Color presented new challenges. Starting at least as early as "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957), the first color film from the schlockmeisters at Hammer Film Productions — a British studio, exempt from the Hays code — blood began to splatter the silver screen in Technicolor. But horror filmmakers were still unaccustomed to working in color, and so the blood didn't look right: In Hammer films like "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "Horror of Dracula" (1958), it was cartoonishly bright. The so-called "Godfather of Gore," Herschell Gordon Lewis, knew this was a problem. While working on what became the first splatter film, "Blood Feast" (1963), he "realized how purple the fake blood at that time was because it had been prepared for black-and-white movies." To avoid using these substandard materials, he got his blood custom, from the charmingly named Barfred Laboratories.
The bright red blood wasn't a problem for everyone. Jean-Luc Godard used a bright, unnaturalistic red for movies like "Pierrot Le Fou" (1965). This suited Godard's more abstract, self-conscious approach to the movies. When Cahiers du cinema pointed out, "There's a good deal of blood in 'Pierrot,' " Godard shot back: "Not blood, red."
But the man who revolutionized movie blood — and the rest of movie makeup — was Dick Smith. For groundbreaking and bloodletting movies like "The Godfather" (1972), "The Exorcist" (1973) and "Taxi Driver" (1976), Smith perfected the recipe for fake movie blood:
- 1 quart white corn syrup
- 1 level teaspoon methyl paraben
- 2 ounces Ehlers red
- 5 teaspoons Ehlers yellow food coloring
- 2 ounces Kodak Photo-Flo (Poisonous)
The corn syrup served as the base, the methyl paraben served as a preservative for longer shoots, the food coloring was adjusted for just the right hue, and the Photo-Flo made sure the red stuff flowed just right — it ran over skin and soaked into fabric just like real blood.