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Tuesday, October 09, 2012


Trepanation by power tool, serving as a flesh-crawling preamble to oral exsanguination with a glass straw. Just one of the anti-charms vomited up by this filmic equivalent to having the grubbiest bum you've ever seen stick his filthiest finger past your epiglottis.

When one was becoming a budding gorehound in the early 1980's, there were certain movies that formed the short list of (supposedly) required viewing so that one could have an informed opinion when entering the general dialogue on the genre of gore-for-gore's-sake cinema with its more seasoned/hardened supporters. The primitive and genuinely awful — though nonetheless seminal and historically important — works of Herschel Gordon Lewis, George A. Romero's DAWN OF THE DEAD, and William Lustig's MANIAC all served to separate the men from the boys and varied widely in actual cinematic worth, with Romero's zombie effort far and away standing as the best and most deservedly celebrated of the lot. There were a number of others, but perhaps the most infamous was a rock-bottom, ultra-sleazy little number from 1976 entitled THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW, which was later obtained by a young Troma Entertainment and re-titled BLOODSUCKING FREAKS before once more being launched at the (relatively) innocent grindhouse audience sometime around or shortly after 1980 (information is sparse and/or unverified). Packed wall-to-wall with nudity, misogynistic slavery, heinous torture, cannibalism, a woman's naked ass being used as a dartboard (you can guess where the bullseye is), necrophiliac oral sodomy and all manner of sadism and general cruelty, it's a would-be-humorous exercise in unpleasantness that has much in common with the look and tone of most gut-bucket pornographic efforts from the 1970's. You know the kind I mean, those cheap loops that only the most sad and sorry of basement-dwelling desperadoes would hold in any kind of passable regard. The kind where all of the women in them were likely junkies and/or teenage runaways/prostitutes. It's a work of grubby entertainment at its lowest, and I found the whole experience both profoundly depressing and leaving me with the urge to immediately take a very hot shower where I scrubbed my every millimeter with industrial steel wool. The film's story is merely an excuse to depict as much sordid shit as the grindhouse audience of the mid-1970's could stomach, and if you're a student of that era's grindhouse fare you know that they could stand a hell of a lot. 

In a filthy mid-1970's NYC like that depicted in Martin Scorsese's classic TAXI DRIVER, there's an off-off-off-Broadway theater that runs a latter-day Grand Guignol-esque live S&M torture show, in which Master Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) and his eternally grinning dwarf assistant, Ralphus (occasional porn actor Luis De Jesus, who worked with Annie Sprinkle), abuse the fuck out of naked women they've kidnapped off the street and brainwashed into submission as slaves. Though the jaded audience believes they're watching some sort of ultra-gory stage magic display, what they're witnessing is real, live, to-the-death torture, sexual assault and mutilation. On the night that sets the paper-thin narrative in motion, the show is attended by snooty theater critic Creasy Silo (Alan Dellay), Joe Namath parody Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster), and his girlfriend, famed ballerina Natasha di natalie (Viju Krem), and Sardu pulls out all the stops in hope of getting a glowing review from Silo. He also covets the participation of Natasha in his own twisted version of a ballet performance, so he kidnaps her and begins the brainwashing treatment, which attracts the investigative attentions of Maverick and an obnoxious detective (Dan Fauci). With all of that in place, the rest of the movie is a catalogue of extremely distasteful gore and sadism that simply isn't any fun, nor is it in any way scary. It's just sick for the sake of being sick, though I have to give the film credit for its creative (though utterly horrible) bit where a a doctor (Ernie Pysher) whom Sardu employs to care for his naked, feral slaves straps a blonde victim to a chair, chisels out her front teeth and pleasures himself with her bloody and battered mouth, after which he shaves her head, bores a hole into her skull with a power drill, and cheerily slurps her pulped brains up through a glass straw. There's also the aforementioned heartwarming scene of Ralphus jerking off with a severed head, so we're clearly talking family entertainment here, folks.

The utterly repellent Ralphus (Luis De Jesus), one of the vilest henchmen in cinema history.

The film's delirious climax is ludicrous to the point of hilarity as the brainwashed Natasha, now topless and sporting what are apparently solid iron ballet pointe shoes, stomps the kidnapped theater critic to death for his refusal to grant Sardu any critical kindness, while the feral nekkid chicks escape from their cage and devour Sardu, Ralphus, and the detective (and a few other random folks).

Long a favorite of bored, thrill-hungry high-schoolers and college kids, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS shared the dubious top spot in that province of sadistic gore films with the reprehensible cult "classic" ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE S.S. (1975) until the advent of much better over-the-top viscera-strewn shockers like RE-ANIMATOR (1985) and BAD TASTE (1987), and today amounts to little more than a gross little curiosity. I don't know if one's gorehound cred still requires mandatory watching of this wretched load of swill, but if it doesn't, skip this and watch something better instead. In other words, just about anything else.

The now-infamous re-release poster.

1 comment:

Joe Jusko said...

Saw this in '76 and left the theater slack-jawed in my incredulity. LOL