This week’s B-Movie Enema feature is one I’ve wanted to do for a while. Maybe more accurately, the film’s director is a guy I’ve wanted to feature for some time. This week, I’ll be getting into 1987’s Blood Harvest.
Without a doubt, the chief thing that will gain attention will be the fact that this stars the very eclectic novelty musician Tiny Tim. We’ll be getting to Tiny Tim momentarily. However, I would argue that this might just be the most interesting of all the films directed by Wisconsinite Bill Rebane.
Rebane worked relatively consistently as a director from 1974 with Invasion from Inner Earth until 1988’s Twister’s Revenge. He’s done a couple movies since 1988, and he also did 1965’s Monster a Go-Go, but the 14 years that I mentioned is where his best known movies reside. While Monster a Go-Go was one of two films by Rebane Mystery Science Theater 3000 lampooned, his heavy hitting trio of The Giant Spider Invasion (1975 – the other movie MST3K did), Blood Harvest, and Twister’s Revenge have the most notoriety.
The Giant Spider Invasion doesn’t just have recognizable faces like Barbara Hale and Alan Hale, Jr. (no relation), but it is one of the most profitable movies of 1975 having grossed about $15 million dollars on a $300,000 budget. That’s bonkers because if you’ve seen the movie (and there’s a very good chance you WILL see the movie during Season 4 of B-Movie Enema: The Series), you’d have the right to believe that it played for laughs at theaters and drive-ins. However, there is a goddamned, undeniable charm that the movie possesses that has almost a 50s style monster movie feel.
Certainly MST3K helped keep The Giant Spider Invasion on people’s minds, but the same can be said for Red Letter Media keeping the memory of Twister’s Revenge fresh. Where The Giant Spider Invasion played at several drive-ins for years, Twister’s Revenge played on cable TV for years. Twister’s Revenge feels more like a hillbilly trucker type movie with a smart monster truck that goes to fairs and shows all over Wisconsin. It’s goofy. It’s dumb. It’s a ton of goofy, dumb fun.
Blood Harvest is a whole other beast. Part of that is due to it being a fairly disturbing movie that features a generally soft-spoken and kindly Tiny Tim dressed as a clown for pretty much the whole thing. The more that people have learned about Tiny Tim since his passing, the more interesting the choice it is for him to be in it.
Tiny Tim was born Herbert Butros Khaury in Manhattan in 1932. He was a bit of a loner. He was a little weird. He was very likely not a typically straight male – that could mean a lot of things. He likely faced abuse both within his family and within the community around him. It was also said that he very likely had infatuation for one of his only friends, another boy in the community, but that it being the late 40s, it wasn’t really going to work out.
He took to music early in life too and became enamored with an older style of music that, by the time he would start exploring his talent in the 50s, was pretty much way too outdated to catch on… Except in the world of novelty. By the 60s, Tiny Tim had become a little bit of a locally famous Greenwich Village performer. Roger Ebert even saw him in the early part of the decade when he was in New York for a college newspaper journalists convention. He wrote it was unlike anything he’d ever seen before – in a good way.
Later, in 1968, he had a huge hit, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”. His distinctive falsetto singing voice and his use of a ukulele made him pretty different in a very different time. However, it’s uncertain if he knew he was kind of accepted by the counterculture movement because he was different or if he was accepted by them almost ironically. Either way, he became quite well known for performing on Johnny Carson and other public appearances. He would eventually have a bit of a peculiar marriage to Victoria Mae Budinger, better known as “Miss Vicki”, who was only 17 at the time… When Tiny Tim was 37. They would divorce after only three years. Tiny Tim would go on to marry two more times, and his third wife, Susan Gardner, was a Harvard graduate who was a huge fan of Tiny Tim’s since she was a little girl.
It’s fairly undeniable that Tiny Tim was a peculiar character in the entertainment world. In some ways, you could see him as almost a Michael Jackson type of figure. He was soft-spoken. He was less than manly – even a little effeminate. He was just a strange person that was hard to put your finger on what was going on with him. It is also fairly undeniable that he was someone who seemed to struggle with who he was and how the world perceived him – at least in his earlier life. I believe it was something that only brought out his oddness and quirks even more as an adult.
There is a lovely documentary about Tiny Tim called Tiny Tim: King for a Day that I highly recommend if you are interested in knowing more about this very peculiar, but pretty darn likable, person. It’s available to rent on streaming platforms. However, it’s time for us to dive into Tiny Tim’s acting performance as The Marvelous Mervo in Bill Rebane’s Blood Harvest.
So this is the second movie I’ve watched that opens up right on a close up of a clown doing eerie shit. The first was Carny with that clown being Gary Busey. That still gives me a little bit of the jibblies. Here, it’s not really any better. It’s Tiny Tim singing about Jack and Jill going up the hill to fetch a pail of water. That will give you nightmares. But anyway, there’s been a double homicide. And we’re seeing stuff immediately after Tiny Tim’s clown rendition of that song.
The movie then goes into the aftermath of this double homicide. There’s a foreclosure on a property that is upsetting this small farm town. A girl comes walking into the town, Jill. Jill is the daughter of the guy at the bank that has to go around and do these foreclosures that really piss off the whole town.
Now, I don’t mind saying that Jill, played by Itonia Salchek, has a hot ass sorta side pony and sexy 80s style going for her.
Anyway, the Robinson family, that which Jill is a part of, is not very popular in this part of the state. They kind of represent the shitty man. They are the ones being blamed for foreclosing on this land and property. When Jill gets home, she sees that locals have graffitied the house with lots of mean comments like telling them to get lost (you know, beat cheeks) and that they are scum.
When she goes inside, the first thing she’s greeted with is a dummy in a noose and and arrow stuck in it. Basically, this town is goddamned adamant that these people are fuckin’ scum. I mean… it says so on the outside of their house. Next, she’s greeted by the Marvelous Mervo who has picked flowers for her. This… This is unsettling.
Merv only wants to talk about these goddamn flowers. Jill would like some answers. Merv’s brother, Gary, comes in and tells her that things are in pretty bad shape around town and her father is being blamed from it. Getting even more of a clue about how people feel, the phone rings and she answers. A voice, who I suppose can only guess that the person answering is a woman, just says, “Fuck you, bitch!” and then a brick comes flying into her window.
She doesn’t see who threw it but we do see Mervo messing around in the barn where the brick may have come from. While she’s walking around outside, she sees guys in fuckin’ local goofball militia camos and she gets shot right in the fucking forehead. However, it’s just a paintball. These yokels are just playing at war. They are at least nice enough to give her a lift into town so she doesn’t have to walk all the way there in the sweltering Wisconsin summer heat (yes, it gets stupid hot in Wisconsin in the summer time – that wasn’t a joke). And what do I see on this cheesehead’s truck?
Hey, dumbfuck… Wisconsin wasn’t in the Confederacy.
Anyway, Jill gets into to town. She deflects the bumpkin’s advances when he first asks her for a date before asking her for meaningless sex. Jill storms into the sheriff’s office and wants the sheriff to do something about the threatening calls, the graffiti, and the brick tossed into the window. The sheriff is bummed out because this means he’s going to miss out on his softball game.
ACAB – All Cops Are Ballplayers.
Anyway, as they head back to the Robinson home, Mervo has Mrs. Robinson tied up in what appears to be a brick murder dungeon. I cannot reiterate enough that Tiny Tim dressed up as a deranged clown is, no joke, terrifying. Jill and the sheriff return to the Robinson home and not only is the dummy missing from the entry, but the graffiti is gone from the house and the broken window is fixed. The sheriff thinks that Jill is fucking with him. Everyone in town pretty much thinks that all the Robinsons are major assholes.
Jill starts unpacking and opens her dresser drawer and a cat jumps out. This whole damn place is a house of nightmares. Gary comes over and tells Jill that he was the one who fixed the place up while she was in town. I’m guessing Gary is connected to the Speed Force because he’d have to be the fuckin’ Flash to do everything in the short time she was in town. They decide to go for a walk. They go skipping off holding hands and go to their old childhood treehouse. Gary is head over heels for Jill. He’s a little heartbroken when she tells him that she met someone and they got engaged.
Mervo is in a church praying his balls off while crying his eyes out. There are circular things coming out of Mervo all over the place. But don’t worry, he comes back to the movie in time to sing the Jack and Jill song, but sings about Gary and Jill instead. That’s… that shit is going to stick in my head for some time. Not in a good way.
At least we get an eyeful of Itonia Salchek. She gets into the shower with Bill Rebane’s masterful eye for cinema focused riiiight in on her bare ass. Then, when a gloved bad guy turns the hot water all the way on, we see her jump out of the shower and that masterful eye of Rebane’s again zeroed riiiight in on her bush. I’d feel bad, but come on. I need something to soothe the nightmares of the Marvelous Mervo.
We then see her walk around her house in just a tiny silk robe while she tries to get over the whole disaster of that shower. The hand turns the cold water back on and she’s just frustrated. Naturally, we see Mervo creeping around outside and he eventually sneaks up behind her to say hi. She’s not scared of Mervo and I think it’s kind of sweet because while it’s clear that he’s not mentally healthy, she treats him kindly. That is, until it looks like he’s going to kiss her while laughing maniacally and she has to tell him no. He leaves after asking why he isn’t allowed to make himself happy. She’s left with her head in her hands and a lot of questions about why she had to come home this weekend.
If you think it gets any better later that night, think again. In the murder dungeon where Mervo was taking care of Jill’s mom, who was tied up in a chair, we see that the body is gone, but the noose remains. Jill, just wanting to read a book in her tiny silk robe, under her Commando poster pinned to her ceiling, hears something outside. She sees someone eerily sitting on a swing with their back to her.
She calls the sheriff again, who’s pissed that he has to stop playing solitaire. Thankfully, her boyfriend, Scott calls. She just wants Scott to talk to her to help her calm down. It turns out that the prowler outside was just Mervo.
But I do want to back up for a moment. That Scott guy who was on the phone? That’s Peter Krauss. This was his first role in a movie. Krauss, of course, is best known for playing Nate Fisher on the TV program Six Feet Under. He made it into this Bill Rebane, Wisconsin production because he was from Minnesota.
That night, Jill sleeps peacefully. Someone sneaks into her bedroom and chloroforms her to keep her asleep. Then our black gloved intruder rips her robe open and ties her down and takes pictures of her to keep as mementos. The next morning, Scott arrives to much excitement from Jill.
Scott wants to fuck. Jill wants to tease and be playful. She has him chase her through the house. He then takes off her robe to get that full on boobage. There’s a LOT of full on boobage in this movie. I’m kind of a fan of this.
But uh oh, Spaghettios… Gary is outside and sees that a new car is in the driveway. He sneaks around – I assume that runs in his family since Mervo does it a lot too. He finds a window slightly open where he can push aside the curtains and watch his childhood flame get plowed by Scott’s Peter Krauss. They get interrupted by the phone and Scott decides to go into town and talk to the sheriff and try to get things sorted out.
As he backs out of the drive way, he sees someone tiptoeing through the tall grass and go into the barn. When he gets to the door, someone baseball bats him in the fucking face! What’s Jill doing while this is going on?
Ballet. But, like, Bill Rebane-style ballet.
Now, they do show plenty of her actually doing real ballet, but, at some point, I feel like some of the kind of crazy stuff that goes on in this movie, like Jill having not worn pants for several minutes now, or just making sure that we get a crotch view while she does ballet, and so on, for as nice as it is, it’s starting to feel a little awkward.
Oh, god. What am I saying? What is this I’m feeling? Empathy for the girl who has a camera shoved between her legs while doing kind of sexy, barely clothed ballet? Who am I?!? What have I become?!?
Anyway, so Mervo decides to knock on the door and then do something just as bonkers as you might expect.
Jill’s old friend, Sarah, comes over to see her before she goes to her night shift at the diner. When she leaves, she discovers she’s locked out of her car. Then a man with pantyhose over his head comes out of the trees and attacks her. She first gets an arrow in the hand and then gets strung up in the barn where her throat is slit.
Now, we know what’s going on here right? Mervo is a weirdo. He’s been seen with Jill’s mom tied up and stuff. But he’s not the killer. He’s barely an accomplice. Yes, legally, technically he is, but no, the killer is much thinner and more athletic. It’s 1,000,000% Gary doing all the bad shit. Gary is able to kind of blame Mervo because he’s, you know, crazy? But Gary has been a weirdo from the start just in a different way than Mervo.
Since all this has been going on since before Jill got home, Gary’s cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs for pretty much his whole life. Now he’s just knocking people off who prevent him from having Jill. He even acts the “nice” guy part and even teases that maybe Sarah and Scott saw each other in town, fell in love instantly, and ran off to Vegas to get hitched. Jill is not amused.
Speaking of things that Jill is not amused with… We’ve literally gone into minute 30 of our actress wearing no pants. In fact, she’s not worn anything but some sort of robe or a man’s shirt and panties for this whole time. I meant it when I said that summer gets pretty damn hot in Wisconsin, but usually people still wear pants. Don’t get me wrong… Itonia Salchek is gorgeous. She has a phenomenal set of legs. She’s got a nice body too. I appreciate how much Bill Rebane is appreciating her attributes, but, goddamn, I’m not used to a movie that flat out refuses to have our lead actress wear pants.
So again, Jill is chloroformed while she sleeps. The man doing all the killing and shenanigans carries her out to the barn where he still has Scott alive and strung up by his legs. He makes sure Scott sees him fondle his fiancé’s body. There are sirens heard in the background and the assailant, I’m just going to call him Gary now, Gary has to take Jill back inside the house. The sheriff tries to knock to get Jill’s attention, but, of course, she’s all knocked out and shit. The sheriff simply drives off.
Back in the barn, I see that Peter Krauss is getting some practice in for being in Six Feet Under…
Get it? Because he’s dead now. You know, he’s six feet under? Ah, forget it. You people don’t have nearly the sense of humor I have.
Alright, so it was mentioned earlier that Mervo had animals he liked. They were farm animals and such. We learned they were ultimately slaughtered. He has Polaroids of the slaughtered animals. That’s not weird or nothing. But remember… He’s not our murderer.
Speaking of our murderer, Jill wakes up after being chloroformed and goes to the fridge. It’s got one of those bucket gags set up with the bucket used to collect all of Scott’s blood. It dumps onto Jill and she freaks out. Gary comes to her rescue and cleans her off in the shower. That also means he got to feel her up a bunch while she was in shock. Boo! BOO THIS MAN! He puts her back on the couch and kisses her tits and it goes on for an uncomfortable amount of time.
But, oh… It gets so much worse.
Yeah, he strips naked and lays on top of her and starts kissing her. She comes to and is very not happy. She tries to let him down easy still. She tells him that she does love him, but, you know, like a bro, not as her bull. (Did that make sense? Did I stretch that too far to get the alliteration? Meh…) So at home, Mervo is taking off his clown makeup and talking to himself about how he’s gotta do it and take it easy. In the barn, Gary is having a full on depressive break. Shit is coming to a head boys and girls!
But holy cow… In minute 66 of this film, Jill finally puts on some jeans. She went a full 42 minutes straight without wearing pants or shoes or socks or even a bra. That’s fucking impressive. I know I said it was starting to get a little weird, maybe even a little uncomfortable, to see the actress pants-less for so long, but now, as we transition into a post-pants world and Jill has finally covered those lovely legs of hers, I think we can now truly look back on all those shots of her bare legs and bare feet and how much Bill Rebane focused on them and her crotch when she did ballet in the living room and wonder at the nostalgia of those days gone by. We’re truly now in a modern time. The simpler days are behind us, Enemaniacs. We must trudge on into this, as William Shakespeare would call it, Undiscovered Country.
That also means that Mervo has returned to Jill’s to take her to a place where there are things she must see. He takes her to his and Gary’s home. He’s got pictures and photo albums laid out. These photos comes with a note. This note was left for Gary and Mervo by their parents to say they were killing themselves for losing the farm. Mervo tells her that Gary made it look like murder so people would feel sorry for them. Gary said if Mervo ever told the truth, he’d be put in a home.
Gary comes home. Mervo, to protect himself grabs Jill and holds her with his hand over her mouth and tells Gary he didn’t tell her anything. Gary has Mervo let her go and the two brothers fight. Thinking that Mervo is going to kill Gary, Jill shoots him. Gary says that everything is going to be great. They can get together and get married and have kids and a dog and all the good stuff. Realizing that Gary is crazy, she tells him she’s going to go home and pack her things and they’ll meet at the train station and they can go off and elope and her parents don’t have to know.
After all, it was her parents that kind of got in the way of her and Gary being together when they were younger.
She then starts to put two and two together that Gary did something to her parents. She runs away and wants to call the sheriff again, but she sees Gary come in with his pantyhose mask and a giant knife. She runs into the barn where she finds her parents, her fiancé, and her best friend. They’re all hanging like slaughtered livestock.
Gary tells Jill that he really didn’t want to have to do what what he did, but he must now finish what he started. He tells her that he was very lonely when she went off to college. When his parents lost the farm, his life changed again. He tells her about how they had to slaughter Mervo’s animals and as they were killed, Mervo retreated further into his clown world. When she wouldn’t reciprocate the love he has for her, well, he’s just gotta kill her too.
Jill tries to convince Gary that she really does love him and that they can run away together. Everyone will just think Mervo killed everyone. They think he was crazy already. Easy peasy. But, yeah, she’s just trying to play Gary to get an upper hand. In a struggle, she uses a reaper and stabs him in the arm. She runs into the night and Garry follows with a butcher knife.
Jill gets cornered where Gary has slaughtered the pigs that they kept on the farm. It pretty much looks like Gary is going to be able to finish off Jill. He keeps forcing her against the wall. She is able to knock the knife out of his hand but he overpowers her again and knocks her out with a hard hit on her neck. He ties her hands and takes her to where the other dead loved ones are hanging by their feet.
He ties her to a post and kisses her goodbye, but, just before he slits her throat, Mervo has returned and shoots his brother dead.
Mervo frees Jill and they leave. The camera pans over to Gary and, despite seeing him breathing and swallowing, he opens his eyes and we hear him thinking, “Jill!”
The movie ends with the above Marvelous Mervo theme over the credits. Yeah, the clown version of Tiny Tim is terrifying, but his character’s theme song is fire. I love it. It’s pleasant. It speaks to his character’s oddball innocence. It’s great!
Blood Harvest is a simple, but actually quite good film for exactly what it is – a drive-in style slasher. It doesn’t take you very long to kind of feel sorry for Tiny Tim’s Mervo because you can tell he’s a little simple or possibly broken mentally. While it does seem that Jill is hanging around a bit too long without finally getting to the point and maybe do more than just sit around and wait for bad shit to come to her, you don’t dislike her. I’ll tell you one thing… 40+ minutes of Jill not wearing pants is a major plus on the pro side of the Jill tally.
I will say that it’s likely this movie would wear on some people fairly quickly. Again, it’s not exactly disguised that the killer is Gary. Jill’s hanging around and relying on other people to solve the problem she’s come to town for is not great. The sheriff is completely useless. Scott is tossed away fairly quickly. However, you do feel the isolation Jill feels. That’s where this movie really excels.
Next week, we’re going to finish off a trifecta of Vinegar Syndrome-restored flicks when we take a long look at Kathy Ireland in Albert Pyun’s Alien from L.A. However, before we get to next Friday, you should make sure to come back here tomorrow to watch the next episode of B-Movie Enema: The Series when I host the 2000 Brett Piper masterpiece, Drainiac! That’s one I’ve covered before and am always happy to revisit.
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