Joel M. Reed
Cult director Joel Reed was born in 1933 in New York City to a record producer and was babysat as a child by theatrical legend Joseph Papp. He left home at age 13 and saw America by hitchhiking. Like many notable directors, Reed learned his craft as a military cameraman, and upon returning from Korea in 1954, attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Afterward, he worked in advertising and produced a few off-Broadway plays. In 1969, a lawyer acquaintance raised 10,000 dollars for him to direct an exploitation film called Career Bed, featuring early softcore appearances by future porn luminaries Jennifer Welles and Georgina Spelvin, both of whom Reed would also cast in Sex By Advertisement the following year. Reed played several roles in that film himself, including a transvestite. After traveling to Singapore to film the erotic action film Wit's End with Angelique Pettyjohn, Reed made the film which would define his career. Filmed as The Incredible Torture Show, Bloodsucking Freaks was a bloody, sadistic, perverse, and ultimately hilarious black comedy about a theatrical director (aided by a dwarf assistant originally slated to be played by Herve Villechaize) staging real-life murders using kidnapped victims later sold into white slavery. Reed made other horror films, including the mediocre anthology Blood Bath and the tedious Night of the Zombies (which reunited him with Spelvin and fellow porn star Jamie Gillis), but never matched either the controversy or transcendent appeal of Bloodsucking Freaks, a film which has been picketed, vilified, censored, and even banned outright in some locales, but continues to draw a strong following at midnight revivals and on DVD.