Blood Freak (1972)
FAITH… All the faith I had I lost it…
– Herschell, from Blood Freak
Blood Freak (1972) is without a doubt one of cinema’s true oddities and a Thanksgiving holiday treat. Well, not really a treat, but it certainly garners my vote, along with the marionette puppet The Giant Claw and the amphibious hotdog creature from Horror of Party Beach as having one of the most ridiculous monsters of all-time. I’m willing to guess that actor and co-writer-director-producer Steve Hawkes was inspired by earlier H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman concoctions such as Blood Feast, 1963, which Blood Freak resembles in tone, pacing and ineptitude (the acting is atrociously bad), but Freak takes the gore genre to a whole new level due to a bizarre anti-drug narrative by chain-smoking soft-core porn nudist Brad Grinter and one humdinger of a papier mâché (that’s what it looks like to me) turkey monster head (Flickr aficionado Bonemask even has the vinyl figure).
The mastermind behind Freak was Croatian-born Canadian actor Stjepan “Steve” Šipek who went by the stage name of Steve Hawkes. He starred in at least two Tarzan-type films, beginning with the Spanish-made Tarzán en la gruta del oro / King of the Jungle / Tarzan in the Golden Grotto (1969). In a follow-up film, Sipek was severely burned in a fire during principle photography and was allegedly rescued by a trained lion (an Edgar Rice Boroughs fan site has a detailed writeup on Sipek).
After the incident, Sipek vowed to take care of big cats and established a somewhat dubious wildlife sanctuary in Loxahatchee, Florida. Back in 2010, ABC ran a story on Sipek’s love for big cats, and I wonder if Blood Freak was created to help fund his sanctuary. There’s a painting of a tiger hanging on a wall in one of the drug party scenes, and I can’t help but think the scene was shot in Sipek’s residence.
Blood Freak is the story of straight-laced drifter and Vietnam veteran Herschell (Steve Hawkes) who picks up a girl and get’s a job at her father’s poultry farm. Along the way he gets addicted to narcotics and agrees to sample experimental turkeys developed by the U.S. Government. He gradually undergoes a metamorphosis into a bipedal turkey monster or Blood Freak, with the body of a man and head of a turkey. The monster is something to behold. Think of Michael Myers wearing a plaster/mâché head that looks more akin to an alien in a Mos Eisley space-port than a turkey.
Herschell then goes on a bloody killing spree where he hoists victims upside down and drains blood from the bodies by slicing their necks. He then gobbles away drinking their blood. These scenes are unintentionally hilarious with gorgeous saturated red paint spurting from the victims.
Eventually Herschell gets his revenge and plops the main pusher on a radial table saw.
What really makes this film so bizarre is the overt political message that doesn’t jive with the visceral imagery of the film. One moment a character is talking about spiritual salvation and the next moment the Herschell Turkey is carving up a drug addict. Is it a gore film with a message? Something Weird Video (the lone distributor of the film) calls it “The world’s only turkey-monster-anti-drug-pro-Jesus-gore film”. It’s one of the strangest films ever made.
And this has been a story based partly on fact and partly on probability but the horrors that occurred in the minds of those who allow the indiscriminate use of the human body as a mixing bowl for drugs and chemicals are as real as the real horror…. So, when you eat or take into your body any chemical or drugs you take a chance on a reaction that are not tested…. unpredictable…. have a happy ending …Cough cough cough….
-Brad Grinter, the narrator/co-director/writer, etc. etc.etc.