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October 22, 2013

A brief history of fake blood

(Continued)

In fact, the new blood quickly proved a little too real. When the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) got its hands on "Taxi Driver" and its climactic bloodbath, they threatened it with an X rating. Columbia Pictures told director Martin Scorsese that if he didn't recut the movie to an R, which would mean hacking away at the finale, they would do it for him. Scorsese came up with a solution: To make the blood look less realistic, he desaturated its color until it took on more of a sepia tone. Scorsese has said that he secretly thought the new blood was even more disturbing, but the MPAA gave the movie an R.

Today there are dozens of different recipes for movie blood, though many are simple variations on Dick Smith's formula. For edible blood — essential if the fake blood might get in the actor's mouth, or if a scene requires that the actor cough it up — there are recipes for "Chocolate Blood" and "Peanut Butter Blood." For "Evil Dead" fans, there's Bruce Campbell's recipe for another edible blood, which uses non-dairy creamer. For those who don't want to do the work of making the blood themselves, fake blood for movies is also available commercially: Robert Benevides, who teaches special effects makeup at New York University's Tisch School, told me that the best blood today is an alcohol-based blood called Fleet Street Bloodworks, which retails at $65 per pint.

Often several different kinds of blood are used for the same movie. In addition to whether the blood is edible, each blood is selected according to the lighting, whether the blood should slowly dry or stay wet, whether it's arterial (lighter) or venous (darker), and what kind of style the director is looking for. For one of his gorier plays, writer-director Martin McDonagh used nine distinct varieties of fake blood. And some filmmakers still want the old-fashioned stuff: For the nightclub massacre in "Kill Bill, Vol. 1" (2003), Quentin Tarantino ordered more than 100 gallons of "samurai blood." "I'm really particular about the blood, so we're using a mixture depending on the scenes," he explained. "I say, 'I don't want horror movie blood, all right? I want Samurai blood.' . . . You have to have this special kind of blood that you only see in Samurai movies."

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