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Color Me Blood Red

"When you have professional, competent actors like Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, what on earth is the difference between Take 1 and Take 48?"

"About 6000 feet of film."

--Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman
discussing Eyes Wide Shut on the audio commentary track
of Something Weird's Color Me Blood Red DVD

The third and last entry in what has become known as the "Blood Trilogy" was also the final collaboration between writer-director Herschell Gordon Lewis and producer David F. Friedman.

Blood Feast had a tiny budget and low production values--but was a huge success. Two Thousand Maniacs! had considerably more going for it on both sides of the camera (and a generous budget by exploitation standards), yet it fared somewhat less well at the box office. Entry number three, therefore, fell somewhere in the middle. Color Me Blood Red offered a less ambitious (and less expensive) story than had the duo's previous film; however, the afforded technical conveniences kept it above Blood Feast in the quality department.

Don Joseph stars as Adam Sorg, a frustrated painter unable to interest the buying public in his work. After a disappointing, critically lambasted exhibition, Sorg retreats to his studio in search of inspiration. However, the spark he seeks arrives in the form of an accident: his model Gigi cuts herself on a nail protruding from one of Sorg's picture frames, and her blood on the canvas sends Sorg into an artistic frenzy. Milking the initially obliging model's cut for all its worth, Sorg eventually goes to work on his own fingers to obtain fresh "pigment," but he soon realizes the impossibility of maintaining this approach. "If (Sorg) had discovered chicken blood, we wouldn't have a movie," remarks Lewis in his audio commentary for Something Weird's DVD release of Color Me Blood Red, so it isn't long before the artist commits his first act of murder for the sake of his work. By this point, commercial considerations mean nothing. The critics now praise Sorg's paintings, and people line up to buy them, but Sorg refuses to sell at any price. His passion to create is undiminished, however, and further sources of "paint" must be secured...

Color Me Blood Red is probably the least imaginative and inspired of the Lewis/Friedman gore trilogy; lacking as it does the spontaneity of Blood Feast and the outrageous gimmickry of Two Thousand Maniacs! Demented artists had been seen on film before (Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood featured Dick Miller as a sculptor whose works actually hid the bodies of his victims, for instance) and would be again (the 1970 Canadian production Playgirl Killer is a near remake of Lewis's film and even features former Lewis star William Kerwin in the lead role). The film also suffers from noticeable padding, such as the "beach party" antics of the local teenagers and several obvious attempts to promote an awkward "paddlewheel" water bicycle. (Lewis acknowledges that the vehicle's creator hoped to start a national craze by featuring them in the film.) In the film's favor are Joseph's earnest, energetic performance as Sorg, and the effective use of library music. With no time to create their own soundtrack, Lewis and Friedman chose stock tracks they weren't particularly happy with, yet the driving, jazzy music ended up giving the film an appropriate, distinctive flavor. The trademark gore is, of course, there, but most of the blood winds up on various canvases. This film zeroes in on one particularly hideous set piece in the second half (in the mildest terms possible, Sorg has strung a once-living "palette" up on his wall, from which he obtains his special "paint").

Something Weird owner Mike Vraney (this time joined by Shocking Video's Jimmy Maslon) guide Lewis and Friedman through the DVD's audio commentary track --and this particular commentary is the most valuable of the three available for those interested in the stories of the showmen. The requisite Color Me Blood Red anecdotes are, of course, included--and are quite amusing in their own right. But here, the story goes on. Both Lewis and Friedman give straightforward accounts of their professional breakup immediately following this production (the subject of much speculation in print and elsewhere), as well as their ultimate reunion and reconciliation. Their work in the exploitation field is candidly compared with so-called "mainstream" Hollywood films (and even modern network television), as is the hypocrisy of a ratings board which allows huge liberties to major studios but comes down hard on the independents--and a convincing case is made. For all the national agonizing over what effect entertainment violence may have on society, the Lewis "gore" films, extreme as they were, seem oddly innocent by today's standards. A mad caterer? Vengeful Confederate ghosts? A blood-crazed painter? Lewis would go on to offer us the exploits of a demented mother-and-son wigmaking team, the possessive spirit of Count Dracula, and a reality-bending magician, among others--all "boogeymen" found strictly in the movies.

The DVD offers a clean, colorful transfer. Some minor flaws and one or two splices are visible but untroublesome. As on Something Weird's other "Blood Trilogy" DVDs, the theatrical trailer is included, as is the same "Gallery of Exploitation Art." Silent outtakes are once again offered. This time they run for about ten minutes and offer nothing unfamiliar (although it is nice to see the victim of the central effect described above break character and take a little stretch!). In all, the advantages of the DVD presentation make this edition of Color Me Blood Red a fine way to wrap up Something Weird's initial Lewis offerings.


Go to:
A Taste of Blood (book review)
Blood Feast
Two Thousand Maniacs
Color Me Blood Red
A Taste of Blood
Something Weird
The Gruesome Twosome
She-Devils on Wheels
The Wizard of Gore
The Gore Gore Girls