This must be "Back to the Glorious '60s" month. First Doris Wishman makes her first film in 20 years (last week's "Satan Was a Lady"). Now Herschell Gordon Lewis comes out of retirement to make HIS first flick in 30 years. The wizard of gore himself, who's been settled in Plantation, Fla., all this time as one of the world's leading direct-marketing experts (translation: junk mail), was lured back to the camera by a young producer in New Orleans named Jacky Lee Morgan, and the result is "Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat."
"Blood Feast" is, of course, Herschell's 1963 classic that is acknowledged to be the first gore film ever made, featuring Playboy Playmate Connie Mason and a tongue-ripping scene that caused a riot at the drive-in in Peoria, Ill., where the movie had its world premiere. Herschell made the slasher flick possible, bless his heart. And the producer of that flick, carnie roadshow man David F. Friedman, joined in on the new sequel as well, serving as executive producer and Herschell's gin-rummy partner during the lighting setups. (Oh, that's right, I forgot, Herschell doesn't DO lighting.)
Alas, Mal Arnold, who played Fuad Ramses, maniac Egyptian caterer, in the original, is not around for part 2 to saw, chop, strangle and disembowel young women for his cannibalistic feast in honor of the goddess Ishtar. In fact, someone apparently checked Ishtar's pedigree sometime during the last 40 years and found out that she's not even an Egyptian goddess. She's Babylonian! Enter J.P. Delahoussaye, a beefy actor who plays Fuad Ramses III, the GRANDSON of the original Fuad, maniac BABYLONIAN caterer.
You'll be happy to know, I'm sure, that Herschell still makes movies the old-fashioned way --- with no money and no second takes. It doesn't look like he's refined his original formula for stage blood -- Kaopectate and cranberry juice -- because it still jumps off the screen in bright red gooey gobs. And, of course, being the exploitation guru that he is, he knows the first rule of all drive-in sequels: Make the same damn movie you made the first time.
If I recall correctly, Fuad was ground into garbage at the end of the first movie, but all these years later his catering business is still there, boarded up but glowing red with the unearthly mojo of Ishtar, a sort of pulsating blurry screen wash that occasionally whacks winos in the alley out back and causes them to rip each other's throats out.
Enter the eerily good-natured Fuad III, who dusts off the old dissection table and runs head-on into the excitable local cop, a zealous dimwit who suspects murder even before Fuad III has had time to commit one. Fuad starts gathering ingredients for the upcoming wedding reception of cutie Tiffani Lampley, who is afflicted with a shrewish mother who insists on tasting every appetizer and canapé.
First Fuad gets irradiated by the goddess -- yes, she's still there in the back room -- then finds his grandpa's cookbook and starts thinking that BRIDESMAIDS make the tastiest crème broulee, if you know what I mean and I think you do. Besides, it's a good excuse to peek in on the Bridesmaids Lingerie Shower for the bride-to-be, if you know what I mean and I'm SURE you do.
Meanwhile, down at the station house, young buck Detective Myers and his corpulent burrito-eating partner, Detective Loomis, rule out descendants of cannibalistic serial killers as suspects as the body count mounts and the intestines start vanishing.
"Organ harvesters!" is pretty much the extent of their theoretical police work, but fortunately they're eventually led down the right track by a wisecracking secretary who, in one of those only-Herschell-would-do-this scenes, is featured in a daydreaming sex fantasy, shaking down her librarian-pinned hair, climbing out of her blouse, and scooping the whipped cream off her perfect garbonzas while the food-addicted Loomis gapes like a starved puppy. Like most of the brilliant moments in the film, it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot.
Yes, the man's still got it.
Eleven dead bodies. Eighteen breasts. One dead rat. Self-disemboweling. Throat-cutting. Meat-grinder amputation. Ice pick to the ear. Knife to the tummy. Eyeball-scooping. Tongue-ripping. Bloody leg-grinding. Electric-carving-knife brain surgery.
Multiple sweetbread preparation. Hands roll. Intestines roll. Liver rolls.
Gratuitous lingerie party, with montage sequence. Gratuitous shower-dancing. Gratuitous weathercast.
Chloroform Fu. Maggot Fu.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for J.P. Delahoussaye, as the Baby Huey descendant of a Babylonian catering dynasty, for saying "Let's kick it up a notch!";
Christina Cuenca, in the honored position as the first pork chop to become a meal, for screaming, "Why are you doing this to me!" right before her hands are ground into lady-finger filling;
Kristi Polit, as the blonde cutie who actually wants a date with Fuad, but that first kiss is a killer; Christy Brown, as the lingerie girl with lesbian tendencies (a must in a '60s exploitation flick); Jill Rao, as the knockout blonde who gets her throat sawed and her head taken off for the greater cause of a spicy gazpacho; Michelle Miller, for wearing no clothes in her apartment; Veronica Russell, as the busybody secretary with the two enormous talents; Cindy Roubal, for getting scalped and still looking hot; John Waters --- yes, THE John Waters --- as the kinky priest; and, of course, Herschell Gordon Lewis, for still doing things the drive-in way after all these years.
Four stars. Joe Bob says check it out.
"Blood Feast 2" Web site: bloodfeast2.net.
(To reach Joe Bob, go to joebob-briggs.com or e-mail him at JoeBob@upi.com. Snail-mail: P.O. Box 2002, Dallas, Texas, 75221.)