258. BLOOD FREAK (1972)

“The World’s Only Turkey-Monster-Anti-Drug-Pro-Jesus-Gore Film!”–Blood Freak Special Edition DVD box cover

DIRECTED BY: Brad F. Grinter, Steve Hawkes

FEATURING: Steve Hawkes, Dana Sullivan, Heather Hughes, Brad F. Grinter

PLOT:  Herschell, a Vietnam vet biker, helps good Christian girl Angel fix a flat tire and then accompanies her to a drug party. Angel preaches to the sinning partiers and warns Herschel not to sample marijuana, but temptation of the flesh comes via Angel’s bikini clad sister, Ann. Once hooked on the wiles of the devil, Herschell gets a job at a turkey farm, transforms into a gobbling vampire, and goes on a rampage before finding out he has been hallucinating on pot, which leads him and the now “saved” bikini babe to Jesus.

Still from Blood Freak (1972)

BACKGROUND:

  • Co-writer/producer/director and star Hawkes took the job to help pay medical bills he incurred as a result of skin grafts necessary to repair third degree burns he received doing a stunt while starring in a Spanish Tarzan film. He referred to Blood Freak as “a sad chapter in my life.” He later started a shelter for wild animals (before being shut down by Florida authorities for not complying with state regulations).
  • The cast consists mostly of acting students from Grinter’s class (yes, he actually was an acting teacher), including an amputee who came in handy as a victim who gets his leg cut off.
  • The original financier backed out of this labor-of-love-by-idiots (apparently, he saw some of the footage), leaving Steve Hawkes and Brad Grinter to finish Blood Freak out of their own pockets.
  • The film was originally rated “X” for violence.
  • Hawkes made a twenty-first century celluloid “comeback” in a pair of zombie movies that no one has seen.
  • Grinter’s only other film “of note” is Flesh Feast (1970), which inspired Veronica Lake to come out of retirement (!?!) to play an insane plastic surgeon whose patient is a zombified Adolf Hitler. Naturally, she comes to her senses and disposes of  the former dictator with chemically bred maggots. After getting saved, Grinter, like Hawkes, retired to a life of Christian anonymity in Florida, dying in 1993.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: An Elvis imitator donning a papier-mâché turkey head and butchering rubberneckin’ potheads.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: Chain-smoking anti-drug narrator; proselytizer in Daisy dukes; bad pot/experimental turkey interaction

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Just for starters, the opening narration, delivered by a pencil-mustachioed, gold-chain wearin’ co-director Grinter as he chain smokes: “We live in a world subject to constant change. Every second of every minute of every hour changes take place. These changes are perhaps invisible to us, because our level of awareness is limited. Take for example, how the things we do and say to the people we meet, all these things affect our lives, influence our destiny. And yet there seems to be some kind of fantastic order to the whole thing. We never know how or when we will meet a person who will become a catalyst. Or, who will lead us to one. What is a catalyst? Well, in this case, a catalyst is a person that will bring about changes. They could be good, or bad. But there will be changes. You can meet one almost anywhere, in your everyday life. In a supermarket, drugstore, anywhere. Even riding down the Florida Turnpike. A pretty girl with a problem. Who could resist? Certainly not Herschell.” Take that irresistible intro, add a “grass is bad, Jesus is good” message, and mix it with some gory mayhem perpetrated by a mass murdering turkey Nosferatu. Although, viewers may ask: Why a turkey? Do turkeys crave blood?


Original trailer for Blood Freak

COMMENTS:  The Christian scare film to end all Christian scare films, Blood Freak is like an unimaginable Jack Chick/  co-production of an anti-marijuana, pro-Thanksgiving blood fest (cuz, you know Thanksgiving is the only true Christian holiday). Grinter and Hawkes’ “what the hell were they really smoking?” script is indeed about as far out as the plot of any Jack Chick tract plot. It’s further saddled with the so-ludicrous-it’s-compelling pre-Duck Dynasty ideology that Jesus wants us to blow the heads off fowls for him (or in this case, a clean chop with a holy ax will do).

The Bible figures throughout. Herschell is mighty proud that Angel is a virgin for Jesus, cuz free love ain’t somethin’ to be handin’ out, and just when we think he’s about to take on the sacred duty of deflowering the Daisy Duke wearin’ cherub himself, along comes that damned slut Ann, temptation in a mini-skirt. “How can such a big hunk of man be such a damn coward?” Ann asks when Herschell doesn’t wanna try pot, especially the kind supplied by a redneck Everglades dope fiend. “Go ahead, turn into a Bible freak. See who gives a damn! You’re a dumb bastard who doesn’t know where it’s at!” See poor Herschell wavering. See Herschell take a toke of reefer madness! “I have a feeling, I’m hooked,” cries Herschell. “It’s alright so long as I don’t look at you. Gosh, Herschell, you sure are ugly!” Worse, after Ann gets him stoned, she climbs onto his man meat (just like Lot’s daughters , or was that Noah?) and… this must be the moment that writer Hawkes was overdosing on that song Elvis sang as he danced with long-legged girls in short dresses: “I used to drink! I used to smoke! I used to smoke, drink and dance the hoochy-coo !”

Of course, now that Herschell is spoiled goods, Ann gets him a job with her daddy, which is something of an unwritten biblical law, but daddy is one of two evil scientists (cuz, you know science is of the devil) running a turkey shelter as a cover for (drum roll)… godless experiments: “We’re testing the chemical caponization of poultry, but we need a human to eat the meat to see if there are any side effects,” the scientist tells Herschell. “You mean, you want me to be a guinea pig?” Herschell asks. The two scientists fail to register a single emotion between them, and after they feed poor Herschel tainted turkey meat, he has a woefully overacted epileptic seizure on a hill and, thinking he is dead, they dump the body. “So why did you take him out and dump him? Don’t we have enough trouble in these experiments without taking a chance on a murder charge? All we did was give this guy some turkey,” says the first scientist to the second.

Of course Herschell ain’t dead at all, and after he is fitted with a turkey head, he kills and kills and kills and one of his victims screams and screams and screams. It’s OK though, it was only a dream, but since Herschell has caved into fleshly desires, he can’t be gifted the virgin Angel. Now, he’ stuck with sloppy-seconds Ann. Still, he’s happy and locks lips with Ann in a slit-to-her-thighs dress. Fade to Herschel’s hunky star closeup as birds fly through God’s majestic Florida sky.

Pictures of wild animals are placed throughout the film, although I’m not sure if Hawkes is reminding us that he was the Spanish Tarzan, or if he is letting us know that he is going to start a shelter for beasts. Not wanting to feel left out, Grinter also return for this bit of thought-provoking naturist narration, as he hacks away: “There’s much to warn us all of the trends our destiny’s taking. Our scientists agree that the one immutable law of life is change. There’s much talk, and protest, about everything. About pollution, about drugs and their abuse. And this has been a story based partly on fact, partly on probability. But the horrors that occur in the minds of those who allow the indiscriminate use of the human body as a mixing bowl for drugs and chemicals are as real as the real horror. So when you eat or take into your body any chemical or drugs you take a chance on reactions that are untested, unpredictable! There are government agencies, many responsible groups, fighting the use of chemicals. In the food we eat, in the water we drink. And yet there are far too many of us, who go right on taking the good way of life for granted. Ignoring the warnings. So let’s give a little thought to making our own story have a happy ending!” Amen.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… the only film in the entire exploitation canon to be endorsed by The Southern Baptist Convention, the Betty Ford Clinic, and the Butterball Thanksgiving Hotline… Only Godmonster of Indian Flats can boast a more bizarre cinematic universe, and yet its Old West weirdness just cannot compare to Freak‘s Vietnam vet in a fowl mood madness.”–Bill Gibron, PopMatters (DVD)

“Everything about this movie is Ed Wood bad, from the acting, the screenplay and production values. It’s so bad a film, that it demands to be seen by those who call themselves weird film addicts or those who just have a perverse need to see a film that’s so unbelievable it must be seen to be believed.”– Dennis Schwartz, Ozus Movie Reviews (DVD)

“Unbelievable in the extreme and guaranteed to leave you wiping your eyes in disbelief, this Brad Grinter-lensed oddity has been a long time coming on DVD… If you threw a Ron Ormond pro-Christian message flick, a nauseating H.G. Lewis gorefest, and an anti-pot PSA into a blender, BLOOD FREAK would eventually pour into your glass.”–Casey Scott, DVD Drive-IN (DVD)

IMDB LINK: Blood Freak (1972) 

OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:

BLOOD FREAK reviewed by The Cinema Snob – Annoyed, profane video review by Brad Jones

Steve Hawkes! – A collection of newspaper clippings related to Blood Freak‘s fascinating star, collected by “Temple of Schlock”

DVD INFO: Something Weird (naturally) released a long awaited “Special Edition” of Blood Freak in 2002 (buy). The picture and video quality are pathetic, but as good as we are ever likely to get. Supplemental features are a meaty selection of tenuously-related short oddities from Something Weird’s archives: the self-explanatory “Brad Ginter, Nudist”; a softcore peeper starring Hawkes entitled “The Walls Have Eyes”; the anti-drug panic “Narcotics, Pit of Despair”: the Christsploitation short “Beggar at the Gates”; and the fowl featurettes “Turkeys in the Wild” and “A Day of Thanksgiving.” The disk also has a large selection of vintage grindhouse trailers.

The bold may want to spend a little more to get Something Weird’s “Freak Show Box Set” (buy), which throws in the Blood Freak disc alongside Frankenstein’s House of Freaks, She Freak, and the deliberate camp of Basket Case (and, of course, even more short features and trailers).

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