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September 15, 2011

Movie Review: Herschell Gordon Lewis:The Godfather of Gore (2011)

Over the course of film history few directors can really lay claim that they created something that would later become a phenomenon in movies. Herschell Gordon Lewis is one of those "few" that can. Herschell Gordon Lewis’ unique creation became known as the “gore” film. Although some filmmakersdid use gore for shock value, much like how Dwain Esper did it in Maniac backin the 1930's. No one quite went to the outrageous extremes that Lewis went with his Blood Trilogy (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red).Lewis was a renaissance man in a sense and continues this path into his early 80’s by still making movies and doing direct marketing.

Buy The Godfather of Gore on DVD

Something Weird Video in conjunction with Image Entertainment have nowunleashed a brand-new documentary directed by genre veteran and longtime Lewisadmirer, Frank Henenlotter ( Basket Case, Frankenhooker) and Jimmy Maslon. Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore touches on the early career of Lewiswhen he was starting produced "nudie cuties" with producer and legendin his own right, David F.Friedman .

When producing any kind of documentary it's imperative that you have some solid interview subjects to string along the story.Thankfully, the team of Henenlotter and Maslon have gathered theperfect mix: John Waters (Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and Desperate Living), Blood Feast star Mal Arnold, genre critic Joe Bob Briggs, Lewis crew member Jerome Eden and even the Wizard of Gore himself, Ray Sager. Director Henenlotter also gets in on the fun with several Lewis related stories that include his fascination with Blood Feast that was struck as a youth when a he regularly flipped through the paperback version at bookstore he frequented.

The evolution of the Lewis/ Friedman relationship was easily the most interesting story. On camera both gentleman are incredibly charming and at times quite funny. Friedman talked a bit about their pre-Blood Trilogy nudist camp films. One nudist camp that they shot a film at required both men to be naked, something neither were all too fond of, but hey, they did it for the art. A hefty nudist named Zelda became the stuff of nightmares for Friedman when he witnessed the rotund proprietor drop one of her tits into her spaghetti. I had to chuckle at that.

As enjoyable as the nudie cuties were, Lewis' string of splatter drenched horror flicks were his bread and butter. The documentary does an excellent job at giving attention to the different phases of Lewis' career. I also found many new facts about Lewis that I hadn't known. Some brief background on Lewis regulars Mal Arnold (Fuad Ramses from Blood Feast) and the amazing Bill Kerwin are also covered on the documentary. Amazingly, Arnold was a body-builder at the time and still is quite fit. Kerwin was a true jack-of-all-trades on set. Not only did he "act"but he also worked as a dedicated crew member. He also had an ability to polish off a bottle of whiskey one night and be on set the next morning - being productive no less.

Something Weird Video has supplied some extra features that include a trailer reel with several of Herschell Gordon Lewis' films, an extensive photo and poster gallery, a rare short film from Lewis titled Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge and an hour of deleted scenes. Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge proves to be a bit tedious as it just shows folks dancing the night away in some club, but it is a rarity.

The deleted scenes prove to be much more than a bunch of cut scenes, their actually tremendously entertaining and could have easily been included. Had these been included, this 106 minute documentary would have come very close to the three hour mark so I understand the mindset in keeping it tighter. As a fan though, it's fun to watch. Some the great cut bits include: a segment on the 60’s splatter short Love Goddess of Blood Island, more background on the roughie films the men produced (Scum of the Earth etc.) are gone into more detail, extended interviews with Mal Arnold and Jerome Wedon are also shown and Friedman’s visit to a funeral home.

It's been a few years since we've seen a release from Something Weird Video so it's very encouraging to see them back with such a fine DVD. With the recent release of Herschell Gordon Lewis' outrageous new feature, The Uh Oh! Show and the upcoming SWV release of The Blood Trilogy on Blu-ray, 2011 is truly shaping up to be an exceptional year for H.G Lewis lovers. Highly Recommended!

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