Thursday, November 24, 2005

Give Thanks for BLOOD FREAK


There's a classic movie for almost every holiday.

Christmas possesses several lovely cinematic stocking stuffers, including the 1951 Alistair Sim adaptation of A Christmas Carol and Frank Capra's beloved It's a Wonderful Life (although I cast my personal vote for Rene Cardona's Santa Claus myself). Of course, Halloween begat Halloween. Hell, even Groundhog Day got its own Bill Murray comedy. But what about Thanksgiving?

Sure, the perfectly competent Jodie Foster-directed comedy Home for the Holidays and the modestly successful indie flick Pieces of April possess their followers. But my official nominee for the ultimate Thanksgiving Holiday Classic--the one film that captures all of the awkwardness, gluttony, surrealism, and absurdity of the holiday--is 1971's Blood Freak, available from Something Weird Video on DVD.

Steve Hawkes plays Herschell, a chopper-riding, pompadoured and well-muscled Vietnam vet who stops and offers some Good Samaritan help to a young woman with car trouble. Herschell follows the young woman, Angel (Heather Hughes), home and meets up with Angel's nasty sister Ann (Dana Culliver) and Ann's pot-smoking buddies. Though Herschell initially resists (he's a devout non-smoker and non-drinker), Ann and her pot pals peer-pressure the big lug into taking a hit of the Devil Weed. He's hooked.

Around this time, Angel's and Ann's dad Tom hires Herschell for a job at a turkey farm. Tom then introduces Herschell to two scientists who work in a secret lab at said turkey farm (don't ask). These mad doctors ply Herschell into eating some turkey that's been 'altered' for the 'government' with the promise of extra drugs (Ann got the big guy hooked on drugs, y'know).

The drugs in the tainted turkey make Herschell grow a turkey head, and he goes on a homicidal blood sucking rampage. Yes, the hero becomes a vampiric turkey-headed monster.

No, I'm not making this up. And, yes, he gobbles.

Blood Freak was co-written, co-produced, and co-directed by Hawkes--a slavic emigre who starred in two Brazilian Tarzan movies before an on-set accident left him penniless and stranded in Florida--and Brad Grinter, a nudist who'd previously directed Flesh Feast, a horror schlocker that marked Veronica Lake's final screen appearance. Grinter also narrates the movie at a desk, in front of a chunk of wood paneling, smoking compulsively, and coughing up 3/4 of his respiratory tissue--Criswell in a bourbon-stained '70's polyester shirt.

The resulting motion picture somehow combines drug-scare film doom-saying, exploitation gore, trash horror, ecological/governmental paranoia, and Up-with-People post-hippy Christianity into a poorly-focused, scuzzy, sloppily-edited and dubbed, completely inexplicable--yet utterly irresistible--whole.

See it with someone you love, over a bountiful turkey dinner. And Happy Thanksgiving.

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