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Image Entertainment presents
A Taste of Blood (1967)

"Vampires can only be killed by driving a wooden stake through the heart. The avenger kills that way."
- Herman Helsing (Otto Schlesinger)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: September 18, 2000

Stars: Bill Rogers, Elizabeth Wilkerson, William Kerwin (billed as Thomas Wood)
Other Stars: Lawrence Tobin, Otto Schlesinger
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for gore, violence, sexual situations
Run Time: 01h:57m:46s
Release Date: September 19, 2000
UPC: 014381609622
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C- C+C+D B

DVD Review

Gore director Herschell Gordon Lewis is best known for such lurid fare as Blood Feast and other quickie exploitation fare designed for drive-in double features. In 1967 he extended himself a bit and tried a more literate approach to a horror film, and the result was A Taste of Blood. As noted in the commentary, this film has the highest production values of any of Lewis' films, although that's not saying much.

The film concerns a businessman, John A. Stone (Bill Rogers), who receives a mysterious inheritance in the mail: a box containing two bottles of plum brandy. Alas for Stone, the brandy includes the blood of his ancestor, none other than Count Dracula (the A. in Stone's name stands for Alucard, we learn early on). Before long, Stone is sleeping all day and drinking blood at night. Stone also begins targeting the descendants of the group who killed his ancestor (as recounted in Stoker's novel), using the clever turnabout of driving a stake through his victims' hearts. Howard Helsing (Otto Schlesinger), the descendant of Dr. Van Helsing, arrives on the scene to try to rescue Stone's wife Helene (Elizabeth Wilkerson) as well as save his own neck.

The main problem with the film is the use of nonprofessional actors. Wilkerson is wooden to an extreme, and the supporting cast is generally just as awful. Rogers and Schlesinger are the only two professionals in the cast, which emphasizes the difference between their performances and those of the rest of the actors. Overuse of stock footage doesn't help matters any, and the whole thing just runs far too long. A half an hour could easily have been cut to give the story some compactness and forward motion; Lewis, true to his exploitation roots, never misses an opportunity to include a striptease (though there's actually no nudity at all in the film). The gore, for a change, is pretty restrained, though there are a few bloody scenes. Sitting through this film makes one long for some of the nasty gore of his earlier films, which at least livened things up somewhat.

The ineptitude of the proceedings is pretty well summed up by a comic relief segment which is injected into the climactic chase scene. Lewis for reasons best known to him inserts a funny little comedic bit involving a man walking his dachshund; the man swears his dog, little Impy, is a bloodhound, but the dog is completely clueless and the chase proceeds. This completely undisciplined bit disrupts what little tension had been created by the film.

On the whole, this is a pretty painful viewing exercise. A Taste of Blood is one for Lewis completists only.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The film starts off in surprisingly good condition; as the commentary notes, the initial portions are struck from the original negative, and feature good blacks, rich colors and decent contrast. However, about 2/3 of the way through, the picture switches to a reel of pinked-out old Eastmancolor print with annoying scratches, dirt and unstable color; skin tones vary from red to grey to purple in a matter of moments. The participants in the commentary express their belief that this would be cleared up on the final disc; alas, this was not the case. The disc returns to the negative near the end. The final grade is an average between the A- of the first portions and the F of the latter. It's too bad that the negative wasn't available for the entire film.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is miserable and true to its low-budget origins throughout. There is a painfully loud hiss which often drowns out the dialogue, which is thin and tinny. The music is similarly unpleasant.

Audio Transfer Grade: D


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Producer/director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Packaging: Snapper
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Nudie short, Nightmare at Elm Manor
  2. Gallery of H.G. Lewis exploitation art
Extras Review: The primary extra is a commentary by H.G. Lewis. Although he has an annoying tendency to narrate the film, we also get some interesting background on the low-budget movie business, such as the differences between a 90 minute and 120 minute film, the added expenses of print costs and shipping which can make or break a feature of this kind.

Lewis is also well known in advertising circles, and his exploitation campaigns for a number of his movies are documented in a gallery of his exploitation art. This is interesting, but scant time is given to this film.

Something Weird also includes, for reasons unknown, a short silent nudie film, "Nightmare at Elm Manor" which includes an attractive woman who checks into a hotel, then spends much of her time wandering the halls in the nude while threatened by a vampire. If this film has any connection to Lewis or the main feature beyond the general theme of vampirism, the producers of the disc keep that information to themselves. No background information of any kind is included.Finally, there is a trailer for Taste of Blood which is in terrible condition, highlighting the nice transfer of the first part of the film.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

A mildly interesting, but slow-moving, vampire film that suffers from amateur actors, a terrible source print for a large chunk of the film, and awful audio. This is, however, probably as good as this film is likely to ever look. For Lewis devotees only, though the commentary does have some interesting information about the world of low-budget filmmaking.


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