1963's "Blood Feast" begins with our shuffling, gray-haired (courtesy spray paint) antagonist Fuad Ramses (Mal Arnold, "Goldilocks and the Three Bares") stabbing a busty blonde to death in her bubble bath and dismembering her. That's what she gets for reading "Ancient Weird Religious Rites" in the tub! "LEGS CUT OFF!" screams the headline of the next day's paper.
Ramses is the proprietor of Fuad Ramses Exotic Catering: "Have you had ... AN EGYPTIAN FEAST?!?" His killing of pretty young things is to assemble the titular event for an Egyptian goddess he worships in the back room of his shop. Another woman gets her tongue pulled out. The thread of his victims, as the police piece together way too late, is that they all belonged to a book club. Moral: Reading is bad for you.
Lewis' personal favorite, 1964's "Two Thousand Maniacs!," concerns a small Confederate town celebrating the Pleasant Valley Centennial, where the menu and entertainment are supplied by any tourist stupid enough to fall for the rednecks' homemade "DETOUR" signs on the highway.
Our group of easily fooled travelers includes former Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, returning from "Blood Feast." The town's rotund, piggish Mayor Buckman (Jeffrey Allen, "This Stuff'll Kill Ya!") treats the newcomers like treasured guests. Before the end, one gets barbecued, one is pulled apart by horses, one gets smashed by a giant rock, and another rolls down a hill in a barrel of nails. These set pieces pass for Southern hospitality. Moral of the story: Beware the banjos.
Of them all, I most enjoyed 1965's "Color Me Blood Red," a much messier take on Roger Corman's beatnik art satire "A Bucket of Blood" from six years earlier. Here, the frustrated artist, Adam Sorg (Don Joseph, "Moonshine Mountain"), suffers from painter's block until his girlfriend (Elyn Warner) accidentally pricks her finger, causing blood to drop on his canvas.
You can see where this is going: After cutting open all his fingers (shades of Corman's "Little Shop of Horrors") to feed his frenzy, Adam resorts to killing people, literally squeezing their intestines dry. And he's a hit! Until he's outsmarted, of course, by would-be victims, one of whom says deadpan, "I guess ... I won't take up painting for a while."
What makes this one work as well as it does is Joseph's performance, making Adam an insufferable prick. Twice I caught him breaking character to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. And it is that, wonderfully so. Moral: Fine artists are weird.
As if getting all three movies for the price of one weren't enough, they've stuffed it with extras, including commentaries on all three (although with a tinny, off-putting sound mix that makes the participants hard to hear), trailers for each and two half-hour shorts. One, "Carving Magic," is a 20-minute instructional promo on knives, ironically enough, and co-starring a pre-fame Harvey Korman. If you can make it to the end, your patience is unbeatable. The other, 1964's "Follow That Skirt," is much more interesting: a "story" of a man thrill-killing beautiful women after her watches them undress, all because he wants to be a woman himself. You kinda wish Lewis would've made an entire movie about it. —Rod Lott