Color Me Blood Red | Varied Celluloid

Color Me Blood Red

Posted by Josh Samford On July - 22 - 2008
Plot Outline: Adam Sorg is a artist starving for critical attention. His paintings tend to sell very well, but there’s one particular critic who always gives him awful reviews and Adam doesn’t feel like he can take it anymore. After this one critic tells Adam that his use of color is terrible while at the Farnsworth galleries (I’m sorry, everytime I hear the name Farnsworth I instantly think of the old man on Futurama), Sorg blows up and heads home to construct a masterpiece that everyone will love. The only problem is that when he gets home he discovers he doesn’t have a shade of red that will fit the said masterpiece. Once again, like a child he throws a temper tantrum (he throws about nine in the course of the film). During the night though, something magical happens. While Adam’s girlfriend is walking through the living room she cuts herself on a nail and bleeds a little bit on to a canvass. Come the morning Adam sees the blood and thus begins the work on his masterpiece. He at first begins draining his own blood but finds himself lightheaded, but then he puts together the idea that if he uses other people’s blood he won’t have to worry about passing out! He starts of by killing his girlfriend and dumping her blood on a lousy painting. He is then a critical success, but the cynical critic asks whether this one painting is his only stroke of genius. Adam sets off to prove him wrong, and I guess you can see where this is going.


  

The Review: Color Me Blood Red is the second Herschell Gordon Lewis film that I’ve felt was halfway decent, but that doesn’t really mean a whole lot when you look at the rest of his catalogue. The film is only out shown by the slightly less irritating Gore, Gore Girls, but rest assured even these two are pretty horrendous. It’s hard to speak ill of Lewis, of course I feel no real draw to his films other than by the fact that they are bad, but you can at least admire the fact that he was able to get these films put together whit such a minuscule budgets. Color Me Blood Red seem as if it’s Lewis’ most artistic film perhaps, using quite a few techniques I’ve never seen in any of his previous films. The whole film seems to be a jab at his critics perhaps, seeing that he’s portrayed critics in such a negative light there’s nothing all too new about it, but Blood Red seems to be Lewis trying to make a art-house gore film or something of that caliber. From the music to the somewhat ambitious direction (by Lewis standards of course), it may just be in my mind but it seems as if Lewis was perhaps trying to branch out but the only thing that gets in his way is the lack of budget and the lack of talent. Mind you I don’t plan to slam the man in this review, I can understand that these flicks really had no intention other than to gross kids out at drive-ins, with perhaps a much large vision from the director, but the writing within the film is unfathomably bad. The direction, the keeping up with small but important plot factors, etc. The film will either kill you with the cheesy dialogue or it will make you stronger. For me, it made me stronger. I was bludgeoned in the face with seemingly endless torrents of sixties pop phrases like “she’s out here on the patio daddio” and ” I dig, pig” yet I held strong and once the film was over I came out a new man. A man with an even higher threshold for b-cinema. The dialogue is so bad, I can’t even begin to describe to you how much I squirmed nearly every time one of the actors opened their mouths, of course I wasn’t guaranteed to actually heard the dialogue because half the film appeared to be shot without any kind of microphone, but when the speech was audible I was near comatose with pain. Mind you though, this is actually one of H.G. Lewis’ better films and to tell the truth it’s not all that bad, certainly not in comparison. The film is quite often unintentionally hilarious (I laughed for two straight minutes at the very end) and there is a good bit of fun to be had if you’re up for this sort of thing, so B-Movie aficionados if you were upset with Blood Feast then this might just be up your alley.

The film actually opens with a great deal of promise when we watch a man carry a painting out of the Farnsworth galleries into the back yard where he begins burning it. All is done in complete silence except for a drum beat that plays repeatedly over the soundtrack, and leads into a much larger (and very b-movie’ish) anthemic horror score. I thought it was fairly daring for this type of film to open with such a relaxed and subtle introduction, and it actually works to a degree. The only real negative is that by the time the guy sets the painting down to burn it, you’re being drove mad by the percussion. The credits roll over the image of the flaming painting which then proceeds to pour blood and so the film begins. This is about as good as it gets really, the same trick is played twice where we are introduced to a montage of scenes played with nothing but music on the soundtrack. I thought each one was actually pulled off pretty well, but the way that it fit into the film didn’t feel very natural. I suspect perhaps something was wrong in the film, perhaps a dead mic or something along those lines and Lewis had to cut the scenes together fairly quick. It doesn’t really matter though because in the end it actually helps the film out a good bit, giving he audience a break from the monotonous dialogue laden sequences. I kind of feel bad disrespecting the film, because it’s just too easy to do it, but I have to comment on the camerawork. To paraphrase Space Ghost, it ‘wadn’t very good’ (murmured by SG in the episode ‘Curling Flower Space’, misspelling intentional). It fluctuates in the film really. It tends to ranges from being darn right disrespectful to the trade, to a few actually well put together shots. What Lewis tends to do that easily can grate a viewers nerves is that he lingers far too long on inconsequential things. This is an editing complaint more than a cinematography one, but the two are easily connected when you watch the sloppier moments put together I’m thinking of. I remember being irritated to no end during one particular scene where the camera stayed in the same position watching a girl calling out for a guy to come to shore, and then watching her get in a bike/boat thing and travel out to the middle of the water just to reach him and begin a short conversation. There are perhaps three cuts in the scene, but it could have been edited down in so many better and more interesting ways that you begin to grow infuriated by how boring it is. I can imagine that there wasn’t enough time or money for Lewis to take time and shoot scenes from different angles, but when looking through the film for profile shots of the actors I sat through like three conversations in the film where all we do is sit and watch them talk from about six feet away.

The really big problem I had with the cinematography though was how much the camera just seemed to wander around. There were moments that I swear the cameraman was drunk while he filmed the scenes. The movement was jerky and seemed to float a good bit during the scenes in Adam’s house in particular. A lot of the different panning shots in the film are actually fairly interesting, but a lot of them are just bumpy and take you out of the film, especially since everything looks more akin to a theatrical play than a film. The film does have it’s own distinct visual style about it, I guess you can at least give it that. The actors in the film, do I really have to even comment? Well, I might as well anyway. The only person who delivers a fairly decent performance is Gordon Oas-Heim (credited with the pseudonym Don Joesph) as Adam, but he is of most interest only because he plays the part so over the top that his performance rivals the lead in Gore, Gore Girls. Maybe I draw the comparison because of how similar the two characters are. Both are played very over the top and are quite hilarious, both are extremely obnoxious and both seem to really hate women. He’s part of what makes the film actually work, sure he could have played it subdued and the director could have brought us into his world as it falls apart within his mind but instead we take the more fun route and have a brash, ego-centric idiot artist who basis his whole existence on pleasing some moronic critic who appears to have his own chair that never leaves the stage at the local art gallery. The rest of the cast other than Oas-Heim aren’t all that interesting except for those who make you shudder when they talk. The snobbish critic comes to mind, and so does the girl’s mother who continually tries to buy Adam’s “art”. Please do note the quotation marks, it’s called sarcasm. This brings me to the one thing in the film I really didn’t get, how am I supposed to believe the paintings were created the way they were shown? Adam is shown pouring blood on an empty canvas with nothing but a penciled in outline, yet in the next shot he’s pouring blood over a halfway painted canvass. Even though he poured blood on the empty one, somehow he was able to paint UNDERNEATH the blood he had already spilled on the outline. If there’s something I missed, I don’t know what it is. While I’m at it I could probably also point out that I’ve never seen blood remain red after it stays on paper for too long, it seems to turn maroonish brown after a day or so. To top the whole painting sequence off though, I’ll also note that the amount of blood on the canvas never really changed that much after Adam stopped trying to milk blood from his finger and started killing people for blood.

Before I draw this review to a close I guess I’ll bring up one last thing, for some reason in the film (maybe some kind of production code back in the day?) something prevents the use of harsher expletives. Several times in the film Adam toys with a few curse words but never actually says the words aloud. I just don’t get it, the ‘F’ word wasn’t suitable back then but showing a man using his wife’s dead corpse for a paint brush was perfectly suitable for mass enjoyment? It’s either a choice made by Lewis or the producers or the censors, either way it’s incredibly silly. So here I am, I’ve basically did nothing but rag on the film in all of it’s ineptitude, but I continue to give it a three! What’s the unknown reason you ask? Well, it’s entertaining! Unlike Blood Feast or Wizard of Gore, I found Blood Red to actually deliver a film that I might could watch once or twice more in my lifespan. The dialogue is atrocious, but a hoot to laugh at when feeling particularly witty and the blood that looks like red paint always entertains me. I do not recommend it for all audiences though, this may be a bit too harsh of b-movie trauma for most horror fans to take. Over the years I’ve developed a decent threshold for drive in cinema, but I’m still a softie by some standards. For those of you who have seen one or two Lewis films that you liked, this one might be of interest. So now Lewis is two for two with me, he’s a bad director but somewhat alluring. What can I say, I’ve seen worse.



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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.

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