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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Coney Island Carnage -- Unseen Sex & Gore from Leonard Kirtman's CARNIVAL OF BLOOD (1970)!


A little hyperbolic, for sure, but hopefully you'll dig what we've turned up!

Leonard Kirtman's Carnival of Blood (1970) is an odd duck of a movie -- a pre-slasher slasher heavily influenced by the gore trade of H.G. Lewis. The "plot," as it is, ostensibly follows an assistant D.A. and his girlfriend as they attempt to solve a series of gruesome mutilations centered around a game booth at New York's Coney Island.  In reality, it's just scene after scene of annoying character after annoying character badly improvising their way through extended stretches of travelogue footage, bitching and complaining until they're relieved of a body part or two. Rinse. Repeat.  Its singular mindlessness is actually quite fascinating, and the vintage footage of the popular tourist trap is a great time capsule of an era long gone.  (Bonus points for a pre-Rocky Burt Young as Gimpy, the Hunchback!)

Submitted for a rating in 1970 by the director's Kirt Films International, the MPAA's website states Carnival of Blood was initially branded an R but edited down to a GP rating. I have no idea which version currently survives; I find it hard to believe the entrail-yanking sequence would've ever made it past the censors with anything less than an X!  Did the R cut ever play by itself?  Materials from its 1972 release with Curse of the Headless Horseman show a PG version definitely circulated.  There's currently no nudity, and the choppiness of the violence makes one wonder what exactly we're seeing. 

Gaining a small VHS release in the early '80s courtesy of Wizard Video, the film was rescued for the digital age by exploitation saviors Something Weird Video, who found and transferred a rare 16mm element.  In 2002 they issued a packed DVD replicating its original drive-in double-bill, supplementing it with tons of cool trailers (including a U.S. spot for Hunchback of the Morgue!) and some hilarious Super8 home horrors.

The below images are scanned from my personal collection; the Arcana Archives hold a varied assortment of fifteen 8x10 negatives and a separate caption strip.  Some are simply unused promotional shots, presenting a detailed look at a few of the gore effects that are practically subliminal in the film as it exists now.  The second still down actually has a surprising nipple appearance, indicating the love scene originally went longer than displayed in the final product.  The cop characters seen in the fourth still are only visible in the background of the film proper. Also mixed in are a some behind-the-scenes photos: you can see the make-up artist blacking out the actress' sockets for the eye-gouging segment, the photo of the drunken sailor reveals the crew and lighting stands in the background, and you have to love the actor holding the fake head in place for the funhouse decapitation!  Enjoy!

Poster image courtesy of Wrong Side of the Art.

© 2010 -- Bruce Holecheck. All Rights Reserved.


  1. I love Carnival of Blood! Curse of the Headless Horseman was deadly dull though.

  2. Great write-up and pix! I work in Coney and enjoy catching glimpses of long vanished attractions in vintage films. Another blast from the past: the Amazon link lists actress Ultra Violet (of Andy Warhol & The Factory fame) in the credits!

    1. Ultra Violet is in the other movie, Curse Of The Headless Horseman. Cool you work at Coney. Say hi to The Warriors for me.

  3. Happy to see a few other fans! And great site, Tricia!

  4. Wow! These shots are great! I sort of fell in love with this movie when I rented it as a total lark. I loved the loud-mouth woman who gets her eyes ripped out. I love how so much time was spent on her just walking around getting on everyone's nerves. I kind of wish the whole movie was just about HER! She reminds me of that comedian, Lisa Lampanelli!

  5. Haha, my favorite bit with her is when she cuts in line at Nathan's, demanding more fried shrimp: "Another one! Another one!"

    The trailer I embedded above actually contains some clips not seen in the film as we currently know it -- I'm wondering if it initially played some engagements as an R rated feature then was shortened a little for its PG double-bill?

  6. Wow. That's quite a find. Count me in as another fan of this one for much the same reasons others have already explained. My wife and I were married in Coney Island a little over a year ago so that place holds a special place with us, and we just rewatched Carnival Of Blood recently, which lead me to google which lead me here. Nice work Bruce.

  7. Thanks, Ian! And what a place to get hitched!

  8. Carnival Of Blood is a great b-movie.