Blood Freak (1972)
Cast: Steve Hawkes, Dana Culliver, Heather Hughes, Larry Wright, Brad Grinter
Director: Steve Hawkes & Brad Grinter
Synopsis: simply stunning epic tale of drugs, Christ and killer turkeys……totally insane!
Having spent a lifetime devoted to the strangest most twisted films imaginable (including Pashto language masterworks) I honestly believed I had pretty much seen it all. However with the discovery of a cheap 1971 exploitation shocker Blood Freak (recently released on DVD) my entire concept and definition of cinematic strangeness was to be altered forever. Quite simply, one could live for another 40 years and not come across a film so stunningly loopy as this epic tale of Drugs, Christianity, dark scientific experiments and Turkeys!
First a bit about the history of this stupendous epic; it was the brainchild of two supremely talented men who were bought together by fate and hard times. Steve Hawkes had arrived as a muscle bound teenager to the US from Eastern Europe to pursue a career in movies following in the footsteps of his hero Johnny Weissmuller of Tarzan fame. Hawkes didn’t make much headway but did manage to find work in a Tarzan rip-off shot in Spain but unfortunately during one of these “Zan” films he was horribly burned in an on set accident resulting not only in a charred body and a tattered career but also with enormous medical bills to foot.
Meanwhile Brad Grinter, the co-director of this magnificent slice of turkey was involved in directing cheap nudie flicks in the 50’s style…but sadly for him the 70’s had brought major hardcore porn to the high street and his brand of bathing beauties was relegated to nostalgia. Grinter too was anxious for work and when “Husky” Hawkes and Grinter collided; the result was the magnificent Blood Freak, shot in Florida on an invisible budget utilizing mostly student actors who were supposedly duped into appearing in the film as they were quite unaware that they were working on anything other than one of Mr. Grinter’s sex-citing film classes (Yes, Grinter amazingly held acting classes in his many spare hours).
The film begins with Handsome Hunk Herschel helping out a woman with a flat tyre who then invites him home. Angel warns Hershel that her sister’s friends are “heavy into the drug scene” to which he responds “so they smoke pot”! Heavy drugs indeed. When Herschel is introduced to the drug-debauched crowd of Ann the saucy sister he is an instant hit with the girls who try to seduce him without any success as he is more inclined to listening to what Angel has to quote from her bible than any other frivolous activity. The raven haired drug crazed Ann is shocked at having her advances turned down by Herschel that she resorts to trying to drug him so that she can win him over. She scores some dope that is “guaranteed to make you fly” and spins another scheme to ensnare the dim witted Herschel.
When it seems that her efforts are yet again doomed to fail she manages to hit Herschel’s tender spot by calling him a coward to which he responds by grabbing the joint off her and puffing away at it to prove to her that he is anything but a ninny! It takes no more than two puffs and suddenly Herschel is indeed flying high, giggling like a retard. Moments later he is willingly seduced by the scheming Ann who finally manages to snag her man. Later Herschel decides to take up an old fogey on an offer to work on the local poultry man as he could do with a “Husky Man” like big Herschel. At the poultry farm Herschel comes across some dodgy scientists (looking more like garbage collectors) who invite him to partake in their experiments for a little money and some dope in exchange. Herschel having been transformed into a hardened dope addict after just two puffs agrees and is given a turkey to eat that has been scientifically tampered with.
Later that night he suffers some serious seizures that leave him twitching and passed out on the floor however far worse is to follow as the next day having eaten some more contaminated meat Herschel’s head is transformed into that of a turkey, complete with oversize beak and bug eyes. Then he goes on the rampage attacking drug addicts, feasting on their blood as it is supplies him with the nourishment he needs. Ann is rather taken aback at finding her lover suddenly sprout a turkey head and though she professes undying love to Hershel she also expresses concern about their future together if he remains turkey headed. In a touching scene Ann appeals to Herschel for understanding “What will the children think of their father looking like that”….and then “My God what if the children look like their father” Herschel continues his gruesome rampage, leaving a trail of dead drug addicts in his deadly trail.
Some of the gore is quite spectacular (the film managed an “X” rating in the US for violence) involving hacking off limbs in loving if slightly out of focus close up shots! However, perhaps the feature of the brilliantly staged gore scenes are the voice over screams that have been used – clearly the director had just recorded the one scream on his sound effects tape and he decided to use the same scream over and over and over. There is a male version of the scream and a female one………both equally blood curdling. All this stunning action is interrupted periodically by a seedy looking narrator (Grinter) who philosophises the most inane gibberish and is finally cut short rather ironically by a severe coughing fit! The burning question that remains is that will the effects of the drugged meat and the dope wear off or will poor Herschel be condemned to life living with a Turkey head, warbling sweet gobbledygook to his disgruntled sweetheart or will he find redemption through Angel’s bible talk.
The totally insanely warped plot is enhanced by the formidably atrocious acting by each and every cast member as well as the similarly horrid camera-work which often focused on some inanimate object by mistake. The background music too should be noted for being exceptionally cheap, on a par with epic soundtracks such as Don’t Go in the Woods Alone and Drive-in Massacre. Huge credit to the genius of Steve Hawkes who has not only delivered a quite superlative performance as Herschel but also wrote and co-directed this masterpiece. Without a shadow of a doubt this has to be the best Anti-drug, Pro-Christianity Turkey Beast film ever by many a mile! Not to be missed by scholars and admirers of fantastic cinema. Outrageously awful but brilliantly so!