Cineastes have often debated the game-changing moments where one film ‘changed everything’ and ‘nothing was ever the same again.’
Was ever a genre so completely transformed as science-fiction after 2001 came out, for example? Horror movie fans will often cite The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Driller Killer or Cannibal Holocaust as fork-in-the-road moments when the genre turned up the nasty but Herschell Gordon Lewis’s Blood Feast, made in 1963 was the acorn from which the twisted oak tree of ultra-violent horror grew.
With a budget of only $60,000, Blood Feast went on to make millions and almost single-handedy invented the ‘Grindhouse’ sub-genre so beloved by Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez.The
He followed Blood Feast with Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964) – remade, of sorts, in 2005 with Robert Englund – and Color Me Blood Red the following year, and he continued to make schlocky, melodramatic B-movies into the 1970s, all cast with the kind of actors that make Chuck Norris look like Daniel Day Lewis. His films were always marketed with wildly enjoyable hyperbole on sensational (and hugely collectable) posters, eg. “A ghastly horror drenched in gouts of blood spurting from the victims of a crazed madman’s lust!!”
His was never the kind of career to attract prestigious awards and critical acclaim. In fact, in the rather wonderful 1980 book, The Golden Turkey Awards, Lewis was narrowly beaten to the ‘Worst Director of All Time’ Award by the legendarily talentless Ed Wood Jr., yet as Guardians of The Galaxy director James Gunn put it succinctly, ‘He changed cinema.’
Repeated late night screenings on TV in the 1970s also made him something of a lodestar to baby-boomer directors like Joe Dante, John Landis, Tim Burton and John Waters who were all ardent fans, and carriers of the torch he lit with such a glorious abandonment of good taste.