8-9-63, Chicago area – Blood Feast and Scum of the Earth playing at Stan Kohlberg’s theaters. Kohlberg was an uncredited part of the money team behind Blood Feast who owned a number of screens in the Chicago-land area including some Drive Ins which included one in Gary, Indiana. Although the Lewis/Friedman/Kohlberg team would end up in a battle by the time of Color Me Blood Red over monies that was supposed to be aimed for a production company, at least the film-making part of the trio learned from one another and would later team up once again to prove that we were gluttons for all we could eat of their films! Still, this is a time to remember on the best of what happened, which brings to mind this wonderful work of art…I mean it!
4-5-63, Kohlberg Theaters, Chicago area (The 53 was in Palantine, Starlite in Chicago Ridge) – Reportedly this ad for one of the many movie ghoul shows played at Kohlberg’s Drive Ins was the work of Lewis and Friedman.
Like many of these shows, it would have all the wildness you could imagine a Drive In show to have for “Girl Ghouls, Jean-Agers, and Groan Ups!” – in other words, don’t take the kids!
9-23-63 – A full ad for Goldilocks and the Three Bares at Thomas Dowd’s Capri – note the re-title. This ad capture also features the Woods playing Damaged Goods. Both titles would be released on VHS and DVD through Something Weird Video. Kind of wild and…weird, really!
Goldilocks… was the next to the last chapter of the Lewis/Friedman production team making a Nudie Cutie in Florida at any nature camp that would not mind. During the Winter months, they would travel to Miami or nearby, a move that resulted in making Blood Feast around the Spring of 1963. Two Thousand Maniacs! was made in St. Cloud, Florida later that year following the success of Blood Feast and the making of Bell, Bare, and Beautiful, and the Roughie, Scum of the Earth.
7-25-64, High Point, NC (or technically, Archdale) – the Tar Heel Drive In was a major center for Exploitation. According to Lewis history, Dominant Pictures was a strong company and Sub-distributor for Lewis’ movies through the Carolinas, Georgia,and Jacksonville, Florida which would usually hit the Drive Ins and some Hard-Tops. In this business, the more connection you had with the Sub Distributors in a certain area, the better (Look what happened to Hemisphere and Mercury Pictures in Kansas City that led to Bev Miller being a part of Blood Island history!)
10-22-64, Greenwood, SC – Greetings from Moonshine Mountain! In the aftermath of the battle between Lewis and Kohlberg – the later would tour the Blood Trilogy for years, resulting in an amusing 1976 showing I will get to later – Dominant Pictures would be behind the first of the Director’s Hillbilly Flick movies. Featuring some of Lewis’ best actors including Jeffery Allen of Two Thousand Maniacs!, this would play the rural areas easy. The music reflected his love of Bluegrass very well.
12-12-64, Scum of the Earth in San Antoinio – The Prince was a once-strong theater that turned into an Arthouse by the 60’s which featured films which would move into the Something Weird Video world. The theater’s ads were small and column-width featuring well-played films, although some of which had their first showings in the area – these films mainly toured. By 1969 it would go out of business.
6-19-64, Chicago – The Plaza was a theater that turned Arthouse by The 60’s until it’s demise later in the decade (possibly 1967-8). Featuring the “Plaza Playmates” a la Playboy’s bunnies, this was another Chicago-land theater which housed Lewis’ Cuties with ease.
4-30-65 – A Plaza date for Scum of the Earth. Back in the day, Adult movies would more or less tour as the number of these theaters would grow by the number. With so many movies in this field at the time and only a few hundred screens, these movies would find a screen, play there, maybe get lucky to have two weeks, then move. Some ads would lie about being a “First Run” mainly because it would be a good guess that most of the audience already forgot.
11-12-65, Kansas City – In one of the lucky shots of all time, Moonshine Mountain appeared with Russ Meyer’s Mudhoney aka Rope of Flesh! Two Exploitation titans!
After putting some of the pieces together, I have some thoughts about how the madness worked back then which I hope are on the right track.
A major lesson learned by looking through HG Lewis’ career was that even if you have the most out-there films or if you had a sordid film about whatever was the topic that was spoke about in whispers or one-on-one, both of which he had plenty of, it was nothing without both an eye-catching campaign and – most importantly – connections to get your movies played. Through The 60’s, Lewis’ connections from David F. Friedman, Stan Kholberg, Fred Sandy, and others would grow strong enough to form a history of how these films played in the US Exploitation market before VHS turned everything around.
In every market, there were Movie Ghouls (like us, really!) who went to places like the Drive Ins, the small theaters in the area that wanted a new show but without the means to get big major company (which led to Exploitation a Go Go!), and the ran down theater on Main Street that was the last-run dead end where hardly anyone from the mainstream wanted to go to. There were Rockers, Outcasts, JDs, DGs, Weirdos, Arthouse customers, and just about anyone else that wanted a sensation they could not see on TV back in the days when one could only get between 5-10 different stations nearby (maybe 20 if you count Late Night UHF crawls on a clear evening with a good antenna!). True, there were shows for the wild stuff on television, but there was nothing like seeing it on the big screen with a group of people no matter how big or small it was, and sometimes a film that would catch their eyes wold play one of the big screens if they were lucky.
To the theaters and the movie makers, it was all a business, and we knew that these films were made as entertainment – anything else that is talked about now was seen later on in retrospect. We wanted to check out the wild stuff and to see if it lived to it’s word and in this case, the best of HG Lewis’ films delivered!
It’s time to “Monster” a Go Go out of here for now. Next up, some “Unusual” stuff that’s Something Weird and colored blood red will happen. More later!