Two creeps drive their van through the streets of New York City at night, taking a crate to an off-Broadway theatre. Inside is one of the performers at the show staged there, but she is not a willing participant for hardly any of the actors in it are. That is because they are not actors, they are victims of the theatre owner Sardu (Seamus O'Brien) who puts on what he regards as an homage to the classic Grand Guignol, except he's going further: the tortures and deaths in his show are the real thing. His dwarf assistant Ralphus (Lous De Jesus) enthusiastically keeps everyone in line, and they keep a cage full of cannibal women in the basement to guard their profits, but Sardu is always on the lookout for fresh depravity...
Bloodsucking Freaks was orginally called The Incredible Torture Show (note the initials) before Troma bought the rights and rereleased it under a new title, whereupon it attracted new interest. But not from grindhouse fans, from protest groups who heard about what happened to the female characters in it - if you could call most of them characters, since most of them were merely there to shed their clothes and get slaughtered in idiotically imaginative manners. Thus it was effectively banned in the United States, or had its certificate withdrawn at any rate (the British censors don't appear to have seen it, though it was put out uncut on disc years later), and became an object of notoriety and opprobrium.
Which if you actually watch it, you might think was a storm in a teacup since there was a definite sense of humour here reminiscent of its obvious influence, the gore movies of Herschell Gordon Lewis, who by 1976 had switched careers. Not that it was especially hilarious, but it was clear it wasn't taking itself seriously as this was the cinematic equivalent of opening your mouth while eating and giving everyone a good look at the chewed up food in there: not big, not clever, merely intended to amuse in disgusting fashion. Nevertheless, although Sardu did have male victims (including himself) it was the women you remembered it, and director Joel M. Reed did not emerge from this smelling of roses for being the man who dreamt up all these low rent setpieces.
Obviously something like this - bit of blood and guts, some nudity, a few cheap laughs - is going to pick up fans among those audiences who like to watch something that offends everyone else with an appreciation of good taste, which Bloodsucking Freaks was defiantly not. There was a plot, it was not just one torture scene after another, as Sardu is irritated that he is not recognised by the cognoscenti represented by hoity toity critic and possessor of a deeply unlikely name Creasy Silo (Alan Dellay), so he contrives to kidnap him and keep him chained up until he admits Sardu is onto something with his shows. Then there's ballerina Natasha de Natalie (Viju Krem) who attends one with her football player boyfriend Tom Maverick (Niles McMaster) who Sardu prizes.
One notable thing about this was that the three leads, other than McMaster, suffered premature deaths. Theatre actor O'Brien, who gives the closest thing to a decent performance here, was stabbed to death by a burglar the following year, Krem, whose fluffed line readings are kept in the movie because hey, who needs to be professional, died in a hunting accident in the early eighties and De Jesus expired of a heart attack not long after. He was also known as Mr Short Studd, and as you can imagine was an actual little person porn actor, which this may or may not have been a step down from, but there's nothing particularly sexual about the business here unless you regard nudity as inherently sexual. There's more of a mood of telling sick jokes than there is of getting off on such scenes as a woman having her brains sucked out through a straw, though you can imagine the BDSM crowd might get a kick out of certain bits and pieces, in which case if you're the sort of person who delights in tormenting people then it's probably the comedy for you. Music by Michael Sahl.