THE BEST LEWIS FILM
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is by far the best Lewis film. This one has good acting, especially by Bill Rogers (and features a cameo role by Lewis himself). The script is good, and the gore is actually helpful to the plot (unlike Blood Feast where the plot revolves around the gore), and it has atmospheric photography. This is one of the few H.G. Lewis films that is tastefully handled. The picture quality is beautiful, until the end of the film, where there are 2 badly damaged reels. The extras are decent: the trailer is okay, the... short film is alright, the usual gallery is pretty good, and the commentary is great. A must for all H.G. Lewis fans, and anyone who wants to see one of his less excessive outings."
"Helsing, either you're nuttier than a fruitcake or I am for
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 12/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, Goldilocks and the Three Bares, Two Thousand Maniacs!) is a name instantly familiar to any fan of exploitation films, given he was a somewhat of an original in the realm of nudie cuties (along with former business partner David F. Friedman), before becoming a pioneer in the world of splatter films. Directed by Lewis, A Taste of Blood (1967) features Bill Rogers (Shanty Tramp, Flesh Feast), Elizabeth Wilkinson (Suburban Roulette), and Lewis regular William Kerwin (Bell, Bare and Beautiful, Two Thousand Maniacs!). Also appearing is Otto Schlessinger (Flesh Feast), Eleanor Vaill (The Girl, the Body, and the Pill), and Lawrence Tobin (Shanty Tramp).
After a slightly bizarre opening credit sequence (with a bouncy, jazzy score) we see a package, labeled `of gravest urgency', being delivered to an office, the name of the recipient being John Stone (Rogers). Stone's secretary Hester (Vaill) signs for it, after which she and the delivery man speculate on its contents...she thinks it's gold, he thinks it's a bomb (no, that would be this movie), while I'm hoping it's the actual script for the film, as so far everyone seems to be winging it, and rather poorly I might add (turns out it's none of the above). Hester delivers the package to Stone's swanky home, where we get to meet Stone, who's quite the fashion statement in a maroon sports coat, white shirt, purple pants and black cravat. We also get to meet his bosomy, blonde, bubble headed wife named Helene (Wilkinson), who's about as interesting as a wooden post. Anyway, after an agonizing (and pointless) ten minute sequence, John finally gets around to opening the package, which contains, among other things, a letter indicating he's the last living heir to a vast estate in London, along with some specific instructions. After following the instructions John begins to change (developing nocturnal habits), Helene gets concerned, family doctor and friend Hank Tyson (Kerwin) gets involved, there's an excessive amount of smoking and drinking going on, John travels to London (where some people die mysteriously) and returns to the states with a what looks to be a coffin, John puts the hypnotic whammy on Helene, there's a list of people marked for death, John visits a bump and grind clip joint after which a skaggy stripper is drained of her hemoglobin, someone named Dr. Howard Helsing (Schlessinger) makes the scene with a dire warning, all eventually leading up to a rather uneventful finale hardly worth the effort.
The one thing that surprised me while watching this film was the general lack of gore, especially in terms of some of Lewis' other films. There is some blood, but not nearly to the extent as seen in Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), or The Wizard of Gore (1970). The one thing that annoyed me the most was tedious pacing. So often scene after scene was drawn out unnecessarily, resulting a bloated two-hour run time. While I've never actually made a movie, I've think I've seen enough of them to offer up a few suggestions for those aspiring film directors out there, thoughts that came to mind while watching this feature...
1. Just because you shoot a scene doesn't necessarily mean it should be included in the finished product, especially if it offers nothing in terms of positive, forward flow to the actual story.
2. Lengthy static shots are certainly cheap and easy to set up, but when they comprise nearly ninety percent of your film it's going to result in extreme tedium for the viewer, possibly forcing them to scrape their sinus cavities with a rusty butter knife in an effort to stay awake.
3. Time spent in postproduction is usually time well spent, particularly in terms of editing. If a scene feels like it's running too long, it probably is...
4. Try to throw in some interesting characters or situations once in awhile. It makes it so much more interesting for the audience (in all fairness, Bill Rogers' character was fairly fun to watch).
5. Just because you can direct doesn't mean you can act, especially if you're going to attempt playing the role of an English sailor with a ridiculous cockney accent. I know it's tempting, especially if the budget is tight, but surely you can scrape up a few extra bucks and hire a semi-proficient scrub actor, which can be found a dime a dozen (check the local dinner theaters or community colleges) for a bit role.
The acting is rotten (I lost count of how many times the various performers stepped on each others' lines), the script barely there, and the production values funky (this was actually one of Lewis' more expensive productions), but I expected these elements, and wasn't disappointed. Bill Rogers is actually somewhat entertaining to watch (he kind of reminded me of a bargain basement Robert Quarry, of Count Yorga fame), while Elizabeth Wilkinson, attractive in her own way (whotta rack), comes off the worst, obviously the least talented of the bunch. There's a couple of sequences that stuck out in my mind, the first being when John is in London and he's speaking with an English sailor, played by director Lewis himself, aboard a ship. Lewis spews forth the most rotten cockney accent I've ever heard, and thereby injects some unintentional comedy into the proceedings. In another bit much later in the movie, as Hank visits Dr. Helsing in his hotel room, we witness the extent of the production values present as the room consists of a shabby dresser, a cot for a bed, and a crummy folding chair (seeing as how the man was a prestigious doctor, I thought he could have afforded to stay in something a bit more classier than a flophouse). All in all if you're a Lewis fan, then you'll probably want to catch this one, but if you're looking for some of the trademark Lewis splatter and gore (guts, buckets of blood, etc.), you're better off going with some of his other films. I did appreciate Lewis' attempt to delve into the vampire mythos, perhaps in an effort to try his hand at something slightly different, but the end result confirms the idea that, in general, one should stick with what they know.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1) on this Something Weird Video special edition DVD release, looks clean and sharp, up until about the hour and fifteen minute mark, as after that it deteriorates slightly. At this point the picture quality varies and features some vertical lines, but nothing overly annoying. As far as the Dolby Digital mono audio, it's generally decent (albeit soft), but there is some slight noise along with the occasional pop. Extras include an audio commentary track with director Herschell Gordon Lewis, an extremely worn out theatrical trailer for the film, a rough looking archival silent, black and white nudie short titled `Nightmare at Elm Manor' (4:56), which contained more nekkidness in five minutes than was included in the actual, two hour feature film on this DVD, and a Herschell Gordon Lewis gallery of exploitation art. All in all a solid release of a mediocre film.