He’s been hailed as both a visionary and a provocateur but what sets iconic writer/director/producer Herschell Gordon Lewis apart from the rest of his peers is how business-minded his approach to the horror genre has always been since the very beginning.
Before introducing audiences to an entirely new world of movies that celebrated gore and cartoonishly brutal violence, Lewis made a name for himself as the director of several “nudie-cutie” flicks throughout 1960 and 1961. Seeing the potential for money in delivering a “shocking” product to an audience hungry for something new, Lewis set out to stun horror fans with his first ever splatter flick Blood Feast which ended up being the launching pad for the gore movement in horror cinema.
Here we are almost 50 years since the release of Blood Feast and we’re still celebrating the “Godfather of Gore’s” efforts on not only that film but the two Blood Trilogy sequels that followed- Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965) with the high-definition release of all three films onto Blu-Ray today courtesy of Something Weird Video and Image Entertainment.
Yesterday, Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with Lewis exclusively to talk about the Blood Trilogy‘s high-def debut as well as whether or not he’s got plans to direct again and if indeed, things were still “business as usual” for the visionary Lewis.
With the Blood Trilogy being a series of films that celebrates the ‘low-tech’ approach to horror filmmaking, we asked Lewis how the Blu-Ray release of the flick came about since you wouldn’t immediately think of these types of movies on a ‘glossy’ format such as this latest release from Something Weird and Image.
“I would definitely agree that it seems rather unusual to have a Blu-Ray release for a trio of movies like these but ultimately, the decision wasn’t up to me,” explained Lewis. “I no longer own the rights and I guess the powers that be decided now was a good time to release these in this kind of format so we’ll see how it goes. Honestly, I don’t really know what to think about Blu-Ray; I’m still not entirely convinced it’s another kind of fad. Will it last? Probably, but it’s hard to tell. I was one of the first people who said back in 2008/2009 that 3D was going to be a flash in the pan fad and sure enough, I was right on that one. So who knows about Blu-Ray? But regardless, if this latest disc introduces new fans to the films, then that’s great.”
So why do Lewis’ films continue to endure even after almost fifty years now? The visionary director and businessman has his own theory on the subject. ““Blood Feast was an unprecedented film for the time and I think one of the reasons people still talk about it today is that because even after all the years, the movie is still very entertaining and that initial shock resonates. Sure, a lot of it is silly and dated but it’s a fun movie to go see and I think that’s why new fans still continue to find it even now- because of the enduring ‘word of mouth’ that has surrounded it since its first release.”
Even though he first garnered recognition for Blood Feast back in 1963, that doesn’t mean that the 82-years-young director is out of the modern horror game at all. His latest feature, The Uh-Oh Show just hit DVD shelves in August and he’s considering taking the helm for another gore-tastic project in the future. Lewis weighed in on why his approach to horror hasn’t changed in almost 50 years…and never will.
“Even after all this time, I still prefer the classic splatter approach to horror and I feel like that’s the opinion of most of the true horror fans out there,” said Lewis. “I feel like it’s almost like other filmmakers sometimes forget that audiences go to the movies or watch movies in their homes to be entertained and while it’s true that I pioneered ‘gore,’ what you see now a lot of the time isn’t what I intended gore to be. Gore should be fun- everyone’s too concerned these days about pushing things too far in a realistic way and that’s just not fun to me.”
“But I made sure that’s the kind of gore Uh-Oh Show had and that’s what I hope Mr. Bruce’s Gore Machine will have if I decide to direct that next. And let me just tell you- Mr. Bruce is a hoot- I won’t say too much but it involves an inventor and women whose body parts get replaced with stainless steel parts. I do have a script done one that one already with my writing partner, we’re just not sure it’s ready just yet,” added Lewis.
The “Godfather of Gore” went on to discuss how not only his love for splatter films won’t ever change and neither will his business-minded approach to filmmaking either. “Making a movie is 100% about business and anyone who says differently is just kidding themselves. The business is suffering I think these days because pretty much anyone can pick up a camera and make a movie and call themselves a ‘director.’ Then they don’t handle things on the business side of the industry and then complain when their work goes nowhere. I think a lot of new filmmakers have forgotten that they need to have a sense of salesmanship when you start a project because if you don’t, you are dead in the water. If you can’t ‘sell’ your own movie to someone, then you’re in trouble.”
Lewis added, “I love making movies and they’re still fun for me but everything boils down to having a business plan for each film. People pay good money to go see movies and other people put up the money to distribute those movies so it all comes down to knowing that a movie will be profitable for everyone involved, including viewers who pay their hard-earned money. Audiences and horror fans need to get their money’s worth too and I think too many filmmakers out there forget that these days.”
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