Horror on the Lens: Monster A Go Go (dir by Bill Rebane and Herschell Gordon Lewis)


Can you figure out what’s going in today’s horror on the lens, the 1965 film Monster A Go Go?

This sci-fi/horror hybrid details what happens when an astronaut lands on Earth and promptly disappears.  Much like The Creeping Terror, this film makes frequent use of a narrator.  I always appreciate it when movies like this come with a narrator.

Anyway, Monster A Go Go was reportedly started by Bill Rebane in 1961.  When he ran out of money, the film sat unfinished for four years.  That’s when Herschell Gordon Lewis bought the film, added some additional scenes, and then released it on a double bill with one of his own films.  Hence, if Monster A Go Go seems like two different movies crammed together … well, that’s pretty much what it is.

Along with its interesting production history, Monster A Go Go is also well-remembered for its amazingly nonsensical ending.  I imagine that this film led to a few drive-in riots.

Enjoy!

Horror Book Review: A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis by Christopher Curry


Remember the movie Juno?

I can remember when Juno first came out, a lot of people were shocked when the character of Mark (played by Jason Bateman) suddenly started to come on to Juno (Ellen Page).  (For the record, as a result of that one scene, I’ve always had a hard time watching Jason Bateman in practically anything.)  Myself, I knew Mark no good long before he asked Juno what she thought of him.

Remember the scene where Mark asked Juno who her favorite horror director was?  Juno, being intelligent, replied, “Dario Argento.”  Mark smirked and replied that Herschell Gordon Lewis was better.  As soon as Mark said that, I knew he was no good.

Now, I should make clear that’s nothing against Herschell Gordon Lewis, who was one of the pioneers of independent American cinema.  Though I don’t think that there’s any way you can compare him to Argento, Lewis played an important and often undervalued role in the development of horror as a genre.  Lewis may not be a household name but Blood Feast and 2,000 Maniacs are two of the most influential films ever made.  Something Weird was one of the first films to feature an acid trip and it’s title inspired Something Weird Video.  Speaking of Something Weird Video, the clip that they always play before their films — the one of the bald man shouting that “you’re damaged merchandise and this is a fire sale!” — was taken from Lewis’s Scum of the Earth.  And finally, Lewis’s political satire — The Year of the Yahoo — pretty much predicted the current state of American politics.

If you want to find out more about the life and career of Herschell Gordon Lewis, the 1999 book, A Taste of Blood: The Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, is a good place to start.  The author, Christopher Curry, admits from the start that he is an unapologetic fan of Mr. Lewis’s.  As such, don’t expect the book to be too critical of any of Lewis’s films.  That said, A Taste of Blood contains not only interviews with the always articulate Lewis and some of his collaborators but it also contains a synopsis of every single Lewis film that had been released up until that point.  As such, the book is not just a tribute to Lewis but also a fascinating record of what it was like to work outside of the mainstream Hollywood establishment in the 1960s.  For that reason alone, it’s a valuable resource.

Now, it should be remembered that A Taste of Blood was written in 1999.  At the time that it was written, Lewis had retired from filmmaking.  Lewis, who passed away in 2016, would return to make three more films after the publication of A Taste of Blood.  As a result, A Taste of Blood is not a complete look at Lewis’s film career.  But it is a good place to start!

Finally, I bought my copy of A Taste For Blood at Recycled Books in Denton, Texas.  As far as I know, it’s out of print but, as always, there are still copies to be found online.

The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Year of the Yahoo! (dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)


yahoooooooooooooooooooooooo

At the time of his death last year, Herschell Gordon Lewis was credited with having directed 38 films.  Though he’s best known for ground-breaking gore films like Blood Feast and The Gore Gore Girls, Lewis actually dabbled in several different genres.  For instance, he made one of the first psychedelic drug films when he directed Something Weird.  And, as a public service, he warned us all of the dangers of smut peddlers with Scum of the Earth.

And, of course, there was that political films he made…

WHAT!?  A political film directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis!?

Yes, it’s true!  The man who helped to give birth to modern horror also directed one of the most prophetic films ever made.  The Year of the Yahoo! came out in 1972 but it feels even more relevant today.  The Year of the Yahoo! not only predicted the rise of Donald Trump but also predicted the rise of Barack Obama as well, making it one of the few truly bipartisan satires ever made.  That’s not bad for an obscure film directed by a man who was never given much respect from mainstream critics.

The Year of the Yahoo! opens in Texas.  It’s an election year.  The governor (Jeffrey Allen) would love to get rid of liberal U.S. Senator Fred Burwell (Robert Swain) and he thinks that he’s found the candidate to do it.  The Governor wants to nominate an unimpressive congressman, someone who will be easy to control.  However, the President disagrees.  The President (who is obviously meant to be Richard Nixon, even if his name is never specifically mentioned) has decided that the man to defeat Sen. Burwell is a country singer named Hank Jackson (real-life country singer Claude King).

Hank Jackson has a television show, one that he hosts with his girlfriend, Tammy (Ronna Riddle).  Hank sings songs about how America needs to return to traditional values and how people just need to come together and help each other out.  He may be old-fashioned but he’s okay with the counter-culture.  In fact, when we first meet him, he’s at a hippie party.  He turns down an offer of marijuana but he does so with a hearty laugh.  He’s a traditional guy but he’s got no issues with the long hairs.  Not our Hank!  It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Dallas oilman, an Austin hippie, an El Paso policeman, or a Galveston fisherman.  Everyone in Texas loves Hank!

When Sid Angelo (Ray Sager, the star of Lewis’s Wizard of Gore), a political consultant with White House connections, approaches Hank about running against that lefty traitor, Sen. Burwell, Hank is skeptical but intrigued.  Once Sid get Hank to agree, Sid starts to shape Hank’s message.  As a disgusted Tammy watches, Hank starts to sell out.  Soon, Hank is making jokes about people on welfare.  He’s defending law and order.  He’s taking the side of the landlords against the rent strikers.  Everything from his campaign announcement to interviews with the local media is precisely choreographed by Sid.

Hank’s message starts to resonate with the voters.  This is largely because he doesn’t have a message.  Instead, he just has a bunch of empty slogans and coded phrases.  Hank’s campaign commercial features him riding on a horse while the word “Hope” appears on the screen.  (I mean, who could possibly vote against hope?)  What’s going to happen when Hank’s elected?  Well, as he explains in the film’s theme song, we’re going to run the nation “like a country store.”  Just vote for Hank and “you’ll see how everyone relaxes.”

(At times, The Year of the Yahoo! almost feels like a musical.  The majority of the songs were written by Lewis, who was a legendary figure in the advertising industry before and after his career as a grindhouse filmmaker, and Claude King had a nice voice.  The songs are surprisingly catchy, even if they often are a bit too on the nose in their satire.)

Now, make no mistake about it.  This is definitely a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, which means that it often appears to have been made with more enthusiasm than skill.  At times, The Year of the Yahoo! moves way too slowly.  There’s a riot scene that is embarrassingly filmed.  The action stops for a stomach-churning sex scene between the hairy Ray Sager and a campaign volunteer.  The entire film, in fact, is full of actors who appeared in Lewis’s other films and it’s a bit weird to see familiar grindhouse performers cast as governors and campaign aides.  This is a Herschell Gordon Lewis production, with everything that implies.  While Lewis’s style was perfect for his semi-comedic gore films (Who can forget the “Have you ever had …. AN EGYPTIAN FEAST!?” scene from Blood Feast?), it feels a bit out of place in a film that is attempting to comment on reality.

And yet, it’s hard not to appreciate and kind of resoect just how serious the film’s intent seems to be.  Watching The Year of the Yahoo!, you get the feeling that Lewis actually was trying to say something important.  In The Year of the Yahoo!, Lewis not only attempted to make an important point but it was a valid point as well.  He may not have had the resources to really pull it off but consider this:

In 1972, Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted that a candidate could shoot the top of the polls by enticing voters with vague promises of hope.

In 1972, Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted that a wealthy TV celebrity, one that claimed to speak for the common man, could be packaged as a populist and sold to angry voters.

The Year of the Yahoo! was incredibly ahead of its time.  Say what you will about the film’s production values but you can’t deny this.  Everything that Herschell Gordon Lewis predicted came true.  That’s quite an accomplishment for someone often dismissed as merely being a gore director.

In fact, it’s such an accomplishment that it should give us all one thing for the future:

yahoooooo

4 Shots From Horror History: Blood and Black Lace, 2000 Maniacs, Repulsion, Kill Baby Kill


This October, I’m going to be doing something a little bit different with my contribution to 4 Shots From 4 Films.  I’m going to be taking a little chronological tour of the history of horror cinema, moving from decade to decade.

Today, we continue the 1960s!

4 Shots From 4 Films

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava)

Blood and Black Lace (1964, dir by Mario Bava)

2,000 Maniacs (1964, dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)

2,000 Maniacs (1964, dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Repulsion (1965, dir by Roman Polanski)

Repulsion (1965, dir by Roman Polanski)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966, dir by Mario Bava)

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Color Me Blood Red (dir by Herschell Gordon Lewis)


color_me_blood_red_film_poster

That sure is an interesting poster, isn’t it?  The poster for Color Me Blood Red pretty much screams grindhouse and if you didn’t already know that this 1965 film was directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis and produced by David Friedman, you’d be able to guess just from looking at it.  My favorite part of the poster is the promise that Color Me Blood Red is “drenched in crimson color.”

There’s a lot of blood in Color Me Blood Red.  In fact, it’s a movie about blood.  Adam Sorg (played by Gordon Oas-Heim, who I’m going to guess was not a professional actor because, otherwise, why wouldn’t he have changed his name to Gordon O?) is a painter who hasn’t had much success.  Sure, he has a house on the beach and he has a girlfriend named Gigi (Elyn Warner) who is willing to model for him but one thing that Adam doesn’t have is respect.  No one wants to buy his paintings!  Could it be because Adam is living in a city full of Philistines?  That’s what Adam seems to believe but I think a far bigger problem is the fact that Adam is not a very good painter.  His paintings are cartoonish and his use of color is more than a little dull.  However, after Gigi cuts her finger and bleeds all over one of his canvases, Adam discovers that he has now found the perfect shade of red!

So, he decides to paint with blood.  Unfortunately, Gigi doesn’t want to give him any more of her blood.  So, Adam decides to open his own veins and use his own blood but he faints before he can finish his latest masterpiece.  What is Adam to do?  Well, he can always kill Gigi and use her blood.  And, of course, there’s always a fresh supply of teenagers showing up on the beach…

What’s sad about all this is that, even after Adam discovers that blood is the perfect shade of red, he’s still not a very good painter.  Believe me, I understand.  I majored in Art History.  The majority of my friends are artists.  Some paint, some write, some take pictures.  Believe me — I get it.  We all go through that phase where we fool ourselves into thinking that undeveloped talent, lazy thinking, and lack of ability is the same thing as having a unique vision that is destined to be unappreciated.  But most artists either eventually find their own voice or they give up by the time they turn 28.  Adam, on the other hand, is a middle-aged guy who is still acting like a student in an Intro to Graphic Design class.  What I’m saying is that blood is useless without a unique vision.  The perfect shade of red isn’t going to help if you still don’t have your own voice.

Then again, maybe I’m taking the film too seriously.

And really, that’s something you should never do when you’re reviewing a Herschell Gordon Lewis film.  Color Me Blood Red was the third part of Lewis’s blood trilogy but, unfortunately, it’s never quite as effective or memorable as either Blood Fest or Two Thousand Maniacs.  As silly as certain parts of the film may be, Blood Feast‘s gore still has the power to shock.  Two Thousand Maniacs is pure nightmare fuel.  Color Me Blood Red, meanwhile, is kind of bland.  It feels more like a successor to The Undertaker and His Pals than Blood Feast.

That said, the film is worth watching for some of the dialogue.  The entire film is full of campy lines, the majority of which are so strange that they give the proceedings an almost dream-like feel.

“Dig that crazy driftwood!” someone says upon spotting a corpse in the water.

“You mean the type who earn an honest living painting houses?” someone else says when asked for his opinion on artists.

And, of course, there’s my favorite line: “HOLY BANANAS!  It’s a girl’s leg!”

Color Me Blood Red is the least essential entry in the blood trilogy but, if you’re a Lewis/Friedman completist, you know you’re going to have to watch it.  So, you might as well sit back and enjoy it for the frequently silly little movie that it is.

Did You Know That Herschell Gordon Lewis Predicted The Future?


It’s true!

Just check out this trailer for his 1972 film, The Year of the Yahoo!

RIP, to Herschell Gordon Lewis.  Here’s a few of the Lewis films that we’ve reviewed here on the Shattered Lens:

Something Weird

The Gore Gore Girls

Scum of the Earth

The Gruesome Twosome

2,000 Maniacs

Blood Feast

Over on his own site, Trash Film Guru Ryan has reviewed The Wizard of Gore

And here’s Gary’s tribute to Herschell Gordon Lewis.

There’s no way that I can do a post about the passing of Herschell Gordon Lewis without including this famous scene from Scum of the Earth.  If you’ve ever gotten a DVD from Something Weird Video, you know this monologue by heart:

RIP Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore


cracked rear viewer

lewis1

Mention the name Herschell Gordon Lewis to film fans and you’ll get two responses. They either love him or hate him. I fall cleanly into the first camp, as I’ve always loved the demented cinema of Mr. Lewis, who passed away Monday at age 87. Whether watching a triple feature of terror at the old Capital Theater on a Saturday afternoon, or later rewatching his movies via the magic of VHS, Herschell Gordon Lewis’s blood soaked no-budget epics provided hours of gruesome entertainment for me, and helped warp my impressionable little mind (like it needed any help!).

Blood Feast (1963)                                                                 Blood Feast (1963)

Lewis got into the film business in the late 50’s, teaming with sexploitation king David F. Friedman to make a series of nudie-cutie flicks like BOIN-N-G! and GOLDIELOCKS AND THE THREE BARES, before creating their first masterpiece, 1963’s BLOOD FEAST. The film’s about Fuad Ramses, an Egyptian caterer who slaughters young women in order…

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