Jessie Lilley
Buddy Barnett
Brad Linaweaver

November 2009     Web Edition     Issue #3

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Invasion of the

Blood Farmers

Directed by Ed Adlum

Written by Ed Kelleher

Starring Norman Kelley, Tanna Hunter, Bruce Detrick, Paul Craig Jennings.

Color, 78m. PG. from The Farmer Company 1972

DVD from Retromedia Entertainment

“Invasion.” “Blood.” “Farmers.” It’s like some garbage drive-in movie screenwriter was playing William Burroughs cut-up art games and synthesized three completely disparate elements. This ’72 hillbilly-sploitation effort was shot in upstate New York by music journalist turned director Ed Adlum, penned by Creem scribe Ed Kelleher, and with grindhouse roughie legends Michael and Roberta Findlay on camera and editing.

Invasion of the Blood Farmers actually features no invasion, and the scenes of human bodies being “farmed” for blood are the least interesting parts of the movie. What you take from Blood Farmers is not the sight of a bound woman (Adlum’s then-wife) with gore being drained from her body via a tube attached to an air compressor—it’s the doltish, sweatered hero and the sexless relationship he has with his tranquilized-looking fiancée, the awesomely bad sub-Shakespearean performance by the out-of-the-closet druid villain, and the embarrassing lack of any production values whatsoever. Blood Farmers feels like a movie made by a community college theater program whose only experience with horror films were those that were described to them. It’s so helpless it’s almost to be pitied—and for this reason remains one of the funniest and most endearing junk movies of its time.

In the small town of Jefferson Valley, the death of a local stew-bum baffles a pathologist (Kelley) and his assistant Don; long after his death, the dead drunk’s blood continues to bubble and reproduce itself. This leads Don to do some detective work, and he uncovers a coven of druids hoping to revive their undead queen by using an ancient, magical key. When Don’s fiancée Jenny turns out to be the ultimate donor for the queen, it’s time to call in the local cops to bust up the witch party.

Blood Farmers defines incompetent filmmaking, yet demands to be seen because of its fascinating, inept style. Shots are underexposed, out of focus, or framed so poorly that characters appear to be falling to one side. The whole miserable affair takes place almost entirely during the bright day in depressing, undressed living rooms (mostly in Adlum’s upstate New York home). The wildly overwritten screenplay stuffs awkward dialogue in actors’ mouths, and is read with awesome gusto. The addictive one-take histrionics of the amateur cast are so impressive that Blood Farmers transcends its inarguably abject mise-en-scene and becomes positively loveable. The difference between this and collaborators Michael & Roberta Findlay’s own New York-area films from the period is that the vibe of Blood Farmers is earnest, even playful, whereas the Findlays’ films seem sociopathic and troubling. Maybe it was the trip upstate and out of the hell of New York City that did them good; the PG-rated shocks (like the death of Buster the fluffy white family dog, absurdly bludgeoned to death by a crazed farmer) make Blood Farmers an easy to take “bad” movie. It’s friendly and unchallenging, with an avalanche of dialogue that makes re-watching the film a pleasant, if regressive experience. Adlum, the recently departed Kelleher, and the Findlays would return two years later for Shriek of the Mutilated, featuring the same inappropriate library music and ugly non-look. The movie, about the search for a cannibalistic Yeti on the loose, is just as entertaining, and runs neck-in-neck with Blood Farmers as one of the best punch-in-the-jaw film titles of the great lost world of 70s drive-in cinema.

Nicholas McCarthy