H. G. Lewis: The Return of the Godfather of Gore. Article by Nickolas Cook
Herschell Gordon Lewis, known to legions of horror fans as "The Godfather of Gore", is renowned for his outre splatter films—a gory exploitation cinema that changed the way Americans viewed their violence. Through his hard work and diligence, he helped to create a new aesthetic in America cinema, an unflinching new violence that sent shockwaves through generations of filmmakers. His films continue to influence international directors, everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Takashi Miike.
Born in Pittsburgh, PA, he left 'the steel city' for Chicago at the age of thirteen. Attending Northwestern University, he earned degrees in English and The Humanities, taught at Mississippi State for two years, after which he moved into broadcasting and advertising.
Wanting to get in on the ground level of movie making, he bought a half-interest in a small commercial film studio in Chicago, The Prime Time (1960), and because of his background in marketing, Lewis had the idea of producing a low-budget feature film. After many false starts (including several less than successful skin flicks, and nudist comedies) and strange developments, a "gangster" movie on television provided a strange inspiration: The crook died peacefully, eyes closed, with a tiny splotch on his shirt.
This lack of reality to the violence of death gave birth to Blood Feast (1963), the first true gore film, and the first film in which people died with their eyes open.
From then on, Lewis took over directing duties on most of his films, following up his classic with more blood and more gore, in such now classics as Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965) with his production partner, legendary exploitation producer, David F. Friedman. The two were successful enough to cause a drive-in sensation. Soon the new gore aesthetic drew in international filmmakers, and soon blood was pouring all over the world.
He broke off his partnership with Friedman after making Color Me Blood
Red, but continued to make his own distinctive gore films throughout the 1970s. His next gore entry came with A Taste of Blood (1967), which is often referred to as the Gone with the Wind of gore, due to its running time of almost two hours. The following year brought a more extreme take on the genre, The Gruesome Twosome (1967). Its famous scene, scalping with an electric knife, caused an outrage among critics and religious groups. Lewis kept the blood dripping with his legendary gore masterpiece, Wizard of Gore (1970), a shocking film that featured a stage magician who mutilated his volunteers through a series of merciless routines.
By 1973, Lewis had taken his brand of gore and sex to such a limit that it began to lampoon itself. Gore-Gore Girls (1975, aka: Blood
Orgy) would mark his semi-retirement from film altogether, as he decided to leave the industry to work in copywriting and direct marketing. 2002 saw his return to cinema with the straight-to-video Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat.
In 2006, Herschell Gordon Lewis was named to the Polly Staffle Hall of Fame and signed a two movie deal with Film State 51. For more information about H. G. Lewis, visit his web sites:
The Gore-Gore Girls (aka Blood Orgy) (1975) [Producer and Director]
Year of the Yahoo! (1974) [Producer and Director]
This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1973) [Director]
Miss Nymphet's Zap-ln (1972) [Director]
Stick It in Your Ear (1971) [Producer] [aka Vortex]
The Wizard of Gore (1971) [Director, Writer]
The Ecstasies of Women (1970) [Director under pseudonym]
Linda and Abilene (1969) [Director under pseudonym]
How to Make a Doll (1968) [Director]
Just for the Hell of It (1968) [Director]
The Psychic (1968) [Cinematographer]
The Girl, the Body, and the Pill (1967) [Director]
The Gruesome Twosome (1967) [Director]
The Magic Land of Mother Goose (1967) [Director and Cinematographer]
Something Weird (1967) [Director]
Suburban Roulette (1967) [Producer and Director, Co-writer]
A Taste of Blood (1967) [Producer and Director]
Alley Tramp (1966) [Director under pseudonym]
Jimmy, the Boy Wonder (1966) [Director]
Color Me Blood Red (1965) [Director, Writer. Cinematographer]
Monster a Go-Go (1965) [Director, Producer as Sheldon Seymour]
Sin, Suffer, Repent (1965) [Director, Cinematographer]
She-Devils on Wheels (1968) [Producer and Director]
Blast-Off Girls (1967) [Producer and Director, Writer]
Boin-n-g (1963) [Director]
Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963) [Director under pseudonym]
Scum of the Earth (1963) [Director]
Daughter of the Sun (1962) [Director under pseudonym, Writer]
Nature's Playmates (1962) [Director under pseudonym]
The Adventures Of Lucky Pierre (1962) [Director under pseudonym, Writer]
Living Venus (1961) [Producer and Director]
The Prime Time (1960) [Producer]
2,000 Maniacs! (1964) [Director, Writer, Wrote musical score]
Moonshine Mountain (1964) [Producer and Director, Cinematographer]
Bell, Bare, and Beautiful (1963) [Director under pseudonym]
Blood Feast (1963) [Director, Cinematographer, Composer]
Blood Feast 2 (2002) [Director]
Nickolas Cook lives in the beautiful Southwestern desert with his wife and three pugs. He is the Fiction Moderator for the Shocklines Writing Group, the Chat Host for The Lost and The Damned Message Board and the Writers' Forum Moderator at ARWZ. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in several magazines. He collects jazz and blues, and is still trying to learn how to play the trumpet like his hero, Miles Davis. Visit Nickolas at his web site at The Horror and Jazz-Blues Review, his Myspace page, his blog, where you can read his free ongoing serial novella A Kind of Blue.