Tuesday, June 18, 2013


"It wasn't the greatest picture in the world, but it had sprocket holes and it could run through the machine." - Dave Friedman on "The Living Venus," the first 'film' he made with his equally legendary partner Herschell Gordon Lewis, the 'Godfather of Gore.' Frank Henenlottera story in his own right, directed this fast moving and enthralling documentary on H.G. and the phenomenon he created. H.G.'s films are truly awful, committed to celluloid with a decided taste for money and disregard for art, which makes him the ultimate Dada hero with an incredible 'oeuvre' to show for it! The doc gives you a play by play in the often told story of how H.G and pals cultivated this most disreputable, but highest grossing side of horror cinema. They don't talk about the live Grand Guignol theater he ran in Chicago for a time, but do interview the late Daniel Krogh, who worked on Lewis' later films and wrote "The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis, and His World of Exploitation Films," which is where I read about the live stage stuff. Another great quote surfaces when Lewis cinematographer Andy Romanoff talks about the shoot of "A Taste of Blood," H.G's calling card to Corman that almost got him hired up to the second tier of b-movies. Andy's romance with a starlet led to his attempt to light her stylishly, taking his time in doing so. Lewis then retorts: "The problem I had with Andy Romanoff was, he wanted to make a good movie!" This doc is of key interest to anyone who gravitates to the cult, the horror, the underground, the depraved, the weird, and the outre, especially in terms of films and filmmaking. Should have been made 20 years ago at least! Thank you Something Weird for making this happen, and all the cast, crew etc. Highlights include H.G.'s son Robert talking about his father, like the story he tells about how pops was nearly beheaded while filming at a demolition derby when a stray tire missed him by an inch and how 'hilarious' it was. And also every time earnest "Blood Feast" star Mal Arnold is on screen to tell his tales with innocent abandon. Surprise revelation that almost deserves a whole other documentary is the pieced together story of Lewis' erstwhile star Bill "Rooney" Kerwin, a career b-move actor, bit-player, alcoholic and "sex maniac" who eerily mirrors Bob Crane as described in Paul Schrader's "Auto Focus." Allow me to add that for all his seeming ineptitude, H.G. knew what he was doing every step of the way, whether you liked it or not. Cinematic quality was not his main goal of course, and when you consider what he was after and how he achieved it, you realize his brilliance. Moreover the side product of all this, believe it or not, is that some of these films, from "Blood feast" to "2,000 Maniacs, "She-Devils on Wheels," and especially "The Wizard if Gore" are actual masterpieces in their own rights, for a variety of reasons, intentional, or not! Long live H.G.L., who celebrated his 83rd b-day last Saturday, June 15th, 2013.

1 comment:

  1. My fave HGL moment is the five to seven minute continuous, static-shot take at the beginning of "Just For the Hell of It" when the teens utterly destroy a suburban boosh-wah-zee living room--and then smash the wreckage some more (for no other reason than HGL's shouting at them, "Keep smashing! There's still film in the camera!", I am sure).

    Thanks SqD! This is a film I've got to check out (or steal from you: heh-heh-heh...)
    P.S. HGL's 2002 Blood Fest 2 is worth checking out: great gore!