Let’s be honest—some people are just really fucking boring. They lack that spark, that magic element that makes you sit up and take notice. They can’t help it, of course, but that doesn’t make things any less maddening.
Director Bill Rebane is really fucking boring. The ukulele player who used hemorrhoid cream as hand moisturizer, however, was not. Together, they made Blood Harvest.
I should explain.
Bill Rebane began his directorial career with a pair of moderately successful theatrical shorts—which distributors would purchase to play before their movies—titled Twist Craze and Dance Craze. Bill is most proud of Dance Craze, which eliminated the more exciting element of twisting. His first feature was 1965’s Monster A-Go Go; the best thing about Monster A-Go Go is that it’s called Monster A-Go Go. Bill thought it should’ve been titled Terror at Halfday. Are you starting to get a sense of just what kind of human being we’re dealing with here?
Good. Or perhaps I should say fine, because Bill Rebane exists in a perpetual state of “fine.” He makes the kind of movies you just sort of half-watch, and then forget exist until someone whispers “Rebane” and you’re suddenly awash with hazy memories of actors wandering in and out of frame—and talking. People talk a whole lot in Bill Rebane films, and if you’re lucky the dialogue might even be in synch with the actors’ lips.
His films should be weirder than they are—he’s a filmmaker that should be weirder than he is. Born Ito Rebane in Estonia, he first immigrated to Chicago, before finding himself in Germany where he claims to have invented the widescreen filming format CinemaScope. The way Bill tells it is incredibly dry, and mainly focuses on the misfiling of patents. It’s also bullshit, but because this is Bill Rebane, it’s not even entertaining bullshit. And then, he wound up in Wisconsin—which doesn’t need to be as boring as it sounds. Wisconsin has always been the hub of weird in the midwest, with its goatmen legends, Ed Gein, and towns founded by heretic priests. It’s also known for its dairy farms—this is the Wisconsin of Bill Rebane. He produces movies like they do milk and cheese.
On a stretch of farmland he christened The Shooting Ranch, he first made 1974’s Invasion from Inner Earth, which features a lot of talking in the snow, and lot of talking in a cabin. He followed that with his biggest commercial success, The Giant Spider Invasion, which has a Volkswagon Bug gussied up to look like a mutant spider, and geriatric lead actress Barbara Hale falling down multiple times. The fact that I can recall anything other than talking illustrates just how un-Rebanesque it is—he would set out to fix that with his next film The Alpha Incident.
I try not to think about The Alpha Incident too much, but I’m fairly certain it all takes place within the confines of a single office—and boy, do people talk in this one. It’s Bill Rebane’s favorite amongst his own films. Thus having hit his peak, you’d think he’d be content to rest on his laurels—he was not. Next came The Capture of Bigfoot, which focuses primarily on a child yeti; Rana: The Legend of Shadow Lake, which has a half-man, half-frog creature and 85% of its running time taken up by a flashback; The Demons of Ludlow with its demon-pilgrim possessed piano and long static shots of a man sitting in a recliner; and the best thing I can say about 1984’s The Game aka The Cold is that afterwards, Bill decided to take a break from filmmaking.
He instead focused his efforts on hosting a 1950s nostalgia concert at his Shooting Ranch, or maybe he was hanging around a beer festival in nearby Lincoln, Wisconsin. The particulars are unclear, but what is known is that at one of these unimaginably grim and depressing events, The Rebane and The Anti-Rebane collided.
They all wondered if Tiny Tim was putting on an act, and part of me thinks they wanted it to be one. Here was this large, impossibly strange looking man with long frizzy hair—his face plastered in pancake makeup—prancing around with a ukulele, singing about tiptoeing through the tulips in what his mother termed a “sissy voice.” But if it was an act, it was to make audiences believe they were watching someone who was merely quirky.
Born Herbert Khaury, Tiny went from street performer to freak show act in Greenwich Village, before a guest spot on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In in 1969 catapulted him to brief superstardom. His trademark cover of “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” carried his debut album—God Bless Tiny Tim—to sell over 200,000 copies. In 1969, at the peak of his fame, over 40 million people tuned in to The Tonight Show to watch him marry a 17 year-old fan he called “Miss Vicki.”
But by 1970, his career was in the toilet—he even founded a record label branded Toilet Records. At home, his and Miss Vicki’s first attempt at having a child resulted in a stillbirth, which Tiny would bury with a headstone that read “It.” A second attempt would give them a daughter he—thankfully—named Tulip, but Miss Vicki would soon run off with a male model.
After her came “Miss Jan” and “Miss Sue,” plus frequent trips to strip clubs—which Tiny liked to call “the only bit of heaven on this earth.” He didn’t look at the naked bodies, mind you, just the faces. He’d stare at them and think “pure thoughts.” Tiny was what you’d call a religious fanatic. He claimed “begging Jesus” is what gave him his warbly falsetto, and he had a habit of flying into a rage at anything he perceived as a slight against God.
The only thing more upsetting to him than blasphemy was Del Monte packaging their dark raisins in a box that clearly depicted golden raisins. Tiny fancied himself as a bit of a consumer reporter, and nothing seemed to give him more joy than rattling off his opinions on various brands and their products. In fact, the best way to understand him may be through examining his favorite products, and how he used them.
Viva, Job Squad Extra Soft Paper Towels: Tiny only missed two showers in his life—the first was during a flood in Iowa, the second time was on December 22, 1989 because got lazy. And since he believed cloth towels were for “washing dogs,” he turned to the Job Squad for his post-shower drying needs.
Depend Adult Diapers: No bladder or bowel issues for Tiny, he just liked the idea of a fresh, disposable pair of underwear every day. Not a fan of the tabs, he wished they were made more like Huggies—sadly he’d pass before Depend would introduce their Fit-Flex line.
Aunt Millie’s Spaghetti Sauce: Tiny’s go-to breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not used as a sauce or even heated—lukewarm and drank straight from the jar, followed by a spoonful of raw sunflower seeds. If he was feeling adventurous, he’d have pumpkin seeds with BBQ sauce, but that was only for special occasions.
In 1985, amidst the height of the AIDS epidemic, Tiny Tim released what he thought would be his comeback hit: “Santa Claus Has Got the AIDS This Year.” It uh, wasn’t. In the song, it’s noted that Santa “won’t be yelling out ho, ho, ho” but instead will be “screaming no, no, no.” Lest you think Tiny kept the reindeer out of this, he has them falling into a deep, dark depression as they watch Santa wither away.
I think what I’m trying to get at here is that the man wasn’t boring. So how he managed to get sucked into the Rebaneverse is a mystery, but it resulted in a miracle—the first, last, and only Bill Rebane film you need to see.
In a way, Blood Harvest is reminiscent of the works of Hungarian director Béla Tarr, who utilizes long, uninterrupted takes to lull the viewer into a trance-like state as they wait for something, anything. Here you’re made to wade through vast pools of Rebaneness, until you come upon Tiny Tim in clown makeup sobbing over a polaroid of his dead pig Beulah.
The story follows Jill, who returns home from college to find her parents missing and a clown named The Marvelous Mervo (Tiny Tim) standing in her kitchen with a bouquet of flowers. She also reunites with Mervo’s non-clown brother Gary, whom she loves like a brother. Unfortunately, he loves her more in a “put a pair of pantyhose on his head and take dirty pictures of her while she sleeps” kind of way. Meanwhile, out in the barn, someone is hanging people upside down and slitting their throats.
The structure could be described as such:
We watch as Jill receives a threatening phone call, wanders outside, hitches a ride into town, walks into the sheriff’s station, asks the sheriff for a ride back home, and then reports the fact that she received a threatening phone call.
We then cut to Tiny Tim, on his knees wailing a quavering rendition of “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.”
Jill and Gary go on a stroll, come upon their childhood treehouse, admire said treehouse, slowly climb up into the treehouse, and then proceed to discuss: who built the treehouse, who bought the nails, who brought the hammer, and who found the damn tree in the first place.
Tiny swings on the squeakiest swing set in Wisconsin.
We sit through an almost impressively long scene of Gary doing nothing but going “shhh.”
Tiny delivers an entrancing monologue about being a trapeze artist—is it literal, is it a metaphor, was it even scripted? We don’t know.
For 88 minutes we witness Bill Rebane and Tiny Tim engaged in a push and pull—the Tinyless scenes summed up by the line of dialogue: “One thing led to another, and then another thing to another.” While Rebane makes sex and murder feel like a chore, Tiny turns the mere act of stepping through a doorway into a transformative experience. This struggle continues on until we reach the finale, where an endless chase through a barn threatens to swallow us up into the Rebanality of it all. Yet then, like a Baby Huey-built angel, Tiny waddles in wearing a pair of ill-fitting overalls—tripping over bales of hay. This sight reminds us why we’re still here—both specifically in watching the film, and generally just on this earth.
In the wake of Blood Harvest, Rebane would make the talking monster truck film Twister’s Revenge before shuttering The Shooting Ranch for good in 1988. Not able to leave his masterwork alone, he released a director’s cut of Blood Harvest in the early 2000s. Being a Bill Rebane director’s cut, it removed most of the gore and nudity. He can now be found writing about the Deep State and the dangers of “pay pal” on his blog. Even his conspiracy theories are really fucking boring.
Tiny Tim, meanwhile, would suffer a fatal heart attack on stage in 1996 while performing “Tiptoe Through the Tulips”—his diet of Aunt Millie’s causing a fluid buildup around his heart. Buried with his ukulele, his headstone does not read “It,” but: Khaury, Herbert B Tiny Tim. Why the B? Because nobody could ever figure out if his middle name was Buckingham or Butros. That’s Tiny, confounding us even from the beyond—his spark immortal, forever never boring.