THE GODFATHER OF GORE
When you talk about
important film directors, names like Scorsese, Coppola, and Kubrick come
to mind without a second thought. But even the most studied of film
aficionados will likely forget one of the greatest innovators of film
the world has ever seen. It's time to give Herschell Gordon Lewis his
due. You could easily argue that without HGL, you wouldn't have
Leatherface, Freddy Kreuger, or even Natalie Merchant. Confused? Read
Herschell Gordon Lewis may
be one of the most versatile men in the world. At 71, he is the author
of some of the more successful books on advertising and copywriting,
some of which have seen over 15 printings. His consulting company is
Florida is incredibly successful.
Starting out with
producing mind numbing industrial films, he teamed up with his pal David
Friedman in the early 60s and began churning out such classic "nudie"
films as LIVING VENUS, NATURE'S PLAYMATES, and the unforgettable
GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BARES. But when these topless jigglepix
weren't getting the attention they once garnered, he moved on and
pioneered a new type of movie that was never seen before.
In 1963, Lewis released
BLOOD FEAST and introduced the gore movie genre to the world. Though
Hitchcock's PSYCHO was released 3 years prior, there was nothing more
shocking than a black and white scene of blood washing down the shower
drain. BLOOD FEAST, though featuring a story that's goofy beyond belief
(a caterer tried to bring the Egyptian Goddess Ishtar back to life by
chopping up pretty girls), there's so much blood in this movie, you'd
swear it was a commercial for Heinz Ketchup.
It's good goofy fun, and
WATCH THE ENTIRE BLOOD FEAST FILM RIGHT HERE,
if you're so inclined. With a higher speed connection, the quality is
pretty damn good.
Made for just $24,000,
BLOOD FEAST made over $4 Million. Lewis struck gold and followed it up
the next year with what's become one of my all time favorite
movies...TWO THOUSAND MANIACS.
If you haven't seen this
film, you're missing out on a rare treat. Imagine if the cast of ANDY
GRIFFITH got rabies and decided to kill everyone who came through, you'd
have a good sense of this incredible movie. Some Yankee kids from up
north drive through the beautiful Southern Florida town of Pleasant
Valley, right in the middle of their Centennial Celebration. Little do
they realize, the whole town was killed off 100 years before in the
Civil War and their ghosts have returned to get some good ol' Southern
Tricked into thinking they
are the guests of honor, these hapless goofs get killed off in some of
the most creative screen deaths ever seen.
This poor lady not only
gets her arm chopped off (which is so obviously a mannequin arm that
it's charming), but they eat it at a barbecue later that night.
After getting this fella
all liquored up, they tie each of his limbs to a different horse, and
rip him to pieces.
In a strange variation of
the classic carnival dunk tank, this victim has to lie down under a
giant boulder while people throw rocks at the target until it falls on
top of her. Though they made the boulder out of paper mache, it still
weighed over 300 pounds, and Lewis actually laid down under it as it
fell, rolling away at the last possible moment, to get the cool camera
Here you see a picture
featuring the horrible aftermath of a deadly barrel roll. This guy had
to lay in a big yellow barrel (with a confederate flag on it, of course)
and get rolled down a hill. Sounds safe enough, but since the
townsfolk hammered a ton of spikes and nails in it before they sent him
on his way, he had a rough trip.
Though the barrel has a
goofy looking dummy in it as it careens down the hillside, Herschell
actually got inside of a barrel with his camera and was rolled down to
come up with yet another winning shot.
TWO THOUSAND MANIACS has a
fun charm to it, as the mostly unknown extras seem to really be having a
lot of great fun doing their job. And the banjo hillbilly music
throughout adds a nice touch. In fact, the theme song "The South's
Gonna Rise Again", was sung by Herschell Gordon Lewis Himself. Of
course, it's not that he has a great singing voice, but it kept him from
having to pay royalties for someone else's performance (Listen
to it right here).
The film was actually
going to be called FIVE THOUSAND MANIACS, but the lack of plentiful
extras in St. Cloud Florida (which no longer exists and is now a part of
Disneyworld), forced Lewis to reduce the account.
But the film's impact
wasn't lost on the group TEN THOUSAND MANIACS, who used the pioneering
gore film as
The film was another hit
for Lewis, and he followed it up with the third installment in what has
been referred to as his "Blood Trilogy" COLOR ME BLOOD RED.
COLOR ME BLOOD RED is the
tale of an artist who find success by painting with his own blood, but
when he finds he has only so much to spare, he has to seek alternative
sources of this gorgeous paint. This was decades before people were
painting Virgin Mary pictures with elephant crap in New York. Herschell
clearly influenced the art world as well.