Ah yes, lightning in a bottle – that elusive moment when the stars align with the zeitgeist, where talent meets opportunity in the arts and a work is forever cherished through time. And then there’s Invasion of the Blood Farmers (1972), Ed Adlum’s magnum opus of killer druids draining the blood supply of a group of rural New Yorkers in search of the right host to resurrect their long dormant queen. But for fans of schlock and hilarity, Invasion is that lightning, and Severin Films has captured it with their beautiful Blu of this epic oddity.
The lightning starts with Cashbox magazine employee Ed Adlum raising money through his contacts to make a horror film. He raises $24,000, and he and fellow Cashbox-er Ed Kelleher set out to write the film with the title as inspiration. Except their plan for aliens becomes cost prohibitive, so they change it to druids, because a) no one knows much about them, and b) they get to wear outfits closer to Green Acres than green Martians. (Okay, the ‘b’ is my thought, but I’m so grateful they made the switch.) Add in some local actors, some non-actors, a bit of talent from film school, and film over three weekends in a little town in upstate New York. Bring porn director Michael Findlay in to edit, have him shoot some more graphic inserts, have the MPAA take them out, put them back in before you release it, and keep your PG rating. (They weren’t the first or last to follow this practice.)
When the farmland dust had settled, this is what came out: A bloodied and stumbling man by the name of Jim Carrey (!) wanders into the local watering hole and collapses in front of the other locals, ending up quite dead. The blood is analyzed by Dr. Roy Anderson (Norman Kelley) and his college grad sidekick Don (Bruce Detrick), who find that it is expanding by the minute – meaning that old Jim Carrey literally exploded from the inside! (Explosion not included.) We soon meet the source of our dilemma: Creton (Paul Craig Jennings), Egon (Jack Neubeck – Shriek of the Mutilated), and Sontag (Richard Erickson), Sangroid Druids one and all, are huddled up in a nearby shack as their Queen Onhorrid lays in a state of uneasy grace, waiting to be revived by the perfect blood.
Of course, Don’s girlfriend and Dr. Roy’s daughter Jenny (Tanna Hunter) is the perfect match, and when she and Roy are kidnapped for the final ceremony, Don must do whatever he can to prevent the rise of Queen Onhorrid. But will he be too late?
In more capable hands with an actual budget, Invasion of the Blood Farmers could have been a pretty entertaining B flick, and remembered as such; in the hands of Adlum (who never directed again but did co-write Shriek with the other Ed) it has become a burgeoning beloved cult classic. I attribute it to earnestness: Adlum and the gang set out to make a movie in six days with nothing but a lot of blood and a steely resolve to make a film, which they miraculously accomplished. That resolve shines through in every ramshackle department – Adlum’s cockeyed yet energetic direction, some performances that really go for it, and Findlay’s deft editing that somehow holds it together, gives it shape, and makes the most of the 84 minute runtime. I’ve definitely seen much more inept pictures than this one.
In addition to a true sense of giddiness, that “let’s put on a play” attitude, Invasion is just plain bizarre, mostly in execution; stopping for (insert) scenes of tubes slurping plasma out of victims ups the exploitation factor, even if the modesty of the effects tempers that somewhat. The druid angle sets it apart too, and how refreshing to know that with all the voluptuous females on display, the Sangroids turn out to be perfect if psychotic gentlemen.
Perhaps this is why Invasion of the Blood Farmers actually improves with age: there are no skeletons in the closet, or nothing to be ashamed of with what we get. Sometimes exploitation can be clean, goofy fun.
To make you feel even better, Severin’s Blu offers a completely remastered print that looks as good as it ever will, and is loaded with illuminating extras:
Everything about these extras is wonderful; there’s a real sense of pride in pulling off the picture, while acknowledging that it isn’t exactly Citizen Kane. The audio commentary is lively, funny, and sometimes bittersweet; most of the cast and crew have since passed, including co-writer Kelleher, who I remember under his pseudonym (which he uses here as a performer) Eduoard Dauphin, film and drive-in critic for Creem magazine. Future David Lynch cinematographer Frederick Elmes was an assistant to Fred Aronow (insisting on the pseudonym Frederick Douglass), and kudos to him for stepping up to chat about his early work. You can almost guarantee that if a shot in Invasion is properly framed, it’s his. But the best is Nothin’ You’d Show Your Mom, Adlum’s tour through his fascinating career, from a recording artist with The Castle Kings, through Cashbox, filmmaking, and being in on the bottom floor of the video game industry with his magazine Replay. (He even claims he coined the term!) An occasionally bittersweet chat, but he comes across as a mostly joyful man who’s led a full life with little regret.
We need movies like Invasion of the Blood Farmers; it’s a reach for the stars and face plant in the dirt kind of picture that shows pure intentions can produce something truly unique and special, regardless of capability. And we should always have room for pure intentions.
Movie Score: 4.5/5, Disc Score: 5/5