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Director: Frank Henenlotter & Jimmy Maslon
Cast: Herschell Gordon Lewis, David Friedman, Mal Arnold, Ray Sager, John Waters, Bunny Yeager, Joe Bob Briggs
Producers: Mike Vraney, Jimmy Maslon
Print Source: Something Weird
1963 | 67 min
Middle America, early ’60s. It was a reasonably innocent time, at least insofar as filmic culture went. Independent exploitation films that had up to that point made serious coin by “selling the sizzle, not the steak” were now finding themselves at a disadvantage, with Hollywood films beating them at their own game thanks to more relaxed attitudes at the studios. Indies needed something new to compete with the now-saucier big-budget releases, something that the studios wouldn’t dare to make. It took former sexploitation director Herschell Gordon Lewis, along with his producing partner David Friedman, to pioneer a fresh subgenre, one as fixated on body parts as their previous outings had been—only in a very different vein. They created what they called the “gore film,” and it was with 1963’s BLOOD FEAST that scores of boundaries were crossed, critics outraged, audiences astonished and approaches towards the depiction of violence on screen forever altered. Sharp follow-ups TWO THOUSAND MANIACS and COLOR ME BLOOD RED cemented Lewis as a grindhouse captain of changing times. Years later, WIZARD OF GORE, THE GRUESOME TWOSOME and THE GORE GORE GIRLS confirmed his legacy. While notorious as “the Godfather of Gore,” Lewis happily made films of all stripes, from juvenile delinquent pics (JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT!) and children’s films (JIMMY THE WONDER BOY) to the first all-girl biker pic (SHE DEVILS ON WHEELS). A resourceful jack-of-all-trades on his sets, he nonetheless maintains a dislike for anything resembling the Auteur Theory.
Co-directed by cult filmmaker/exploitation historian Frank Henenlotter (BASKET CASE, BAD BIOLOGY) and Jimmy Maslon (producer of BLOOD FEAST 2 and director of numerous music videos for the Cramps), and produced by Something Weird Video founder Mike Vraney, THE GODFATHER OF GORE is an affectionate and funny tribute to yesteryear’s king of excess, bleeding with rare on-set footage, outtakes and interviews. Much of the story is told by Lewis and Friedman themselves—both are terrific raconteurs—and many of Lewis’s old cast and crew have been tracked down. All deliver wild accounts of their adventures in ’60s/’70s guerilla filmmaking, with production anecdotes flying fast and furious, from tales of actors’ discomfort with the rotting animal parts Lewis regularly used for his splatter effects (“Okay, so now we’re going to put this sheep’s tongue in your mouth…”), to an unwanted set visit by KFC’s own Colonel Sanders, who quickly proved to be the biggest annoyance that could ever crash a production. Friedman recounts scouting for actors at a nudist camp. A production supervisor talks about Lewis punching out a thug from the Stagehand’s Union. Additional reflections are given by the likes of Bunny Yeager, Joe Bob Briggs, John Waters and the always-entertaining Henenlotter himself. Among the many other highlights, we’re also treated to brain-bruising clips from the vintage “nudie cutie” films (see a topless gal sitting on a turtle!) that were in fashion when Lewis shocked the world. Have you ever had an Egyptian feast?