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Interview with Herschell Gordon Lewis - February 2004

Herschell Gordon Lewis - February 2004

Oh My Gore : "Hello. First, let me tell you that it is a great honour to interview you. Could you please introduce yourself to the Oh My Gore ! readers who might not know about you yet ?"

I originated the "Splatter Film" genre with "BLOOD FEAST" in the 1960s. Much of the background is available on my Website -- www.herschellgordonlewis.com.

Oh My Gore : "Before talking about your cinematographical carreer, could you tell us more about you ? Why, when and how did you choose to make your career in cinema ?"

I owned a half-interest in a commercial film studio. We had 35 mm movie equipment, and making features was a logical extension. (My background had included teaching English and the Humanities at a university) ... and I did and still do write advertising copy.

Oh My Gore : "Which are the movies or/and directors that influenced you ?"

That question is impossible to answer. Influences are too subliminal to be identified. I never consciously attempted to make a "derivative" film following one I had seen.

Oh My Gore : "You directed many films among which the best known are "BLOOD FEAST", "TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! ", "COLOR ME BLOOD RED", "THE GORE GORE GIRLS", and all of them were shot between 1963 and 1972. This style was avant-gardist at the time... Which were the reactions of people around you?"

Many simply couldn't understand that anyone would deliberately watch these films. It was years before the genre itself became mainstream. I was that oddball fellow who made oddball films and played a passable game of tennis.

Oh My Gore : "And what about the public ?"

Until the 1980s I was an outlaw in the film industry. Yes, gorehounds occasionally asked for an autograph or invited me to the then infrequent horror/sci-fi film festivals ... but mainstream recognition was late in coming.

Oh My Gore : "Was it easy to find producers and distributors for these movies ?"

Once "BLOOD FEAST" had paved the way, distributors -- always independents -- were eager to handle the films. When the major studios began duplicating my type of movie, with star names and budgets for effects, the market dried up.

Oh My Gore : "Nowadays, you became a "cult" director and you influenced many people... What do you think about that?"

What am I supposed to think? Certainly it's gratifying to have recognition of any sort. Unquestionably I triggered a revolution, a breakthrough, a sudden turn in the course of motion picture history. But I don't sense any monuments being erected to me.

Oh My Gore : "Have you ever imagined you would get this stature when you released "BLOOD FEAST" in 1963 ?"

No, I didn't. I'm delighted to have this attention now.

Oh My Gore : "How do you feel about being nicknamed "the Creator of Gore Cinema" ?"

I love it! When people call me "The Godfather of Gore", I preen.

Oh My Gore : "As a pioneer of Gore cinema, isn't it frustrating that the public make reference to more mediatized director than you, like Peter Jackson for example?"

That doesn't bother me any more than it would if people claimed Shakespeare was a better writer than I am. Peter Jackson is entitled to the accolades he has earned.

Oh My Gore : "Why did you stopped your carreer in 1972, only 10 years after starting it ?"

As I said, the major companies were beginning to make my same type of movie, with effects my budgets couldn't match.

Oh My Gore : "Which were your activities between 1972 and 2003 ?"

I always had been involved in advertising and marketing. I had a direct response agency, later bought by a major agency. I've written 27 books on marketing (with a contract on hand for my 28th), write columns on advertising and marketing for a number of magazines, and write direct mail, e-mail, and various types of advertising for a number of clients.

Oh My Gore : "Nowadays (in 2003), you came back with "BLOODFEAST 2", 40 years after the release of the first one. Did you miss being behind a camera ?"

Certainly I did. One never gets over the exhilaration of moviemaking.

Oh My Gore : "Have you always wanted to make this second movie or were there other reasons which made you do it ?"

I was and am available for moviemaking. It's possible that current discussions will lead to another.

Oh My Gore : "When we watch "BLOODFEAST 2" we have more the impression that it is a remake, what do you think ?"

I don't agree. I didn't write the script for "BLOOD FEAST 2" but I did inject some black humor into it. The uniqueness seems to be that viewers laugh, suddenly cringe, then laugh again.

Oh My Gore : "As far as you're concerned, will it have as much success as the first one ?"

No.

Oh My Gore : "Talking about remakes, Tim Sullivan will release "2001 MANIACS" this year, the "TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! " remake with Robert Englund. How do you feel about one of your movies being remade ?"

On a highly personal level, "2000 MANIACS" is the one film I'd have preferred to stand alone. On a business level, I applaud Tim Sullivan. I understand his film is well-made.

Oh My Gore : "Did Tim Sullivan talk to you about this project ? Are you involved in it ?"

I have no involvement other than one of paternal interest. They're using the original theme music, which I wrote, and that's highly gratifying although someone else is singing, with altered lyrics.

Oh My Gore : "Have you watched the movie ,and if you did, what are your impressions ?"

I haven't seen it.

Oh My Gore : "Would you have liked to do this remake ?"

Yes.

Oh My Gore : "Which are the major differences between making a movie in 1963 and in 2003 ?"

Making movies now, for the low-budget producer and director, is light-years easier. Film speed is faster, the camera has a prismatic lens enabling the director to watch and review the action on a television monitor, and effects I'd have marveled at are available at any magic store. Too, general audience acceptance exists, and that certainly wasn't true in 1963.

Oh My Gore : "Is your career restarted for 10 years ?"

My career doesn't need restarting. I'm well thought of as a direct marketing expert ... I live well ... I travel the world ... and I'm not hurting, emotionally nor physically.

Oh My Gore : "If you could remake one thing in your career, what would it be ?"

Probably I'd have headed for California and tried to pick up an agent. I'd have liked to make a film whose budget would have enabled me to let loose with ideas that had to be stifled for lack of adequate financing.

Oh My Gore : "As the creator of a movement, what do you think about the evolution of Gore Cinema ?"

It would have happened sooner or later. I guess because of me it happened sooner.

Oh My Gore : "As an American citizen, what do you think about the movies "made in USA" ?"

I see two disturbing developments. First, American cinema has become obsessed with effects. George Lucas is both the angel and the devil, because special effects outweigh plotline in too many movies. The other disturbing development is the use of feature films as a personal statement rather than as entertainment.

Oh My Gore : "As Oh My Gore! is a French website, I'd like to know if you like French movies ?"

Usually, yes. French movies have a subtlety American movies, with their sledgehammer approach, don't seem to be able to match.

Oh My Gore : "Generally speaking, which are your favourite horror movies? And the ones that scared you the most ?"

I haven't seen a contemporary film I regard as "scary". That's because anyone can anticipate what will happen next. At one time my favorite was a UK film, "THE WICKER MAN" ... but I screened it again last year and was bored by it. As a very young child, I was scared by the original "DRACULA" in which Bela Lugosi played the vampire role.

Oh My Gore : "Which actor would you have liked or would you like to shoot with ?"

Burt Lancaster was in my opinion the consummate actor. Among today's crop I admire Charlize Theron, as everyone does.

Oh My Gore : "Which movie would you have liked or would you like to direct ?"

I'd have liked to direct "2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY".

Oh My Gore : "What do you think about Oh My Gore! ?"

I don't have enough background to draw an intelligent opinion but I'm impressed by the depth of your scholarship and research.

Oh My Gore : "Thank you so much for this interview. Anything you would like to add ?"

Just: Thank you for remembering who I am.
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