Blood Freak

Blood 1Early on in Blood Freak, the following scene takes place. Hershel, the film’s hero/victim/turkey-man, sits in a leather chair, talking with two women.

Hershel: Mumble. Mumble. (Unintelligible) Mumble.

Even though it’s difficult to understand what Hershel is saying, it must be fairly interesting since the two women seem to hang on every word he has to say or, anyway, mumble. He might even be talking about something that’s important to the film’s plot. As the scene drags on, however, this seems less and less likely, if for no other reason than there doesn’t seem to be a plot.

Woman #1: (Unintelligible) Garbled. Garbled.

Hershel: Mumble. (Unintelligible) Mumble.

Hershel shifts in the leather chair, and the CREAK OF LEATHER is almost DEAFENING.

Woman #2: (Unintelligible) Garbled. Garbled.

What is actually being said may never be known, but the combination of the drug party in the background and Hershel’s phobia of someone suggesting he might be afraid to do something makes the following dialogue a likely possibility:

Woman #1 offers Hershel a hit off a joint.

Hershel: No, thanks. I do it the natural way. I get high on life.

Woman #1: What are you? (Pauses) Afraid?

HersheBlood 2l: No, man. I march to my own drummer. Dig. I don’t mess with that shit. But say I’m afraid, and yeah, I’ll throw all my values right out the window. I’ll ignore everything I stand for. Me? Afraid? I’ll show you who’s afraid. Come on, let’s slam some junk. Or snort a little white horse. Anyone into freebasing?

Then again, given the way the story plays out, an exchange like the following can’t be ruled out either:

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High and Dizzy

H&D 1Drunks are not funny.

Accepting and confronting this truth has reduced traffic fatalities, enabled families to face a problem once swept under the rug, and encouraged people to take that first shaky step on the road to sobriety.

Still, if we’re completely honest, it has to be admitted a heavy cinematic price has been paid for this enlightened attitude. No one bemoans the loss of a Foster Brooks or even Dudley Moore in Arthur, but silent comedy drunks, when done by the likes of Chaplin or Keaton, well, it’s like watching a wonderfully shitfaced ballet.

Harold Lloyd’s two-reeler High and Dizzy is definitely a high point in drunken pantomime (OK. OK. Puns about drinking aren’t funny either, but that’s not because of a societal shift in attitudes. It’s because they’re puns). After getting completely blotto, Lloyd and a friend end up at a hotel where they can sleep off their afternoon drinking binge. Throw in a sleepwalking love interest, and you’ve got 26 minutes of near disasters, perfectly choreographed mayhem, and visual comedy that depends on split-second timing.

Admittedly, joke-wise, there’s not a great deal that’s new here. You get bits where two guys put on the same coat at the same time, each with an arm in one sleeve. There’s the always-reliable loading lift that arbitrarily goes up and down in a city sidewalk, rising as an inebriated Lloyd is walking down the street and about to step forward into an empty shaft, or descending and taking Lloyd out of sight just as a policeman rounds a corner.

The drunk routine is like the performance of a virtuoso piece of music. Difficult but appearing effortless. Complicated but precise and simple in execution. The drunk has three emotional gears that he can shift between: happy camaraderie, confusion, and belligerence. That’s more than enough comedic range to provide variety for a two-reeler.                                             H&D 2

Toward the end of High and Dizzy, there’s even a hint of things to come as a drunken Lloyd pursues his sleepwalking love out onto a building ledge. The sequence plays very much like an initial run-through for the high-wire antics in Safety Last! a few years later.

High and Dizzy even manages to set up and pay off a completely screwy ending, which, while both abrupt and unlikely, is still thoroughly satisfying.

Look. I know no one wants to hear this, but drunks are funny. Sometimes.

Just look at Harold Lloyd.

Harold Lloyd.  High and Dizzy.