(A.k.a. NIGHTMARE; THE MARVELLOUS MERVO)
Pretty Jill (Itonia Salchek) moves back to the quiet rural town she was brought up in. Her parents have gone astray, following local controversy concerning her bank manager father's involvement in the closing down of several farms in the area. To this end, she returns to an empty family home - one that before long has suffered graffiti accusing her folks of being thieves.
Enter Jill's childhood friend Gary (Dean West), who still lives in the vicinity ... and evidently still holds a torch for her, his great unrequited love of yore. She gets along just fine with him, especially as he helps clean her folks' place up after it's vandalised, but she's quick to highlight the fact that she's now engaged to someone else.
Other significant entities in this small town scenario include the sheriff (Frank Benson), who's reluctant to come to Jill's aid on account of the damage he perceives her father as having done to local businesses; Sarah (Lori Minnetti), Jill's old school pal; Merv (Tiny Tim), Gary's rather "special" brother, who's taken to dressing and acting like a clown since his own parents died in a tragic house fire.
As if there wasn't already enough under Jill's nose to start alarms bells ringing, bloody murders begin to occur and strange goings-on in her own home (including an obligatory shower scene) suggest that she's the elusive killer's ultimate target.
BLOOD HARVEST starts off quite messily. It feels badly edited and at times incomprehensible as a result. Beneath its confused delivery is a rather by-the-numbers slasher plot, but this is elevated into something more entertaining by cult director Bill Rebane's propensity for sex and violence, co-writers Ben Benson and Emil Joseph's gleefully silly script, and a truly demented, creepy turn from ukulele-brandishing singer Tim.
For all that the film is cannily photographed, keenly paced and benefits from an occasionally eerie score, it's Tim's appearance - his sole acting effort in a dramatic role - which steals the show. At equal turns ludicrously over-the-top and curiously effective, it's a disquieting performance which suggests a genuine insanity behind the forced smiles. It certainly brings a whole new vibe, new character, to what could've otherwise been a rather pedestrian proposition.
The theme of co-dependency which comes to the fore during the final act is an interesting one, as is the backdrop of financial hardship and the new world usurping older traditions. But BLOOD HARVEST, in truth, doesn't want to bamboozle horror fans with such concepts: it flirts with them, certainly, and is an interesting curio piece as a result. But first and foremost, this is an unabashed slice of exploitation.
Which means we get a healthy amount of mean-spirited gore, some gratuitous nudity and Salchek spending an inordinate amount of time racing around in a nightshirt which shows off her lovely legs to the max. All of which, along with Tim's uniquely unhinged performance, should be more than enough to entertain audiences long enough for them to forget the aforementioned messiness in the plot department.
BLOOD HARVEST gets its worldwide HD premiere thanks to 88 Films. Unsurprisingly the BBFC butchered Rebane's film by almost 3 minutes when Screen Entertainment Ltd submitted it back in the censorship-heavy late 80s. But here it's presented uncut - 87 minutes and 34 seconds in length - and in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Newly struck from Rebane's original 16mm vault materials, this 1080p transfer comes with a healthy amount of fine, natural grain and highly gratifying levels of stability in terms of blacks and deep, true colours. Detail is pronounced, filmic texture is authentic-seeming. Minor specks appear here and there, but this is a largely clean affair and by far the best the film has ever looked on home video.
Likewise, the uncompressed English Stereo audio track is an improvement over the more confined, limited propositions of the past. Spacious, clean and evenly balanced throughout, there is no cause for concern here. A couple of typos aside, optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read at all times.
The disc opens to an animated main menu page. Although there is no scene selection menu, the film is graced with remote-accessible chapters.
As ever, 88 Films treat us to a fine selection of contextual bonus features.
First out of the stalls is "Tiny Tim in Niagara Falls", a full 71-minute concert performed on September 3rd, 1987. Shot on VHS, this fascinating relic is nevertheless in good shape.
Next we have a 13-minute "Behind the Scenes" featurette which begins with a bizarre rendition of Tiny Tim's 60s hit "Tiptoe through the Tulips", before settling into an interview with the personality and his director. We also get some priceless on-shoot footage in this entertaining addition.
We also get 17 priceless minutes of Tim performing at the film's wrap party, beginning with a raucous interpretation of Elvis's "Heartbreak Hotel". It looks like this evening would've been a blast.
Alternate opening titles bearing the title NIGHTMARE are included. These are in good condition but look cheap as Hell.
This impressive package is finished off by a 4-page colour booklet containing liner notes by Tiny Tim biographer Justin A Martell, double-sided cover artwork and - for those who buy the first pressing - a very attractive slipcase.
An also-ran from the latter days of 80s slasher cinema, BLOOD HARVEST is nevertheless a most enjoyable, memorable prospect - especially in this remastered, uncut form. Backed up with entertaining extra features, 88 Films' blu-ray comes recommended.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by 88 Films|