Monday, October 29, 2012

Phil's Halloween Horrors Marathon, Day 26: Phil reviews HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE (2010) DVD from Something Weird Video-October 26, 2012

HGL DVD Cover (2011)
Starring:  Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, Frank Henenlotter, John Waters, Bunny Yeager, Ray Sager, Jerome Eden, Mal Arnold
Produced by Mike Vraney, Jimmy Maslon, Bill Usher, Jack Calvert
Directed by Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon
Distributed by Something Weird Video

Folks October is quickly winding down so let's talk about Day Twenty-Six of my Halloween Horrors Marathon! Imagine if you will: Demented Southern town folks killing off Northern visitors for revenge. Highway roaming she-devils looking for fun and fights. Nubile nudie cuties parading around in the buff. Bored suburban teenagers looking for kicks. A sadistic cater sacrificing young women to an Egyptian goddess. These depraved, sick, and perverted images are considered to be some of the most important and most iconic images to be captured ever in cinema's rich history. Ranging from the sublime to the subversive, the bloody to the sexy, one man dared to venture where other filmmakers never dreamed of, and as a result, has left us some of the greatest horror and exploitation films ever made. Now Mike Vraney and his company Something Weird Video has paid tribute to this iconic filmmaker with this, their first ever documentary feature film. Directed by Jimmy Maslon and Frank Henenlotter, SWV's  HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE shines the spotlight on this beloved and often overlooked pioneer filmmaker and his contributions to the world of cinema.

The documentary chronicles the film career of the man known as "The Godfather of Gore." From his humble beginnings teaching English and Humanities at Mississippi State which he later evolved into the advertisement business. When Lewis bought a half interest into a small, cheap movie studio in Chicago, he started Mid-Continent Films which produced two films: THE PRIMETIME and LIVING VENUS, which was his feature film debut as a director. It was during the making of THE PRIMETIME he met exploitation pioneer David F. Friedman, who helped Lewis distribute LIVING VENUS. With the release of Russ Meyers' THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS, the next film Lewis and Friedman made was the nudie cutie called THE ADVENTURES OF LUCKY PIERRE. After a couple of years making these nudie cuties and nudest camp films, Lewis came up with a completely different idea for a movie. A type of movie that the major movie studios wouldn't or couldn't make, but theater owners could make money at the boxoffice. Thus in the year 1963 BLOOD FEAST was made, and everything would never be the same again.

The other half of the documentary focuses of Lewis' partnership with Friedman as he created what has been called THE BLOOD TRILOGY which consisted of BLOOD FEAST, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, and COLOR ME BLOOD RED (which takes up most of the middle of the documentary). These films introduced that famous four-letter word now forever associated with horror: GORE. The world of horror would never look the same thanks to Lewis and Friedman. After the completion of THE BLOOD TRILOGY, Lewis parted ways with Friedman and began to make a plethora of films within the exploitation genre such as MOONSHINE MOUNTAIN, JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT, SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS, and SOMETHING WEIRD (which Vraney named his company after). Soon he returned to the horror genre with A TASTE OF BLOOD, THE WIZARD OF GORE, THE GRUESOME TWOSOME, and THE GORE GORE GIRLS, which was Lewis' swan song. After that film's release, he became one of the leaders in the field of Direct Marketing advertising (Lewis would return to the director's chair with the 2002 sequel BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL YOU CAN EAT).

Icon director Herschell Gordon Lewis
Maslon and Henenlotter really packed the film with some great, informative, and funny interviews from people like John Waters, Joe Bob Briggs, Connie Mason, Mal Arnold, Jim Dennett and others, and by Henenloter himself. All these stories and opinions give the film life and also give praise to Lewis, to which this reviewer thinks is long overdue. These two directors threw everything in this film, including the kitchen sink! Also the on camera interviews with Lewis were just fascinating; detailing how he made a lot of his films, where he shot it, how he got the money, and how he made his gore-soaked films. Another great source of information came from Friedman, who shared his memories of the good 'ol days of exploitation filmmaking. Sadly, this documentary was one the last films he ever appeared in (he'll also be appearing in Henenlotter's upcoming SWV documentary THAT'S SEXPLOITATION). On February 14, 2011 Friedman passed away at the age of 87.

The DVD comes packed with over an hour of deleted scenes (which could almost make up another film!), a rare Lewis short film entitled HOT NIGHT AT THE GO-GO-LOUNGE, a gallery of Lewis exploitation art, and an extensive Lewis trailer reel!

Something Weird Video's HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE is required viewing and a must-own for every single horror fan out there. The film serves as introduction to people who may have never seen any of Lewis' films while simultaneously satisfies his fans with an in depth biography of the man who invented a whole new film genre. 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE is available on the Something Weird Video website. To purchase a copy, please visit

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the screaming! 

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