Today Something Weird Video broke the news that Herschell Gordon Lewis -- “godfather of gore,” “sultan of splatter,” and direct marketing guru -- passed away. He may have been 87 years old or he may have been 90 years old, he may have been a genius or he may have been a highly creative hack (he'd probably say, what's the difference?), but one thing is certain -- the world of cinema was changed forever when the former English professor-gone-ad exec-gone nudie cutie filmmaker decided to combine his interests in exploitation film, marketing, and bloody Grand Guignol-style theater with 1963's Blood Feast (made with his business partner David F. Friedman).
Considered the first American gore film, Blood Feast follows the adventures of Fuad Ramses as he murders young women in order to create an "Egyptian feast" for the goddess Ishtar. A tongue is cut out, legs are cut off, brains are removed, and the viewing audience got to see it all in all it's bright red Technicolor glory. Like any forward-thinking writer/ad man/smut peddler, H.G. Lewis understood his market and his market was made up of the horny kids at the Drive-In. Lewis went on to make countless more works of gory art in quick succession, including Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965), A Taste of Blood and The Gruesome Twosome (1967), She-Devils on Wheels (1968), The Wizard of Gore (1970), and The Gore Gore Girls (1972), just to name some of the most memorable. Some years he released five to seven films, often designing the poster and hitting the booking market before making the film.
While pushing the boundaries of good taste with his bloody tales of weirdos, murderers, and psychotic Southerners, he also continued to release other memorable exploitation films like Blast-Off Girls (1967) and Suburban Roulette (1968), which addressed modern topics of the day like mismanaged rock & roll bands and suburban swinging.
In 2007, we here at Amoeba San Francisco were lucky enough to host H.G. Lewis for a DVD signing when he was in town. Local band of weirdos The Poontang Wranglers came to back him as he sang the "Theme from 2000 Maniacs," much to the surprise and delight of the audience. Mr. Lewis also sat for an interview with Grand Guignol director Russell Blackwood. Check out the footage HERE and never stop believing in movie magic.