The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast Is the Pick of the Week

Halloween is really sneaking up on me this year. October is normally one of my favorite months of the year as it is the beginning of cooler weather, hot drinks, the smell of burning wood, and beautiful colors. It’s also the only month of the year when everybody wants to watch scary movies. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather, or the fact that we bought a house and have been spending all our excess time and energy fixing it up or what, but I just haven’t been feeling October this year.

We had our annual pumpkin-carving party a few days ago and I totally wasn’t into it at all. I didn’t even carve a pumpkin! Part of this was because I’d thrown my back out the day before but I wasn’t nearly as excited about it before than happened either. The month is almost over and I’ve not even watched a single horror film. Normally, this would be unthinkable. Someone needs to pump hot cocoa in my belly and pour fake blood all over my head. Quick!

Herschell Gordon Lewis is generally credited with making the first splatter movie. He’d had quite a bit of success making nudie cutie movies in the early ’60s but as morals relaxed all over the country and the Motion Picture Production Code began to lose its ability to censor mainstream Hollywood movies, low-budget nudie films were no longer making money. So Lewis turned to what any self-respecting moviemaker would do when that happened: he amped up the violence and gore.

With Blood Feast, made in 1963 on a shoe-string budget, Lewis realized audiences would lay their money down to see up-close, fairly realistic depictions of hardcore violence. The more blood and guts the better. Over the next decade (and off and on until he retired from filmmaking in the late ’70s), he made dozens of increasingly gore-filled features, making a heaping load of money in the process. He spent much of the ’80s and ’90s running a successful advertising agency before making a couple splatter films in the 2000s. He died in September of this year.

To celebrate his life, his influence on horror filmmaking, and all the blood-splattering he created throughout his career, Arrow Video is releasing a giant 14-film retrospective. It includes Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Two Thousand Maniacs, Moonshine Mountain, Color Me Blood Red, Something Weird, Gruesome Twosome, A Taste of Blood, She-Devils on Wheels, Just for the Hell of It, How to Make a Doll, Wizard of Gore, This Stuff’ll Kill Ya, and Gore Gore Girls.

Truth be told, several of those films aren’t the gore-filled, blood-lust films I led you to believe they would be, but a nice sounding overview of his total exploitation output – which also includes sex robots, biker-girl gangs, psychic witches, and hard-liquor-loving hillbillies. Let’s just admit that this sounds so much better than a dozen blood-soaked films at once.

In all honesty, I’ve never seen a single Herschell Gordon Lewis film. I think I watched part of the Wizard of Gore back when it was streaming on Netflix, but then my wife came home and I had to turn it off. But his name is lifted up on high by horror hounds the world over, and this looks like a brilliant way to give the guy his due.

The set is loaded with extras including commentaries, new interviews, documentaries, and even some introductions by Lewis himself. Sounds amazing.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Captain Fantastic: Viggo Mortensen stars as a father raising his children completely off the grid in the isolated northwest. All is well until he’s forced to pile the kids into the family bus and face the reality of civilization.

Nerve: Emma Roberts stars as a high school senior who finds out that her online-game obsession with “truth or dare” isn’t quite the innocent fun she first thought it would be. Also stars Dave Franko and Juliette Lewis. (Reviewed by The Vern.)

The Executioner (Criterion Collection): Made in Spain in 1963, this dark comedy is a scathing critique of Franco-era values via a macabre farce about an undertaker who marries an executioner’s daughter so they can keep their government-allotted apartment.

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You: PBS’s American Masters series takes on the revolutionary television producer who created such shows as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, The Jeffersons, and Maude. (Read Kristen Lopez’s review.)

Bob Dylan – No Direction Home: Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition: Martin Scorsese’s 2006 documentary about Bob Dylan’s life and music from 1961-1966 is essential viewing for fans of the artist. It’s an incredible film about one of the most crucial periods in Dylan’s life. Filled with never-before-seen concert footage and loads of interviews, it’s just incredible viewing. For the 10th anniversary, they’ve added in over two and a half hours of additional footage. I can’t wait to see it.

Manhattan Baby: Lucio Fulci’s not-exactly-a-classic horror film from 1982 gets a crazy great-looking three-disk Blu-ray release from Blue Underground. It includes a new 2K transfer, special packaging, interview, and a bonus CD filled with the movies music from Fabio Frizzi.

Lights Out: New horror film produced by James Wan about a woman who is haunted by a creature that only appears when the lights go out.

Mat Brewster

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