The short skinny?
Both are a bit imperfect, but I’ll give them separate reviews in order to approach each of them respectfully.
Now up: Rene Cardona’s Blood Feast reaches for some curious artistic heights, especially when one considers its – ahem – frightening subject matter involving the abduction, beheading, mummification, dismembering, and feeding of dead bodies of women to legitimately feral cats.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the film’s DVD packaging:
“Hugo, a twisted cat lover who also collects weapons and other macabre objects as a pastime, uses another pastime of picking up and scoring with beautiful women as a means to sustain his massive horde of the animals. The routine is, once Hugo brings the women home with him and he is done with them, his mute and creepy butler, Dorgo, takes over …”
Once again, I’m going to truncate what the advertising folks have decided fit to print on the DVD slipcase because – gasp! – it entirely spoils the film’s second half and the ending … a bigger tragedy than you might think given the fact that Blood Feast runs just under 63 minutes from start-to-finish. I get that those people might want to sell some product, but why not leave something to the imagination and surprise of the viewer, for Pete’s sake!
Hugo (played by Hugo Stiglitz) is perhaps one of the screen’s better portrayals of moneyed elitists. Wealthy by inheritance alone (so far as the script from Mario A. Zacarias and director Rene Cardona Jr. spells out), the man spends the better part of his existence romancing multiple women he preys on from above: too good to stalk them on foot, he soars low enough over his wealthy neighbors in a custom helicopter that he can spy on them whenever he likes. Naturally, some of these women are smitten with such an obvious display of money, so it goes without saying that he has plenty of opportunity to carry out some wicked, wicked fetishes.
Hugo’s too good to simply move along from one woman to the next; once he’s finished with her, he sees her as deserving of being ‘added to his collection,’ a process that involves preserving their heads in crystal cases and feeding what remains of their flesh to the angriest horde of feral cats this side of Fred Sanford’s junkyard!
It’s a gruesome fate, but what Hugo wants Hugo gets. As a consequence, we’re treated to one woman after another first falling for the man’s swagger and then falling into his feeding pit. All of this is accomplished visually with actually some interesting aesthetics by director Cardona. He makes great use of some interesting locations – including what we’re told is an abandoned monastery that doubles as Hugo’s primary residence – as well as some great cinematography and vivid production detail while keeping the most obvious gore well under control, instead using the theater’s power of suggestion for some of the darkest deeds. While other directors would’ve dialed this up to eleven on blood and guts, everyone here practices a surprising amount of restraint, and I think that had me enjoying this one a bit more than most.
However, the short runtime had this one feeling a bit more like a bloated episode of TV’s The Twilight Zone than it did a legitimate motion picture. (Again, I offer that not as a complaint so much as I do an honest observation.) There’s even a kinda/sorta twist ending not all that unlike what Rod Serling accomplished – as did Alfred Hitchcock – with similar fare. Some of the employed camera tricks tend to work better in episodic television because they go a long way toward establishing the general motif that feature films will expend whole sequences to define; still, Cardona and company should be commended to knowing what they wanted and sticking to it, no matter the format of the presentation.
Blood Feast (1972) was produced by Avant Films S.A. DVD distribution (for this particular release) is being coordinated by VCI Entertainment. (NOTE: The film is available as part of their Bloody 70’s Horror Double Feature alongside Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary as the first bill.) As for the technical specifications? Again, I’m not a video expert, but I thought this one looked particular good in its full widescreen presentation format. Very well done … and it looks much better than traditional exploitation stuff from the same era.
As for the special features? There’s a video essay conducted by film historian Dr. David Wilt that’s occasionally a good experience. My issue with it is that there just wasn’t as much detail involving this particular production as I would’ve wanted. The first twenty minutes or so (of 45 minutes) were vastly better than what followed, but to each his own. His style is that of a film lecture, so be prepared to take notes, though there was no test that I’m aware of afterward. (snicker snicker)
Blood Feast (1972) is a surprisingly stylish though perhaps a bit bloated Horror/Thriller. Though other critics might disagree, I was perfectly okay with the runtime, though I’ve read that alternate cuts do run a bit longer and also get a bit more into the weeds of what was ‘fantasized’ and what was ‘real’ here. Personally, I’m happy with what I saw: it moved and just the right pace, used just enough trickery to keep me invested, and ended exactly the way I would’ve wanted it to. Yes, perhaps it’s a tad predictable, for even that’s forgivable when done well.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at VCI Entertainment provided me with a complimentary Blu-ray set of Bloody 70’s Horror Double Feature by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.