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Herschell Gordon Lewis

Herschell Gordon Lewis

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American Grindhouse ... The salacious and uproarious American Grindhouse explores the hidden history of... more info $9.95was $14.95 Buy Now

Godfather of Gore: Herschell... Gory, Gory, Hallelujah! Take an outrageous ride through the wild world of... more info $11.95was $14.98 Buy Now

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Also Known As: Sheldon Seymour, Lewis H Gordon, R L Smith, Gordon Weisenborn, Herschell Lewis, Herschell G. Lewis, Sheldon Seymour Died:
Born: July 15, 1926 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: producer, director, screenwriter, composer, songwriter, singer, special effects technician, director of photography, consultant, advertising agency head, professor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Legendary pioneer in the arena of "gore" or "splatter" flicks, Herschell Gordon Lewis moved smartly from the strictures of academia (he had been a literature professor at the University of Mississippi) to the shadowy world of 1950s "nudie" films to the wide open spaces of regional exploitation filmmaking in the '60s and early '70s. He was not a naturally talented filmmaker; indeed the direction, scripting, performances and production values of even his "best" films could often be remarkably amateurish. However, Lewis has earned a place in the history of American independent filmmaking for upping the ante on the representation of violence (as well as gratuitous sex) in film while demonstrating that commercial genre fare could be produced on a shoestring totally outside the Hollywood system. Lewis became the guru of movie gorehounds because his films retain their power to shock. Furthermore, if one can deal with the carnage, they can be screamingly funny. Herschell Gordon Lewis died on September 26, 2016 at the age of 87, having returned late in life to directing films aimed at his still-substantial fan base.Lewis is credited with inventing the gore film with "Blood Feast" (1963). Shot in Miami in...

Legendary pioneer in the arena of "gore" or "splatter" flicks, Herschell Gordon Lewis moved smartly from the strictures of academia (he had been a literature professor at the University of Mississippi) to the shadowy world of 1950s "nudie" films to the wide open spaces of regional exploitation filmmaking in the '60s and early '70s. He was not a naturally talented filmmaker; indeed the direction, scripting, performances and production values of even his "best" films could often be remarkably amateurish. However, Lewis has earned a place in the history of American independent filmmaking for upping the ante on the representation of violence (as well as gratuitous sex) in film while demonstrating that commercial genre fare could be produced on a shoestring totally outside the Hollywood system. Lewis became the guru of movie gorehounds because his films retain their power to shock. Furthermore, if one can deal with the carnage, they can be screamingly funny. Herschell Gordon Lewis died on September 26, 2016 at the age of 87, having returned late in life to directing films aimed at his still-substantial fan base.

Lewis is credited with inventing the gore film with "Blood Feast" (1963). Shot in Miami in "Blood Color," the film told the absurd story of an insane caterer cum author who, obsessed with resurrecting the spirit of the Egyptian princess Ishtar, goes about hacking off parts of female victims to use as courses in a "Blood Feast" in Ishtar's honor. If the acting was as good as Lewis' gore effects, the movie would have been unwatchable. The canny inclusion of several Playboy Playmates in the cast only served to bolster box office. "Blood Feast" became a huge success on the drive-in circuit.

Much of Lewis' target audience was based in the rural South. This may help explain the subject matter of his second Florida-lensed horror effort, the genuinely unsettling "Two Thousand Maniacs" (1964). Three vacationing couples from the North get detoured to a small southern town called Pleasant Valley and become special guests of honor at the town's centennial celebration. Unfortunately this entails all manner of grisly torture and murder because the villagers are actually ghosts from the Civil War intent on avenging the destruction of their town by the Union army 100 years before. Filming on a budget of less than $40,000, Lewis demonstrated considerable growth as a filmmaker with some good camerawork. Generally acknowledged as Lewis' best work--as well as his personal favorite--"Two Thousand Maniacs," while quite profitable, did not duplicate the success of "Blood Feast."

Initially Lewis was the only filmmaker making this kind of entertainment but many others soon followed. Lewis did not limit himself to splatter; his subsequent credits include sci-fi ("Monster A Go-Go" 1965), juvenile delinquent dramas ("Just for the Hell of It" 1968), and some that defy easy classification ("Something Weird" 1966-68). He is even reputed to have helmed several cheapie kids' flicks! Lewis often wore several hats on his productions, serving as producer, director, cinematographer, composer and special effects man. A number of his films were released under pseudonyms and some never got north of the Mason-Dixon line. His final horror film, "The Gore-Gore Girls" (1972), which featured Henny Youngman as a nightclub owner whose strippers start meeting horrific fates, was one of the first films to receive an "X" rating for violence. After that film, Lewis retired from filmmaking for three decades, becoming an advertising executive. However, his fan base kept growing during the period of his retirement, spurred by the popularity of his films on the home video market. In 2002, Lewis directed his first film in 30 years, "Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat" (2002). This was followed by a quirky horror comedy about a TV game show, "The Uh-Oh! Show" (2009). Although Lewis was attached to a horror anthology called "Zombificador" in 2013, the film was never completed. Herschell Gordon Lewis died in his adopted home of Florida on September 26, 2016. He was 87 years old.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Gore-Gore Girls, The (1972) Director
2.
  Black Love (1972) Director
3.
  Year of the Yahoo! (1971) Director
4.
  This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1971) Director
5.
  Miss Nymphet's Zap-In (1970) Director
6.
  The Wizard of Gore (1970) Director
7.
  Just for the Hell of It (1968) Director
8.
  Suburban Roulette (1968) Director
9.
  She-Devils on Wheels (1968) Director
10.
  The Gruesome Twosome (1968) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Divine Trash (1998)
2.
 A Taste of Blood (1967) Seaman
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Milestones close milestones

:
Worked as a college literature professor at the University of Mississippi
:
Left teaching to become station manager of WRAC Radio in Racine, Wisconsin
:
Moved on to manage WKY-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
:
Entered filmmaking making TV commercials for a Chicago-based advertising agency
1953:
Began supplementing income by teaching mass communications at Roosevelt University in Chicago
:
Became partner in Lewis and Martin Films, a commercial production company co-owned with Martin Schmidhofer
1956:
Met David F. Friedman
:
Worked in 1950s pornography industry producing "nudie" flicks
1960:
"Legitimate" feature debut, produced and directed "The Prime Time", a black-and-white melodrama shot in Chicago; also marked Karen Black's film debut
1963:
Produced (with David F. Friedman and Stanford S. Kohlberg), directed, lensed, scored and provided special effects for "Blood Feast", a landmark exploitation film considered to be the first "gore" or "splatter" film; shot in Miami, Florida, in "Blood Color"
1964:
Directed, scripted, lensed and scored "Two Thousand Maniacs", generally considered his best film; produced by David F. Friedman and shot in St. Cloud, FL, on a budget of less than $40,000; wrote and performed the catchy theme song "The Rebel Yell"
1965:
Directed, wrote and lensed "Color Me Blood Red", shot in Florida and produced by Friedman (their final collaboration); reportedly Lewis and Friedman had a falling out during shooting, the director walked and the producer completed the picture
1965:
Took a hiatus from gore films
:
Made the children's films "Jimmy, The Boy Wonder" and "Santa Visits the Magic Land of Mother Goose"
1967:
Made several "sexploitation" films, "Alley Tramp", "Suburban Roulette", "The Girl, the Body, and the Pill" and "Blast-Off Girls"
1965:
Purchased an unfinished sci-fi flick entitled "Terror at Halfday", added narration and additional footage and released film as "Monster A Go-Go"; under the pseudonym Sheldon Seymour, served as producer and co-director with Bill Rebane
1972:
Produced and directed his final horror film, "The Gore Gore Girls"; one of the first films to receive an X rating for violence
:
Manufactured and sold limited edition collectors' plates
:
Served as president of Communicomp, a direct mail advertising agency that was a division of Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt located in Plantation, Florida
:
Returned to filmmaking as director of "Blood Feast 2: Buffet of Blood" (lensed 2001)
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Education

Northwestern University: Evanston , Illinois -

Notes

"The surprisingly witty Lewis is fond of referring to "Blood Feast" as a 'Walt Whitman poem--it's no good, but it's the first of its type and therefore deserves a certain position'." --From "Nightmare Movies: A Critical Guide to Contemporary Horror Films" by Kim Newman (NY: Harmony Books, 1988)

"Lewis had initiated an exploitation-film trend when he switched from Russ Meyer-style "nudie-cuties" to spectacles of unregenerate Grand Guignol, known in the industry as "gore films". ... "Blood Feast" and its successors featured gruesome murders and eviscerations whose verisimilitude depended mainly on the judicious deployment of animal intestines and whose victims were inevitably half-clad young women. Lewis's films were particularly successful in southern drive-ins but his first critical cult was developed by young French film buffs who had to travel to the more liberal Belgium to see his work. (Told, some years later, that he'd been categorized by Cahiers du Cinema as 'a subject for further research,' Lewis riposted, 'That's what they say about cancer.')" --From "Midnight Movies" by J. Hoberman & Jonathan Rosenbaum (New York: Harper & Row, 1983).

Frank Henenlotter's "Basket Case" (1981) is dedicated to Lewis in its end titles.

On the "auteur" theory, Lewis holds strong opinions: "Anybody can aim a camera. That doesn't require any talent at all. You turn it on and you get a picture. To get people to say, 'I want to see that', you have to have a mastery of primitive psychology. I wasn't a director, I just wanted to get people into the theatre." --From The Independent, July 19, 2001

Family close complete family listing

son:
Robert D Lewis. Columnist, author. Wrote column for InfoWorld; also co-wrote "Selling on the Net" with father.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Businessman's Guide to Advertising and Sales Promotion"
"Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, and His World of Exploitation Films"
"Herschell Gordon Lewis on the Art of Writing Copy" Prentice Hall
"Power Copywriting: Dynamic New Communications Techniques to Help You Sell More Products and Services" Dartnell Corporation
"Everybody's Guide to Plate Collecting" Bonus Books
"Open Me Now" Bonus Books
"Silver Linings: Selling to the Expanding Mature Market" Bonus Books
"The World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters" N T C Publishing Group
"Selling on the Net" N T C Publishing Group
"Cybertalk That Sells" N T C Publishing Group
"How to Write Powerful Fund Raising Letters" Precept Press
"Sales Letters That Sizzle" N T C Publishing Group
"The Advertising Age Handbook of Advertising" N T C Publishing Group
"Catalog Copy That Sizzles : All the Hints, Tips, and Tricks of the Trade You'll Ever Need to Write Copy That Sells" N T C Publishing Group
"On the Art of Writing Copy: The Best of * Print * Broadcast * Internet * Direct Mail" AMACOM
"Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore: The Films" McFarland
"A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis" Creation Publication Group
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