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Adam Jahnke - Main Page

Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore (DVD)

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Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore
2010 (2011) - Something Weird/Image
Released on DVD on September 27th, 2011

Over the last few years, we've seen a number of excellent documentaries about the exploitation film industry, including Not Quite Hollywood and American Grindhouse. But only a handful of them focus on individual filmmakers. This isn't entirely surprising. Many of the landmark filmmakers from the golden age of exploitation are no longer with us. But Herschell Gordon Lewis is and his is a story worth telling.

Directed by Lewis disciples Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon, The Godfather Of Gore follows H.G.'s career from his early nudie cuties like The Adventures Of Lucky Pierre to his notorious Blood Trilogy and into his farewell from filmmaking in the early 70s with movies like The Wizard Of Gore.


We hear from Lewis himself, along with associates like former partner David F. Friedman, photographer Bunny Yeager, stock players Ray Sager and Jerome Eden, and many others. There's also appreciative but candid commentary from such notable fans as John Waters, Joe Bob Briggs, and Henenlotter himself.

Predictably, a lot of time is given over to The Blood Trilogy and if you've already waded through the commentaries on those movies, some of these stories will be familiar to you. But Henenlotter and Maslon manage to cover new ground as well. The nudist camp movie phenomenon hasn't been particularly well documented yet. The documentary goes into some detail on early movies like Daughter Of The Sun and the awesomely titled Boin-n-g! The late Bill Kerwin, star of Blood Feast and several other HGL productions, comes across as a hard-working, dependable, and genuinely nice guy, despite his heavy drinking and smoking.

The interviews are laced with a generous number of clips and outtakes from Lewis' films. The directors also avoid lapsing into the talking-head arena with some creative staging. The discussion of Two Thousand Maniacs! is staged as a reunion in St. Cloud, Florida, in the very hotel where the movie was shot. As for Lewis himself, he's a born raconteur and seems reasonably aware of his place in film history. He's proud of the fact that Blood Feast was a success but is the first to admit that it isn't a particularly good movie. If the documentary has a serious flaw, it's that it doesn't really explore why Lewis left filmmaking behind to become a massively successful pioneer in direct marketing advertising (although it's fair to assume that the big reason was money).

Released on DVD, The Godfather Of Gore is a solid release with good video and audio, although nobody's going to be picking this up hoping for a demo disc. Extras include over an hour of deleted scenes almost as good as what's in the film itself. These include more anecdotes and touch on movies not covered in the feature, including the utterly terrible-looking Miss Nymphet's Zap-In. You also get a short film by Lewis, Hot Night At The Go-Go Lounge, featuring two topless dancers showing off their moves, a gallery of exploitation art, and a reel of trailers from most of the movies covered.

It's not entirely accurate to call The Godfather Of Gore a love letter to Herschell Gordon Lewis. It's an affectionate tribute, sure. It acknowledges his significance in film history but stops short of saying these are really great movies that should be re-evaluated. Lewis' movies are what they are and you either like them or you don't. Even if you don't, you may come away from The Godfather Of Gore with a renewed appreciation for the man and his legacy.

Film Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B/B/B+


Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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