A movie with a noticeably low budget, bad acting, and gratuitous nudity and violence throughout? It must be a cult movie. Blood Diner, the 1987 comedy-horror hybrid, was originally intended to be a direct sequel to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ revolutionary gore fest Blood Feast, but instead the film morphed into a madcap homage that stands on its own. Directed by Jackie Kong, Blood Diner is one of the inaugural titles of the revived Vestron Video, which is reissuing some of its classic cult titles in Blu-ray special editions that honor the legacy of these whacko cinematic oddities. Fans of the twisted tale of brothers trying resurrect an ancient goddess through their cannibalistic happenings aren’t going to want to miss this new Blu-ray editions, as it contains more special features than most big budget title get these days.
The first of many cues that Blood Diner takes from Blood Feast is a cheeky homage to the disclaimer present in the trailers, where a stern Thomas Wood (the stage name of William Kerwin) intones that the trailer “contains scenes that, which under no circumstances, should be viewed by anyone with a heart condition or anyone who is easily upset.” The Blood Diner disclaimer warns about the presence of cannibalistic cults, and that the film only depicts these actions, it doesn’t endorse them.
In the opening scene of the movie, two young brothers are awaiting a visit from their Uncle Anwar (Drew Godderis), who burst through the door of their suburban home wild-eyed and covered in blood. Anwar is obviously the film’s take on Fuad Ramses from Blood Feast. He passes two amulets to his young nephews before being shot to death by police on the front lawn. 20 years later, those brothers are fully grown and haven’t forgotten about their uncle, wanting to carry on his bloody tradition. Michael (Rick Burks) and George Tutman (Carl Crew) exhume the body of their dead uncle. Running a little diner on Hollywood Blvd., Michael and George take lessons from their dead uncle, who speaks to them as a brain in a jar. They will go on a killing spree and use the body parts they accumulate to feed the unsuspecting diners at their establishment, as well as resurrect the ancient Lumerian goddess Sheetar. This is also a riff on Blood Feast, where Fuad commits his cannibalistic crimes in the name the Egyptian goddess Ishtar.
Everything about Blood Diner is over the top in a ridiculously fun way. Nothing embodies the absurd spirit of Blood Diner better than the film’s first massacre, where Michael and George burst in and lay waste to entire class participating in nude aerobics. Adding an extra layer to the absurdity are the profane instructions imparted upon the sibling psychos by their jar-encased uncle. No matter where you are in the movie, a moment of extreme absurdity is always just around the corner – and always in questionable taste. It all culminates in a violent finale where the reincarnated Sheetar is resurrected during a rock show; the patrons of the nightclub slowly morph into cannibalistic zombies as Sheetar spawns a vagina dentata on her stomach to consume unfortunate souls.
The acting within Blood Diner is…well, it’s bad. But the lacking abilities of the cast only add to the B-movie charms of this asinine movie. Each of the film’s leads, Carl Crew and Rick Burks, avail themselves best of all, with Burks given a bit more leeway to be an actual character than Crew’s dimwitted George. The police detectives hot on the trail of the murderous Tutman brothers (played by Roger Dauer and LaNette La France) are comically wooden in their line delivery, and I have no idea what kind of accent their supervisor (Max Morris) is attempting. As the romantic interest for Michael, Lisa Elaina does a pretty solid job as the kindhearted and easily manipulated Connie Stanton, obviously named as an homage to Connie Mason, star of Blood Feast and whom the marketing materials for Two Thousand Maniacs! claimed was “Playboy’s Favorite Playmate.” Even the oddballs and weirdos that line the most minor roles of the films have a distinct personality that flavor this bloody B-movie stew.
If there’s one aspect of Blood Diner that hasn’t aged particularly well it’s the original soundtrack by Don Preston. It’s a goofy synth-soaked sound that feels extremely out of place in the film’s earlier scenes. Those shortcomings are mitigated by the fact that the film features a number of classic doo wop songs that age like fine wine, as well as accentuate the absurd action of the film.
As for the special features on the Blu-ray of Blood Diner, this is an all-encompassing special edition that has expended quite a bit of resources to examine the making of and legacy of the bizarro horror-comedy. There’s audio commentary from director Jackie Kong, where she divulges the secrets behind the blood. Most impressive are the extensive documentaries that feature interviews with Kong, most of the surviving cast, as well as producer Jimmy Maslon and screenwriter Michael Sonye. They trace the origins of the project and its failed attempts to bring Herschell Gordon Lewis out of retirement to make Blood Feast 2 before shifting the film to the homage of Blood Diner because Vestron feared that Blood Feast didn’t have the name recognition. What really amazed me the most was the fact that Jackie Kong hadn’t seen Blood Feast, meaning most of the homages that seeped into the finished film originated with Maslon and Sonye.
As the first of two titles being released under the revived Vestron Video label, the other title being Chopping Mall, Blood Diner is given the deluxe treatment in this expansive Blu-ray restoration. This piece of B-movie madness has never looked better. If this is the foundation of what’s to come from Vestron, it’s a glorious day for fans of the most bizarre, depraved pieces of cinematic oddities.
A blood-soaked homage to the legendary Blood Feast, Blood Diner is piece of comedy-horror schlock that pushes the boundaries of taste, and is now given the deluxe special edition treatment on Blu-ray as part of the revitalized Vestron Video label.