Blood Sucking Freaks aka The Incredible Torture Show 1976
Blood Sucking Freaks is one of my favorite exploitation films of all time. Filmed in the middle of the sleazy seventies the movie is a gleeful and unapologetic misogynistic nightmare. Then again, to call Blood Sucking Freaks misogynistic is like calling the Mona Lisa a doodle.
What makes the film tolerable to watch is the sincerely light hearted tone it takes among its barbaric depictions of various atrocities. There are scenes that are not for the squeamish but unless you're the type that faints at the sight of a drop of blood, you'll be fine.
The aspects of the film I find interesting are its direct links to the Theatre du Grand Guignol which existed in Paris for nearly one hundred years. The Theatre was notorious for the live depictions of torture, mutilations, rape and murder that occurred live on stage. The Theatre, rather than repelling audiences, enjoyed the patronage of the finest of European society. In addition, the activities on stage, somehow triggered an amorous spirit in selected members of the audience. They were special viewing boxes where couples could make love unobserved, while being stimulated by the mayhem on stage.
The owner of a seedy downtown New York Theater, Sardu, who is ably assisted by his horny dwarf Ralphus. The theater goers are treated to displays of bondage and sadomasochistic sexual torture, while the "victims" scream for help. What the audience doesn't realize is that the women on stage are kidnap victims. These poor girls have only three fates-to be sold into white slavery, be tortured and killed by Sardu, Ralphus and their friends, or imprisoned among a group of feral, naked women who are kept in a cage and fed body parts.
Sardu kidnaps a prominent critic in the hopes of getting a positive review and attempts to torture him into agreeing. Oh if it were only that simple! He also nabs a beautiful ballerina hoping to convince her to dance for his "productions" to endow them with some legitimacy. Not bloody likely. So he terrorizes her, as well.
In the meantime we are treated to some behind the stage activities. In perhaps the best known scene, a deranged dentist pulls out the teeth of a bound woman, then forces her to give him oral sex. You think the girl would have done her duty by now, but the dentist shaves her scalp, promptly drills a hole in the top of her head, inserts a straw and enjoys a cerebellum smoothie. I am not making this stuff up.
Ralphus, who was attentively observing the dentists work, comes up with his own game. The clever boy straps a comely young woman onto a guillotine, buns up kneeling. He places the rope holding the blade between her teeth and proceeds to play darts using her ass as the target. With every strike from one of the sharp projectiles, the woman's ability to maintain hold of the rope weakens until she lets go and adios cabesa!!!
Ralphus then grabs the severed head and in a scene predating the famous High Tension truck driver escapade by 30 years, pleasures himself with the object.
There are lots of other highlights in the film but I wouldn't want to spoil too much of the fun. One piece I did enjoy was one of the crazy naked ladies grabbing a freshly torn off penis and chowing down as if it were a fresh bratwurst.
The film has generated its share of controversy over the years (imagine that!). No question the film tried to cram as much brutality as it manage into the running time. I suppose it depends on how you view the film. If one takes it seriously as a horror/ splatter movie then Blood Sucking Freaks is no worse or better than most of the exploitation films to be churned out in the sixties and seventies. Some critics and audiences felt very uncomfortable by the Sadean-sexual aspects of the movie. Others just saw it as a poorly constructed film with bad acting, mediocre special effects and a ludicrous plot. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre it was not.
I'm somewhere in the middle, as I tend to be in judging films such as Blood Sucking Freaks. There is no doubt the movie delivers what it promises, and does it better than hundreds of horror/slashers that teased about the amount of sex,blood and gore, yet did not supply the goods. Blood Sucking Freaks is campy horror at its best, with a self conscious wink that says we are trying so hard not to break the fourth wall here, folks.
What no one can question is that Blood Sucking Freaks tapped into the perverse lineage of horror/sexuality started by the Marquis de Sade and perfected by the Grand Guignol. Designed to both titillate and nauseate viewers, the film is much more than the sum of its parts, and body parts for that matter. Considering the movies of today, some of which border on the obscene and thanks to improved SFX, enabling gore and severed limb quotients unthinkable back in 1976, Blood Sucking Freaks deserves its Cult status.
Joel Reed wrote and directed the film, with cinematography by Ron Dorfman. Seamus O'Brien, Viju Krem and Luis de Jesus were the key cast members. In an eerie postscript to the film O'Brien, who played Sardu, was stabbed to death by a burgular in his apartment. Krem, who portrayed the lovely ballerina, was killed in a hunting accident. Both died shortly after the film's release.