HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE (2010)
Directed by Frank Henenlotter, Jimmy Malson
Starring Herschell Gordon Lewis, David F. Friedman, Frank Henenlotter, Mal Arnold, John Bloom, John Waters, Ray Sager, Bunny Yeager
I love documentaries focusing on horror through the ages. Not only do they provide a much-needed history lesson in the annals of horror, but they also provide a glimpse at America’s own history through the eyes of a camera lens from actors, directors, writers, and fans that have spent many a night watching horror. If you’re a horror enthusiast, you know about Herschell Gordon Lewis. He coined the tern gore in cinema and applied it heavily to many of his low budget films, but THE GODFATHER OF GORE does a great job of providing some of the backstory behind this iconic figure in the horror genre.
I found the parts talking about Lewis’ ingenuity through the years to be most fascinating. Reminiscent of horror greats who incorporate the showman effect to his work like his peers Roger Corman, Charles Band, and Lloyd Kauffman, Lewis seems to be a man who sees the holes in popular culture and knows how to fill them, rising to opportunity when it is most beneficial. Sure, his films were somewhat badly acted and shoddily shot, but the fact that he was the first making films which relied so much on gore makes his work iconic, historic, and unique. Lewis painted the screen with Technicolor reds, staining the audiences’ minds in a crimson gruesome hue. John Waters comments that much of the way Lewis staged his films was like a porno with the payoff being a gory and sticky finish comparable to the cum-shot. A crude, but accurate description.
Lewis comes off as a charming and somewhat stubborn director with a will and craftiness that couldn’t be beat. Hearing the stories that went on behind the scenes of some of Lewis’ classics such as BLOOD FEAST, 2000 MANIACS, and WIZARD OF GORE makes the films themselves richer and more enjoyable. Made before Lewis passed away in 2016, Lewis provides many charming anectdotes and descriptions of his continued love of the horror genre. The documentary kind of sags in the end, making me think that this might have been a tighter documentary if it were only an hour, but nevertheless, it is a fountain of great stories about a filmmaker who definitely stained his mark on the horror industry. Highly recommended.