Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by: Donald Stanford
Stars: Bill Rogers, Elizabeth Wilkinson, William Kerwin, Otto Schlessinger
A TASTE OF BLOOD (1967) begins when a package arrives at the office of John Stone (Bill Rogers). After his secretary signs for the delivery, she leaves to transport it to John since he’s working from home. Once the package arrives we’re introduced to John’s beautiful wife Helene (Elizabeth Wilkinson). Both John and Helene are at home putting golf balls on the living-room floor.
Upon opening the box, John reads a letter stating that the two bottles of blood red Slivovitz brandy comes from his recently deceased ancestor in England along with the ancestor’s estate. To celebrate his newfound fortune, John opens one of the bottles and drinks deeply, only to later transform into a vampire. Shortly after this turn of events, John’s personality begins to change as he distances himself from his wife and his friend Hank (William Kerwin).
As the story unfolds, John travels more frequently. We find him in England searching for the descendants of those who killed Count Dracula. His search leads him to the Van Helsing family. Meanwhile back in Miami, Dr. Howard Helsing (Otto Schlessinger) teams up with Hank and awaits John’s return in order to kill him, thus saving Helene from certain doom.
A TASTE OF BLOOD is at best an average re-telling of the original DRACULA (1931). The film’s direction, editing and pacing are rough around the edges and the performances from each cast member remain lackluster and dull. The overly long run-time clocks in at just under 2-hours, making the pace of the film dreadfully slow. Director Lewis also gets dangerously close to “Ed Wood” territory as there are several major continuity errors throughout the film. During one scene with a ship docked at a London port, you can see high-rise apartment buildings and hotels from the Miami shoreline where the film was actually shot. Numerous driving scenes inconsistently alternate between night and day in what is meant to be a single scene. Last but not least, there’s a lack of gore in the film. If compared to earlier Lewis films, this is a letdown considering he built his career on such moments of excessive, inventive blood soaked violence.
A TASTE OF BLOOD was directed and produced by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Creative Film Enterprises Inc. distributed the film in August of 1967. The production was said to have had a budget of $65,000. The screenplay was written by Donald Stanford and, according to available sources, was his only screenplay. The only notable actor in the film is William Kerwin (Hank). Kerwin appeared in many of Lewis’ other films and actually had a career appearing in well over a 100 different film and television productions. The stunningly beautiful Elizabeth Wilkinson only appeared in one other film, SUBURBAN ROULETTE (1968), then disappeared from the business.
Lewis did manage to make a name for himself as The Godfather of Gore because most of his films were filled with over-the-top violence and garishly colorful bloodshed. His more notable films include BLOOD FEAST (1963), TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (1964), COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965), THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967) and my favorite of the bunch, THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970). Lewis also managed to anger women’s rights groups since the majority of his films showcased violence against women. The exception here is SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968) where an all-girl biker club exploits men and uses them as sex objects.
A TASTE OF BLOOD isn’t a complete waste of time so I’d suggest at least one watch. But there are far better low-budget vampire films out there.
Contributed by: Mike Murphy