The Godfather of Gore

In the vast history of that magical art we call movies (is that what you call it, too?), few can be credited with actually creating a whole new genre of film. One of these pioneers is the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis. A onetime English professor, Lewis started making exploitation films in the early 1960s, mostly softcore nudie flicks. With 1963's Blood Feast, though, he created the splatter flick. Blood Feast and its two companion films, (which together comprise the aptly-named "Blood Trilogy,") are available on DVDs, which provide a gratifying glimpse into the mind of this obscure cinematic icon.

Blood Feast (1963)--"Have you ever had an Egyptian feast?" asks the creepy cannibalistic caterer Fuad Ramses. Fuad, you see, is intent on killing enough women to raise an Egyptian goddess from the dead. Or something. Best known for its still-stomach-curdling tongue-extraction scene (using an actual sheep's tongue), Blood Feast is a true camp classic. The real bonus on this DVD though, is a staggeringly bizarre short titled Carving Magic, in which a pre-everything Harvey Korman learns the intricacies of butchering meat from a very enthusiastic pal. A vegetarian's nightmare that must be seen to be believed.

2000 Maniacs (1964)--A couple of happy-go-lucky Yankees from Illinois stumble into a depraved Southern town celebrating its centenary. These Confederate flag-waving yahoos proceed to torture and dismember the hapless Northerners, culminating in the famous finale, in which the unfortunate fellow is placed in a barrel, which is then pierced with many nails and rolled down a hill. The DVD commentary with Lewis and producer David Friedman (recently profiled in the documentary Mau Mau Sex Sex) amusingly relates how this depraved nonsense was filmed in the Orlando suburb of St. Cloud, Florida.

Color Me Blood Red (1965)--The last and weakest entry in the Blood Trilogy skimps on the gore a bit, and mixes its story of a painter who uses human blood for pigment with an incongruous Beach Party-style romance subplot. Still, for completists it's a must-see, with another over-the-top villain in the form of the egocentric Adam Sorg.

Lewis hasn't directed a film since 1972, having moved on to make his mark as a prolific author of direct-sales manuals (whoda thunk?). His place in film history is assured, and gorehounds can take some solace in the fact that the long-awaited sequel Blood Feast 2 just might be coming soon.