A long-time home video staple, Ed Adlum’s delightfully absurd INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS (1972) has both confounded and amused viewers for decades, and now, thanks to Severin Films, this lowly regional-rarity makes its Blu-ray debut in a stunning new transfer.
According to the film’s opening narration—which sounds uncannily like respected British actor James Mason (!)—the Druids are an ancient culture or (quote) “the secret people… the Sangroid blood-eaters” located in the (quote) “remote corners of the world”, one of which just happens to be upstate New York. After the town drunk stumbles into the local watering-hole and haemorrhages to death right on the barroom floor (“Somebody help that man in here! Sounds like he needs a drink!”), pathologist Dr. Anderson (Norman Kelly) and his assistant Don Tucker (Bruce Detrick) begin an investigation, during which they discover that the dead man’s blood continues to reproduce itself at an incredible rate (“His hemostatic balance was so disturbed… he blew himself to pieces!”). It’s soon revealed that a small offshoot of the Druids, led by Creton (Paul Craig Jennings) and his underling, Egon (Jack Neubeck), have been kidnapping and draining the townspeople of their lifeblood in hopes of finding a special blood-type with which to resurrect their long-dormant queen…
In spite of its deceptively tame PG-rating, INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS still manages to pack a visceral punch into its threadbare, convoluted narrative. The blood-draining scenes in particular are quite effective in their simplicity, taking place in a rundown dirty shack with the so-called “blood farmers” utilizing a rickety old pump—highlighted by a highly distinctive syphoning noise—to drain their victims of blood. A nasty eye-gouging, a bludgeoning and a shower murder (which inverts the usual stereotype by featuring director Adlum as the male victim) most certainly push the envelope of PG (“Parental Guidance Suggested”) even further. In between all the periodic splashing of blood, much of the film’s, um, ‘ambitious’ plotline is never really clarified. Completely defeated by the meagre budget, the proceedings are made all the more confusing by a number of either mismatched or improperly-developed ‘day-for-night’ scenes wherein dialogue alludes to it being the ‘evening’ or the ‘middle of the night’ when in actuality it’s clearly broad daylight in everyshot! All continuity inconsistencies aside, this slapdash approach only adds the to the film’s lovably schizophrenic nature.
A popular title on home video around the world, it first appeared on VHS in the United States in 1984 courtesy of Regal Home Video in a big over-sized box and was subsequently rereleased in 1986 by Goodtimes Home Video (“Superior Quality Reproduction in Color” ha!), recorded at the—almost always untrackable—LP (“Long Play”) speed. IOTBF first appeared on DVD in 2001 courtesy of Retromedia Entertainment, whose non-amamorphic transfer left plenty of room for improvement. In 2013, Code Red issued the film on DVD as a double feature paired-up with Theodore Gershuny’s SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT (1971), and, while the transfer was 16x9, it was taken from a much darker, heavily-beat-up print, leaving it up for debate as to which edition was preferable in terms of image quality. As a nice bonus, the DVD also contained an audio commentary with Ed Adlum, moderated by Lee Christian.
There’s no need for debate when it comes to Severin’s Blu-ray, which features an all-new scan taken from the original camera negative. The results are spectacular, to say the least! While limited by the film’s original humble, scrappy nature, the transfer is nevertheless clean, crisp and quite colorful—just about perfect, in fact. It should be mentioned that, from 29m52s-to-30m23s and 31m53s-to-33m51s, the film becomes slightly darker and coarser in tone. These visual variations seem to have been inherent in the film’s original materials themselves, as the same anomalies were also present in Retromedia’s earlier DVD too. Nonetheless, Severin’s new transfer is an eye-opening stunner. The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 is equally clean and free of any issues, while optional English SDH subtitles are also included.
Showcasing brand-new bonus features, the most significant of these is an audio commentary with director Ed Adlum and his wife Ortrum Tippel (she also served as the film’s costume designer), which is effectively moderated by Kier-La Janisse, the author of House of Psychotic Women. The three delve into the film with all sorts of great anecdotes and facts related to low-budget filmmaking, including its short shooting schedule, which was shot over a period of just six days at Briarcliff Manor, New York in Westchester County. Adlum goes on to talk about one of his early concepts, which was conceived around the film’s memorable title (“The title is half the battle”) and co-written with Ed Kelleher, one of his associates from Cashbox, a music industry trade paper for which they both worked. He also speaks about everybody in the cast, including that mysterious James Mason voice-impersonator, who it turns out is Joel Vance, yet another Cashbox associate. Also, the misconception that it was actually Roberta Findlay who shot INVASION OF THE BLOOD FARMERS is quickly dismissed; however, it is revealed that’s Roberta’s husband Michael did in fact shoot a number of (quote) “inserts”. Adlum also freely admits—and laughsat—his technical deficiencies and explains that the film (quote) “happened by accident”, going on to profess his love for trashy B-movies, such as Harmon Jones’ GORILLA AT LARGE (1954) and Colman Francis’ THE BEAST OF YUCCA FLATS(1961).
Nothin’ You’d Show Your Mom (22m08s) is a wonderful career-spanning interview with Ed Adlum put together by Kier-La Janisse, wherein he talks about his love of movies and his dream of one day making one himself. But Adlum also talks about his brief recording contract at Atlantic Records, where he and his band, The Castle Kings, recorded the single “You Can Get Him Frankenstein”; his work at Cashbox and how most of his work associates funded IOTBF; his initial meeting with Mike Findlay, their collaborations and friendship (“We became drinkin’ buddies”), as well as his shock over Mike’s tragic death. Lastly, he goes on to talk about Replay magazine, a trade paper which he and his wife started about the jukebox and video game (a term that he created) industry, which made (quote) “nothin’ but money” during the industry’s golden age between 1978 and 1982. In Painful Memories (4m43s), Frederick Elmes, who has since gone on to become a major DP in Hollywood, briefly discusses his time on the film. In Harvesting the Dead (11m57s), actor Jack Neubeck talks about his introduction to the film’s production through actor Norman Kelley; the lack of a thorough script which resulted in a lot of improvisation; his “Eddie the Yeti” song from Michael Findlay’s notorious SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1973); and also relates his personal recollections of the Findlays. The film’s memorable trailer finishes-off the disc’s superb slate of extras.