Blood Sucking Freaks (Joel M. Reed / U.S., 1976):
(The Incredible Torture Show; The House of the Screaming Virgins)

Greenwich Village got an elucidation of Kienholz's John Doe in A Bucket of Blood, Soho gets Swan Lake with chainsaws in Joel M. Reed's jaunty, greasy thesis on degenerate art. "Tonight, we begin with torture." Captive girls arrive in crates marked "fragile" and are promptly subjected to flagellation and dismemberment before an oblivious audience, just another evening at Sardu's Theatre of the Macabre. Seamus O'Brien presides over the bloodletting like Artaud reincarnated as Vincent Price, his assistant (Luis De Jesus) is a gleeful dwarf not from Universal horror but out of the William Morris agency. The feral muse, a whole catacomb of them, the kidnapped dancer (Viju Krem) gets the star treatment and the reviewing snob (Alan Dellay) the best seat in the house. "The eminent critic has a sense of humor in times of stress." Reed is well aware of Herschell Gordon Lewis, and more than aware of José Mojica Marins, his avant-gardists pile misogynistic atrocities high in a reflexive grindhouse vaudeville. Severed fingers on the backgammon board and plucked eyeballs in the frying pan, the bound rump like a dartboard and the drilled cranium like a milkshake—the full off-off-Broadway panoply. "Master? About my billing..." The comedy of revulsion, a complex performance. What is barbarity but second-rate Grand Guignol to the supercilious pundit? (He has his mouth kicked by a topless ballerina in the central image.) Hi, Mom! and Theater of Blood are called into play for the opening-night boffo, the Dionysian wrap party closes on a cannibal's sack lunch. "Wanna be in a freak show? It's a free country." With Niles McMaster, Dan Fauci, and Ernie Pysher.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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