For the Memory of Herschell Gordon Lewis 15 June 1926 – 2016
The idea of who brought blood and gore to motion pictures is not a certain thing (obviously the milestone moment of Blood Itself making its appearance in a motion picture is Psycho, but talking what movie really didn’t sanitize the matter and really indulged in the violent shades of red), but I can’t think of many people who actually know their way through horror cinema disputing the concept that the credit belongs to “The Godfather of Gore (and Direct Marketing according to his personal website)” Herschell Gordon Lewis. I don’t think the Direct Marketing aspect is an inaccurate self-observation – he didn’t always do horror pictures, but spent all of his career essentially mapping out and following the trends of cinema. What could be made cheap and quick and get some big damn return was on Lewis’ mind, but notably with his early nude pictures.
When the nude pictures were starting to lose their underground appeal, Lewis and his producer collaborator David Friedman jumped straight into horror and reached for the most shocking exploitative usage of gore and blood as they possibly could, selling their pictures on those extremities and forever making their mark in horror film history with their first indulgence in that genre, Blood Feast – a film about a crazed Egyptian slaughtering people to sacrifice to his Ancient Egyptian God. Amongst the bloodiness of its scenes, Blood Feast is also notorious for being the oldest film in the UK DPP’s Video Nasties list – movies prosecuted under their Obscene Publications Act in an attempt to censor them.
These movies were honestly… not good. None of them. I don’t think Lewis made good movies (nor did he, I think given some of his interviews… especially this one by Juan Barquin for YAM Magazine). Some are among the worst movies I’ve ever seen, like Blood Feast itself. But I think a good amount of them are a joy to watch nevertheless, like Blood Feast again, which I’d recommend to you all right this second as so-bad-it’s-good good damn time. And to be real, I don’t think another filmmaker was able to have such pride in their status as truly meritless shlock in every way it can be considered art. It suggests a charming and down-to-earth personality which, given that here in S. Florida, I know of enough people who have either met (like yours truly) or been good friends with Lewis, can be confirmed by anyone who has encountered him.
And again… when it comes to making the blood fill the screen, most people agree he did it first. Sometimes, you don’t have to do it best.
Anyway, Blood Feast was my real introduction to the filmmaker (as per a marathon of the Blood trilogy held by my former A Night at the Opera co-host Britt Rhuart) and I thought it would be nice to revisit that movie in an urthodox manner. By trying to adapt it as a recipe for a feast akin to what Fuad is preparing for his victims (and with his victims). Nobody can cook it like Lewis, but why not take a look at what makes up the feast from the very beginning?
- 10 Gallons of flop sweat from my boy Mal Arnold’s beady eyed forehead heat in the Miami sun playing the buggy Fuad Ramses.
- Maybe a box of Just For Men on that grey hair on him too. But seriously, man, somebody get Arnold an AC.
- 30 whole books on Egyptian culture and history. We ain’t gonna read these, we’re gonna burn them. A movie like Blood Feast ain’t got no need for cultural accuracy or correctness. We’re not making goddamn Citizen Kane here.
- 118 lb.s of white meat named Connie Mason. That’s literally all she will function as… meat. It’s not like she put anything into her performance.
- Also get some more white meat for the supporting cast surrounding Arnold and Mason, but make sure they literally can’t intone anything to sound human in their whole life. That’s very important.
- -5 functioning lightbulbs. Like literally buy them and then break them.
- 7 cans of gold spray paint.
- 1 department store mannequin to spray that gold on. It will be the classiest thing in the movie.
- A basketful of hats no living being should be seen wearing for Lyn Bolton.
- 20 virgins. The movie is classy enough to suggest them as sacrifices and it’s not like it’ll be worse than appearing in this movie.
- However, you can contain South Florida heat, you fucking get it. And contain it. It’s a necessary ingredient it adds that spicy flavor and that Florida Man tastefulness to it.
- 10,000 buckets of red paint as crimson as we imagine blood to be in our nightmares.
- 6 sheeps worth of body parts and organs from eyes to stomach to tongue, not a bit of sheep wasted without being used in the name of art.
- Really that last ingredient was an understatement, we want all the blood and gore you can give. Not some, dude. ALL of the blood and gore.
- Also all the red curtains you can get. It’s gonna look like a magic show in the Black Lodge up in this bitch.
- Y’know what? Grab a canvas too, because this is gonna be a work of art, yo!
- Write the lines to the hands of at least one of those sacks of white meat (btw, you should probably refer to them as actors).
- Don’t mix those actors together very well, we’re not looking for chemistry at all by any means.
- Paint it all black.
- Burn down your script.
- Mesh all the listed ingredients together and shove it into your over. Heat at the highest you can go and for an indefinite amount of time.
- This is probably a good time to state I can’t cook and you shouldn’t listen to me.
- Let your house burn down. Don’t walk out of the house. This is fine. This is as insane as the movie is for sure.
- Go make the table while you’re at it. Invite your friends, have a bunch of beers, and pizza.
- Go watch Blood Feast right now, it’s a good time.
Farewell, Lewis. Thanks for the meal!