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By Emily Booth, Saturday 1st October 2016
Herschell Gordon Lewis known as the 'Godfather of Gore' died aged 87 on Sept 26th and many of us took to social media to acknowledge the loss and remember the man, his maniacal movies and actually, his sweet gentlemanly nature.
He is recognised as practically inventing the 'splatter' film as early as 1963 with his film Blood Feast which this year enjoyed a remake featuring a wonderful cameo from the legend himself. You see, the splatter is of course different to the 'slasher' for example; it revels in an abundance of gorgeous bloody gore, slapped on the table with an almost celebratory treatment of all its gooey squishy nasty compelling eye - gouging marvelousness!
Two Thousand Maniacs followed shortly after in 1964 upping the inventive deaths and providing a peppering of social commentary as a deep South town under a curse takes revenge on Northern Civilians in a blood thirsty centenary celebration of carnage! Of course this too was remade by Tim Sullivan in 2005 starring Robert England, a film we regularly show on Horror. Superb film titles followed such as The Wizard of Gore (1970), and The Gore Gore Girls (1972) cementing further the director's notoriety and claim to 'The GodFather of Gore' throne. His love of Grand Guignol style horror, horror that demanded a stage has rarely been matched, considering his impressive 37 film titles. The Gore Gore Girls however marked a long hiatus for the director, not returning to the industry till 2002 with Blood Feast 2 and then his penultimate flick in 2009, another supremely fun title; 'The Uh Oh Show' - again highlighting his love of 'big stage' theatrical horror. This is when I met the man himself. I was producing my own online horror show at the time called Behind the Screams and was invited to report at the Abertoir Horror Film Festival in Aberystwyth in Wales where Herschell was premiering his new film and conducting a masterclass. I was nervous about interviewing him as he'd not been in the scene for decades and was a total legend so I did not know what to expect. What I found was a warm, polite, engaging, passionate intelligent man whom I could not stop listening to. The interview ran over an hour in the end he was the most charming man, at odds with his gory bloody films (not that gory bloody films are ever made by actual maniacs anyway of course but highly intelligent provocative individuals)
Here was a humble man who understood who he was, what the industry was and had no pretences he was making high art or changing the world. But he still had a sense of pride in all he did saying "I've often compared Blood Feast to a Walt Whitman poem it was no good, but it was the first of its kind."
Always ahead of his time Herschell's 2009 Uh Oh Show was, in his words 'A satirical or sardonic comment on the state of reality programmes on television.' Something I feel that was perhaps echoed in Hostel Part 3 in 2011. His sense of fun always had a subtext and this is what gave his films a little more edge while of course delivering the entertainment!
He influenced the likes of Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, Robert Rodriguez and of course Tim Sullivan (!) he helped change the face of cinema and will always be remembered as that great 'Godfather of Gore'
You can watch my interview with Herschell here:
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