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Herschell
Gordon Lewis!!!
Horror fans ALL know Herschell Gordon Lewis as the Godfather of Gore! With an ever growing fanbase for his gore classics 'Blood Feast', '2000 Maniacs', 'Color Me Red', and dozens of other features, Herschell proves he's still as relevant as ever to all his new-found fans. Our new staffer Elaine caught up with the man himself for our loyal Icons Of Fright readers. Check it out! - by Elaine Lamkin. 2/06

IoF: What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? What was the first film you remember really scaring or having an impact on you?

It had to be the original "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi. An indication of societal change is that six-year-olds now laugh at that film.

IoF: You were a teacher of English Literature early in your career. How did this eventually lead to making movies?

That's too long a story to recapitulate here. Quickly, though, one of my appointments at Mississippi State was Director of Broadcasting. From that I eventuated into television and, after shooting some commercials at a small film studio in Chicago, bought a half-interest. We picked up 35mm movie equipment, and that was all I needed to make features.

IoF: You've recorded numerous commentary tracks for your films on DVD. What is it like for you to revisit your films, all these years later on DVD?

It's like having a lost child come home. Some of these, that I thought were lost forever, have resurfaced; others, such as "Moonshine Mountain" (one of my favorites), apparently are lost.

IoF: You occasionally make convention appearances. What's the convention experience like from your perspective and are you surprised still by your ever-growing fanbase?

Of course I'm delighted and gratified. What's surprising is that gorehounds who weren't even born when I shot these no-budget epics are more familiar with their plots and effects than I am.

IoF: Have you had the chance to screen the new remake version of "2001 Maniacs"? I saw footage screened at last year's Fangoria Weekend of Horrors convention and the crowds seemed to love it.

I know nothing about that film and haven't seen it.

IoF: Have there been any films recently that you really enjoyed? Horror or otherwise?

"March of the Penguins" - which, I grant you, is somewhat out of the category. I enjoyed the technical expertise of "Narnia" and, to a lesser degree, "King Kong."

IoF: What was it like getting in the director's chair on "Blood Feast 2" after such a long break from filmmaking?

The single best descriptive word: exhilarating. I can't wait to have another opportunity.

IoF: You've always offered great advice to beginning filmmakers. What can you offer as advice in the new digital age of filmmaking?

Keep your ego and your "auteur" attitude out of the mix. Think of the potential viewers out there who neither know nor care that you're a genius. And oh, yes - don't hand-hold the camera.

IoF: Film seems to be back in the hands of the common, independent filmmaker again. How do you think this current era compares with when you were making films?

Except for direct-to-video release, I disagree with that statement. The major difference in marketing is that too many producers don't think competitively and haven't much of a clue about campaigns.

IoF: Was there ever any litigation or attempt to file criminal charges against you for your gore films?

Litigation, no. Threats, plenty. Some of my movies still are banned in strange places. I'm told that just last year Australia banned "The Gore-Gore Girls" - which had been showing there for thirty years.

IoF: I thought "Year of the Yahoo" was lost? How did it get "found" for the DVD release?

Beats me. Ask Jimmy Maslon and Mike Vraney, my resuscitators.

IoF: Ok, I have to get this straight. You've made, "A Taste of Blood" "The Gruesome Twosome", "Blood Feast", "The Magic Land of Mother Goose"? Hey! Explain that last one.

I had cameras, crew, and an ancient VW bus. I could be and was an itinerant production company. I made "The Magic Land of Mother Goose" for a third party.

IoF: You are considered, let me quote the IMDb, "arguably the best-known direct response writer and consultant in the United States." So share with us, Granddaddy of Gore, what do we have to do in order for Icons of Fright to take over the world?

Easy! Tailor your product for the logical audience, not for your adoring family and friends. While you're at it, respect budget.

IoF: How did you go about creating the special effects in your Trilogy of Blood films? Particularly in "Two Thousand Maniacs!" as some of those same "kills" are being recreated in "2001 Maniacs". I know the barrel roll in particular is being recreated.

As I said, I haven't seen "2001 Maniacs." The barrel-roll was an easy effect. After all, it was only an actor, and that was his last scene.

IoF: At the most recent Chiller convention, you were reunited with several of the cast members from "Two Thousand Maniacs!" How did that feel - like old home week or "My God! Has that much time gone by?"

It was heartwarming.

IoF: What is your opinion on the current state of horror films? All of the remakes and films being rated PG-13. Do you think it's time someone stepped in and really shook things up? Returned us to the "good old days" of horror when everything didn't rely on CGI and teenagers?

If we make "Grim Fairy Tales" we'll add a notch to the horror film belt. Yes, too many contemporary films are either thin, repetitive, or derivative.

IoF: Have you noticed any directors recently that you think have the potential to shake up the horror industry, bring it back to its roots?

I'm the wrong person to answer that question, because any answer would seem competitive. The big names, such as Peter Jackson and Ron Howard, obviously have neither an interest nor an understanding of this byway.

IoF: What do you consider the most important element in a good horror film?

Keeping the audience off-balance. That's why unrelieved horror, without humor-breaks, isn't a contemporary approach to horror film entertainment.

Interview by Elaine Lamkin
January 2006


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