To say Herschel Gordon Lewis had an impact on horror would be an understatement-maybe the ultimate one. If it wasn't for him, many of the graphic horrors that we have today would probably not exist. That out of the way, if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have had many of the odd knock offs and movies inspired by his work-films like "The Ghastly Ones", "The Undertaker and His Pals" and "The Corpse Grinders" all played in drive ins and the Deuce at 42nd Street back in the day-all clearly inspired by Lewis' brand of gory mayhem. One of the films that typifies this kind of horror flick is Leonard Kirtman's 1970 cheapie "Carnival of Blood."
At a Coney Island Carnival, somebody is killing off very annoying female customers. So, it's up to DA Dan Nolastnamegiven (Martin Barlorski) and his hot girlfriend Laura (Judith Renick) to find out whose behind all of this. So who is it? Is it the Fortune Teller (Kally Mills)? The mentally retarded and deformed Paulie (Burt Young of "Rocky" fame, in a "sensitive" portrayl)? Or is it the bald guy with serious mother issues (Earle Edgerton)? Also, why are so many of the woman here annoying, and why would a Gypsy have a portrait of Jesus?
From the get go, "Carnival of Blood" is not a good movie. The acting is uniformly terrible, and rarely in a so bad it's good way. The direction is mostly inept to the point of laughter. The score is made up of repetative electronic music cues and really bad hippie dippy folk music that annoys the viewer. The conclusion is laughable at best, and the gore effects are too infrequent, not to mention laughably fake.
Yet in spite of it's many flaws, it remains oddly watchable. One of the main reasons is the carnival itself. The whole thing is low rent and sleazy, and really captures most of what makes these kinds of cheap carnivals what they are-from the rude customers to the sketchy characters and the not exactly good food. Also, the cheap gore effects have a strange, low rent charm, and the movie actually gets away with a nice scene involving a teddy bear stuffed with intestines. It's funny seeing that it got a PG rating back in the day. Oh, and then there's Earle Edgerton as Tom. While his performance is bad, it's at least amusingly bad. Everything from a flashback to other attempts to build pathos for his character fails, but dammit if he doesn't try. There's something almost admirable about that.
Can I recommend "Carnival of Blood"? Not really, as it's rather boring at times, and doesn't live up to it's promise. That out of the way, if no-budget exploitation is your thing, then you can do a whole lot worse as far as rentals go.
Fun fact: "Carnival of Blood" is one of two horror movies Leonard Kirtman wrote and directed-the other was the horrible and unwatchable "Curse of the Headless Horseman." He does have plenty of credits as a director, producer and writer for adult films though.