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Herschell Gordon Lewis (born 15 June 1929, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, U.S.marker) is an Americanmarker filmmaker, best known for creating the "splatter film" subgenre of horror. He is often called the "Godfather of Gore" (a title also given to Italian director Lucio Fulci ) though his film career included works in a range of exploitation film genres including juvenile delinquent films, nudie-cuties, two children's films and at least one rural comedy.

Early career

Lewis served as producer only on his first film venture, The Prime Time (1960), which was the first feature film produced in Chicago since the late 1910s. He would assume directing duties on nearly all of his films from then on. His first in a lengthy series of collaborations with exploitation producer David F. Friedman, Living Venus (1961), was a fictitious account based on the story of Hugh Hefner and the beginnings of Playboy.

The two continued with a series of erotic films in the early 1960s. These films marked the beginning of a deliberate approach to filmmaking which each respective party would continue through their production careers- films made solely with the intention of turning a profit. Typical of these nudies were the screwball comedies B-O-I-N-G! (1963) and The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961), a film made for a shoestring budget of $7,500 which would become the duo's first great financial success. Because film restrictions had not yet allowed for sexual depictions in films, the bulk of Lewis and Friedman's early work consisted of nudist camp features like Goldilocks and The Three Bares (1963), which appropriately billed itself as "the first (and to date the only) nudist musical".

With the nudie market beginning to wane, Lewis and Friedman entered into uncharted territory with 1963's seminal Blood Feast, considered by most critics to be the first "gore" film. Because of the unprecedented nature of this type of film, they were able to cater to the drive-in theater market which would have been inaccessible with their prior skin flicks. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965) followed the same formula. The full-color gore on display in these films caused a sensation, with horror film-makers throughout the world becoming eager to saturate their productions with similarly shocking visual effects.

Lewis stopped working with Friedman after making Color Me Blood Red (1965), but continued to make further gore films into the 1970s. His next gore entry wouldn't come until 1967, with A Taste of Blood, often referred to as the "Gone with the Wind of Gore" due to its relatively lengthy running time of nearly two hours. The following year would bring a more extreme take on the genre, The Gruesome Twosome (1967), most notable for incorporating an electric knife used to scalp one of the victims. Lewis's third gore phase served to push the genre into even more outrageous shock territory. The Wizard of Gore (1970) featured a stage magician who would mutilate his volunteers severely through a series of merciless routines. By 1973, Lewis had taken the gore approach to such a limit that it began to lampoon itself, which is why The Gore Gore Girls (featuring an appearance by Henny Youngman as the owner of a topless club) would mark his semi-retirement from film altogether. He decided to leave the industry to work in copywriting and direct marketing, a subject on which he published several books in the 1980s. He returned to directing in 2002 with the straight-to-video Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat.

Always resourceful despite the low budgets he worked with, Lewis purchased the rights to an unfinished film and completed it himself, re-titling the film Monster A Go-Go (1965). Many years later, the film gained notoriety after being shown on the Mystery Science Theater 3000 television show. Lewis would repeat this formula when he acquired a gritty psychological piece called The Vortex and released it as Stick It In Your Ear (1970) to be shown as a second feature to The Wizard of Gore. This approach demonstrated Lewis's business savvy; by owning the rights to both features, he knew he would not get fleeced by theaters juggling the box office returns, a common practice at that time.

Outside his notorious gore canon, Lewis pursued a wide gamut of other exploitation avenues throughout the sixties. Some of the more taboo subjects he explored include juvenile delinquency (Just For The Hell Of It, 1968), wife swapping (Suburban Roulette, 1968), the corruption of the music industry (Blast-Off Girls, 1967), and birth control (The Girl, The Body and The Pill, 1967). He was also not above tapping the children's market, as with Jimmy the Boy Wonder (1966) and The Magic Land of Mother Goose (1967), which were padded out to feature film length by incorporating long foreign-made cartoons.

Towards the end of the sixties, Lewis would return to the world of sexploitation, with regulations now being considerably more lax. Those films quickly vanished into obscurity: Lewis' 1972 film Black Love, apparently an erotic film with an all African American cast, has completely disappeared. Also reportedly gone forever are a pair of nudies, Ecstasies of Women (1969) and Linda and Abilene (1969), a lesbian western which remains notorious for having been shot on the Spahn Ranch only months before it became inhabited by the Manson Family. Year Of The Yahoo! (1972) was also believed lost, though a largely complete print is now available on DVD as a double feature with the semi-gory ode to moonshine, This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1971).

Recent activities

In 1991, Lewis's voice was sampled on the track Symposium Of Sickness by English death metal band Carcass.

In 2006, Lewis was inducted into the Polly Staffle Hall of Fame. Lewis has a pair of film projects in development with Florida-based feature film production company Film Ranch International. He also made a cameo appearance in the Shock O Rama film Chainsaw Sally, and starred in issue one of American Carnevil, a graphic novel created by Johnny Martin Walters.

In 2007 his film "The Wizard of Gore" would be remade by Writer Zach Chassler and Director Jeremy Kasten.

In 2008 it was announced that he would direct the film Blood De Madame: The Fallen Ones starring horror film actors Tiffany Shepis, Debbie Rochon, Felissa Rose, Brandon Slagle and Brooke Lewis.

In 2010, Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Godfather of Gore, is releasing his first film in nearly 30 years titled The Uh-Oh Show about a television game show where the contestants are dismembered for each wrong answer. The first screening of this movie was 8th November 2009 at the Abertoir Horror Festival in Aberystwythmarker, Wales and concluded with Herschell Gordon Lewis's questions and answers about the film.

Lewis also has a book written about him called "A Taste of Blood" written by Christopher Wayne Curry.

Selected Filmography


  1. The Deuce - Herschell Gordon Lewis
  2. IMDb - Herschell Gordon Lewis - Biography
  3. House of Horrors - Lucio Fulci: Godfather of Gore
  4. TCM - Biography for Herschell Gordon Lewis
  5. LCD 24 - Hillbilly Hollywood
  6. Fears in Florida at the Freakshow Film Festival

External links


  • Curry, Christopher. A Taste Of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. London: Creation Books, 1999. ISBN 1-8715-9291-7.
  • Palmer, Randy. Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore: The Films. Jefferson, North Carolina, and London: McFarland & Company, 2000. ISBN 0-7864-0808-1.

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