Color Me Blood Red by Herschell G. LewisBy Herschell G. Lewis (Novel Books; 1964)

When perusing COLOR ME BLOOD RED, the last of H.G. Lewis’ novelizations of his fabled early 1960s gore flicks, there are a few things to keep in mind: 1). The film it novelizes is, as Lewis himself has conceded, not one of his better efforts, 2). It was not among the Lewis novelizations Fantaco reprinted in 1988 (and clearly there’s a reason for that), and 3). Lewis has subsequently admitted he “spent less attention” on this adaptation than he did the others. Yet even allowing for those things, COLOR ME BLOOD RED is worthwhile reading for horror buffs in a forgiving mood.

The premise, of course, is complete nonsense: Adam Sorg, a pretentious artist, is having trouble finding the right shade of red for his paintings. One day his assistant/lover Chi-Chi cuts herself and drips blood on a canvas, which of course provides the desired hue. Adam wastes no time supplying himself with this new shade of red by slicing open his own fingers and, when he can’t squeeze any more blood, killing and draining Chi-Chi. But as the demand for his new blood-spattered paintings grows among the patrons of a local art gallery Adam realizes he’ll have to find another source for his desired color…

This novel may be an admitted rush job, but it’s far superior to its cinematic namesake. Lewis’ satire of the early-1960s art world is sharper here than it was in the film, and Adam’s relationship with Chi-Chi is more agreeably carnal (she concludes he’s a “real sex maniac”) than its filmic counterpart. Also worth noting is an extended quota in which an art dealer and a critic discuss vetting another genius painter in the wake of Adam Sorg’s demise. Then there’s the gore, which among other things takes the form of a knife through an eye and a shotgun blast to the head, which turns out to work better in prose than it did onscreen (where the effects were adversely affected by a painfully low budget).

COLOR ME BLOOD RED must ultimately be counted as the best plotted and most streamlined of Lewis’ novelizations. If only it had a stronger story, it could conceivably pass muster as an actual non-movie affiliated horror novel. Too bad it’s currently all-but impossible to find!