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6 Degrees Entertainment

'The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast' [Box-Set]
(Herschell Gordon Lewis, Connie Mason, William Kerwin, Larry Drake, Tony McCabe, et al / 17-Disc Blu ray / NR / 2016 / Arrow Films UK)

Overview: In 1963, director Herschell Gordon Lewis pulled a cow's tongue out of an actress mouth on camera, and in doing so, changed the landscape of horror cinema forever. That sequence was just one of numerous gruesome gags featured in 'Blood Feast', the film credited as being the world's first gore movie. It's no exaggeration to say that the modern gross-out movies of today owe their very existence to the pioneering efforts of H.G. Lewis. Now, for the first time ever, Arrow Video is proud to present fourteen of the Godfather of Gore's most essential films (including nine Blu-ray world debuts), collected together in a Limited Edition set (only 2,500 in the U.S.) and packed full of eye-popping bonus content!

Blu-ray Verdict: As more than well detailed above, H.G. Lewis was most widely celebrated for his blood-and-guts epics (Two Thousand Maniacs!, The Wizard of Gore et al.), but there's definitely more to the prolific director than splatter. From tales of sordid photographers (Scum of the Earth) to sex robots (How to Make a Doll), from biker girl-gangs (She-Devils on Wheels) to youths-run-amok (Just for the Hell of It), and from psychic witches (Something Weird) to hard liquor-loving hillbillies (Moonshine Mountain), the filmography of H.G. Lewis reads like a veritable wish-list of exploitation movie madness.

Ergo, here in the highly-inventive, and what will be highly-sought after new 17 Disc Blu-ray collection 'The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast' we delve into the mind of a man known as the “Godfather of Gore”, a man who launched the splatter genre in the 1960s, and sadly, a man who passed away just this past September 26th, 2016. aged 87 years-old.

The first film I watched was the box-set namesake, 'Blood Feast'. Made in 1963 in Miami, it was considered to be the horror genre’s first splatter film. Indeed, Variety called it a “totally inept shocker” that was “an insult even to the most puerile and salacious of audiences,” with a “senseless” screenplay and “amateurish” acting. Perfect. In truth, the direction is not a great deal better either, but then again 'Blood Feast' was only made in 9 days! Sure the script is silly and filled with lamentable dialogue where every facet of the plot must be explained and re-explained, but that locked-in-cinematic-history tongue-pulling scene makes up for everything, trust me! I mean, he didn't knock her out or anything. He just jammed his fingers right into her mouth as soon as she opened the door. No time for her to even struggle. Job done!

Next up was 'Scum Of The Earth' (1963), where a naive and innocent teenage girl ('Allison Louise Downe', Kim Sherwood) is blackmailed into modeling in the nude for a photographer who is in league with a teenage gang whose boss illegally sells photos of teenage girls being abused and degraded. 'Scum' is highly evocative of the early 60s "make out" flick featuring semi and full nudity. The acting is atrocious, but you don't watch this for the acting. Anyway, before our heroine can escape the whole sordid mess, there are a couple of murders that lead to a suicide. Again, 'Scum' is an early exploitation flick that could have been a whole lot scummier if H.G. Lewis hadn't reined it in; which he does perfectly.

Then comes 'Color Me Blood Red' (1965), where an eccentric artist is panned by a well-known critic at his opening for not having a good color sense, so he starts a new series, using his own blood to paint. Soon he is weakened and must find other sources of blood to continue his paintings. An inventive story line, finds our mentally unstable artist Adam Sorg (Gordon Oas-Heim) soon then discovering that the blood of his girlfriend's cut finger supplies him with the exact right shade of red he needs for his macabre paintings! So, well, he knows he needs more and thus he kills her as well as various other models in order to complete his masterful art gallery exhibits. H.G. Lewis actually always cited Roger Corman's 'A Bucket of Blood' (1959) as the main inspiration for 'Color Me Blood Red' and once you've seen both back to back, which I highly recommend, you'll see why.

Then comes 'Something Weird' (1967). As we all know, H.G. Lewis has made some bizarre films, but none more bizarre than this one! Yep, its even more out there than 'The Wizard of Gore', trust me! It's certainly not his most entertaining film and definitely not the best starting place for this unique exploitation filmmaker, but the occasional bits of camp surrealism that prefigured his other films is on full drive here. It's not a gore picture either or one of his sexploitation films, for 'Something Weird' is, well, exactly just that! A man named Cronin Mitchell (long time Lewis actor, Tony McCabe) becomes horribly disfigured, and gains psychic powers. He soon meets a witch who will make him handsome if he becomes her lover. Everybody else in the world sees the witch as a pretty woman named Ellen. When news of Mitch's psychic powers leak out, he goes on the road with Ellen from city to city and town to town helping people solve crimes. After expelling a ghost from a funeral home, Mitch and Ellen are sent to a small Illinois town to find the identity of a serial killer where Mitchell is immediately asked by the police to help stop the killer. The rest, as they say, is cinematic history!

That was followed by 'The Gruesome Twosome' (1967), where Mrs. Pringle and her son Rodney run a wig store which they stock by scalping young coeds who show up to look at the "room for rent." Meanwhile at the local college, Kathy is determined to figure out who is killing her classmates, much to boyfriend Dave's irritation. When her friend Dawn disappears, Kathy gets closer to the truth as she begins investigating the Pringle's lair. When a movie opens with the bizarre scene of two Styrofoam mannequin heads talking to each other - or, perhaps it's the "wigs" on them - you know you're about to partake in a weird, trippy and yet wonderful H.G. Lewis adventure. With a script by actress Allison Louise Downe ('Scum Of The Earth'), here in one of the latter end of H.G. Lewis' film career, the acting is atypically slip-shod (save for a bit part by a girl on the phone with the heroine's boyfriend!), but there are also lots of unintentionally funny moments to adore too. There's also some great rock/jazz music throughout the film, and some sub par editing (sorry, but it has to be said) actually, for those of us with low brow H.G. Lewis expectations to begin with, make this one of his better movies!

Next up to the viewing plate was 'A Taste Of Blood' (1967) where mild-mannered Miami businessman, John Stone( Bill Rogers), receives a parcel from England containing two old bottles of Slivovitz brandy ... and upon drinking them both, becomes a vampire! Stone uses his new-found vampire powers to keep his wife, Helena, in a trance as he travels to England to kill the descendants of Van Helsing whom murdered Count Dracula while Hesling's distant relative, Howard Helsing, pursues Stone with the intent to put the re-born vampire to rest for good. This is easily Lewis' best film in terms of direction and acting. The actors in here are average. No small feat for a Lewis film. Even Bill Kerwin(one of Lewis' regulars) does a decent job! The female lead was also average, and that says a lot for a Lewis film. Usually he just puts pretty girls with no acting talent in his films like Connie Mason, but sexy Elizabeth Wilkinson has some acting talent. 'A Taste Of Blood' shows far less blood that you would see in your typical Hammer feature, even given its title and there were some obvious budget concerns with regard wonky sets, etc. But all in all this is a decent film about the vampire myth in a modern setting. Oh, and H.G. Lewis plays a British-accented, mustachioed sailor in two scenes aboard a freighter.

That was followed by 'She-Devils On Wheels' (1969) where a female motorcycle gang busies itself creating a ruckus on a nightly basis. Indeed, they regularly have bike races to determine who gets their pick of men for the night! But when a rival male gang encroaches on their territory, it's a battle to the finish. 'She-Devils' actually features one of the most famous lines in the history of exploitation cinema. Uttered by a hefty biker babe named "Whitey" (Pat Poston), when confronted by a rival gang member she tells them, "Oh, go fumigate yourself, crap-head"! Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! Indeed, this film is much different than most "biker chick" flicks of the time period. In fact, aside from 'Blood Feast', this is the highest grossing film H.G. Lewis ever made and it is the only one of his films to be picked up by a major motion picture studio (American International Pictures).

Next was 'Just For The Hell Of It' (1968) where a teenage gang led by the vicious Dexter; his girlfriend Mitzi; and friends Denny and Lummonx; create havoc in a small Florida town by harassing various people, vandalizing property, well ... just for the hell of it! When a former gang member, Doug, tries to prevent their ever increasing violent antics, Denny takes it upon himself and a few loyal members of the gang to target Doug's girlfriend, Jeanne, to make him back off. With a tagline such as "Here comes destruction incorporated!", the film was already smothered in cheese long before the audience got to view it, trust me. That said, the movie is virtually non-stop fun as the gang goes literally from one thing to another; destroying stuff, bothering people, causing all sorts of hell. Some of the things they do include throwing buckets of water at people, hosing down a woman, ripping clothes off a clothes line, ripping up a magazine a woman is reading, and more. These scenes are completely hilarious, if not tame, that I'll grant you. But, as you would expect from an H.G. Lewis film, these acts of rebellion seem to get more violent as the film progresses. Soon they progress to beating a blind man with his own cane, beating an injured man with his own crutches, beating an eatery owner and burning his hand (after destroying his place), and even putting a baby in a garbage can while destroying the carriage! If I'm not mistaken, much of 'Just For The Hell Of It' appears to have been shot silent, with sound added later, adding to the cheesiness of the whole thing. Oh, and it's also rather fun listening to the goofy 60's music as the gang commits these crimes!

That's followed by 'The Gore Gore Girls' (1972) where a ditsy reporter enlists the help of a sleazy private eye to solve a series of gory killings of female strippers at a Chicago nightclub. Known also as the last gore film of H.G. Lewis, it is perhaps one of his goriest - and remarkably one of his funniest! Intentionally and unintentionally! The plot involves a "gentleman detective" investigating the bloody murders of go-go dancers. The detective is played by the unknown Frank Kress who is fairly amusing. Veteran Henny Youngman appears briefly as a club owner and is not amusing at all. I suggest you only watch this if you have seen and enjoyed earlier Lewis efforts, otherwise give it a miss. Apart from the infamous meat tenderizer, face-frying, and nipple scenes there's not all that much to recommend this one, sorry.

The much better 'This Stuff'll Kill Ya' (1971) was next to watch, and after the last film, well, was a sight for sore eyes (no pun intended re: the eye ball popping scene from 'The Gore Gore Girls'!). A redneck con artist sets himself up as a preacher in a small Deep South town to run his moonshine distillery and clashes with a number of locals and a federal agent bent on shutting his operation down. Basically, and put another way, a backwoods, Bible-quoting Foghorn Leghorn-ish con man who believes in free love and moon-shining, runs into trouble with the locals when a series of gruesome religious murders are committed: a new bride is raped off-screen, a woman is stoned and two others are crucified. Meet Reverend Boone (Jeffery Allen). Loud-mouth hypocrite, who may or may not have been the inspiration for the aforementioned Foghorn Leghorn. When this guy isn't ranting at the congregation, he's running his illegal moonshine business. This guy even has the nerve to visit liquor stores, only to preach the good word while smashing product! But when the FBI start cracking down, and one of the ladies in the Church gets stoned to death, things really get let loose! This Hixploitation film from Lewis also features a nicely shot car chase/crash, albeit complete with airplane sound effects weirdly, a rather peculiar funeral scene, and another murder or two, of course. These are all new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentations enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Out of all the delicious Bonus Features included (see below), my favorite was the 'Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather Of Gore' featurette. Opening with a very colorful kaleidoscope of spinning shapes along with some old fashioned Twilight Zone-esque music, we quickly learn that H.G. Lewis had always compared 'Blood Feast' to a Walt Whitman poem - "It was no good, but it was the first of its kind!" I mean, come on now, how much more open and honest can one get about work he himself slaved over and bore to the world like a child? H.G. Lewis, you are/were a genius, my friend. An absolute macabre genius.

Produced and directed by Jimmy Maslon, 'Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather Of Gore' is one incredible, outrageous journey through this wild world of Lewis' exploitation films. Featuring cult director John Waters ("These movies were made to just piss off some people in a way that they couldn't arrest them for yet"), Drive-In Movie Critic Joe Bob Briggs, Herschell Gordon Lewis himself and a "cast of thousands," you'll witness the innocent bare-naked era of Nudie-Cuties before Lewis shocked the world with 'Blood Feast' - the first ever gore film!

Featuring en masse of a decade of motion picture madness here in 'Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather Of Gore' that includes a deluge of great clips, rare outtakes, testimony from the people who were there, and so much more!

Bonus Features:
Fourteen of the Godfather of Gore's finest attractions, newly restored from original and best surviving vault materials: Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Two Thousand Maniacs!, Moonshine Mountain, Color Me Blood Red, Something Weird, The Gruesome Twosome, A Taste of Blood, She-Devils on Wheels, Just for the Hell of It, How to Make a Doll, The Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls, This Stuff ll Kill Ya!
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentation of the features and extras on 7 Blu-ray and 7 DVD discs
Brand new introductions to the films by Lewis
Hours of extras including newly-produced interviews and featurettes, commentaries, short films and much more
Additional 2 bonus Blu-rays featuring 1.33:1 versions of Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Color Me Blood Red, A Taste of Blood and The Wizard of Gore [limited editions exclusive]
Additional bonus DVD: Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore documentary [limited editions exclusive]
28-page H.G. Lewis annual stuffed full with Lewis-themed activities plus archive promotional material [limited editions exclusive]
Newly illustrated packaging by The Twins of Evil [Feast edition exclusive]