“I mean, I don’t know how to describe it. But I just did. It’s just an insane f***in’ movie with insane parts. You’re watching it, it gives these curves that you didn’t see coming, until probably I just told you and showed you in the review. But it’s just I don’t even know how else to review it, you know, the, it’s just insane. It’s an insane f****in’ movie. Uncle Bill, you’re insane for liking it, and I’m insane for liking it too. It’s just insanity incarnate. But it’s a lot of fun.”–youtube fan review of Blood Diner
DIRECTED BY: Jackie Kong
FEATURING: Rick Burks, Carl Crew
PLOT: At the direction of their uncle Anwar, a talking brain in a jar, two restaurateur brothers assemble a vessel composed of body parts harvested from immoral women to receive the spirit of the ancient Egyptian goddess Sheetar. They are opposed by a pair of mismatched cops and the owner of a rival vegetarian restaurant intent on stealing their secret recipe. After many bloody murders, they must complete only the last ritual, a “Lumerian feast” where Sheetar will take the life of a virgin, along with the attendees at the banquet.
- Blood Diner was originally intended to be a sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ transcendently bad Blood Feast (1963), but when the collaborators could not agree on a scenario the project was changed to a black comedy tribute in the spirit of Lewis’ movie.
- Blood Diner was originally banned in some Canadian provinces and in Iceland, and was heavily cut for release in other countries.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: As drug-zombies rave and cultists in Egyptian dress attempt to channel the goddess into a stitched-together corpse, a punk band (composed of a singer in a Roman helmet, two backup singers in blue wigs, four sidemen dressed as Hitler and a pantomime horse roaming the stage) plays in the background.
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Most movies featuring talking brains in a jar are weird, and Blood Diner is no exception.
Original trailer for Blood Diner
COMMENTS: There was little in female exploitation director Jackie Kong’s brief oeuvre to suggest she had the capacity to produce a movie as unremittingly odd as Blood Diner. Her previous work consisted of only three movies, including the pedestrian 1983 horror flick The Being (distinguished mainly by the unusual casting of Martin Landau, Ruth Buzzi and Kinky Friedman) and the forgotten sex comedy The Underachievers (1987). The only small hint of what was to come was from her painfully unfunny 1984 spoof Night Patrol (with Linda Blair and “The Unknown Comic”), which prefigured Blood Diner‘s leaden sense of humor. Night Patrol contained such flat gags as a perpetually flatulent Billy Barty as a chief of police, and a “backup squad” that literally strolls backwards into a crime scene.
Blood Diner substitutes more mean-spirited, but equally lame and sophomoric, laughs. When a police detective is paired with an attractive lady cop, he wiggles his tongue obscenely at her, so extravagantly that he sprains it. When the antihero brothers Michael and George Tutman (dressed in outrageously anachronistic 1970s disco-wear and pompadours) are denied entry to a nightclub by a bouncer, George tosses him into the street, where his head is immediately crushed under the wheel of a lowrider with hydraulic wheels as it bounces by. Later, while listening to a mambo on the radio, George will strike a fat pedestrian with his van. When he notices the man is still walking, he’ll back up and run over him again, but the man still limps away. It takes several more failed hit-and-runs before George finally gives up. (The scene itself is not that funny, but there is a hilarious delayed punchline).
This style of humor may work for teenagers and a few others who are deep into the vibe of (funnier) gore-comedy hybrids like Dead-Alive [AKA Braindead]. If Blood Diner stopped there, it would be a forgettable failure, but drollery through dismemberment isn’t what earns this movie its seat at the weird banquet. The lame humor simply provides a base on which the movie overlays its true weirdness.
Blood Diner‘s clumsy comedy sets an odd tone of failed deliberate camp. Authentic camp occurs when we watch bad actors botch sincere lines. Such scenes can be unintentionally hilarious. Deliberate camp occurs when a decent actor delivers insincere lines meant to poke fun at sincere beliefs; the laughs are delivered with a wink that lets the audience know that the performer is in on the joke. We’re supposed to be laughing with the players, not at them. But when we have bad actors misfiring on insincere lines, we get a situation where they are telling us they’re in on the joke—but it’s a different joke than the one we’re getting. It’s an uneasy feeling, being constantly uncertain whether you should be laughing with or at the folks who are bringing you Blood Diner.
Failed camp is not what makes Blood Diner weird, but it certainly is a different starting point for a weird film. Ultimately, it’s the exotic flavors that are promiscuously thrown in to the blood-red comedy stock that gives this stew it its uniqueness. Of course, there’s Uncle Anwar, the talking brain with eyes and the ridiculous “Egyptian” accent. There’s the topless aerobics massacre. There’s the rival vegetarian restaurant owner with the ventriloquist dummy sidekick, who the rest of the cast addresses as if he were a breathing actor. There’s the fact that both the principals and the extras laugh like kids in a schoolyard making fun of a nerd who just got pantsed every time someone loses a hand or head in a of geyser of blood. There’s the time Anwar reminisces about the days when he had a body, and his memories take the form of old black and white rape-themed stag films. And there’s a subplot about a professional wrestler with the toothbrush mustache and swastika armband performing under the name “Little Jimmy Hitler.”
Oh, about that Hitler character. The idea of a wrestling heel modeling himself after the universal symbol of evil is actually amusing, clever and daring, considered in isolation. But what’s odd is that the movie does not stop there with it’s Hitler imagery. Der Führer pops up again, this time in quadruplicate, as the backing band at the “Lumerian feast” of the movie’s climax. Two Hitler shout-outs would be enough to raise an eyebrow, but Kong adds another, subtler and perhaps even accidental, tribute to the Nazi leader. As Hitler’s punk band bangs out its frenetic tune and the concertgoers, turned into cannibalistic zombies by drugs, feast on each other on the dance floor, the beat fades out and the strains of the “Overture and Bacchanalia” from Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” fill the air as Sheetar is revived from the sleep of the gods. Wagner, of course, was Hitler’s favorite composer, and to choose this tune with Aryan associations as the theme music for the avenging goddess, accompanying a scene of orgiastic (almost genocidal) slaughter is, to put it mildly, a bit of a weird coincidence.
With so many gory strands and peculiar preoccupations going into the mix, Blood Diner is stitched together, just like the Frankensteinish corpse made up of parts of immoral women. As the Internet enthusiast said, “it’s an insane movie [composed of] insane parts.” But the insanity of Blood Diner isn’t the wacky insanity of a film like Evil Dead 2, although it appears superficially similar. The thread which stitches these parts together is meanness. From the cruel hilarity to the eroticized misogyny to the Hitler tributes, Blood Diner is bitterly nihilistic, even for a black comedy. It’s enough to make one wonder what exactly was in Jackie Kong’s head when she made this, the swan song of her short and otherwise undistinguished career. It seems the work of an incompetent psychotic with a movie camera and an agenda against the world. The result is fascinating, for reasons the director never intended, and disturbing, in ways the director probably never intended. It’s not funny, either in the way intended or unintentionally, but it’s worth viewing if you’re mining the depraved depths of weird cinema. Guys, just don’t use it to try to impress the artsy girl you met in your Women’s Studies class with your knowledge of obscure cinema. It’s not that kind of movie.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“Don’t think for a second… that ‘Blood Diner,’… is at all similar to ‘Eating Raoul’ or any other real movie. It pretends to have a comic plot, but that’s just a shabby excuse for the brothers to hack up naked women. The production is conspicuously low-budget, and the dubbing, lighting and continuity are pathetically amateurish, but none of that matters. This is not a real movie; it’s celluloid swill.”–Caryn James, The New York Times (contemporaneous)
“This is a very gory, dumb comedy/horror takeoff on… Blood Feast… but it’s bad in a way that the original wasn’t.”–Michael Weldon, The Psychotronic Video Guide (video)
“…a film that delights in its own stupidity. Kong’s outrageous inventiveness and lack of pretension makes it a far more perversely enjoyable film than many big budget studio counterparts.”–Richard Scheib, Moria: The Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Review (video)
IMDB LINK: Blood Diner (1987)
OTHER LINKS OF INTEREST:
DVD INFO: Somewhat surprisingly, Blood Diner has yet to receive a DVD release, which has held it back from becoming the cult hit it otherwise might be. The VHS video (buy) was released by Vestron Video.
UPDATE 9/30/2016: Blood Diner is now on Blu-ray (buy) from a resurgent Vestron Video, complete with a Jackie Kong commentary track, and five featurettes covering everything from the influence of ‘s Blood Feast to the music!