Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Interview With Herschell Gordon Lewis

Today I was given the great opportunity to interview a legend in the horror business; Herschell Gordon Lewis.  Lewis has been the director of cult classics like "Two Thousand Maniacs," "Wizard of Gore," and many other films spanning from his fifty-six year career.  I got the honor talking to him about this life of his, and a new film he is releasing called "Herschell Gordon Lewis's Bloodmania."

Ryan Gavalier: For decades now, you have influenced filmmakers, but what were the movies and directors that inspired you?
Herschell Gordon Lewis: The original "Dracula" seized my attention, and the early Hammer films made an impact on me, but I can't isolate a single film or director.

RG: Your were one of the pioneers of gore in horror.  What were your techniques and motivations for such an outrageous practice?
HGL: I was determined to make a film the major companies either could not make or would not make. The live "Grand Guignol" show in Paris showed me the path: a single outrageous effect could overcome the penalty an independent production faced -- minuscule budget, lack of star names, and no distributional network. I was determined to produce a niche-market film with a  budget so low I wouldn't take a major hit if it died at birth.

RG:  With such a body of work, you must have met many interesting people in your casting. Were there any that were particularly intriguing?
HGL: Shooting "This Stuff'll Kill You" in Oklahoma City, I chanced upon Tim Holt, who had starred in "Treasure of Sierra Madre.” He was selling radio time and hadn’t been in a movie for years. I wrote a part -- not a major one -- for him, because I remembered what he had been. Somehow, his professionalism rubbed off on the other actors.

RG: You have been part of the movie business since 1959.  Your films have been in the genres horror, exploitation, and children's. What do you see as your best works?
HGL: My personal favorite, of all the films I've made, is "Two Thousand Maniacs." Looking at footage from the new movie ("Herschell Gordon Lewis's Bloodmania") I may retire "Two Thousand Maniacs" to an emeritus position.

RG: In the 1970's you retired from the movie business for some time.  What were some of your other ventures during these years?
HGL: I was and still am a writer, specializing in direct-to-consumer and direct-to business marketing. I've written 32 books and numerous magazine articles in that field, and lectured in many countries. Until my multiple personalities became common knowledge, the worlds didn't collide.
 RG: You have a new anthology of films coming out called "Bloodmania."  Would you like to give some teasers to what the premise of these movies are?
 HGL: Don’t confuse the title with a 1970s “quickie” with that title. This one is titled “Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Bloodmania.” The producer, James Saito, structured the premise on four episodes, each one representing a different facet of “splatter.” Some inject a big chunk of humor and some extend the reach of splatter with effects no one has dared to test before. I wrote one of the four and directed two. Canadian screenwriters and directors created the other two. We shot it digitally, in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and I was totally impressed by the professionalism, cooperative spirit, and enthusiasm both cast and crew displayed. I’ll happily shoot another movie in Canada as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
RG: Do you have any other projects on the writing board?
HGL:  I have a script – “Mr. Bruce and the Gore Machine.” I’m trying to convince James Saito to produce it. If that doesn’t happen I’ll shop it around until some enterprising producer catches the fever of my fervor.

RG: The horror genre has really had a rebirth in the past few years. Have there been any modern films that caught your eye?
HGL: That’s an unfair question because I view films competitively, with a jaundiced eye. Outside my own territory, “The Imitation Game” is bright and intelligent.

I would like to again thank Herschell, and James Saito for making this interview possible. I am beyond happy to have been able to do my first interview ever with such a big figure in my field.  Below I will have a link that gives more information about Lewis' new film. I highly recommend checking it out, because you will get to see a sneak peek of the film. 

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