As a lifelong horror movie fan, I have many favorite directors in the genre. George Romero is high on my list -having directed my favorite movie of all time, Dawn of the Dead. Other favorites include Dario Argento, David Cronenberg, Ted V.Mikels, Tod Browning, William Castle, Roger Corman.....we could be here all day. As much as I love the work of all these men- there is one and ONLY one whose name makes my little black heart swell with love and fondness-the only one who I could not only do a entire weekend marathon of all his films, but I'd listen to all the commentary tracks too- and I'd be ready to do the whole thing over the next weekend.
Herschell. Gordon. Lewis.
aka The Godfather of Gore. I actually find it hard to put into words to explain how much I love this man and his films. I know that my commentary tends to be of the sarcastic variety, but make no mistake that I am not even coming CLOSE to joking when I tell you that I have loved and worshipped this man and his work for well over half my life. I've decided that every once in a while, I'll dedicate a page of my blog to a different HG Lewis film. Because I can, and I want to. And who knows, maybe I'll make him a couple of new fans along the way.
Perhaps I should begin with telling you about how we met.Back in the VHS craziness days (which I kind of eluded to in my post about the Gates of Hell) my mother opened a video store. In order to increase inventory without actually spending money, my mom traded videos with another video store owner in another town. We'd take her 10 or 20 movies, and then take 10 or 20 movies from her store. I probably don't even have to ask you to guess what section I always made selections from.
One lucky day, we chose a video called Terror on Tape.
The way I remember the 'story' is that a man goes into a video store and asks for a scary movie. The clerk, played by Cameron Mitchell, proceeds to show him clip after clip of the bloodiest, most disturbing things he has in the store. All I remember about the customer is that he gets more and more scared, and his hair starts turning white. Not only were these clips gory, they were from some of the most low budget offbeat films I'd ever heard of. My favorite parts were the clips from two movies called Bloodfeast and Two Thousand Maniacs. The best part was that this video store that we borrowed from happened to have both.
Two Thousand Maniacs was the first film I ever saw by H.G. It's low budget to be sure, cheesy, but I LOVED it. It had this certain 'look' that I loved - and one that I have loved in every one of his films I have seen after. Love him or hate him- H.G. gots himself a STYLE.
This is the first ten minutes of 'The Incredibly Strange Film Show', a TV show I discovered in college (the first time) and watched every week. This particular show features H.G., and if you watch through the first two minutes and 15 seconds, you'll see three people talk briefly about H.G., (including John Waters, and in my book, if John Waters speaks well about you, that's a ringing endorsement) and then you'll see a brief scene-not gory- where a woman apparently discovers something off camera that horrifies her. If her reaction (and the reactions of the women around her) make you laugh hysterically like me, then maybe you're a closet fan of the H. to the G. to the Lewis.
Back to Two Thousand Maniacs.....
The basic plot to this movie is that every 100 years a small southern town rises from the grave and gets to kill 6 unsuspecting northerners that they trap while riding through their town. Two of the people are played by Connie Mason and William Kerwin (who apparently has had car trouble and Connie has offered him a ride to the next town) and two other couples who have managed to get trapped in the town.
Of course, not all the couples are going to get to leave the centennial party. One lucky girl <------ gets her arms cut off and then cooked as barbeque. One of my favorite parts comes after they've cooked her over the fire and then chowed down....then taken her drunken husband (who presumably chowed down on wifey bbq) out to be drawn and quartered.....good old fashioned Southern fun! For some reason, watching the guy get ripped apart gives the townfolk second thoughts....for a minute they seem solemn and possibly questioning their fun and games...when one of the hillbillies starts yelling, Let's hear some music! You know what happens to anyone who backs out!"
(Actually we don't, but plot points, schmlot points)
Quietly, the band begins to slowly play Dixie.....and soon the whole town is joining in, clapping hands, smiling....ah yes....the mood is renewed and we're ready to get back to killin' ....I won't say anything else about how or what happens to the rest of our friends.....
I'll leave that in case of the very small chance I've inspired you to go watch this film.
In case you're curious, here's the trailer.
BTW, if I've made you want to actually see the film, you can't borrow mine. Sorry. That's because it's autographed by the man himself and it rarely leaves its protective plastic wrapper, let alone my home. Yes, I met H.G. Lewis. He did not disappoint. He was kind, gracious, polite....a gentleman in every way. I even got to pose with him, and as my friend and I came behind the table to stand for the photo, he said, "Let me stand between the two lovelies." Sigh.
A couple years later I was reminiscing about this historical meeting and surfing H.G's official website. I discovered his email address and decided to take a chance and send him an email. I mentioned the meeting and how wonderful he was to me. I was also in the middle of watching my new set of H.G. films and mentioned how much I loved She-Devils on Wheels, a film I knew to be among his personal favorites. I never believed I'd get a response, let alone the one I got:
What a sweet note!
I hope our paths cross again. You made my day.
I hope so too, Herschell. I hope so too.
I hope so too, Herschell. I hope so too.
Love, Mother Firefly