Bloodsucking Freaks (1976)

Only Once in a Century Can Such Evil Live…

Poster image to 1976's Bloodsucking Freaks

Grand illusionist Master Sardu keeps his audiences riveted by acting out their “grossest fantasies far beyond erotica” onstage. These fantasies mostly include the humiliation, torture, and eventual murder of beautiful (and very naked) women. How can he conceivably pull off such gruesome tricks? This is no slight of hand, no matter what he may have you believe. These are real victims and real murders, all for your sick amusement. After Sardu earns the ire of snooty theater critic Creasy Silo, he and his diminutive assistant Ralphus kidnap the man while they prepare their new show, a sadist ballet that requires the fleet-footed skills of dancer Natasha Di Natalie, much to the chagrin of her football playing boy toy Tom Maverick.

BLOODSUCKING FREAKS has tons of violence and carnage, relying heavily on the absolute best kind of cheap and cheesy gore effects catering to the lowest aspects of our repressed lizard brains. There’s just something charming about these low-budget practical effects that are held together by ingenuity and luck. The plot, though, is threadbare and the misogyny runs rampant. It’s almost inexcusable, but this is an exploitation film. It’s not looking for our excuses.


BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (originally released as THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW) obviously owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Herschell Gordon Lewis splatter films that preceded it. The very notion of a stage magician actually murdering people seems inspired by Lewis’s THE WIZARD OF GORE, and the gore effects are equally inspired by his films.

What kind of gore are we talking about here? Fingers chopped off, hands severed by hacksaws, teeth plucked by pliers one-by-one, and of course that old standby in which a power drill is used to puncture a woman’s skull, upon which a straw is inserted inside and the contents sucked out like a grey matter Hi-C. And all of it is punctuated with lots of the goopy red stuff.

This is pure exploitation, and as such, the plot is just a thin excuse to showcase the type of scenes discussed above. It’s difficult to exactly recommend this film in today’s more sensitive and enlightened age—not because of the extent of the violence, but because practically all of it is directed towards women. BLOODSUCKING FREAKS doesn’t try to hide its misogyny. In fact, it revels in it. Sardu kidnaps women, immediately strips them naked, and then beats and tortures them into submission. Once their minds are molded enough to obey his every command, they are either sold to the Middle East as slaves (and shipped in large cardboard boxes, I should add) or kept around the house for his own amusement. Those whose minds can not handle the torture turn feral, and are kept in a cage in the basement.

Candlelight dinner scene from 1976's Bloodsucking Freaks

In this case, “kept around for his own amusement” means electric nipple torture, using them as human dartboards, and eating a candlelight dinner off their backs while hot wax drips down their shapely bottoms. And believe me, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this movie’s depravity. I haven’t even passed along the infamous quote, “Her mouth will make an interesting urinal.”It’s all done very purposefully and with something of a wink directed at the audience—it wants to offend for the sake of offending—but how well that will sit with you personally is not for me to predict.

All I can say in defense of this movie is what I have said multiple times before: you can’t watch an exploitation film and expect political correctness. What I will tell you is that BLOODSUCKING FREAKS is one of the most audacious films ever made, and if you feel like you have seen it all before but your eyes have never set upon this movie, then you are sorely mistaken in your belief.

Victim from 1976's Bloodsucking Freaks

BLOODSUCKING FREAKS was written and directed by Joel M. Reed, who also entertained us with sexploitation films SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT (1968) and CAREER BED (1969); action film WIT’S END (aka G.I. EXECUTIONER, 1971), and horror films BLOOD BATH (1976) and NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES (1981). He has also produced some off-Broadway plays of his own—presumably much less gory than Sardu’s productions.

Dan Fauci, who played lead investigator Sgt. Tucci, went on to found the Actors Institute in 1975, and worked for Paramount Studios for 12 years, developing comedy series including FRASIER, BECKER, and SISTER SISTER. He now hosts “self-help personal growth workshops” in Canada. Which I can honestly say is a career trajectory that I never would have seen coming.

Sardu was played by Seamus O’Brien, a would-be actor who never had another chance to shine because he was killed during a home invasion the following year. Adult film actress Viju Krem played his muse Natasha, and she too met an unfortunate end when she was shot in a hunting accident in 1983.

Sardu and Ralphus from 1976's Bloodsucking Freaks

Sardu’s twisted pal Ralphus was played by Luis De Jesus, who had quite the varied career himself. There aren’t many people who can honestly say that they starred in a 42nd Street staple porno short (THE ANAL DWARF, 1971), appeared in an Ewok costume in a George Lucas film (RETURN OF THE JEDI, 1983), and supplied a voice for an animated after school special (THE ADVENTURES OF TEDDY RUXPIN, 1985). He died of a heart attack in 1988, but what a bizarre legacy to leave (ahem) behind!

No pun intended, of course.

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