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He’s known as “The Godfather of Gore,” the plucky creator of
the splatter film. But more than anything, writer/director Herschell Gordon
Lewis, the deliciously demented mind behind such low-budget classics as BLOOD
FEAST, TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! and THE WIZARD OF GORE, is self-deprecatingly
funny. On the eve of his return visit to his native Chicago—where he attended
college and filmed several of his seminal productions—for the city’s annual
Music Box Massacre this Saturday, October 15 (see details below), Lewis briefly
discusses the strange and delightful turns that his career has taken him on and
amusingly ruminates on what he considers to be his ultimate contribution to
FANGORIA: You’ve had great success, both in the business
world and in the realm of cult filmdom. Is there one thing in your life, thus
far, that stands out as your proudest accomplishment?
HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS: [Laughs] Well, that is kind of an
impossible question! I have made a strong career for myself in direct
marketing, while the films I’ve made have garnered me a certain notoriety.
Which is still, probably, too nice of a word for what I’ve accomplished! Still,
I’m surprised I’ve gone to the level I’ve gone to, in both instances, honestly.
So being recognized is always a delight.
FANG: Filmwise, then, is there a moment that stands out as
your favorite creation?
LEWIS: Oh, the rolling rock sequence in TWO THOUSAND
MANIACS!, definitely. We had a grunt type of crew, but we built a platform
anyway. We were afraid the thing was going to fall on someone, but we pulled it
off. It’s just amazing to me that it came off at all! Of course, there’s always
the tongue sequence in BLOOD FEAST as well, which gave me my…well, I was going
to say reputation, but once again, I think that’s too nice a word.
FANG: Well, that certain reputation, or what have you, has
even landed you acting roles in projects like CHAINSAW SALLY in recent years.
LEWIS: Well, I love the whole notion of making movies. I’m
not known as an actor, and I never know what makes people think of me. But
these things come up, and usually I’m the “and” in the credit sequence. I enjoy
someone thinking of me in that light!
FANG: You’ve collaborated with bands as a special guest
vocalist as well. I’m sure that leads back to your singing of the TWO THOUSAND
MANIACS! theme song all those years ago.
LEWIS: Well, I have been blessed with a baritone-bass voice,
along with no reference point for being a diva—or “divo,” as the case may be!
You just have to bear down and do it sometimes. Anyhow, I’ve told this story
many times, but I’m always happy to retell it! We were in the studio to record
the theme song for TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! We had hired a very accomplished group
to perform it, but the lead singer had a high tenor voice—not macho enough for
what I had in mind. Time and money were wasting, but I didn’t want to record
this thing the wrong way, so I simply did it myself. Now it has become part of
film folklore, and people ask me to sing it all the time now. I’ve done it at
several different appearances!
FANG: Maybe you’ll even get a chance to do it at the Music
Box Massacre in Chicago! In an interesting side note, the popular indie band
10,000 Maniacs claims to have been inspired to name their band based on that
LEWIS: Yes! There is also a women’s rock group called The
Gore Gore Girls. So I guess I will not go down unnoticed into history. I will
go down kicking and screaming!
FANG: We wouldn’t want anything less! Now, while the music
and the acting must be incredible fun, what do you think your ultimate legacy
to horror filmmaking is?
LEWIS: Well, there were two words you never heard on my
movie sets: “Take two!” So when BLOOD FEAST came out, I think the industry as a
whole was astounded. I think people thought, “If this buffoon could do it, then
FANG: Without realizing the difficulties that are involved,
of course. I’m sure you have had plenty of “interesting” moments on your sets.
Can you tell me an incident that occurred on THE WIZARD OF GORE, for example?
LEWIS: Well, it was the first day of filming THE WIZARD OF
GORE in an apartment on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. Now, the actor playing
Montag got into a fight with my partner, Fred Sandy, and walked off the
picture. I could hear him lingering outside the door, waiting to be apologized
to and to be called back in. Now, Fred was wrong, but he was my partner and I
couldn’t go against him. Ray Sager was in the room, working on the crew, so I
looked him up and down and asked, “Ray, would you like to play Montag the
Magnificent?” He thought about it a second, shrugged and said, “Sure,” and
that’s how Ray came to play Montag!
FANG: Perfect story. THE WIZARD OF GORE was remade in 2007.
Do you have any thoughts on that?
LEWIS: Jeremy Kasten is a very talented director. But it
always struck me as odd that our Montag was this rumpled figure, and his was
dressed in a sharp white suit. The whole point of our film was the gore
sequences, yet most of Jeremy’s took place off screen! I guess he just wanted
to make his own film. That makes perfect sense, of course.
FANG: TWO THOUSAND MANIACS! was also, of course, reimagined
as 2001 MANIACS, along with a sequel, 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS.
LEWIS: Well, some I have enjoyed and others I haven’t. The
most important thing it tells me, though, is that people think there is still
gold to be mined in these ancient properties. Which just might be the final
word on the thing, and ultimately quite a compliment, indeed!
Lewis will be the special guest at Music Box Massacre 7,
taking place starting on the 15th at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre (3733 N.
Southport Avenue;  871-6604) and running from noon till noon. The current
film lineup is:
Noon: WAXWORKS (silent film with live organ accompaniment!)
1:30 p.m.: BURN, WITCH, BURN!
3:05 p.m.: HOUR OF THE WOLF
4:45 p.m.: THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES
6:30 p.m.: THE WIZARD OF GORE (with Herschell Gordon Lewis in person!)
8:45 p.m.: HALLOWEEN
10:30 p.m.: POLTERGEIST
12:45 a.m.: PUMPKINHEAD
2:30 a.m.: THE GATES OF HELL
4:15 a.m.: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS
6 a.m.: CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS
7:45 a.m.: THE SENTINEL
9:20 a.m.: FROM DUSK TILL DAWN
Plus: free autographs and picture-taking with Lewis, vendor tables, vintage
horror trailers, prizes, Count Midnight, surprise guests, short films, a live
charity auction for Vital Bridges and more! Jan Terri will present
her classic Chicago music video “Get Down Goblin!” Pay once and come and go as
you like; tickets are $34 for presale at the theater or here, and $38 at the door on the day of the show. Films and guests are subject to
change; no refunds, no returns. For more information, click here.
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