Sunday, May 1, 2011

Tiptoe Through the Blood Harvest

Teenagers have odd hobbies. Some play hackysack while trying to keep their jeans from falling below the knee. Others hit the mall to practice shoplifting in the hopes of impressing friends. Then there was me.
Back in the ‘90s, I had a Sunday ritual that knew no obstacle: reading the newspaper’s edition of the TV guide that listed mini-reviews and star ratings for each and every film airing that week. What can I say? I was kool.
I mention this because the main memory I have for today’s feature, Blood Harvest, comes from a Sunday past. I recall reading the description--something about a killer clown loose on a farming town--and excitedly staying awake until 2:30AM to watch it. If memory serves, it was not the wisest choice I’ve made in my life.

But to be sure, it seemed time to revisit this 1987 not-anywhere-near-classic, particularly after being so inspired by Insidious’ use of Tiptoe Through the Tulips.
Quick Plot: In a quiet Wisconsin farming town, college dropout (due to an engagement, natch) Jill returns home to her banker parents, a family now despised by the community whose homes they keep repossessing. Jill can’t actually seem to find her folks (or act), though neighbor and first love Gary and his touched brother Merv (the one and only tiptoer) are there for support/creepiness. Little by little, Jill’s friends and fiancee (played, in sunglasses and no shirt, by a very young Peter Krause) start getting slaughtered in the barn not too conspicuously located right behind her quiet country home. 

Is the man-child-clown to blame? If so, why does he conduct his murders in a nylon stocking and jean outfit instead of puffy pants and pancake makeup? To give away the twist would be cruel--even if it’s about as obvious as the fact that Kenny G. uses the same barber--so I’ll instead harp on some of the other random moments in the film:

-We are introduced to our main character, Jill, as she walks home with a suitcase. A conversation plays over the credits, wherein Jill speaks to her mother about coming back from college and how the town is in distress. Nothing odd about this except for the fact that a) we only hear Jill’s side of the conversation, complete with pauses as her mute mother assumedly speaks and b) the conversation has no visual connection with a telephone whatsoever. Maybe it’s me, but there’s something incredibly off about such a directorial choice.
-There’s plenty of female nudity (and a few drops of not overly welcome male rears), but oddly enough, director (and MST3K veteran) Bill Rebane seems enamored by zooming in on less conventionally sexy body parts, like Jill’s bare knees as she applies lotion
-That when in doubt, Tiny Tim pops onscreen to sing falsetto

Blood Harvest is as bad a film as you’re probably imagining, but it has that ‘80s charm coupled with some quality kitch. There’s Krause yuppying it up with sunglasses and high hair, Tiny Tim mugging in clownface, and the inexperienced Itonia Salchek donning a side ponytail with unlikable charm. Coulrophobes will be unsettled by Merv because let’s face it: a puffy curly haired clown with a soprano twang is actually terrifying, even if he’s in a terrible movie.
High Points
Though his performance is essentially the most ridiculous thing ever, you have to give some props to Tiny Tim for truly going all out with it, even closing the credits with a twisted song about making children laugh

Low Points
The fact that lead actress Itonia Salchek’s only screen credit is Blood Harvest tells you all you need to know about how well-acted this film is

Lessons Learned
A bullet in your gut won’t kill you, but one in your upper left breastbone six inches away from your heart will do so instantly
It takes a long time to say goodbye to your friends
Small town sheriffs cherish their softball and poker games
Curious Credit
Peter Krause (the later Nate Fischer) plays Jill’s future husband Scott. We know this because she coos/cries “Scott!” about eighteen times in the film. So why is his character listed in the credits as “Boyfriend?”

Sadly Blood Harvest is, to my knowledge, the only chance you’ll have to watch Tiny Tim play a vaguely menacing Wisconsin killer clown. That’s enough to make someone like me put Blood Harvest on the Netflix queue or pick it up at a bargain--and I mean, same cost as a hot dog--price. The disc has another awful little horror film on the flip side called Naked Dreams, which I watched for about 30 minutes before boredom kicked in. Clearly the film didn’t have nearly enough high-voiced clown murders for my liking. So rent Blood Harvest if you’re intrigued by what it offers (which is Tiny Tim as a clown and Peter Krause in sunglasses) but don’t go tiptoeing through tulips just to find it. 


  1. I imagine reading your review might be more fun than watching the movie unless you really like musicals or creepy clown singing?

  2. Wait, are there people in the world who DON'T like creepy clown singing? I've lived a VERY sheltered life.

  3. Ah Tiny Tim, it was only a little while ago when I first heard about him. I was reading a review for Insidious which mentioned Tiptoe through the Tulips. I was curious, so I opened up a tab and typed in those words. Needless to say, when this came up without even going to google... found out who Tiny Tim was in a most scarring way!!

  4. I think tiny also made some interesting tv appearance but unfortunately not in clown face. Thanks for the great memories.

    Lazarus Lupin
    art and review

  5. Chris, I'm sure you're a stronger person because of it though!

    Lazarus: I believe TIny Tim had a whole Saturday morning children's program at some point in time. Apparently they also tried to make a spin-off series with his clown character from this film but aimed at kids. AMAZINGLY enough, it didn't get picked up.

  6. I've long avoided "Blood Harvest" specifically *because* of my strong regard for Tiny Tim and his music. I've seen four Bill Rebane movies and have enjoyed none of them. I think If I'd seen a fifth, I would have needed to drink a fifth. But seriously, folks, Tiny Tim had a near-encyclopedic knowledge of American songs. He knew literally thousands of them and fancied himself a modern-day "song plugger." (If you've seen "Pennies From Heaven," that's what Steve Martin's character was doing during the Depression.)

    Anyway, here's a clip which points the way toward appreciating Tim's greatness. It's him on The Ed Sullivan Show performing "Earth Angel" with an all-girl rock band.

    I love the part when Tim throws himself to the stage and Ed is concerned that he's hurt himself somehow.

  7. Haha, I can't say that I've ever seen this gem of a film, though based upon those uber creepy screen shots of Mr. Tim I can't say that I'd want to! And I have to add that Tiny Tim resembles a demented clown faced version of Weird Al, which is pretty disturbing.

  8. Wow, that clip does make a strong case for the musical genius of Tiny Tim. Definitely a unique presence. And Wayne, I'd probably urge you to continue to skip Blood HArvest. Tiny Tim is by far the best thing in it, but there's a sense of macabre in the fact that he's the only one giving 110%, making him somehow seem insane rather than earnest.

    And Dorian: The Weird Al/Kenny G stringy curls is definitely in full force here! I miss Al's afro. It was much more flattering.