Godfather of Gore: The Herschell Gordon Lewis Documentary DVD Blu-ray Movie Review

Godfather of Gore: The Herschell Gordon Lewis Documentary DVD Blu-ray Movie Review
Updated: 09-18-2011
I have never seen a Herschell Gordon Lewis movie. But I feel as though I have, after watching the incredibly informative and thoroughly entertaining documentary, Godfather of Gore. Unlike some dissertations on niche directors, my appetite is not whet to delve any deeper or to see any of the films — but that's fine. This doc does the trick, and it does it well.
While I can't say I learned a lot about the man behind the boobs and blood, I learned a lot about the boobs and blood. HGL began his career in filmmaking doing nudie cuties or, as they were euphemistically known: "nature films" some of which were shot at places like Plato's Retreat and by today's standards (OK, any standards) are quite tame. Mainly it was just nice-looking girls in the buff playing volleyball, bouncing on trampolines, or pretending to the artists' models. But then… there was Blood Feast.
HGL wrote, produced shot and directed Blood Feast in 1963, what's widely accepted as the first-ever gore fest, to make his dollars stretch just a little more. He did, but he also got a lot more than he bargained for when his putrid pics were banned across the nation and he was disowned by many. What to do? Why, make another one of course! That's how movies with names like She-Devils on Wheels, Two Thousand Maniacs!, The Gruesome Twosome, The Gore Gore Girls, and Color Me Blood Red, and Wizard of Gore were made. (By the way, how can you not love the IMDb plot summary for Blood Feast? "An Egyptian caterer kills various women in suburban Miami to use their body parts to bring to life a dormant Egyptian goddess, while an inept police detective try to track him down.")
The co-directors of this doc, Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon, have done an admirable job of keeping things visually interesting by a) using many, many film clips showing said boobs and blood (duh!), and b) using dynamic graphics to help illustrate some of the inherently static "talking heads" interviews (think: The Kid Stays in the Picture). Interviewees are an interesting, erudite crowd, including pin-up and pin-up shutterbug Bunny Yeager (love her! Never seen her interviewed before, to my recollection), exploitation film expert Joe Bob Briggs (chock full of wisdom, as per), notorious film director John Waters (hilarious personal recollections), and many, many of HGL's contemporaries, actors, business partners, etc. Best of all, we get a whole lot of HGL himself, reminiscing on those wild and woolly days (I'm not kidding about that latter part, either… these were the days before waxing became de rigueur).
As someone who's never seen a HGL movie and who doesn't plan on it, I still whole-heartedly (severed, but not sliced) recommend this very well-made doc that serves as a quick-fry education on splatter cinema from the days of yore, as well as a fun look back at what movie-making and film distribution was once like.
In addition to some pretty outrageous "never before seen!" footage which should please the die-hard fans, the DVD also has a trailer reel (great fun for those who love the grindhouse), a rare shot called Hot Night at the Go-Go Lounge, a gallery of HGL's own exploitation art, and (yes, you guessed it) more.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson
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