Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore, has passed on

Contributed by
Sep 26, 2016

The filmmaker who introduced a new level of gore to the horror genre has passed beyond the realm of human understanding.

It was reported earlier today (via The Wrap) that Herschell Gordon Lewis, the exploitation movie director who took bloody mayhem to a pioneering extreme in movies like Blood Feast and earned the nickname "The Godfather of Gore," died on Sunday (Sept. 25) at the age of 87. Although a cause of death was not revealed, his passing was announced by Something Weird Video, the cult home video company that released many of Lewis' most famous titles.

A representative for Lewis, James Saito, said, "It is my sad duty to report that my close friend and mentor Mr. Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. His family appreciate the outpouring of love that is coming in, but ask for privacy during this difficult time. Lewis was responsible for creating the ‘splatter’ film genre of horror, and his films are considered cult classics."

The Pittsburgh-born Lewis (who was born on June 15, 1929) toiled at first in advertising and commercials before breaking into the movie business with a slew of exploitation quickies. He churned out softcore sex films known as "nudie cuties," comedies and juvenile delinquent tales before directing Blood Feast in 1963. The story of a psychopathic food caterer who kills women and includes their body parts in his meals, the movie was groundbreaking in its depiction of onscreen gore, paving the way for untold numbers of zombie, splatter and gore films to come.

He followed up Blood Feast with other shockers like Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965), The Taste of Blood (1967) and The Gruesome Twosome (1967), each outdoing the last in screen carnage. He continued to direct rough-around-the-edges movies about wife swapping, birth control and other taboo topics as well, although strangely he also made two children's films. The gore well ran dry, however, with The Wizard of Gore (1970) and The Gore Gore Girls (1972), after which Lewis retired from filmmaking to work exclusively in advertising and marketing, also writing more than 20 books on that business.

He got behind the camera again, however, in 2002 for Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, and also directed and wrote The Uh-Oh! Show in 2009. His final film, a horror anthology titled Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania, will be released next year.

No one could ever possibly argue that Herschell Gordon Lewis made great or even good movies, but he had his own peculiar vision and stuck to it for his entire career, and his use of extreme gore in his films undoubtedly changed the horror genre forever. Rest in peace, sir ... or shall we say, in pieces?

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