Color Me Blood Red (1965)

Any connoisseur of bizarre cinema needs to have a few films made by Herschell Gordon Lewis under his or her viewing belt. They're quite unique in the pantheon of cult films, and Lewis was certainly an important pioneer of the splatter genre. This one perhaps isn't as well known or loved as Blood Feast or Two Thousand Maniacs, but it's still quite an enjoyable view, even from a time-capsule perspective alone. The gore is pretty minimal for a Lewis film, but there are other pleasures to be had here.

As our film opens, we see a solemn man burn a painting on the ground. Strange enough as the scene is, we then see blood trickling along the burning picture, which will be explained later as the story unfolds. Later, we're introduced to Adam Sorg (Gordon Oas-Heim), a temperamental painter who is trying to sell his works at a local gallery. The art critic invited to the exhibition is swiftly insulted by the obviously unstable genius and Sorg leaves in a huff, but his comment of lack of true color in his paintings plants a seed in Adam's mind. Later, back at his studio, his nagging girlfriend - who is determined to marry this sweaty lunatic - accidentally cuts her finger on a nail sticking out of a painting-frame. Sorg sees the blood on the canvas and his demented brain sees the color he's been needing all along. Convincing the girl to use some blood from her cut finger, he finishes more of the work-in-progress, a sitting female nude. The girl recoils at Sorg's weirdness and tells him to use his own blood - which he does to the point of collapse.

The girlfriend comes back and decides to berate Sorg for the ludicrous idead of using blood on his painting. In a maniacal fury, Sorb takes a knife and gorily cuts her throat - now he has more than enough blood. He finishes the painting and buries the body at the beach near his house. Rich Mrs. Carter (Iris Marshall) offers Sorg and his seller anything he wants for the finished painting - now a screaming, blood-splattered nude with a knife through it's head - but he won't sell it for any price. Meanwhile, a young couple take a ride of the two paddle-boat-bike-things that Sorg and his girlfriend used to ride around on the sea near the house. Suddenly Sorg appears in a speedboat and harpoons the hapless guy, leaving him for dead. Later, we see he's killed the screaming woman and as her intestines spill out of the strung-up corpse, he wrings some blood out of them and continues another painting. This one is as well-received as the other but he still won't sell.

Mrs. Carter's daughter April (Candi Conder), her boyfriend Rolf (Jerome Eden) and her two annoying beatnik friends Jack (James Jackel) and Sydney (Pat Lee) go to the beach where Sorg's house is. The naive April runs into Sorg and finds out his identity. Sorg finds out hers at the same time, and that Mrs. Carter is her mother. He convinces her to pose for him, and if she does, he will give the new painting to her mother free of charge. April says she'll think about it. Later, after talking to Rolf who doesn't approve, something makes April sneak away and take the fascinating weirdo up on his offer. Soon enough though, Sorg has April strung up on the pretence of an odd 'pose', and about to be despatched with an axe. In the course of finding firewood, Jack and Sydney dig up Sorg's girlfriend's corpse. We see it's hardly in a good state, plenty of maggots and beach-creatures have had their way with it. Rolf turns up at Sorg's beach house and soon sees the trouble April's in. Picking up a shotgun, he confronts the axe-wielding maniac ...

This is a H. G. Lewis film through and through. However, the gore is oddly on the light side this time. It only really wells up with the fate of the couple at the beach, after Sorg turns up in the speedboat with the harpoon. The acting is not too bad for a Lewis vehicle, with Gordon Oas-Heim doing his best as the deranged painter. You can kind of see him go downhill mentally as the film progresses. The rest of the cast are adequate and not quite as wooden as some Lewis thespians I've seen. (think Connie Mason ...) The soundtrack is pounding sixties jazz all though, with lots of emphasis on bongos! This is quite appropriate as we are watching the story of a particularly demented artistic 'Hepcat'. It's all good, from the sixties look of the actresses - April's hair is either a wig or has two cans of hairspray in it, at least - to the stylish decor abounding, and the whole rough and ready feel of the film. Again David F. Friedman produces, and thank God for he and Lewis's works in modern cinema.

Give Color Me Blood Red a miss if you want to see it solely for the gore, you'll be disappointed on that level for sure. If you want to catch an enjoyable foray into sixties film-making from an auteur as notorious as Mister Lewis, pop this one in your player and prepare yourself for an enjoyable and bloody little art lesson.

© Boris "Hepcat" Lugosi, 2006.

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Review written: 04/05/2006 21:33:38