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

The Greenwich Village Beats got A Bucket of Blood and a thorough articulation of Kienholz's John Doe, the SoHo underground scene gets Joel M. Reed's shock-farce and Swan Lake performed with chainsaws. The self-styled artiste is Master Sardu (Seamus O'Brien), whose Grand Guignol show employs girls trafficked in boxes labeled "fragile": The opening act of his Theater of the Macabre features one unlucky lass strapped naked to a chair with her finger in a vise while Sardu salutes the "marvelous, wonderful, attentive" viewers applauding the spectacle. Sensation is all, but since the public "cannot digest eroticism alone," horrid violence is mingled in to grant it fringe acceptance -- women are flagellated, dismembered, and used as dartboards and urinals, still the critic (Alphonso DeNoble) turns up his nose at the show, refusing it a review. Broadway is the fiend's goal ("then... Hollywood"), so a boffo presentation is arranged out of Busby Berkeley, Hi, Mom! and Theater of Blood, borrowing Herschell Gordon Lewis's electric organ while building toward the image of the chained reviewer kicked in the mouth by the topless ballerina (Viju Krem). Sardu is a mannequin for Vincent Price, Ralphus (Luis De Jesus) is his Mini Me, a dwarf who can barely contain his glee while feeding entrails to captive cannibals or maneuvering a freshly guillotined noggin for oral pleasure; however, both are outdone in their depravity by medical deviate Ernie Pysher, whose blithely contemptible showstopper involving a shaved cranium, a power drill, and a straw literalizes the title and has the experienced pervs reaching for a glass of sherry. A snapshot of 1970s New York sleaze, a manifesto for an immoral cinema, a parable for independent filmmaking -- in any case, what to do with it? Pellucid and execrable and grimy to the touch, Reed's picture exists in that disconcerting crossroads of loathsome exploitation and annihilating art, leaving its audience in a foul Dyonisian puff, purposefully ashamed of having enjoyed the show. With Niles McMaster, Dan Fauci, and Helen Thompson.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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