Color Me Blood Red Review
Color Me Blood Red is the last of the 'Blood Trilogy' made by writer/director/cinematographer Herscell Gordon Lewis and producer/soundman David Friedman. It is noticeably less gory than its two predecessors - Blood Feast and Two Thousand Maniacs - and considerably less professional. You couldn't describe any of Lewis's films as particularly good, but Color me Blood Red reaches depths of badness rarely matched in film history. As the poster claims, it will certainly "LEAVE YOU AGHAST", but possibly not in the way the advertising implies.
The plot concerns Adam Sorg, a struggling and not noticably talented artist, and his attempts to gain critical recognition for his work. Since he seems to spend all his time shouting at his girlfriend it's amazing he ever gets any work done at all, but as we meet him, he is preparing a new painting which he hopes will be his masterpiece. An art critic - we know he's an art critic because he wears a beret and gesticulates madly at any canvas within his reach - suggests that Adam should find a better shade of red to use in his work. Where could such a red be found ? I suspect that you are ahead of me here, dear reader. However, after his girlfriend cuts her finger, Adam discovers that blood produces exactly the desired effect. He drains all he can from her finger, then sets about his hand with a razor to get more and more to complete his painting. Eventually, he has to stab his girlfriend in the head and smear her bleeding face against the canvas. The masterpiece that results gains critical plaudits and is a smash hit at the local art gallery. But Adam has the problem of repeating his success and is forced to get his new painting material in any way he can, even if it means killing some of the young people who frequent the beach near his house.
This plot is somewhat similar to Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood, a much better and far more sophisticated film, but on the other hand, Corman never made anything as truly baffling as Color Me Blood Red. The pacing is somnolent, to put it mildly, and the direction seems to consist of finding a place to fix the camera and keeping all the actors in front of it. The exception to this technique comes in the form of the outdoor sequences. Lewis managed to find a watersports company who wanted to advertise their "aquabikes", and he used them in the film. These contraptions are bizarre, consisting of a bike that works like a paddle steamer and requires extreme effort from the riders in order to make them move anywhere. Every time they appear in the film, the result is unintentionally hilarious, and, believe me, they appear frequently.
Matching the visuals is a script of divine incompetence. The actors come out with gems such as "There's only one problem with painting like that - the undertaker has to finish it for you" and "Hey, pigments, not haemoglobin." When the supporting cast of youngsters arrive, as the film turns into a beach movie, they all speak in "cool" slang, with expressions such as "Daddy-O" and "Dig that crazy driftwood". Upon discovering the body of Adam's dead girlfriend, the hero, Norman, exclaims, "Holy bananas ! It's a girl's leg." There are attempts at humour. When Adam's masterpiece is shown to the critic, he says, "I know Adam Sorg. His blood is in this one" and gives us a pointed stare to make sure we get the irony.
One of the many problems with Color Me Blood Red is the lack of gory highlights. In fact, it's comparitively restrained for Lewis. One guy gets a spear thrust through his chest, and Adam uses a girl's intestine as if it were a tube of paint, but otherwise the film replaces blood and guts with endless and meaningless chatter. Lewis says proudly that this film actually had a script written before production, but on this evidence, that wasn't necessarily a good thing. The acting is abysmal, despite the fact that Lewis used professional actors in the film, and the editing is very jerky. This might be explained by the fact that Lewis had an argument with his producer and abandoned the film after shooting, or simply by the fact that there was no money to spend on post-production. Not much to be spent on production either, for that matter. How many films have wonderful credits such as "Automobiles by Stinnett's Motors, Sarasota" ? Sometimes, the film is so badly structured that it becomes surreal. For example, one minute, Adam is in the house painting, and the next he is out at sea pedalling back towards his house, without any apparent narrative time lapse. Other scenes are held so long after they have made their point that they begin to have a hypnotic fascination. This is the sort of bad film that is so awful as to be oddly compelling.
The disc is part of Something Weird Video's wonderful collection of films by Lewis, and is up to the high standard of the other discs.
The picture quality is as good as you're ever going to get. The problems with the image are the fault of the original film and not the disc. It looks cheap, as you would expect, but the transfer has been done with some genuine care. The main problems are the horribly flat cinematography - we're talking home movie standard here and even then, a home movie by someone very untalented - and the grainy appearance. Nothing to be done about these, as I said above.
The sound quality is, again, as good as it can be. Some of the dialogue is a little unclear, but that's because of poor sound recording on the part of the filmmakers. The mono track has been cleaned up sufficiently to be acceptable without being impressive.
The extras are very pleasing. The commentary is marvellous. H.G.Lewis is present, as on the other discs, as is the producer David Friedman and the two men talk away happily while watching the film. Lewis is hugely entertaining, as always, and manages to be self-deprecating about the film while still being generous and appreciative of the efforts of his collaborators. At one point, he sums up his career when he says, "Subtlety was not our strong point in these movies". He also explains the problems involved when making a film with very little money and his comments are genuinely interesting for anyone interested in low budget filmmaking. It's quite touching when Friedman makes a sincere apology to Lewis about the situation between them that led to their partnership being dissolved, and the two men show such enthusiasm that it makes you feel more charitable about the film.
The trailer is included and features the brilliant line, "This is a story of Adam and Evil". We also get a poster gallery for the Blood Trilogy. The outtakes are very odd indeed. They exist only as soundless fragments, so they are backed by music and dialogue from Lewis's earlier films. To be honest, they are very, very dull and will probably be most interesting to more committed fans of Lewis's work. There are 12 chapter stops and nice packaging featuring the original poster artwork.
I can't really recommend such a dreadful film as Color Me Blood Red. What I will say, however, is that if you are a Lewis fan, or simply interested in real cinematic curiosities, then this disc is very entertaining and worth buying simply for the genuinely fascinating commentary track.
As an update to the above review, posted in May 2000, I should point out that this film has been released in the UK by Metro- Tartan. I haven't heard any reports about the quality of the transfer but the extras have none of the appeal of the Something Weird release. Basically, the only reason to get this is to hear one of the best commentaries currently available. Otherwise, apart from a certain kitsch value, the film is worthless.