Full Moon Features: Blood Freak (1972)

Since the full moon falls on Thanksgiving this year, I figured I’d highlight a slightly different kind of movie in this month’s column. While there’s no such thing as a movie about a wereturkey, there is 1972’s Blook Freak, which TCM’s Robert Osborne once sheepishly described as being about “a motorcycle enthusiast who’s turned into a blood-crazed turkey man.” Written, produced and directed by the dream team of Brad F. Grinter (who did the same jobs on 1970’s Flesh Feast and Devil Rider!) and Steve Hawkes (a Croatian-born actor who made this in between stints in a couple Tarzan knock-offs), Blood Freak presents itself as a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking illegal drugs and eating non-FDA-approved foodstuffs.

Hawkes plays Herschell, a ramrod-straight Vietnam vet who finds himself torn between a Bible-quoting drug counselor who gets him work doing odd jobs at a poultry ranch and her hedonist sister who gets him hooked on weed that has been laced with something to make it addictive. That would be bad enough, but since one of his odd jobs at the turkey farm involves eating what the guys in the laboratory cook up, the end result after one of the tests is Herschell’s transformation into a man wearing a rubber turkey mask and a ruff of feathers around his neck. Oh, yes. And he craves blood, which he gets by waylaying drug addicts and pushers and killing and mutilating them. These scenes are accompanied by a repetitive musical sting and one scream that is looped over and over. (Actually, there are two: one female and one male. Neither is particularly convincing.) Meanwhile, the sister who got him hooked feels guilty about what she’s done and worries needlessly about what their children would look like (as if she’s actually contemplating taking Mr. Turkey to bed).

Finally Herschell is put out of his misery by being beheaded (which Grinter and Hawkes depict by cutting to footage of an actual turkey with its head cut off), but it all turns out to be a dream (“My God,” Herschell moans, “I’ve been hallucinating. After eating that turkey, I went through hell.”), which is even more of a cop-out ending than it sounds. As if to further illustrate their contempt for the audience, Grinter and Hawekes periodically cut away to a narrator (played by an uncredited Grinter, obviously reading from a script) who recites deathless lines like “You ever think about this fantastic order of things? And how far does it go?” between drags on his cigarette, and actually goes into a coughing fit right before the final fade-out. Because why would you bother with a second take on something like that? It would only be a waste of film.

Note: This movie is real. I swear I did not make it up. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.