They say a true artist (and I’m talking about those starving little trolls who buy paint thinner instead of ramen noodles) should put their sweat, tears, and, on occasion, even BLOOD into their masterpieces. Well, some (you might say) have taken this to HEART. In the 16th century, painter Benvenuto Cellini not only stabbed his brother’s killer, but killed two other men who SHOULDERED his anger. In 17th century, Caravaggio was so ruthless and arrogant, after he did his little murders in VEIN, he painted himself committing the crimes. Also, in the 19th century, to show how much he loved a woman, Van Gogh SEVERED his ear and sent it to her, which should chill you to the BONES. Say what you will about what they did, these artists were certainly dedicated to their craft, much like the down on his luck painter Adam Sorg in the final entry in director Hershel Gordon Lewis’ Blood Trilogy Color Me BLOOD Red
Considered to be The Godfather of GORE, when Herschel Gordan Lewis tired of shooting ‘nudie cuties’ he, along with his producing partner David Friedman, decided it was time to push the envelope and filmed Blood Feast, a 70-minute ride mostly remembered for cutting a woman’s TONGUE out and actually showing it on screen (it was actually a clever edit with an inserted cow tongue in place)! When they opened this cheaply made film in Peoria, Illinois (as Lewis said “if you fail in Peoria, who cares!”) little did they know it would be a BLOODY hit (even though to this day these films are on the Video Nasties list in England). Following the success of this film, Lewis and Friedman followed up with Two-Thousand Maniacs, about a town filled with redneck psychopaths with a pension for BLOODLUST! This film racked in even more BLOOD MONEY and they felt there might just be a little bit more to squeeze out of the wound.
With Color Me BLOOD Red Lewis and Friedman finally came upon the magic formula (at least in my BRAIN). Not only does the film give you an ample amount of GUTS, but the film literally has some INERDS as far as plot and structure. If you watch the first two films (why wouldn’t you?) you will see very little plot and structure. The characters are mainly there so the killer/villain has someone to MUTILATE for each of its ten reels. However, Color Me BLOOD Red offers a character who actually has a need to KILL his victims, which helps the overall flow of the film and offers more risk in the story of the characters. Unfortunately, Lewis could have really had something stronger overall if he had hired confident cinematographers and screenwriters to FLESH out the details. But with only $50,000, and friends and family volunteering left and right, Lewis had to be a one-man operator, with directing, writing, and lensing, while Friedman produced and did the sound (too bad he wasn’t paying attention to sound on the night beach scenes!). It was during this film that Lewis and Friedman ended their business partnerships, which led to both leaving the genre and holding the film up for a year before premiering.
The plot involves a mildly successful artist named Adam Sorg, whose work is featured in a local gallery, where he does have his admirers and critics, but unfortunately, the critics feel Sorg has a struggle coming up with the right colors for his paintings. One day, while fighting with his very supportive fiancé (which is an understatement) she pricks her finger on one of the screws in the frame, making her BLEED all over his canvas. Finally discovering the secret formula for RED, Sorg needs a fresh supply, which he can’t really find at his local Jo-Ann’s! With the right coloring, Sorg becomes a darling of the critics, his paintings fetching thousands, but he refuses to sell, fearing the secret would get out. By the end of the picture (which I feel had a little more LIFE in it to go on) Sorg asks the wrong woman to model for him and they help him add his own secret sauce to his final painting. It is also interesting to note the couple in the film named Sydney and Jack appear to be one of the first non-binary characters in early cinema.
Coming in at a SLICED 70 minutes (for 70 minutes was the runtime a movie theater needed to show a film as top billing), Lewis (feeling the market was OVERFLOWING with gore films) eventually left the genre, only to return a few years later when his children’s films yielded almost nothing. Lewis finally left for good in the early 1970s to become a millionaire in copywriting, even writing a few bestsellers on the craft. However, it’s his MEATY trilogy for which he is fairly regarded today and for good reasons. So, go to your local art gallery to buy from the Adam Sorg ROUGE Collection, mount it on your wall while eating some FATTY FINGER foods, and realize that sometimes you might not like the paintings, but you can always “save the frame” just like Lewis’ frames of celluloid SPLATTER!