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Interview With Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Wizard of Gore

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By Trevor Marshall

Herschell Gordon Lewis has been a professor, theater owner and author, though he is most well-known as the "wizard of gore" -- that is to say, as a filmmaker. From 1960 to 1972 he made over 20 independent films in various exploitation sub genres, but the most remembered are his horror films.

He invented the sub genre of the gore or splatter film, starting with Blood Feast, which delivers plenty of blood and guts. He had retired, but in the 2000s has returned to directing. I spoke to him recently by phone about his latest project and fried chicken.

Network Awesome Magazine: You've had a long career, and you're been a jack of all trades. What are you up to these days?

Herschell Gordon Lewis:
Well, as you're aware, I have a new movie out there. It's called The Uh Oh Show. The original title was Grim Fairy Tales, with one "m" on grim, and the reason I changed the title was I began to get inquiries from people in the movie business saying, "Is this a live action version of the original Grimm brothers tales from the 17th century in Germany?" I said, "No. No. No. No. It's about a quiz show." And after enough people raised this question, since the quiz show is called "Uh Oh," I thought that I'd better change the name of this movie. So we changed the title to The Uh Oh Show.

NAmag: What's The Uh Oh Show about?

HGL: What I was trying to do with this movie is to bridge the gap that's always separated what we call a splatter film from more conventional entertainment. You go to see a movie such as Scream or House on Elm Street or Amityville Horror, and as you walk in to the theater, or as you rent a DVD, you know immediately what you're going to see.

There is a derivative aspect here, where you have the feeling you're seeing the same show over and over and over again, and a girl is sitting there and her phone rings and a look of horror comes over her face and the window smashes and a burly hand comes over and seizes her and slashes her to death, and after a while you say, "I've seen this before."

Even though it may be a fresh piece of film or a digital image, you've seen it before. You don't say that about The Uh Oh Show because unlike any movie of this type ever made before, we've welded together conventional slashing and a wild sense of humor where everyone will recognize from the very first frame the whole thing's a joke.

For example, if I take an ax or a radial saw and I slash your arm off at the shoulder, blood will spurt and you'll quickly die of blood loss and shock. Not in The Uh Oh Show -- you'll just be irritated... So the audience will know the whole thing is a joke. And that's the way it runs from beginning to end.

Trailer Trash -- The Trailers of Hershel Gordon Lewis:

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NAmag: On your newer films did you use the same type of special effects as your other films? Still have a trunk full of animal guts?

HGL: Oh sure we used animal parts. There's no CGI in the movie other than printing pictures into television screens. There's no other way of doing it except CGI. But yes, we had pig entrails. The usual assortment. And no, we don't' use em for dinner after the shot.


NAmag:
Once you'd retired in the early '70s, how long did it take you to realize you had this cult celebrity status?

HGL: I had forgotten the whole thing (laughs). I guess it was one day in the early 1980s, I had a phone call -- I remember the fella's name, Rick Sullivan -- he said, "I'd like to invite you to a retrospective of your films, and we'd like for you to be our guest." I said, "Come on! Who is this?" figuring it was one of my tennis buddies. A renaissance had begun, I certainly had no idea.

Movie -- The Wizard of Gore (1970):

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NAmag: One last question, I've heard you're a big fan of fried chicken, where's your favorite place to get it?

HGL: My favorite fried chicken restaurant is Popeye's. Now that may irritate the people at Colonel Sanders, but I have found -- since I am the world's number one authority on fried chicken -- that what matters is my opinion.

Even though Colonel Sanders, when he was alive, was in one of my movies as himself. A movie called Blast Off Girls. But at the moment, it's Popeyes. If someone wants to win my heart -- and my wife knows this very well -- she'll give me a smile and say, "Hey, let's go to Popeye's." And I will say, "You bet we will."

To read more of this interview including Herschell Gordon Lewis on the future of film, go to "Network Awesome Magazine."

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