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51BMG9E93JL_cropCarnival Of Blood (1970)

Directed by:  Leonard Kirtman

Starring:  Earl Edgerton, Judith Resnick, Martin Barolsky, Kaly Mills, John Harris, Linda Krurtz, William Granell, Glen Kimberley, Eve Packer, Gloria Spivak

Roll up! Roll up! Roll up something mind-altering if you want to spend some time with this mind-rotting schlock horror cheapie! Set in and around a Coney Island amusement park, it has an amateurish, improvised feel reminiscent of the worst home movies you ever saw.

The story revolves around assorted characters visiting the same dowdy boardwalk amusements and then getting bumped off by a mystery killer. In every case the victims follow the same predestined route to their appointment with a body bag. First of all they try their luck at a darts-throwing stand run by balding, piercing-eyed Tom and his scarred, retarded assistant Gimpy. Popping the requisite number of balloons wins a cheap and nasty teddy bear, and there are extra points for insulting Gimpy. Next stop is the cigar-smoking gypsy fortune-teller, who always sees something nasty in the cards. Then it’s time for the morgue.

The first victim is a pretty young girl who emerges from the ghost train without her head – her fake mannequin neck gurgling blood while her boyfriend throws up his hot dog! The first medic on the scene sighs, “Shame, she was a good looking chick. Have we got time for a sandwich before we finish up?”

The second victim is a sarcastic hooker who latches onto an inebriated sailor (the saddest approximation of a drunk act I’ve ever seen on celluloid) and attempts to fleece him. First she passes on the darts to hurl a few insults at Gimpy instead, then she comes up with a “Don’t start reading any long novels” reading at the fortune-teller’s. Her sailor boyfriend staggers off, leaving her easy prey for a psycho with a huge carving knife who slices her stomach open and pulls out a hefty handful of intestines.

The third victim is a fat and irritating blonde with stupid sunglasses, who has her tongue severed, her eyes gouged out, and then her head bashed in with a brick. Believe me, she deserved worse.

Of course Gimpy is the chief suspect in these killings, which makes it fairly obvious that Tom the darts man is the real menace. It seems that his mum took his favourite teddy bear away when he was a kid, and now he likes to murder young women and stuff his bears with their guts and eyes. There’s room for a groundbreaking psychological case study to be done here. But before the shrinks can get their hands on him, Tom runs into the road and gets squashed by a truck, expiring in a welter of red paint. “Is he dead?” asks a bystander. Nah!

Very badly photographed in murky 16mm, Carnival Of Blood belongs to that rare and privileged group of films that can truly be classed as virtually unwatchable, unless you like watching people sitting around carrying on weird conversations that don’t seem to make much sense – at length. Not so much low-budget as no-budget, it wasn’t released to cinemas until 1976, when its star Burt Young (billed here under his real name of John Harris) had made it big in Rocky. Witnessing Burt’s ridiculous rolling-eyed performance, it’s a wonder anyone employed him ever again.