biography

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on June 15, 1926, Herschell Gordon Lewis moved to Chicago with his mother after his father's death in 1932. After earning a master's degree in journalism at Northwestern in the early 1950s, Lewis took a position as a communications professor at Mississippi State and later left that career for a job in radio. Eventually, he returned to Chicago where he directed his first film, the exploitation flick Living Venus (1960; with William Kerwin and Harvey Korman). Lewis' second film, The Prime Time (1960) is the debut of actress Karen Black. Some of Lewis' early films were nudies, tame by today's standards but risque in the early 1960s. Lewis moved to South Florida in 1962, which is where he made most of his best-known films. Later in the 1960s, after he and production partner David Friedman parted company, he returned to filmmaking in Chicago.

the films of herschell gordon lewis

Blood Feast (1963)

Blood Feast, starring William Kerwin, Connie Mason, and Mal Arnold, has been long recognized as the first slasher film and is incredibly gory even by today's standards. Legend has it that Lewis came up with the idea for Blood Feast after he mixed a gallon of stage blood for a previous film and used only a couple of teaspoons of the mixture. Not wanting to waste the entire gallon, he came up with the idea for the film. In an interesting side note, actors William Kerwin and Connie Mason married shortly after making this film.

Mal ArnoldScott H. Hall and William KerwinConnie Mason, star of Blood Feast

LEFT: Mal Arnold stars as Fuad Ramses in Blood Feast. CENTER: With Scott H. Harris and William Kerwin. Kerwin was the most successful of Herschell Gordon Lewis's regular cast members. RIGHT: Blood Feast star Connie Mason in a 1963 Playboy spread. Mason was Playboy's Playmate of the month for June 1963

Two Thousand Maniacs (1964)

Filmed in Kissimmee-St.Cloud area of Florida in 1964, Two Thousand Maniacs was made for a budget rumored to hover around the $60,000 mark. The story involves a sleepy southern town in which all the residents were murdered by Union soldiers during the Civil War. One hundred years later, the citizens rise from the ashes to exact revenge on a group of six northerners who are vacationing in the south.

Shelby LivingstonConnie Mason

LEFT: Shelby Livingston is hacked up in a scene from Two Thousand Maniacs. RIGHT: Connie Mason stars as Terry Adams

Color Me Blood Red (1965)

Color Me Blood RedColor Me Blood Red

Filmed in Sarasota, Florida, in early 1965, Color Me Blood Red completes the trilogy of Lewis and Friedman's splatter films. LEFT: Gordon Oas-Heim murders girlfriend Elyn Warner. RIGHT: Gordon Oas-Heim cons gullible Candi Conder into posing for him

Monster a Go-Go (1965)

Made in late 1964 in Chicago, Monster A Go-Go was once featured on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

1965 ad for Monster A Go-Go

A 1965 advertisement for Monster A Go-Go

Something Weird (1967)

Tony McCabe

Tony McCabe, the star of Something Weird, passed away just one year after the film was released

The Wizard of Gore (1970)

Wizard of Gore adRay Sager

LEFT: Advertisement for The Wizard of Gore. Shot in Chicago in late 1968, the so-bad-it's-good film was not released until 1970. RIGHT: Ray Sager as Montag the Magnificent

later years

After directing more than 40 films in twelve years, Lewis left filmmaking after the release of his 1972 film The Gore-Gore Girls, which features a performance by Henny Youngman as a nightclub comic. The decline of horror films, combined with the death of exploitation flicks via the release of the X-rated feature Deep Throat, spelled the end of his film career. Lewis went on to be quite successful as a direct marketing wizard, college lecturer, and writer. He returned to directing in 2002 with the release of Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat. Sadly, Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away on September 26, 2016, at the age of 90. He was survived by his third wife, Margot, and four daughters, two sons, and grandchildren.

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filmography

This is a listing of films that Lewis has directed:
The Uh-oh Show (2009) with Lloyd Kaufman
Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002) with John Waters
Black Love (1972)
The Gore-Gore Girls (1972) with Henny Youngman
Year of the Yahoo! (1972)
This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (1971) with Tim Holt
Miss Nymphet's Zap-In (1970)
The Wizard of Gore (1970)
Linda and Abilene (1969)
The Ecstasies of Women (1969)
The Psychic (1968)
How to Make a Doll (1968)
Just for the Hell of It (1968)
Suburban Roulette (1968) with William Kerwin
She-Devils on Wheels (1968)
Something Weird (1968) with Tony McCabe, Elizabeth Lee, and William Brooker
Blast-Off Girls (1967)
The Magic Land of Mother Goose (1967)
The Girl, the Body, and the Pill (1967)
The Gruesome Twosome (1967)
A Taste of Blood (1967) with William Kerwin
Alley Tramp (1966)
Jimmy, the Boy Wonder (1966)
Monster a-Go Go (1965)
Sin, Suffer and Repent (1965)
Color Me Blood Red (1965) with Gordon Oas-Heim and Jerome Eden
Moonshine Mountain (1964) with Gordon Oas-Heim
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) with Connie Mason, William Kerwin, and Jerome Eden
Scum of the Earth (1963) with William Kerwin and Mal Arnold
Bell, Bare and Beautiful (1963) with William Kerwin and Jerome Eden
Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963)
Blood Feast (1963) with Connie Mason, William Kerwin, and Mal Arnold
Boin-n-g (1963) with William Kerwin
Daughter of the Sun (1962)
Nature's Playmates (1962)
The Adventures of Lucky Pierre (1961) with William Kerwin
Living Venus (1960) with William Kerwin and Harvey Korman
The Prime Time (1960)

herschell gordon lewis links


The Official Herschell Gordon Lewis Website
Visit this site for the latest on Herschell Gordon Lewis.

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Watch the industrial film Carving Magic, directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis in 1959.
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