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02 October, 2011

DVD Review: HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE Special Edition DVD



Title:  HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE Special Edition DVD

Year of Release—Film:  2010

Year of Release—DVD:  2011

DVD Label:  Something Weird Video



For more than twenty years, Mike Vraney’s Something Weird Video has reveled in the bizarre, forgotten films that no one else would dare touch.  From driver’s ed staples such as “Highways of Agony,” to Roadshow classics like CHILD BRIDE, DAMAGED GOODS, and MOM AND DAD, Something Weird loves it all.  In that twenty years, SWV has brought its legion of fans exactly what they’ve been craving, and in so doing, Vraney has earned a well-deserved reputation as both the videophile’s best friend and the greatest living proponent of the Exploitation film.  One of that “legion of fans” is yours truly, as I explained in a previous article, “Something Weird on the Screen:  The Wild, Bizarre and Wacky World of Scare-Your-Children Movies, Exploitation Shorts and Stag Films.” [The Unimonster’s Crypt, 11 April 2009]

Recently, Vraney, and Something Weird Video, has branched out into the production end of bringing Exploitation fans their hearts’ desire.  Their first effort, one that is guaranteed to please fans of Exploitation, Grindhouse, and Drive-In movies, is the documentary HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE.

Lewis, 82, is one of the few remaining links to the glory days of Exploitation film, the period between the end of the Roadshow era and the 1970s, when anything could, and did, make it on-screen.  The 1960s marked a transitional period in exploitive cinema, as filmmakers worked to push cinematic envelopes apace with crumbling censorship restrictions.  Lewis, along with men and women such as Dan Sonney, Doris Wishman, Bob Cresse, and Lewis’ producing partner David F. Friedman, were in the forefront of that effort, and those efforts would culminate in the free-for-all that was filmmaking in the early 1970s.  Lewis and Friedman were the most polished of the exploiteers of this era, and perhaps the most influential.  Though the pair helped popularize Nudie-Cuties, and created what came to be known as the Roughie with SCUM OF THE EARTH, fans of this era hold them in high regard primarily for their contribution to the Horror genre.  For, in 1963, they gave birth to the gore film with BLOOD FEAST.

While this documentary traces Herschell’s entire career, as told by the man himself, much of the focus is on his well-deserved reputation as Horror’s first ‘goremeister’.  Three such movies were produced with Dave Friedman—BLOOD FEAST, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS, and COLOR ME BLOOD RED—before the partnership ended amicably.  The two remained good friends, and Friedman is interviewed in-depth for this project, perhaps his last filmed interviews [Ed. Note: It’s my belief that Senior Correspondent Bobbie Culbertson had one of the last, if not the last, interview with Mr. Friedman when she spoke with him at length for our co-authored book, Dixie’s Drive-Ins: the Southern Drive-In Culture of the 1950s through the 1980s, shortly before his passing].  Lewis also made several gore films on his own, with titles such as THE WIZARD OF GORE, THE GORE-GORE GIRLS, THE GRUESOME TWOSOME, and of course, SOMETHING WEIRD.  All are examined in this documentary, making it a must-have for Lewis’ fans, as well as fans of gore in general.

Directed by Frank Henenlotter (of BASKET CASE fame) and Jimmy Maslon, this is a loving tribute to Lewis, as well as being both educational and informative, in a very fun way.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Available exclusively from Something Weird Video for $14.99, at: http://www.somethingweird.com.






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