A series of raunchy sex comedies earmarked the early days of Troma Entertainment. That all changed once they picked up Joel M. Reed’s Blood Sucking Freaks. This 1976 horror film immediately became notorious on release for being disgusting and perversely funny, truly feeling like a product of uninhibited exploitation rather than just another pick-up from Troma. Vinegar Syndrome doles out the nastiness in 4K Ultra HD with a two-disc release that offers a stunning new 2160p presentation, plus a great collection of supplements to deepen your appreciation of Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre. This release comes Recommended!
Troma Entertainment’s head honcho Lloyd Kaufman once wrote a column over at DVDTalk about how Joel M. Reed’s Blood Sucking Freaks was the single film in the Troma library that he felt queasy about distributing. Interesting words from the man who distributed Blood Orgy at Beaver Lake, but I digress. Although Kaufman is usually spirited about marketing the films he distributes, I actually agree with him. Blood Sucking Freaks is one of those rare genre works that feels scraped off the floors of the old grindhouse theater palaces on 42nd Street in NYC. And hell, the trick that Kaufman pulled to get the fully uncensored cut of the film into theaters may be some of his greatest work as a distributor. If he’s in the game to be a disruptor, then this film should be referred to as his greatest attack.
Blood Sucking Freaks follows the evil Sardu (Seamus O’Brien) and his dwarf assistant Ralphus (Luis De Jesus) as they stage some of the most horrific acts imaginable at Sardu’s Theatre of the Macabre, located in NYC. He shows off gruesome acts of torture that prove to be incredibly divisive, especially to theater critic Creasy Silo (Allan Dellay). Creasy takes it upon himself to shut down the theatre at all costs but soon discovers a world of terror he could never have expected. The evil Sardu has plans for him.
Blood Sucking Freaks is in itself a time capsule of the wild world of NYC’s yesteryear, when sex and violence were being sold in abundance to the lowest bidders. Sardu is a carnival barker given the resources of a city man, meaning endless audiences to scare and willing participants to exact his evil on. Think of how groundbreaking Herschel Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast was in regards to being much too realistic in its depictions of violence and you’ll get close to how this film works. I hesitate to compare it to the absurdist camp humor of John Waters since I think this film is much more dangerous in how that humor enables its violence, and I’m sure you’ll feel the same way when you watch it.
This is bad taste writ large and filmed at 24 frames per second, with women unwittingly volunteering to become Sardu’s newest sideshow victims in what I can only describe as an approximation of a live snuff show. The result is nothing short of queasy and disgusting, though in a way that truly feels dangerous and fascinating. Whether you’re up for something this transgressive is on you, but the sick and twisted ‘70s are alive and well in Blood Sucking Freaks.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
It’s time for the Incredible Torture Show! Sardu feasts on the fear of his audience with a two-disc (4K and Blu-ray) release that comes housed in a standard black 4K Blu-ray case. Both discs (BD66 for the UHD and BD50 for the standard Blu-ray) rest in the case, plus a limited-edition magnetically reversible slipcover that physical media fanatics will absolutely love. The black 4K Blu-ray case also offers reversible artwork. Both discs boot up to standard menu screens with options to play the film, set up audio, explore bonus features and select reels.
Blood Sucking Freaks is ready to terrify new audiences in 4K Ultra HD courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome. This 2160p presentation is sourced from a new 4K restoration of the 35mm internegative. The film has a very, very low budget and has a ton of dimly lit sequences, so I wasn’t expecting a night-and-day difference over the previous 2014 Blu-ray from Troma. But hey, that’s what we have here! A truly remarkable new transfer the pulls as much information (maybe even too much) out of the source as possible. Those gross sideshows of Sardu’s have a nice, natural and thick grain layer that doesn’t soften what’s in the frame, plus flesh tones are tuned in just right. The previous 2014 Blu-ray from Troma was a scan from original film elements but with no restoration to make it look better, thus this presentation easily pulls ahead of the pack with a gorgeous, faithful eye towards the film. Black levels look terrific and while I think there could be some room for improvement if the OCN were to become available, this is clearly as close to the OCN as this will ever look. HDR is applied well, avoiding blowing out highlights and enhancing the contrast too much.
For those who purchased the Anchor Bay Blu-ray, then you know just how terrible the audio sounded there, but Vinegar Syndrome presents the original English mono track in the DTS-HD MA codec that’s far and away the best the film has ever sounded. The few discrete sound effects and bass levels are finally showcased well, plus the eerie score is balanced well with the dialogue. This track may not have the most dynamic range because of its low budget, but what we get sounds very, very good here. Source looks to be in good condition, with little-to-no hiss to note throughout.
Although no new interviews were produced for this release, Vinegar Syndrome has compiled some terrific archival featurettes that weren’t included on previous releases, including a fun 15-minute feature about Blood Sucking Freaks playing at the Mahoning Drive-In Theater in Lehighton, PA. Hours upon hours of features to dig into here, including a 55-minute Q&A with Joel M. Reed that certainly better explains where all the misogyny came from in Blood Sucking Freaks. It was Joel M. Reed! As usual, there’s a few featurettes with words from Lloyd Kaufman on his opinion of the film, which is very negative.
Disc 1: 4K UHD Feature
Disc 2: Blu-ray Feature & Supplements
Sardu is ready to shock audiences anew with his horrific torture show, this time in 4K Ultra HD! Blood Sucking Freaks hits 4K courtesy of Vinegar Syndrome with a two-disc release that pulls out all the stops for this much-loved piece of genre nastiness. This sadistic ‘70s horror film is accompanied by a stunning new transfer and plenty of special features to dig into. This release comes Recommended!
Order your copy of Blood Sucking Freaks on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray!