All Hail the Godfather Of Gore!!!

This bloodsoaked batch of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT highlights the three notorious horror films that comprise the infamous H.G. Lewis “Blood” trilogy: “Blood Feast,” “Two Thousand Maniacs,” and “Color Me Blood Red!” These pioneering efforts are personal favorites of mine, and should be considered mandatory viewing for all splatter flick fans.

In honor of the “Godfather of Gore” himself, Hershell Gordon Lewis – LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

BLOOD FEAST (1963)

A twisted caterer named Fuad Ramses goes on a brutal killing rampage in an bizarre effort to bring the Egyptian goddess Shitar back to life. Ramses frequently indulges in the wholesale slaughter and mutilation of nubile young girls, and collects their freshly removed body parts for use in the creation of the forbidden feast of the golden goddess. A blood feast, if you will. Police investigate, but are dumbfounded by the lack of physical evidence or motive.

Meanwhile, a trendy and dimwitted aging socialite wanders into Ramses’ shop. Fuad uses his hypnotic powers of persuasion to convince her to allow him to cater her daughter’s upcoming birthday bash. The Friedmont family thinks this Egyptian feast will be the social event of the season. Little do they know that the crazy caterer intends on serving up a weird and grisly ancient rite – in blood color!

The one that started it all. They don’t call legendary writer/director Herschell Gordon Lewis “The Godfather Of GORE” for nothing. Lewis, along with his producer and partner in crime David F. Friedman paved the way for all splatter flicks to follow by being the very first to use hardcore blood and gore as an exploitive element. Armed with a fifteen page script, a small cast of rather inept amateur actors, a shooting schedule of seven days, and less than $25,000 for a total budget, the dynamic duo created an instant genre classic. A truly outrageous little film that was a big success.

The ads screamed “Nothing So Appalling In The Annals Of Horror!” and they weren’t lying. Audiences were shocked in their seats, wide eyed and open mouthed as they soaked in the sights. Even the most jaded drive in flick fanatics had to have been blown away by never before seen moments of explicit carnage such as messy eyeball, tongue, and heart removal, or hacksaw dismemberment! It didn’t take Lewis & Friedman long to realize that they had struck gory gold and they quickly used the profits to begin work on a follow up film. A new era of over the top violent exploitation had begun, and the motion picture industry would never be the same.

All of that said, I am obviously incredibly forgiving of this film. I can happily ignore the obvious flaws, such as the horrible acting, slack pacing (it’s amazing how a 67 minute film can DRAG so much!) and the soundtrack consisting solely of drums and sad trumpet farts, and just go along for the wild ride. I refuse to use the term “so bad it’s good” when describing this movie, so instead I’ll say that “Blood Feast” will be much appreciated by fans of bad acting. Many unintentional laughs are provided by the odd, overwrought monologues woodenly delivered by characters such as the smooth talking and forgetful Tony (“I CAN’T REMEMBER!”) and the grieving and melodramatic mother of the girl who had her brains removed by Fuad at the beach. (“SHE’LL NEVER WEAR IT!”) I’m especially fond of the wooden performance of Scott H. Hall as the hard boiled police chief. Pretty much every line Scott gets is a clas-sick. (“This guy’s UNCANNY!”) His closing quip as he admires the crushed remains of the psycho killer is priceless.

Then there’s the one and only Connie Mason. The stunning June 1963 Playmate of the month made a particularly gorgeous leading lady. Sadly, she possessed about as much acting ability as a coffee table, and therefore came across as being about as bright as a box of hammers on camera. Connie manages to steal every scene she’s in, simply by looking so absolutely fuckable. The scenes of Connie and her gal pals lounging around the pool in their bikinis are fantastic. Friedman coughed up $175 for Connie to star in “Blood Feast,” and it was truly money well spent. Having a Playmate in the movie was another major selling point. Connie obviously had a good time making the film, as she agreed to work with Friedman and Lewis again the following year.

This is truly a clas-sick. Without “Blood Feast” there would be no “Bloodsucking Freaks,” no “Basket Case,” no “The Burning.” No matter how primitive the gore effects in “Blood Feast” may seem by Savini standards, there is no denying how shocking and effective they are. It was all way too much for tender hearted theater owners in the 60’s and 70’s to handle, and the film was often butchered down to a brief 58 minute running time. I can’t even imagine how frustrating it would be to try to sit through a viewing with all of the beautiful blood and guts removed.

Fortunately, horror fans of today don’t have to worry about that sort of bullshit. Something Weird Video has released a spectacular dvd of BLOOD FEAST that is 100% uncut and features a treasure trove of special features including a commentary track with H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman, the trailer, and 44 minutes of rare outtake footage!

 

 

TWO THOUSAND MANIACS (1964)

A small southern town called Pleasant Valley (population: 2000) magically appears “Brigadoon” style every 100 years. The townsfolk of Pleasant Valley were slaughtered by Union troops during the Civil War, and return from the dead with an appetite for revenge. A group of six northern travelers (led by “Blood Feast” survivor Connie Mason) are tricked into taking a detour into Pleasant Valley and wind up as the guests of honor for the big centennial celebration. Unfortunately for the unsuspecting yankees, the southern hospitality hides a secret agenda, and the sweet as pie townsfolk are really hellacious hillbillies crazed for carnage! The two thousand maniacs are preparing a centennial feast of southern fried blood vengeance – and it will be brutal, evil, and ghastly beyond belief!

Fueled by the profits of “Blood Feast,” H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman returned to Florida for their follow up film. This time around they were armed with a seventy page script, a large cast of rather inept amateur actors, a shooting schedule of two whole weeks, and almost three times as much total budget. The end result was a tongue in cheek gore epic full of nasty murders and lots of down home, good ol’ boy humor. Animal lovers will enjoy the little brat who runs around with a noose looking for a cat to have some fun with, and seeing a man have his limbs removed by horses! Despite the savage subject matter, the pacing and production values are greatly improved, and this is easily one of Lewis’ more polished looking efforts.

“Two Thousand Maniacs” is just as bloody as “Blood Feast.” It features some incredibly over the top murder set pieces, including a bizarre “dunk the clown” styled game where a giant boulder crushes a chick, and a poor bastard that gets rolled down a hill inside a wooden barrel studded with large nails! One of the sickest parts of the movie is the gleeful, wide eyed reactions of the bumpkin butchers as they slice and dice their way through their victims. Some people find this film to be the most disturbing of the trilogy for that reason alone. There’s a really great sequence where a chick has her thumb removed with a knife, and is then dismembered with an axe. The hillbillies’ demented cackling and the huge smiles on their faces as they hack off the poor girl’s limbs for barbecue is what makes this scene a clas-sick.

Arguably just as important to the picture as the plentiful gore, was the absolutely incredible soundtrack. The multi-talented H.G. Lewis wrote the immortal theme song “Rebel Yell: The South’s Gonna Rise Again,” which was performed by the cast and The Pleasant Valley Boys. It is IMPOSSIBLE to watch this movie without that song getting stuck in your head! Other great songs by The Pleasant Valley Boys like “Old Joe Clark” and “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” are featured throughout, ensuring a toe tappin’, blood splattin’ good ol’ time.Yeeeee Hah! The south’s gonna rise again!

This backwoods beauty is Lewis’ personal favorite of his films, and I have to agree. TWO THOUSAND MANIACS is available in a fantastic special edition dvd thanks to the fine folks at Something Weird Video. The bonus features include a commentary track with H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman, trailers, stills galleries of exploitation art and about 10 minutes of footage of Connie Mason combing her hair!

 

 

COLOR ME BLOOD RED (1965)

Adam Sorg is a greasy and bug eyed avant garde artist struggling to sell more paintings. His work is suffering from a profound lack of inspiration (and talent) and he doesn’t know what to do about it. That all changes one day when his girlfriend accidentally cuts herself on a nail and her blood drips onto one of his paintings. Sorg is instantly inspired and begins painting with his blood, which he messily squeezes from cuts in his fingers. His bizarre and bloody finished creation is a huge critical success and Adam is immediately pressured by his agent for a follow up.

It doesn’t take long for Adam’s sliced up fingers to run dry, so he decides to kill his girlfriend for a fresh supply of crimson color. There’s a priceless moment where Adam paints using her severed head as a brush! After he eventually uses up all of her blood he is forced to prowl the beach around his home looking for new victims. He snuffs a pair of prowling paddle boat enthusiasts and then sets his sights on a pretty young girl he believes would make a perfect model for his ultimate blood stained masterpiece.

This fun little flick was promoted as “A Blood Splattered Study In The Macabre,” and it plays more for laughs than “Blood Feast” and “Two Thousand Maniacs.” As expected, it still packs a nasty punch with plenty of bloody intestine removal and squeezing, shotgunned faces, and worm ridden bodies. In the proud tradition of “Blood Feast,” it suffers from bad acting and slack pacing. A lot of the running time is wasted on endless scenes of paddle boats and an incredibly annoying “groovy” teenage couple that talk in jive and wear wacky wigs. These idiots eventually stumble upon the rotting remains of one of Sorg’s victims, which inspires the immortal line: “Holy bananas! It’s a girl’s leg!”

“Color Me Blood Red” marked the last time that director H.G. Lewis and producer David F. Friedman would work together on a project for over forty years! Shortly after finishing the film the two long time friends and business partners had a falling out and went their separate ways. Despite the troubled post production, the finished film was a success. When “Color Me Blood Red” was combined with the already successful double feature of “Blood Feast” and “Two Thousand Maniacs” the infamous BLOOD TRILOGY was born! This triple threat assaulted drive in and grind house audiences for years and never failed to pack them in.

The ever prolific Lewis went on to write, direct, and produce several more films throughout the sixties and early seventies including fan favorites like “The Gruesome Twosome,” “She Devils On Wheels,” ”The Gore Gore Girls,” and “The Wizard Of Gore.” He remains active as a director to this day, and the long awaited “Blood Feast 2: All You Can Eat” was released in 2002.

David F. Friedman went on to produce numerous exploitation epics over the years including the cult classic “Blood Freak,” “The Acid Eaters,” and the notorious “Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS!” Thank you David. You knew how to spend your money! As a lover of sleaze, I salute you! He was also credited as an executive producer for “Blood Feast 2” and the “Two Thousand Maniacs” remake – “2001 Maniacs.”

Like “Blood Feast” and “Two Thousand Maniacs,” COLOR ME BLOOD RED is available on dvd from Something Weird Video. Lots of goodies on this one, including the original trailer and outtake footage. Best of all is the incredible commentary track with H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman! The two legends talk happily about the film, and their past history. They also go into great detail about the situation that led to their partnership ending shortly after the film was finished. This is a fascinating listen, and makes this dvd even more of an essential purchase for horror fans.

 

All hail the Godfather of Gore! KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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