales of horror than you certainly recall the EC horror comics like ‘Tales from the Crypt’. These comics were universally condemned by parents, educated and even the United States Congress. Lewis’ films had a similar profound effect being used by opponents to prompt the rating system instigated by the Motion Picture Association of America, MPAA. Lewis’ films managed to blend the overt visceral bloodshed with the subtle elements of psychological terror. Currently, few filmmakers in the genre are split into two basic groups with American horror flicks tending towards the visual impact and foreign films like those produced in Japan depending more on the psychological components of fright. There was typically a string narrative infused in a Lewis movie that went deeper than the quick and dirty approach commonly embraced of late.
Adam Sorg (Gordon Oas-Heim) is compelled to express himself artistically, specifically through the medium of paint on canvas. Unfortunately, his labors are less than appreciated by friends, family and more importantly the influential body of art critics. The most common compliant regarding his style is the lack of depth to his color palette in particular a deep shade of crimson commonly referred to as blood red. Adam is intrinsically talented but has what we would call anger management issues as evident by his constant verbal bouts with his girl friend, April Carter (Candi Conder). When she accidentally vuts her finger on a canvas frame Adam is inspired by an exact interpretation of the name of the shade he is looking for. Initially he tries to put more of himself into his work, so to speak, but that solution leaves him literally too drained so he decides to seek external sources of this biologically vital pigment. His blood soaked paintings become a sensation and well there is that whole supply and demand incentive. This is a good introduction to Lewis’ films for the uninitiated; it is considered one of his more tame works.
Mrs. Dorothy Fremont (Lyn Bolton) is known for indulging her daughter Suzette Connie Mason) so is came as no surprise that she was planning an all out dinner in honor of her offspring. To prepare this feast Dorothy hires an Avant Garde caterer, Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold). Although locally based he hails from his native county of Egypt. He promises an ancient meal that has not been prepared for over fifty centuries. His motivations are far from culinary in nature. Ramses is using the banquet as a cover for an insidious plot to resurrect an Egyptian goddess. A number of young women are slaughtered to provide the preliminary body parts for the ceremony. His plot includes using Suzette as the capstone human sacrifice but there is a fly in the ointment, her boyfriend is police detective Pete Thornton (Thomas Wood), in charge of the brutal murder of the young women not knowing the exotic charterer is behind it.
It is 1965 and the residents of Pleasant Valley Georgia are preparing something very special to commemorate the town’s centennial. Still bitter over destruction of their town but a handful of rogue Union soldiers the not so gentle townsfolk reroute six random travelers in order to make them the center of the celebration. Although the unsuspecting sextet are treated royally at first the true intention of the people of Pleasant Valley are far from what is implied by that bucolic name. In a pale that would later be acquired by horror films that represent a pale echo of this movie each of the hapless six are forced to endure a different but brutally painful demise.
The Blu-ray edition is well mastered and needless to say better than these films have ever been treated. The picture is sharp with a brilliant color palette accompanied by an audio track that is full and robust. This will make a great retro horror night but just be sure the youngsters are visiting the grandparents.