Horror films in the early '70s ran the gamut from William Marshall's erudite African vampire Blacula to Christopher Lee putting the bite on mod London swingers in Dracula AD 1972; from the murderous twins of Brian de Palma's Sisters to Wes Craven's rape-revenge sleazefest Last House on the Left.
Into that marketplace burst Malatesta, a psychedelic fugue about a carnival housing an underground clan of cannibalistic ghouls. This singular oddity was helmed by an eccentric polymath, assisted by prominent Philadelphians with cinematic aspirations and money to burn, with a cast blending students, off-Broadway veterans and participants in Philly's nascent underground theater scene.
Thirty-six years later, queries about the film are met with the sort of rolled eyes and mock embarrassment evoked by decades-old prom photos. For most of those involved in its production, Malatesta's Carnival of Blood is a fondly, if only vaguely, remembered flirtation with filmmaking. Today, it stands as a testament to guerrilla filmmaking, an amusement park that once thrived where a mall now stands, and an idiosyncratic mix of Philadelphia characters.