Thursday, May 22, 2008

my very own blood feast

Most people think America lost its innocence when JFK was assassinated. Actually, it happened four months earlier when Blood Feast opened at a Peoria, Illinois, drive-in.

With its bright colors, bubbly babes, and minimal production values, Blood Feast resembled the average nudie flick. However, the pretty young beauties in Blood Feast didn’t get naked. They got dismembered.

Yes, folks, the infamous, notorious, ultra over-the-top Blood Feast is the world’s first "gore" film. Less a horror movie than extreme exploitation, it may even be argued that Blood Feast is the first horror roadshow since 1934’s Maniac.

Something Weird’s write up of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1963 movie Blood Feast.

Best thing about this conference thing that I just wrapped up in Orlando? I opened for Herschell Gordon Lewis.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, who is known as the “Wizard of Gore” for the B-horror movies and nudie cuties that he wrote and directed in 1960s and 70s, created a successful direct response writing career for himself after the market dried up on his filmmaking. I was speaking at a catalog conference on web site design where Lewis also spoke -- because he's also known as the king of catalog copy.

On the third day of the conference he would act as Master of Ceremonies for an awards luncheon where he was hailed as a rock star.

But on the first day of the conference, after my presentation wrapped up and I was lingering by the podium talking to folks who had come forward to chat, I returned to the lectern to find the next speaker getting himself positioned, moving my gear out of the way so that he could find room for his own.

I said my apologies and proceeded to pack up. I knew of Herschell, but I didn’t know him by sight. So I didn’t know (although for just a minute I wondered...) that this courteous gentleman, who had the carriage of an old sunshine sprinkled Las Angeleno, and the stenorous voice of Edward R. Murrow, was the mind behind The Gore Gore Girls (aka Blood Orgy), Taste of Blood, and Miss Nymphet’s Zap-In.

All of which I’ve yet to see; a few of which I might.

I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about the organic evolution from B-movie writer to advertising great. I'll spare you the Feminist outrage and explication -- and content myself with this small accident of history: Once upon a time I was the warm up act for the Wizard of Gore.

Update: A friend reminded me that Lewis and his films had a brief cameo in the film Juno »


anniemcq said...

What fun - I'd never heard of him before, but you can bet I'll look him up!

mrtn said...

I remember reading somewhere that "you can never go wrong in placing investments that depend on the contiuing misogyny of the American male."

I never really got into gory movies, but I've never had big problems with them. But now that "torture porn" like "Captivity" and so forth are starting to become a marketable mainstream genre, I'm starting to think maybe it's time to become a luddite.

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