Wisconsin-based auteur Bill Rebane has made some interesting movies: THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION, THE CAPTURE OF BIGFOOT, THE DEMONS OF LUDLOW. I’m not necessarily saying they were good films, just interesting! Rebane entered the slasher film sweepstakes with 1987’s BLOOD HARVEST, a lunatic entry starring falsetto singing wonder Tiny Tim (“Tip Toe Through the Tulips”) as a delightfully demented clown named Marvelous Mervo!
I’ll try to give you a brief description of the madness going on here: so there’s this girl Jill (Itonia Salchek) who returns home from college to find her parents gone and her house painted with the words ‘Scum!’, ‘Thief!’, and ‘Bastard!”. Welcome home, Jill! It seems dad worked for the bank that’s been foreclosing on all the local family farms, including Jill’s ex-boyfriend Gary’s (Dean West) parents, who were murdered, leaving Gary in charge of his loony brother Mervyn (Tiny Tim), who spends his time dressed in clown make-up.
Are you with me so far? Good, because now the fun begins! People in Jill’s life begin to disappear, like her new fiancé Scott the football star, who takes a baseball bat to the forehead and is trussed up like a pig and hung upside down. Scott, by the way, marked the film debut of Peter Krause, who went on to TV success in SIX FEET UNDER and PARENTHOOD, which is much better than taking a bat to the forehead and being hung like a smoked ham!
It’ll be pretty obvious to those familiar with slasher schlock who the real killer is before the film’s half over (hint: it’s not the clown!). There are some really dull stretches, alleviated somewhat by Salchek spending a lot of time naked. The film doesn’t really pick up until the final twenty minutes or so, where the gore gets going good! Rebane doesn’t have the deranged flair of a Herschell Gordon Lewis , but certainly shares the Godfather of Gore’s psychotic spirit. Unfortunately, much of BLOOD HARVEST is shot on grainy, badly lit stock, with out of focus shots and a disjointed quality to the script. And this was the special “Director’s Cut” I watched!
As for Tiny Tim… well, he’s not bad! The lunatic clown Marvelous Mervo seems tailor-made for his unique personality, and though he’s as obvious a red herring as can be, he’s certainly appropriately creepy! Tim even gets a chance to warble the title tune and a couple of bars of other songs (my favorite: “Good Night, Ladies”), and BLOOD HARVEST probably wouldn’t be remembered at all without his presence (in fact, I could’ve done with more of Tiny Tim’s trilling and less of the oh-so-80’s synth score). So I’m actually going to recommend this no-budget slasher entry for it’s DIY aesthetic, Salchek’s nubile nudity, and Mr. Tim’s performance as Mervo. It’s a Bottom of the Grindhouse Barrel of Fun!