Herschell Gordon Lewis, writer, director, producer, “The Godfather of Gore” himself, has passed away at the age of 87.
After a start in teaching and managing a Chicago radio station, Lewis began working in films in the late ’50s, eschewing Hollywood norms (and the censorship) by making films in the more “off beat” variety, including such exploitation goodies as juvenile delinquent films, “nudie cuties”, and even the “world’s first nudist musical” (Goldilocks and the Three Bares — 1963).
Pushing the boundaries of audience’s comfort zones, he next branched out into horror films, with the added wrinkle of in your face, explicit gore. 1963’s Blood Feast, despite it’s low production value and iffy acting brought bloody, gory goodness to drive-ins everywhere. His follow ups have passed into horror film legend, with names like Two Thousand Maniacs, The Gore-Gore Girls, and The Wizard of Gore going on to be well-remembered by horror fans, and considered legendary by many. His film career continued on through the early seventies, with him trying his hand at everything from children’s films to comedies, but his creative use of exploitative cinema was always what he came back to. After writing over twenty successful books about his life in business and advertising, in 2002 he released a follow-up to his original gore-flick, Blood Feast with Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat — proving that he still had what it took to bring on the blood.
All of us who enjoy horror films today, especially (but certainly not only ) the gorehounds and splatter-junkies, owe a debt to Lewis — his willingness to push the envelope at a time when it was certainly taboo opened the door for all the Tobe Hoopers, Wes Cravens, Sean Cunninghams, John Carpenters, and countless other pioneers of horror that were to follow.
He will be missed — may he rest in peace.