"There Will Be Blood": A Herschell Gordon Lewis Retrospective

Herschell Gordon Lewis made Horror history with 1963's BLOOD FEAST, widely considered to be the first "gore" film. In the years before the MPAA, filmmakers were only limited from showing excessive nudity on-screen. With no rules preventing anyone in the movie industry from depicting gratuitous violence or horrifying bodily dismemberment, H.G. Lewis and business partner David F. Friedman embarked on a series of films that exploited these loose regulations in an attempt to compete with the major studio releases in the drive-in circuit. The two did not ease in to this newly established genre with just a few missing limbs or a severed head, but (literally) covered the screen in blood and butchery from start to finish. This simply had never been done before, and even to this day, Blood Feast, and Lewis' two follow-ups entitled Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red continue to serve as the most shocking and gruesome films in the genre. Take a look back at Herschell Gordon Lewis' original Blood Trilogy in today's feature – There Will Be Blood: A Herschell Gordon Lewis Retrospective!

Blood Feast (1963)

Mrs. Fremont is throwing a dinner party for her daughter's engagement, so in order to impress her guests, she has hired the exotic caterer Fuad Ramses to put on an extravagant feast! What she doesn't know is that Fuad has worked up a special menu made from bits and pieces of the missing girls from around town, which he will be serving as the main course in an Egyptian blood feast to appease the goddess Ishtar!

PSYCHO, this is not; Lewis' listless direction shows all of the style and finesse of an early stag film (another genre with which he was fondly familiar). BLOOD FEAST tastefully implies nothing, and instead plasters the screen in one lurid image after another, using as few camera set-ups and shots as possible for the minimal amount of coverage provided. Lewis and Friedman would tap Playboy playmate Connie Mason to star as the beautiful young bride-to-be, who would also return for their follow-up 2000 MANIACS the next year. Mason, along with her fellow cast members, produce truly horrible performances, but the roles are so poorly acted and outrageously over-the-top that they give way to the highest level of camp. As if the subject matter was not forward enough, Lewis' editing clearly demonstrates his lack of concern with plotting or characterization, as the camera holds on the disfigured remains of Fuad's victims much longer than it ever does for any of the characters in the film.

Using gallons of red paint and nearly an entire butcher's shop of animal entrails, BLOOD FEAST offers everything from a beach full of splattered brains, to a torn out tongue, a hacked off leg, and more in eye-popping color film stock! While this may not seem like much, the method in which the murders are filmed and the absolutely absurd amount of bright-red blood make these moments as memorable as they are completely revolting.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the "Godfather of Gore," has left behind a bloody trail of influence in the wake of this seminal shocker. BLOOD FEAST has had a profound effect on countless young filmmakers, and will continue to live on in the annals of Horror for many years to come.

Rating: 5/10.

Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)

A conveniently placed detour sign on a remote country road lands a group of Northern vacationers right smack dab in the middle of Pleasant Valley's Centennial celebration. The jovial Mayor Buckman invites the newcomers to participate in each of the town's festivities, but what the visitors don't know is that they are being lead to the slaughter as part of the locals' bloody revenge for a Civil War defeat! Herschell Gordon Lewis' drive-in classic TWO THOUSAND MANIACS is a vast improvement over his first gorefest, BLOOD FEAST, complete with a highly imaginative plot and several of the most memorable executions in shock cinema. Of the many carnival games the travelers 'participate' in, the bloodiest include a spiked barrel roll, a four-way horse race, and a smashing game of Hit the Target! The outrageously over-the-top acting and absurd dialog only add to the film's campy charm, but Lewis' no-budget approach to filmmaking produces the same flat results in terms of the actual production. Regardless, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS is the Godfather of Gore's greatest film, and an early milestone in the history of splatter pictures.

Rating: 6/10.

Color Me Blood Red (1965)

His third gore film in three years, COLOR ME BLOOD RED is the last of the three pictures that make up Herschell Gordon Lewis' original 'Blood Trilogy.' It is also the most sophisticated of any of his films, and one that is likely his most personal. It tells the tale of Adam Sorg, a struggling artist that only finds success after he begins painting in his victims' blood! The theme of the tortured artist is taken to absurd new heights (or lows, rather) in this gruesome black comedy. Lewis instills his frustrations with his own lack of critical acclaim through his preferred medium, while commenting on how his only means of receiving any recognition in film was to include more blood and gore. Surprisingly, COLOR is even more visceral than either of the other entries in the series, containing everything from the disemboweling of a model to a brain-splattering shotgun blast to the face. Gordon Oas-Heim also provides an intense performance as the lead, closing out the thrilling climax with a bang! While it rarely ranks as a favorite among fans, this truly is one of Lewis' better films.

Rating: 7/10. Read The Full Post HERE!