Release Date: August 28th, 1967 (premiere) Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Written by: Allison Louise Downe Music by: Larry Wellington Cast: Elizabeth Davis, Gretchen Wells, Chris Martell
I have been working my way through the Herschell Gordon Lewis films that I haven’t reviewed yet, as they are currently on the Criterion Channel but they’re being pulled down at the end of the month (at the time of me writing this in September).
So this is one I haven’t reviewed and one I actually hadn’t seen until now.
It’s pretty bad, overall, even for an HGL flick.
The story is about a crazy lady that owns a wig store. The shocking thing is that the wigs are real hair from the victims that she lures in for her mentally handicapped son to kill. He then scalps them and viola!… new inventory!
I guess it’s a clever idea for the time and this film in Lewis’ oeuvre plays more like a comedy but this is still a splatter flick with terrible acting, abysmal production value and a story so boring that the only highlight is seeing the blood flow.
The effects in this are so bad, even for the time and even for a non-existent budget, that they become distracting. I’ve seen better gore and makeup at an elementary school haunted house as a kid.
I guess I get the appeal of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ work to the extreme minority that masturbates to gore porn and splatter but even this film feels like its beneath HGL’s own brand of blood-soaked schlock.
There’s really not much interesting in this other than the taxidermied bobcat.
Rating: 2/10 Pairs well with: other Herschell Gordon Lewis movies.
Also known as: House of Torture (reissue title) Release Date: October 23rd, 1970 Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Written by: Allen Kahn Music by: Larry Wellington Cast: Ray Sager, Judy Cler, Wayne Ratay
Mayflower Pictures, 95 Minutes
“You’ll be all right. Listen, as soon as I get you to your apartment, I’ll give you the Emergency Special: Half gin and half vermouth. We’ll sprinkle the vermouth over a female toad and we’ll drink the gin.” – Jack
I thought I had seen this movie long ago but I guess my memory played tricks on me. I’ve seen several clips over the years and honestly, a lot of the splatter porn stuff from this era, especially Herschell Gordon Lewis’, kind of blends together in my brain.
That being said, this is more of the same while also being somewhat original in how this is all presented and the bonkers, clunky story used to string the violent bits together.
Honestly, this plays more like a porno flick that pretends like it has a plot, pretends it has some “acting” and pretends it has some narrative elements that “proves” it’s not just gratuitous shock value shit.
It’s hard to tell if this film thinks it’s smart or if it’s actually just parodying the smarty pants art-house cinema that was becoming a thing. The plot feels like it was crafted by a meth addict that was influenced by David Lynch without understanding any of the guy’s nuance or style. Granted, this exists seven years before Lynch’s first film, Eraserhead.
Anyway, the story does that “is it real?” or “is it all in your head?” gimmick. I think it’s trying to take itself somewhat seriously and Lewis is trying to show that in spite of his shocking imagery, he’s a legitimate filmmaker and this is higher brow art than anyone is willing to accept. I’ve had Lewis fans try to convince me that the guy was a cinematic mastermind for years but nothing they have said has made me see their “light”.
The thing is, I do like Lewis, I’m okay with his work but if I’m being honest, it’s all just schlock-y, gratuitously gory shit. This film is no different and the plot is so batshit insane that it actually makes it even harder to suspend disbelief, making it more difficult to just open yourself up to the spectacle of it all.
I’m also not a gore hound, as a movie needs more than discount meat from the butcher being brutalized for it to mean something.
Rating: 4/10 Pairs well with: other Herschell Gordon Lewis films.
Taken from Justin Whang’s YouTube description: I’ve always been a big fan of movies that are “so bad that they’re good,” and most of my all time favorites of this type of film are by a director named HG Lewis. Here is a look at one of his all time classics, The Wizard of Gore (1970)
Release Date: March 13th, 2010 (SXSW) Directed by: Elijah Drenner Written by: Elijah Drenner, Calum Waddell Music by: Jason Brandt Cast: Robert Forster (narrator), Eddie Muller, John Landis, Joe Dante, Herschell Gordon Lewis, William Lustig, Lewis Teague, David Hess, Jack Hill, Fred Williamson, Larry Cohen, Jonathan Kaplan, various
Lux Digital Pictures, End Films, 80 Minutes
This was a cool documentary but the title may be a bit misleading, as it isn’t specifically just about grindhouse pictures. It actually goes much deeper than that and discusses the history of exploitation film in general, going back as far as the Pre-Code Era and explaining what that was, how it ended and then how films evolved in the aftermath.
The best part about this documentary is that it interviewed so many great creators that were all a part of exploitation filmmaking, as well as also bringing in several experts on the subject. I especially liked seeing Eddie Muller in this, as I mostly only see him involved in things specifically about classic film-noir.
American Grindhouse also gets extra points because it was narrated by the great Robert Forster.
In addition to all that, this documentary featured an absolute fuck ton of movies from all eras and it definitely increased my list of films I need to review, pretty exponentially.
This was well organized, well presented and gave me a lot of insight. Mind you, I say that as someone that is pretty well versed on the subject matter.
American Grindhouse was in my queue for far too long. I didn’t think that I would think highly of it, as documentaries like this are a dime a dozen. However, this one is far ahead of the pack and it impressed me and actually re-energized my love for this type of cinema.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with:Machete Maidens Unleashed, Corman’s World, Electric Boogaloo, etc.
Also known as: Centennial (fake working title), 2000 Maniacs (alternative spelling) Release Date: March 20th, 1964 Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Written by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Music by: Larry Wellington Cast: William Kerwin, Connie Mason, Jeffrey Allen
“Has it occurred to you that nobody has told us what this centennial is all about? Now, this is 1965, and a hundred years ago it was 1865, right? So, what happened in 1865?” – Tom White, “It was the ending of Civil War. The war between states!” – Terry Adams, “Well then you tell me why would a southern town want northerners as guests of honor at the centennial. It must has something to do with what happened a hundred years ago. So, something is very wrong with this town.” – Tom White
A year before this film, Herschell Gordon Lewis disgusted audiences with his debut film Blood Feast. That picture was a gore spectacle that paved the way for future gore cinema. It’s become legendary and survived the test of time because of how shocking it was in 1963. But it helped champion in an era of exploitation and grindhouse films that populated seedy theaters and drive-ins for a good decade and a half.
That being said, Blood Feast is a terrible, terrible film. It’s not really good on any level except in how it disgusted people and opened the floodgates for other penniless filmmakers to start pumping out their gore-littered schlock.
But I can’t quite call Herschell Gordon Lewis a bad filmmaker, as the man somehow took his terrible, basic formula, refined it, actually put together an interesting plot and then gave us this film just eight months later.
Two Thousand Maniacs! is not a good motion picture by any stretch of the imagination but it is at least a compelling one that is so bizarre you kind of want to know how the hell this insanity is happening.
The plot focuses on a small town in the middle of Nowheresville, Georgia. The residents of this town are putting up detour signs on the highway to lure in some outsiders. Once they arrive in the town, confused, the outsiders learn that the town is celebrating its Centennial. They feel like things are a bit off but since they’re being treated like prized guests, they soak it up.
However, each person is then killed in extremely violent ways. Two of them do survive and escape in the end but then we learn the batshit crazy truth: the town was a ghost town that was destroyed in the Civil War exactly one hundred years earlier. The town came back to life to get revenge on a half dozen Yankees because why the hell not.
This of course raises a lot of questions like how did these people know how to use telephones, cars and other technology that didn’t exist in their time? Why were they dressed in the finest Southern fashion of the 1960s and not the 1860s? Well, the whole movie is full of things that make you go “huh?” once you know what the big reveal is.
Still, suspending a lot of disbelief, the film works in a lot of ways regardless of all the nonsensical shit, the shoddy direction and the atrocious acting.
I’d be lying if I said that this didn’t lure me in, peak my interest and keep me glued to the screen.
While this has been remade, I’m assuming that one isn’t very good, this is the sort of film that should be remade with a competent director and a script writer that can actually work out some of the kinks and issues this original movie had. I think the concept is neat and that it could be improved upon, which is usually the only way I’ll support the idea of a remake or a reboot.
While several of the gore scenes are over the top and gratuitous, I’d say that this is actually less gory than Blood Feast. The camera cuts away a lot and some of the violence is implied with a finishing shot of a dead body covered in blood and meat. A lot of the shots during these scenes are of the reactions of the townsfolk who are getting off on the carnage.
Ultimately, this is not a good movie. But for gore pictures, it is one of the better ones and it at least has a story that works for what this is.
I’m not sure if Herschell Gordon Lewis actually displayed some directing talent or if he just kind of got lucky. Gorehounds will of course claim that the guy was a genius but I think that he was just a schlockmeister that developed his own unique style.
Rating: 5.25/10 Pairs well with: Herschell Gordon Lewis’ other films.
Also known as: Terror at Halfday (working title) Release Date: July, 1965 Directed by: Bill Rebane, Herschell Gordon Lewis (uncredited) Written by: Sheldon Seymour Cast: Henry Hite
B.I. & L. Releasing Corp., 68 Minutes
“What you are about to see may not even be possible, within the narrow limits of human understanding.” – Narrator
There are a lot of films that are truly atrocious. This one is worse than that, so I don’t know if there’s a proper adjective to describe it in one word.
This is horrible, even for Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. It may be the worst movie featured on that show and that should say a lot in regards to the type of premium schlock MST3K liked to throw at its audience.
I hate this movie. I hate it like a vegan trapped in a Longhorn’s Steakhouse during a zombie apocalypse. I hate it like a cop hates getting a doughnut box full of celery. I hate it like Hillary Clinton hates penis. I hate it like field mice hate owls. I hate it like an astronaut hates being marooned. I hate it like Gene Siskel hated Roger Ebert whenever he always got the upper hand. I hate it like Tom Brady hates solid balls. I hate it like an intelligent person hates Twitter. I hate it like… well, you get the point.
Herschell Gordon Lewis is the only remotely notable person associated with this film. He is uncredited for co-directing this movie. He would go on to make a ton of crappy exploitation films that gorehounds and sexually depraved misfits would cherish for decades. Films like Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, The Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls and others. I heard he’s a really nice and cool guy though. If John Waters likes him, he’s probably alright.
The killer in this film looks like the giant from Twin Peaks but with papier-mâché strips crudely placed on his face. He isn’t intimidating or scary, he just looks like a lanky drunk bald guy. He moves really slow but at least we get to see him creep up on some bikini chicks with decent tushies.
This movie gave me a headache. While the MST3K crew made it as tolerable as possible, it was still hard to get through and I’d prefer never to have to sit through this piss sandwich again.
So this most assuredly should be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer, even though there is a risk of breaking the machine with this massive turd. We’ll run it through anyway, as it is still under warranty for another hundred or so shitty films. So the results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”
Release Date: July 6th, 1963 Directed by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Written by: Allison Louise Downe, David F. Friedman, Herschell Gordon Lewis Music by: Herschell Gordon Lewis Cast: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn Bolton, Scott H. Hall
Box Office Spectaculars, 67 Minutes
This is one of those movies I have heard about my entire life. People, for years, have talked this thing up. It’s regarded as the first true gore picture. It gave birth to the low brow and easily dismissed splatter pictures that would paint grindhouse cinemas red for a few decades. Blood Feast is considered to be the godfather of it all.
Unfortunately, it is a horrendous picture.
It’s not horrendous because of the blood and guts, it is just poorly written, poorly acted, poorly executed and generally a nonsensical mess. Now I know that you don’t go see these kinds of films with the intent that they are going to be pinnacles of perfection but as a film, Blood Feast fails in just about every way. Except in the gore department.
The film is a measly 67 minutes but anything longer would have been a serious chore to sit through. There are lots of killings and not a lot of plot to get in the way of the gore but none of it is all that exciting. I think that this is one of those movies where people’s memories of it are way more horrific than the picture itself.
Sure, there is a lot of blood. But when I got to the iconic scene of where our killer rips the tongue out of a girl’s throat, you see his back as he is going to work and then it cuts to the killer holding a lumpy stringy steak covered in blood as the girl lays, mouth agape, pouring out blood. It is graphic, for sure, but you never actually see the tongue pulled from out of the woman’s mouth. A lot of people I talked to, seem to remember seeing the killer actually rip it out of her mouth. Then again, maybe that was filmed and released and the modern prints of the film omit it. This is really just semantics but it is similar to how people remind The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as a gore fest but it isn’t, at all. Blood Feast at least lives up to its name, regardless, as it is a film pretty much submerged in blood.
This was not a film that was made to be anything artistic. It was made for exploitation purposes and to make as much money as possible by costing next to nothing to produce and selling itself on shock value. In that regard, it is effective and I can’t knock the movie. Expecting anything more than blood, guts and splatter is foolish. This delivers on what it was intended to be.
Now that I’ve seen the film, I can check it off of my cinematic bucket list. Although, I’ll probably never have the urge to watch it again. Unless I were to one day host a gore film festival or if this was playing in a theater somewhere near me.