HG Lewis’ Movie Madness Remembered – Part One: A “Gore”-met of Greatness 1963-4
4-29-64, The Feast that Shocked and Rocked LA!
(* Just to offer you the Edit Information to be kept up for the next few days – the correct age of his passing is 90. The correct information of his birth in 1926 was offered in the essential Re/Search book Incredibly Strange Films, Page 18. To be honest, I seriously should have contacted my well-read edition of that book and read the full official statement from Something Weird Video. Serious apologies to all!)
Herschell Gordon Lewis, one of the legends of Exploitation Cinema and of Advertising, passed away on at 90 and has left a history of movies and marketing mayhem that’s proven influential and timeless. “He seen something different, and he done it” can sum up a lot of his life, especially when one remembers the 4-letter word connected with some of his best movies that is G-O-R-E, but it took a lot of hard work, risk taking, and daring moves. Viewing the movie industry as a business first might have been seen as cold to those who may never take that first step into the reality of the Cinema scene, but it shows as the ultimate truth the more one reads his interviews although the element of having fun and having a strong positive attitude is also also part of the plan.
This is a small collection of classic (and class-sick) moments of his career. This first post has some familiar sights for the Scene, but to those just looking in, these are great ads that personify his Exploitation world that rocked, shocked, and set the level for Exploitation for the next couple of decades.
3-6-50 – Already hinting at his future, Tweak the first line and you might wind up with Lessons in Copy Writing and Marketing Mastery. This was a short lived venture when Lewis lived in Pennsylvania after his time as a Teacher of English, Humanities, and Journalism at the University of Mississippi, but at least it was a start!
9-17-61, Toledo – The first two feature films connected to Lewis were produced by Mid-Continent Films, which quickly went out of business. Thankfully, David F. Friedman was around to market them to available screens, solidifying a legendary business partnership.
Friedman’s Exploitation connections as a Distributor and promoter were already legendary while he was sharpening up his Producer skills that would take him to the next level by the time he moved to California. In Toledo, Stripper Rose la Rose was a main player in the area who encouraged them to whip up some shorts for her business – after all, they were easier to manage than the talent. With the rise in Adult Sin-ema, Friedman knew that one full feature would be a better game than a bunch of simple reels.
What happened next…
2-7-62, Toledo – The famed appearance of The Adventures of Lucky Pierre at the Gayety in Toledo, OH. The Nudie Cutie was born out of both competition to Russ Meyer’s groundbreaking The Immoral Mr. Teas and knowing that programming a full feature was better than playing a bunch of shorts and dealing with troublesome performers on stage and in the band. It also was fun to watch, as well.
5-11-62, Chicago – A showing of Lucky Pierre at the Capri, ran by Tom Dowd which was an Arthouse that turned into an Exploitation house. Dowd would be behind the scenes of the Friedman/Lewis Cuties including Goldilocks and the Three Bares and would later help Lewis in the films made in California in 1969.
8-8-63, Burlington, NC – the Circle G was a Drive In that focused on Exploitation and would later turn Adult, a perfect place for Lewis’ films to show up. At that time, the DIs ads were great, and the product placement of Blood Feast in other sections of the paper would result in both controversy and massive interest. Through the years, North and South Carolina would prove to be among the best states for his films.
10-25-63, Indianapolis – “ALL YOU KIDS MAKE ME SICK!” – Scum of the Earth might not be the Roughest of the Roughies, but is was among the first of it’s kind. It’s Indianapolis play was at the area’s leading Arthouse of the day. A great film, seriously!
11-15-63, Syracuse, New York – A favorite Blood Feast ad that saw the appearance of Horror Show host Barron Daemon.
4-15-64, Toledo at the Palace. Through the 50’s to around 1967, the theater offered a lot of Exploitation, Rock and Roll, JD and “Art” movies in it’s last years. It even showed Plan 9 from Outer Space in 1959. A perfect screen for Blood Feast!
5-1-64, Pelham, NC – The South DI was just south of the Virginia/North Carolina border and a few miles South from Danville, VA. This was one of the usual haunts for a Lewis film to be played. Inspired by the musical Brigadoon, Two Thousand Maniacs! took the concept beyond and back with over-the-top effects and a wonderful music soundtrack featuring Lewis on the classic theme song.
10-31-64, Detroit – The Fox in Downtown Detroit once was THE place for Exploitation films up until 1981. Very fitting for a Halloween show, and the first of many Lewis films to play the theater.
12-30-64, Detroit – A great ad for Two Thousand Maniacs! at the Riviera, a theater that would turn into a concert hall by the end of the decade (The Grande Riviera would reside there for a few months).
Winding this up with a recent find, and something that ways that the performance will always outlast the critics…
2-4-74 – Critics and Snobs be Damned, and Feast Goes On! The classic Blood Trilogy in the LA area. The changes in the line-up was the State’s showing of the first successful “Children of the Gore”, David Durston’s I Drink Your Blood, and two Drive Ins showing George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead in replacement of Color Me Blood Red.