The following article contains scenes of blood, brains, and sheep guts.
After becoming "the godfather of gore" by inventing the splatter movie with Blood Feast in 1963, Lewis made several more gore films, which included his Blood Trilogy. Then in 1967, Lewis figured people were getting tired of it, so he went back to his roots of making nudie exploitation films.
He returned to the gore scene in 1970, showing remarkable improvement in his ability to disgust audiences. Let's look at a couple of his later movies.
1. The Wizard Of Gore (1970)
This is probably Lewis's strangest film. It certainly makes the least sense.
The movie opens with a cheesy stage magician, Montag the Magnificent, who keeps lecturing his audiences about how they don't know the difference between reality and illusion. He also talks about how people have always loved to watch violence. To make his point, he brings girls up on stage and literally saws a girl in half with a chainsaw. The mesmerized audience doesn't know what to think. Suddenly, the girl is fine. The audience loves it. The woman goes back to her place in the audience.
After the show, the girl that was "killed" on stage then leaves the theater and goes to a restaurant. Sitting at her table, she suddenly dies from the same wounds that were inflicted on her during the show.
The next night, Montag has another trick to perform on an unwitting girl that comes on stage. Montag hammers a spike into the side of her head. Then with incredible precision, he pulls her brain out of the hole he made.
Again, the girl is fine, but then dies later. We don't see how she drops dead with no brain, we just hear there are very gruesome photos.
The gore effects, while absurd, are several steps above what he was able to do with his first adventures in the genre. They are much more realistic than his previous horror films, although he was still limited as to what he could do. For The Wizard of Gore, the film crew had two sheep carcasses soaked in Pine-Sol, which they had to carry around with them to use in several scenes, such as when a girl gets gutted with a giant hole punch.
I don't know if Lewis didn't know how to end the film or if he was stoned, but the movie becomes increasingly non-linear, and the final twist at the end is just confusing. I have no idea what he were trying to say. Lewis probably didn't, either. Endings were never his strong point.
Here is the magical trailer:
2. The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
This is considered by many people to be Lewis's most infamous film. Some say it was his best film. Some say it was his sleaziest. It's considered to be so violent that it is still banned in Australia. It was also the last movie Lewis made for 30 years.
The movie starts out with the brutal murder of a stripper named Suzie Cream Puff. A dumb newspaper reporter hires a super annoying private investigator to help solve the crime. As usual, the plot and acting are less-than-good. Since it's about the murder of strippers, Lewis went back to his exploitation film days and included about as many strip scenes as kill scenes.
Even decades after it was made, the movie is still notorious for its kill scenes. For example, we see a stripper named Candy Cane fondling herself and chewing bubble gum. The killer slits her throat, and then, in a truly excessive scene, proceeds to mutilate her face with a meat cleaver.
Another girl is attacked in her kitchen and is spanked to death with a meat tenderizer. When the investigating lieutenant is asked what happened, he replies, "This one had her ass beat in."
In the most bizarre scene of the film, the killer murders a girl and then uses scissors to cut the tips of her nipples off in order to fill glasses with breast milk. When her roommate comes home, the killer shoves her face in the deep-fryer making french fries on the stove.
The ending of the film consists of a long monologue by the detective, explaining every single clue that led him to solving the crime. As if anybody watching the movie even cares.
Here's the trailer:
As a special bonus, let's look at another, pretty unknown, film that Lewis made. It was so bad that Lewis didn't even want his name on it.
3. Monster A Go-Go (1965)
This was made the same year that Lewis finished his Blood Trilogy with Color Me Blood Red. A true cinematic curiosity, it is widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made. It even got the MST3K treatment.
The movie was mostly directed by a guy named Bill Rebane in 1961. But he ran out of money to finish the picture, so he abandoned it. A few years later Lewis found it. He needed a second movie to make a double feature with a movie he had already made, so he bought it and finished it. But calling it "finished" is being generous. He added some narration, filmed a few extra scenes, and called it good. By this time, Lewis was known as a director of extreme movies. This one would set his reputation back. Lewis decided he didn't want his name on it, so he left Rebane to be known as the sole director.
The plot barely exists. It has something to do with an astronaut getting sent to space, absorbing a lot of radiation, and then returning to earth as a giant, terrible monster.
Sometimes he kills people by choking them and sometimes it seems to be through the force of his radiation. Either way, they die horrible and grotesque deaths, as is graphically illustrated by this corpse:
There is some insanely bad dialogue, actors that get replaced halfway through the movie, and scenes that don't have anything to do with other ones. There is actually not even an ending — the movie just stops when a narrator says the monster suddenly disappeared.
Here's the groovy, go-go trailer:
July 6th is the birthday of the gore film. Herschell Gordon Lewis was the man that gave birth to it. Every true horror fan needs to see the other movies he was able to make as a result.