There are a few filmmakers out there that make one film that makes a lasting impact. Then there are those out there that make a film that actually creates a whole new sub-genre! Even more impressive when that particular film is not….shall we say a “well crafted” production? But on the other hand, if you look at how it was made, and for the budget it had, and then how much money it actually made at the drive-ins, then the quality of the picture really has nothing to do with it. Of course, I’m talking about Blood Feast, directed by the one and only Herschell Gordon Lewis. He would go on to create more and more of these new ‘gore films’ giving the audiences something they had never seen before. The philosophy that he and his partner Dave Friedman came up with was simple: ” We strived to make films that either the majors couldn’t, or wouldn’t make.” And that is exactly what they did. Two Thousand Maniacs followed Blood Feast and was an even bigger hit. And the films kept coming and the blood kept spilling.
For a man that would later write over 20 books on marketing, who really invented junk mail and spam emails, he never lost touch with these films he made 40+ years ago and more importantly, he never turned a cold shoulder on the fans. He appeared at quite a few conventions and festivals over the years, always happy to meet his fans. One of the times I got to see him was at one of the 24-hour marathons at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, and seeing him on stage singing the theme song to Two Thousand Maniacs with the crowd is a memory that I’ll hold on to for a very long time.
But as I’m sure everyone reading this has already heard the news, Lewis passed away earlier today, at the age of 87. I swear that man was more active in his ’80s that I’ve been in the last decade. I can only hope to be half as productive as he has been. Even though he has left us in this physical world, he also has left us hours upon hours of fun and gory entertainment that will be here for generations to come. Every time we hear the bang of that kettle drum, or the site of that bright red and gooey blood, we’ll remember H.G. Lewis and the incredible amount of fun he showed us over the years.
Here’s to you, Herschell. Thanks for the blood, the gore, and the many smiles and sneers you put on my face. You will be missed, but never, ever be forgotten.