Herschell Gordon Lewis, FEAST! – Blu-ray Review

Average Score 5.16

Okay, first thing first. This is going to be long. This set, The Herschell Gordon Lewis FEAST boxed set from Arrow Video, is amazing. In this box you have nearly 20 hours of feature films directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and 10 hours of special features with 10 feature commentaries. On top of that you are getting a print book with promotional material. This is a ton of content. As such it comes with a hefty price tag. It is also worth noting that the movies are awful, just awful. I gladly give this set my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. Really, just awful.

For those unfamiliar with Herschell Gordon Lewis he was a man who, along with David Friedman, learned how to game the system when it came to the low budget independent film. These are films that would play at grindhouse / exploitation theater. Movies for the sake of pure entertainment.

It may be important to explain exploitation films as many people may be mildly knowledgeable about them but only in the back-of-their-mind sense. An exploitation film is a film that focuses in on a specific theme and goes over-the-top in its production to attempt to really focus their marketing. Blaxploitation is most likely the most familiar example, specifically Shaft, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, perhaps Blacula. I think another modern example is comic book films, anymore all Marvel films are are tent pole films forced through an extruder to manufacture money. These are films that work.

Much of this is covered in the special features for Blood Feast, which Lewis claims is the first instance of a splatter film. Lewis and Friedman learned how long a movie had to be to be shown in the theaters and made a film just long enough. It seems that they were less interested in how well made the film was as long as it was long enough, and it shows.

This is important because you cannot go in to this set expecting high art, or low art really, these are bad movies. These are masterpieces of what they are. Sadly, I had to score these films by the same standard that I score the masterful art films of Kieslowski so they are going to score low. Okay. Let’s dig in.

Blood Feast

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allison Louise Downe
Minutes: 67
Year: 1963
Score: 5.93

We open on Blood Feast, a film whose budget feels close to $14 dollars. Wikipedia says $24,000 it hardly shows. Quality wise this is, by far, the worst movie that I have ever watched. I love it, and I am excited to watch it again, perhaps this will make my annual Halloween rotation.

In the film an aged Egyptian man named Fuad Ramses, played by Mal Arnold, (who also plays the white teenager in Scum of the Earth!) is going around Miami killing gorgeous co-eds in order to gather enough meat to cater a blood feast sacrifice to the goddess Ishtar. Dorothy Fremont hires Ramses to cater her daughter’s birthday party and Ramses guarantees this will be a “feast 5000 years in the making”. Dorothy chooses an Egyptian themed party because he daughter, Connie, and Connie’s boyfriend, Detective Pete Thornton, have been attending lectures to learn about Egyptian history.

Okay, let’s be clear. Nobody is here for the story, cripes, the director wasn’t so why should we. Let’s put two and two together and make a comparison. The budget for Night of the Living Dead is $114,000 nearly five times that of Blood Feast. The visual effects in Romero’s classic are great for a cheap movie, you may say that they are 5 times better than Blood Feast. These effects are so incredibly bad I can hardly describe them. At one point, early on, a gouged eye is merely a strip of cloth soaked in red paint setting over a closed eye. You may note that my effects score is 7 and that will seem very high, and I agree with that. I scored it this way because of what they did with what they had. Just wait for the tongue scene, that is why it earns a 7.

The movie reminded me of what you might make with your buddies over a long weekend. In one of the special features Lewis admits that it was, in fact, filmed over the course of four days.

I really wish Lewis’s films were in my lexicon when I was growing up even though I cannot say that I would be able to view them through eyes willing to see around the low production values. This is a film that people can watch and become inspired to make their own cheap horror flick.

They made a sequel and this film, according to Wikipedia, has grossed 4 million dollars. A 16,000% return on investment. Don’t give up.

Director: 7 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 4 – Main performance: 4 – Else performance: 1 – Score: 4 – Sound: 5 – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 7 – Design: 8 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10

Scum of the Earth

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Minutes: 73
Year: 1963
Score: 5.53

If you don’t watch the special features, and why you wouldn’t I don’t know, you should absolutely hate this movie. Scum of the Earth tells the story about a bunch of sleazeball pornographers who blackmail young, “underage” women into posing for embarrassing pinup pictures. This one is rough to get through, also, in the introduction Lewis calls the film the first “roughie” film, though, I don’t think the two are correlated. If you can watch this flick without feeling like a dirty voyeur, I am not too sure I would want to be your chum.

What Lewis says in an interview is that one of his goals in making this picture was to show the women taking control of their lives, one way or another. It is difficult to be vague enough to give you information while also explaining my reticence for this movie. Once you look beyond how terrible the movie is you can find something almost passable, but only when you have the extra information so this may be a pass for me.

Director: 6 – Cinematography: 5 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 7 – Main performance: 4 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 5 – Story: 7 – Script: 4 – Effects: 4 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 8 – Keeps interest: 8 – Lasting: 5

Disc 1 SF (115.72) Special features.

One very strong feature about this set is how packed it is with extra features. The first disc has some really good introduction interviews with some modern filmmakers who look back on Lewis’ pictures are the groundswell of their careers. The introductions and interviews with Lewis help to give them films a whole lot of context. On this disc the standout features would probably be the commentary for Blood Feast and the Outtakes.

  • Blood Feast Commentary – Mike Vraney (Something Weird Video) and Lewis and Friedman
  • Blood Feast Introduction by Lewis (1:32)
  • Scum of the Earth Introduction by Lewis (1:12)
  • Blood Perspectives (Nicholas McCarthy and Rodney Ascher – 10:55)
  • Herschell’s History (5:18)
  • How Herschell Found His Niche (7:15)
  • Archive Interview with Lewis and Friedman from 1987 (18:28)
  • Carving Magic short (20:31)
  • Blood Feast Outtakes (45:56)
  • Scum “Clean” Scenes (4:36)
  • Promo Gallery (trailers, Radio Spots, TV Announcements etc.)

Two Thousand Maniacs

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Minutes: 87
Year: 1964
Score: 6.13

Listening to Lewis’ introduction for Two Thousand Maniacs sets the films bar very high as Lewis says that Maniacs was one of his favorites. It certainly lives up to his hype. Again, as I am mentioned, it is terrible, but. This movie doesn’t slowdown from the very beginning when a few rednecks set up a detour to lure unsuspecting travelers into their small town for its centennial celebration. These travelers, from the north, are lauded as special guests and seems to be treated well even though you are well aware that something gory is in the air. The film has supernatural elements as the town only appears once every 100 years as a ghost town memory of the Civil War.

There are a lot of great gore scenes that had better turn your head a bit and make you squint. Between the effects and the story this is a great example of a splatter/gore b-movie and is a flick that I will definitely play again.

Director: 9 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 3 – Main performance: 6 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 5 – Story: 7 – Script: 6 – Effects: 7 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10

Moonshine Mountain

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Charles Glore
Minutes: 90
Year: 1964
Score: 4.20

Moonshine Mountain is a hard pass for me. Something that you quickly learn going through this set is that Arrow did the best that they could with what they could. And you must remember that these are not movies that had any expectations of longevity. Moonshine really suffers from this. The quality is low and the story was not very strong. It follows a popular musician as he wants to live alongside mountain folk to gain inspiration for a new record. If there is anything that holds this film up it is the music if you are interested in bluegrass and banjo heavy tunes. Aside from that the film is a little hollow.

Director: 4 – Cinematography: 2 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 3 – Main performance: 5 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 7 – Sound: 5 – Story: 4 – Script: 5 – Effects: 5 – Design: 4 – Costumes: 2 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 5

Disc 3 SF (53.83)

You have a few interesting talking-head interviews here, the headliner has got to be the Art of Advertising in which Lewis walks you through how he sold the films and marketed them, very interesting.

  • Maniacs! Commentary
  • Maniacs! Introduction by Lewis (1:59)
  • Moonshine Mountain Introduction by Lewis (2:05)
  • Two Thousand Maniacs Can’t Be Wrong (Filmmaker Tim Sullivan on Two Thousand Maniacs – 9:54)
  • Hickspoitation: Confidential (7:15)
  • David Friedman: The Gentlemen’s Smut Peddler (9:22)
  • Herschell’s Art of Advertising (3:33)
  • Maniac! Outtakes (16:29)
  • Promo Gallery – Trailers for both films (2:14, 1:29)

Color Me Blood Red

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Minutes: 79
Year: 1965
Score: 6.47

Coming off of the snooze fest of Moonshine Mountain I was starting to feel b-movie fatigue. It does not take much time before Color Me Blood Red started to re-engage me. The film is about an artist who has had an initial success and is called a master. But can he repeat?

Adam Sorge, our artist, tries and tries but just cannot seem to find the correct shade of red to pull his images off the canvas. Sorge scuffles with his assistant and she cuts herself. The spurt of blood on the painting is the PERFECT red. Soon his blood-lust is too much to contain and he paints and paints needing more and more victims.

Reviewing my scores below I think the performances depended, strongly, on the story, because there is no good acting on any of these discs. This film is one of the tent poles of your purchase and with this, and one film, further down, get my utmost and highest recommendations when it comes to horror films.

Director: 8 – Cinematography: 8 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 6 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 6 – Sound: 4 – Story: 7 – Script: 6 – Effects: 7 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 5 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10

Something Weird

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: James F. Hurley
Minutes: 80
Year: 1967
Score: 5.07

Okay, you are going to need to hunker down a little, this and the following few films are fairly weak. Not bad, per se, but not good either.

Something Weird is the story of a man who is clobbered by a downed power line which horribly burns his skin. He is approached by an ugly hag who grants him gorgeous looks and all he has to do is love the woman, unconditionally. He agrees. He leaves. The accident gives him the ability to read the minds of others and he becomes a famous playboy and. Okay, really, the title is spot on here. This is Something Weird. And a little suspect.

The makeup is also dreadful.

Director: 4 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 2 – Main performance: 5 – Else performance: 4 – Score: 6 – Sound: 3 – Story: 5 – Script: 6 – Effects: 5 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 8 – Lasting: 5

Disc 5 SF 44.77

  • Color Me Blood Red Commentary with H.G. Lewis and David Friedman
  • Something Weird Commentary with H.G. Lewis and David Friedman
  • Color Me Blood Red Introduction by Lewis (1:17)
  • Something Weird Introduction by Lewis (0:59)
  • The Art of Madness (5:35)
  • Weirdsville (10:31)
  • H.G. Lewis on Jimmy the Boy Wonder (2:10)
  • A Hot Night at the Go Go Lounge (10:07)
  • Color Me Blood Red Outtakes (9:36)
  • Promo Gallery (Trailers for both films – 1:26, 1:26 and Jimmy the Boy Wonder – 1:39)

The Gruesome Twosome

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allison Louise Downe
Minutes: 72
Year: 1967
Score: 4.67

The Gruesome Twosome is the first of three films here earning a zero in parity. To me this is a signal that it is not really worth the time. Sure the gore effects are pretty great but the story and the execution leave a whole lot to be desired. The film tells the story of a mother and son, the mother crafts super-realistic wigs and the son harvests the raw materials.

This one is a pass.

Director: 5 – Cinematography: 4 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 5 – Else performance: 3 – Score: 5 – Sound: 5 – Story: 5 – Script: 6 – Effects: 8 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 4 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 5

A Taste of Blood

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay:
Minutes: 117
Year: 1967
Score: 5.20

One of the strengths of these films is their length. Up until now the films have been around 70-90 minutes. For A Taste of Blood Lewis bloats the running time close to two hours. There is a lot of film here and with the cinematic quality it is too much.

A Taste of Blood is, as Lewis introduces, his Dracula movie. The plot, while standard European vampire, is actually really ingenious. Our main character is awarded with a title and land in Europe, the news is accompanied with two bottles of, what he assumes is, brandy. The drink is laced with the vampiric blood of his ancestor which turns our hero to the dark side.

The running time does a disservice to this film. Cut down I would like it a great deal more. Still, it could have been a whole lot worse.

Director: 4 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 3 – Parity: 3 – Main performance: 6 – Else performance: 5 – Score: 6 – Sound: 5 – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 6 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 6 – Lasting: 5

Disc 7 SF 36.62

  • Audio Commentary on The Gruesome Twosome with H.G. Lewis
  • Audio Commentary on A Taste of Blood with H.G. Lewis
  • Gruesome Twosome Introduction by Lewis (1:05)
  • A Taste of Blood Introduction by Lewis (1:42)
  • Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig! (9:54)
  • It Came from Florida (10:48)
  • H. G. Lewis vs. the Censors (7:53)
  • Promo Gallery (Trailers for both films – 2:44, 1:24 and Radio Spot for The Gruesome Twosome – 1:07)

She-Devils on Wheels

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allison Louise Downe
Minutes: 82
Year: 1968
Score: 5.60

If you ever wanted to watch a feminist biker flick you needn’t look any further. She-Devils on Wheels is amazing. Bad, but amazing. The acting is so spectacularly bad because Lewis says the first requirement was that the actors had to be able to ride.

The She-Devils are a biker gang in a turf war with some dudes. There is little plot and about 50 minutes of women riding motorcycles and kicking the crud out of those dudes. I am a fan. But since there is so little here there is very little to say aside from watch it.

Director: 7 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 5 – Parity: 8 – Main performance: 4 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 4 – Story: 7 – Script: 6 – Effects: 7 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 7 – Lasting: 5

Just for the Hell of It

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allison Louise Downe
Minutes: 81
Year: 1968
Score: 3.67

Are you still reading? Cool. So, this moving is a piece of garbage. Sorry, but it is. Just for the Hell of It is about some kids who go around destroying private property. It is boring, pointless, and a waste of your time.

Very hard pass.

Director: 4 – Cinematography: 3 – Edit: 3 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 5 – Else performance: 3 – Score: 5 – Sound: 4 – Story: 3 – Script: 3 – Effects: 6 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 0

Disc 9 SF 30.15

  • Audio Commentary on She-Devils on Wheels with Mike Vraney (Something Weird Video) and Lewis
  • She-Devils Introduction by Lewis (1:24)
  • Just For the Hell of It! Introduction by Lewis (1:59)
  • The Shocking Truth! with Bob Murawski (10:25)
  • Garage Punk Gore with Chris Alexander (9:12)
  • H.G. Lewis on The Alley Tramp (2:58)
  • Promo Gallery (Trailers for She-Devils – 1:37, Radio Spot – 1:00 and trailer for The Alley Tramp – 2:34)

How to Make a Doll

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Minutes: 78
Year: 1968
Score: 3.27

As much as I disliked this movie I have to admit that it captures young Rumination in an uncomfortable way. I’ll explain. The plot of this movie is a socially awkward guy who lives in a city in which everyone else is at a massive make-out party and our man is alone and uncomfortable. He retires to a pretty cool laboratory with his older scientist friend and together they figure out how to generate their own perfect woman, or, really, sex slave.

Now, I was never a mad scientist and I think that sex slavery is deplorable. But younger Rumination wished that he could create a perfect woman to make out with. This film is a very creepy Weird Science. But watch Weird Science so you don’t feel so skeevy when you are done.

Director: 3 – Cinematography: 4 – Edit: 3 – Parity: 0 – Main performance: 4 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 6 – Sound: 4 – Story: 2 – Script: 3 – Effects: 4 – Design: 8 – Costumes: 3 – Keeps interest: 3 – Lasting: 0

The Wizard of Gore

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Allen Kahn
Minutes: 95
Year: 1970
Score: 6.53

And this, ladies and germs, is Herschell Gordon Lewis truly sticking the landing. If it were up to me I would have closed with this one. The gore is at its finest and the mystery is very strong. But there are a few scenes, throw away images for many, I’m sure, in which there is a crimson tint over the action. This throws me back to the German art-deco films of Robert Wiene and Fritz Lang.

The film is about Montag the Magnificent, a magician who uses his skills to brutally murder the audience volunteers live on stage. But nobody can see him do it. There are some very clever edits in those scenes that seem to elevate Lewis’ blood effects to a new level. While it is very obvious that the movie is cheap, by all standards, I was made to feel like an actual audience member in a community center seeing an amateur magician.

This set stands on the legs of four or five films and The Wizard of Gore is the best worst movie here. I would gladly watch this over so many modern torture-porn flicks that are pumped out today.

Director: 10 – Cinematography: 9 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 4 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 4 – Story: 7 – Script: 6 – Effects: 9 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 4 – Keeps interest: 9 – Lasting: 10

Disc 11 SF 88.33

The interviews with Ray Sager and Stephen Thrower add a bit to the film but this disc lives on the feature.

  • Wizard of Gore Commentary with Mike Vraney (Something Weird Video) and Lewis
  • How to Make a Doll Introduction by Lewis (1:48)
  • The Wizard of Gore Introduction by Lewis (1:56)
  • Montag Speaks! (Ray Sager) (19:33)
  • Stephen Thrower on The Wizard of Gore (10:20)
  • The Gore The Merrier (Jeremy Kasten director of 2007 Remake – 9:05)
  • The Incredibly Strange Film Show (40:33)
  • Wizard of Gore Trailer (5:04)

The Gore Gore Girls

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Alan J. Dachman
Minutes: 81
Year: 1972
Score: 4.93

The best part of The Gore Gore Girls is the poster. The movie is bad, and not in a good way. There is a whole lot of nudity and some descent gore but it is boring. It has a few moments and an okay mystery, but it is a hard pass. It really is too bad that this, and the next flick, have to follow the best film in the set.

Per Lewis the title is a play on Go-Go girls and there you have the plot.

Director: 5 – Cinematography: 5 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 4 – Main performance: 7 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 5 – Sound: 4 – Story: 7 – Script: 6 – Effects: 9 – Design: 6 – Costumes: 4 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 0

This Stuff’ll Kill Ya!

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Screenplay: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Minutes: 99
Year: 1971
Score: 5.00

And here we have it. Limping across the finish line. Twenty hours of bad movies just starts to drag and drag and now it is over. This movie reminded me of Moonshine Mountain, which is not a good thing. I imagine that by now you have already made your decision and I can say anything here. You know, writing film reviews about 14 b-movies is hard. This is made even worse when some of them are really bad. Anyway, the bottom line here is that I whole-heartedly recommend this set. There are some bad flicks here but if you watch these movies you will know that you can make them too. Thanks for reading. If you are still reading tweet me at @admiralbeamish and I might have something special for you!

Director: 6 – Cinematography: 6 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 3 – Main performance: 5 – Else performance: 2 – Score: 6 – Sound: 3 – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 6 – Design: 5 – Costumes: 6 – Keeps interest: 5 – Lasting: 5

Disc 13 SF 33.93

  • Commentary on The Gore Gore Girls with H.G. Lewis
  • Commentary on This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! with Daniel Krogh
  • The Gore Gore Girls Introduction by Lewis (1:43)
  • This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! Introduction by Lewis (2:08)
  • Stephen Thrower on The Gore Gore Girls (16:25)
  • Regional Bloodshed (12:06)
  • Herschell Spills His Guts (4:02 – HG discusses career post GGG)
  • This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! Trailer (3:32)

One thought on “Herschell Gordon Lewis, FEAST! – Blu-ray Review

  1. That’s a lot of HGL! I thought about grabbing this set, but my wallet ran away and hid under all the furniture. I’ve seen all but five or six of these, so your reviews were somewhat helpful in saving me a few bucks. That said, big fans of the man’s work will be pleased as punch.

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