Favourite Five Series: HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS
You have no idea how difficult it was to compile this list of favourite five! Herschell Gordon Lewis has directed 36 feature films to date. The majority of Mr. Lewis’ film entries are not actually horror but it is what the director has become best known for. He isn’t called The Godfather of Gore for nothing; Herschell Gordon Lewis earned that title! Mr. Lewis did not just make horror films; he made gore-laden extravaganzas! Horror films that turn the stomach of the queasy and please me immensely! It was actually director John Waters that turned me on to Herschell Gordon Lewis but as a lifelong horror fan it was his genre films that I first seeked out. After having seen twenty-four of his 36 films it is still his horror entries that appeal to me most. This is definitely a list heavy in horror with four of my five choices being his deliciously nasty genre films! Besides the gore, one of the most endearing qualities of Mr. Lewis’ genre films is his always present tongue in cheek humour. Lewis has a wicked sense of humour that adds an additional layer of entertainment to my viewings! I would like to give an extra special mention to the following Lewis’ flicks that were short-listed but did not make the final cut; She-Devils on Wheels, Bell, Bare and Beautiful, The Gruesome Twosome, Moonshine Mountain and The Alley Tramp. And an extra extra special mention to Something Weird and Two Thousand Maniacs that were particularly difficult to leave off of this list!
BLOOD FEAST (1963)
Blood Feast was my first foray into the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis and it will always have a special place in my heart. Great gore, creative kills, tongue in cheek humour, an outrageous unforgettable killer and a blood-thirsty Egyptian Goddess named Ishtar makes for an excessively entertaining 60ish minutes! It is the film that earned Lewis his nickname The Godfather of Gore and was one of the first of its kind in North America. To read my full review click here.
THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970)
I could only find one trailer for The Wizard of Gore and it was abruptly cut off at the end so I decided to go with its fantastic poster! The Wizard of Gore is a wonderfully nasty little film that like all of Mr. Lewis’ films delivers on its title. Ray Sager has been featured in several Herschell Gordon Lewis films but this performance is his Pièce de résistance! Montag the Magnificent is a magician with a particularly graphic and horrifying stage show. He appears to kill a member of the audience during each show but at the end of the act the “volunteer” takes her bow and leaves seemingly unscathed. It’s an illusion! Or is it? Television talk show host Sherry and her reporter boyfriend Jack intend to find out. That is one hell of a premise and if that isn’t enough Montag is a master hypnotist! The flippant and eccentric lead performance from Ray Sager as Montag alone makes The Wizard of Gore worthy of being on my list. Montag is indeed The Wizard of Gore and brings heaps of gooey and grotesque theatrics to his dastardly stage show! And hot damn does this sonofabitch have a finale! Absolutely without a doubt my favourite finale in any Lewis film! It had been several years since I seen The Wizard of Gore and I had forgotten what a Goretacular Spectacular it really was! I will be adding The Wizard of Gore to the home collection post-haste!
THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
My namesake The Gore Gore Girls is a big time favourite and was a must for this list. Its cheeky humour, its droll and devilishly sarcastic lead character Abraham Gentry and its graphic, creative gore make this a re-watchable classic of the first order. To read my full review click here.
SCUM OF THE EARTH (1963)
This was only my second viewing of Scum of the Earth; it is the only film on this list I can say that about. This certainly will not be my last viewing of Scum of the Earth! Scum of the Earth is one of several films watched during this Something Weird feature with a sleazy show business premise; this time it is the world of modelling. Kim Sherwood, a young woman in need of funds is lured into the “easy-money” world of modelling. Initially she poses for cutesy shots in dresses and bathing suits but is soon being blackmailed into posing nude. David F. Friedman who collaborated with Herschell Gordon Lewis on several films refers to Scum of the Earth on the commentary for Blood Feast as being one of the first “roughies”. While certainly not as rough as what was to come later in the decade from Michael Findlay, Anton Holden and others it was nonetheless considerably more biting than the nudie cuties made up to that point. “Roughies” put simply are exploitation films that contain sex and violence. Between my 1960s horror feature and what I have seen during this Something Weird journey, there is no doubt about it, Scum of the Earth was a front-runner in this sub-genre. It is a wholly captivating watch with some solid performances, particularly from Lewis Mainstay William Kerwin whose photographer character Harmon Johnson is my favourite of all his roles. It was also a riot seeing Mal Arnold (aka Fuad Ramses) looking normal as creepy character Larry. Scum of the Earth is one of Lewis’ most attractive and stylish films and features one of my very favourite finales in any of his efforts. Scum of the Earth is another ground-breaking film from Herschell Gordon Lewis and an absolute must see!
For more images from Scum of the Earth click here.
BLOOD FEAST 2: ALL U CAN EAT (2002)
I love and adore Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat. This marked a return to film for the director after a thirty year absence! I almost left this off the list based on the fact that it was not a Something Weird title but this is a favourite five for Herschell Gordon Lewis not Something Weird Video. As a fan of the original I was extremely cynical going into this one. Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is no longer Fuad Ramses story but his Nephew’s Fuad Ramses III who is taking over the family catering business. Like his Uncle he intends to honour Ishtar and has in fact become possessed by the the blood-thirsty Egyptian Goddess. Ramses is asked to cater a wedding and the wedding party immediately begins disappearing. The world’s daftest cop is on the case! And guess what? He also happens to be the groom! The Godfather of Gore pulls out all the stops in this one! There is an unbelievable amount of gore and carnage in Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat! There are prolonged scenes of organ and entrail fondling and some downright dastardly displays that even had Goregirl crinkling her nose! Oh-oh, I am talking in the third person again; this is not good. Low on budget, high on gore and some of the most over the top acting I have seen in a while. It is also hilarious! There are a ton of one-liners and various corniness that tickled me pink! Misti Morning? Laci Hundees? Oh boy! Look for the lingerie party and the adding machine gag; two of my favourite non-gore moments! Oh and let us not forget random dead guy!! Oh what a treat this film is! The original Blood Feast and Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat; it is a Christmas double feature you can watch with the whole family! A duo that will have the kids screaming for their own Egyptian Banquet! Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is an under-appreciated gem of a sequel! Super gory! Super Cheesy! Super funny! And just fecking Super!