Wrestling Superstar Chris Jericho
In horror, you have the mainstream. “Scary” films for the masses such as Insidious, The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity and countless other interchangeable flicks which you could safely watch with your sweetie and then (erroneously) claim you’ve seen “the most scariest film ever.” Other horror-flicks, however, are much sicker, more disturbing, and a select few are downright demented. These are films you either watch alone or with a group of like-minded sickos and then feel unclean for the experience. We’re talking about your Cannibal Holocausts, your Salos, your Burial Grounds. Films where you rub your eyes in disbelief, slack-jawed at what you are actually seeing. Films in which social taboos are tossed aside like so-many discarded cigarette butts. Films which, despite your initial revulsion, you keep returning to again and again. Joel M. Reed’s Bloodsucking Freaks falls squarely into the latter category.
Bloodsucking Freaks, a.k.a. The Incredible Torture Show, a.k.a. Sardu Master of the Screaming Virgins is the film in which Troma head-honcho Lloyd Kaufman, in his book All I Need To Know About Filmmaking I Learned From The Toxic Avenger (required reading), calls “probably the most f*cked up film in the Troma catalogue.” In the intro to the Blu-Ray re-release, Kaufman further elaborates by saying Bloodsucking Freaks is the only movie which “…in the 40 years of Troma, were it to come around today, we would refuse [to release]” For those who know Mr. Kaufman and the films he has both made and distributed, this is truly saying something.
The film begins when Telly Savalas and Richard Simmons’ twin brothers deliver a large, wooden crate to a nebulous-looking theatre located in mid-70’s SoHo. The theatre’s proprietor is Sardu whom we instantly know is evil because he sports a goatee and is seen stroking a cat. We are also introduced to Sardu’s assistant, the wonderful Ralphus, who looks and sounds like a pint-sized Luis Guzman (or as Chris Jericho calls him, “same-sized Oates” since in Jericho’s opinion, John Oates is a little-person as well.) Jericho is such a fan of little Ralphus that he later bestowed the name on his slovenly bodyguard in WCW. Sardu and Ralphus are played by Seamus O’ Brien and Louie de Jesus and one wonders of the entertainment value if the two actors would have used their given names in the film instead.
Seamus and Louie, sorry, Sardu and Ralphus, open the crate. Ralphus pulls on a chain for an interminable length of time, and voila, out comes a screaming, fully-naked woman. Since every female we see on screen is completely in the all-together, we can safely assume that the wardrobe budget for this one was exceedingly low. Soon it’s show-time, and in a plot device not dissimilar to H.G. Lewis’s The Wizard of Gore, women are tortured and dismembered under the guise of magic tricks when in actuality what is seen on stage is horrifically real (well real but not real-looking as the effects are as shoddy as can be including paper mache severed heads, wooden dismembered feet and Technicolor red-paint masquerading as blood.)
Wearing a coat that resembles the hide of Big Bird, Seamus instructs Louie to crush a (nude, natch) women’s finger in a vice and then slowly compress her head in an iron tourniquet until she’s dead. Ralphus then plucks out her eyeball and eats it. Throughout the film, women are subjected to multiple torments and indignities aplenty, including numerous dismemberments, a good stretch on the ‘ol torture rack, chaining and whipping, and of course, the guillotine. In what is perhaps the film’s most infamous scene, one women has her teeth extracted one-by-one by a sadistic dentist who then proceeds to drill a hole in her head and suck her brains out through a straw.
When not performing for an audience, Sardu and Ralphus unwind just as the rest of us do: Enjoying a pint while playing a game of darts on a lady’s tush (guess where the bullseye is) or enjoying a leisurely supper eaten off of the back of another poor dame. “Don’t you dare ruin my dinner!” screams Sardu as the lady writhes about in pain. The theatre is in actuality a front for a white-slavery ring (don’t ask). As such, those not appearing on stage are turned feral, then kept caged and fed a steady diet of human flesh.
Despite the lucre involved in human trafficking, Sardu would rather be remembered as an artiste, dammit! So when a local critic who bears a striking resemblance to Michael Caine dismisses the show, Sardu orders Ralphus to kidnap him. They also kidnap Estonian Prima Ballerina Natasha De Natalie. De Natalie, despite her Baltic origins, does not have even the slightest trace of an accent (more mid-Western actually) and her dancing is more wooden than the lumber yard at your average Home Depot. Margot Fonteyn need not worry. Sardu plans to include both De Natalie and the critic in his next opus.
The rest of the film revolves around psychologically breaking down the critic and the ballerina so they’ll agree to perform as well as the search for the missing dancer. We’ll get to the search momentarily, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the most ineffective act of coercion in existence. De Natalie is chained up while Ralphus dances maniacally around her while clanging a pair of symbols. “Will you now dance?” shouts Sardu. “No!” replies Natasha. No wonder. I fail to see how this method could coerce anyone to do anything unless they had a crippling phobia of metal alloys or percussion.
Meanwhile, De Natalie’s quarteback boyfriend teams up with Police Sergeant John Tucci, played wonderfully by Dan Fauci. Tucci is a cop so dirty he makes every other cop in Serpico look like, well, Serpico. This brings us to an oft-repeated cliché in low-budget movies where the entire police brigade appears to be comprised of exactly one officer. This would be a bit more believable in Mayberry, but c’mon, this is New York City!….in SoHo!….in the 70’s!
The search for De Natalie would have been for naught save for the fact that Tucci is “a freak for anything in a tutu.” “If it’s a ballet, I’m on my way!” Sgt. Tucci puts two and two together, gets four, and then together with the QB pays a visit to the Theatre of the Macabre. Soon, the sh*t hits the proverbial fan and it’s time to dole out a little comeuppance. I don’t wish to spoil the ending, but if Tucci were a baritone in the police choir, he would henceforth be singing soprano.
Bloodsucking Freaks is a hard film to recommend. It is extremely misogynistic, vile and cruel. The degradation is incessant and the film oozes filth. The effects are shoddy, the acting is poor and the filmmaking is amateurish. There is not one scene in the entire 90-minute run time that does not depict some sort of perversion or crime against humanity, and that includes Sgt. Tucci’s truly-ridiculous comb over. It’s also a film I’ve seen at least a half dozen times and will probably see a half dozen more. If you have the constitution, are not easily offended or feel you’ve seen it all, give Bloodsucking Freaks a whirl. If, on the other hand, you feel that Mama or some similar hackneyed claptrap is the pinnacle of horror, please, stay far, far, far away!
**1/2 (out of 5)