Herschell Gordon Lewis, Gore Film Pioneer, Dies at 87

Filmmaker was known for blood-splattered offerings such as “Two Thousand Maniacs!” and “Blood Feast”


Herschell Gordon Lewis, the filmmaker behind pioneering gore films such as 1963’s “Blood Feast” and 1964’s “Two Thousand Maniacs!” died Sunday at age 87, a spokesperson for the filmmaker told TheWrap.

“It is my sad duty to report that my close friend and mentor Mr. Herschell Gordon Lewis passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. His family appreciate the outpouring of love that is coming in, but ask for privacy during this difficult time,” Lewis’ representative, James Saito, said. “Lewis was responsible for creating the ‘splatter’ film genre of horror, and his films are considered cult classics.”

Saito added that Lewis’ final film, the horror anthology “Herschell Gordon Lewis’ BloodMania,” will be released next year.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1929, Lewis worked on erotic films such as “Living Venus” and “Goldilocks and the Three Bares” — the latter of which was billed as a “nudist musical” — before finding his calling in more gruesome fare with “Blood Feast,” considered by many to be the first “gore” film.

“Two Thousand Maniacs!” and “Color Me Blood Red” would follow, with each film shocking audiences with their graphic, gory visual effects.

In addition to his entries in the gore canon, Lewis explored topics such as wife-swapping (with 1968’s “Suburban Roulette”), juvenile delinquency (“Just for the Hell of It,” from the same year) and birth control (1967’s “The Girl, the Body, and the Pill”).

Something Weird Video, which sells many of Lewis’ films, paid tribute to Lewis on its Facebook page Monday.

“Very sad news. We’re sad to report that Herschell Gordon Lewis has passed away,” the video company said. “Herschell was a dear friend and colleague of ours and will be missed very much. Our deepest sympathies to his wife Margot and his family. RIP to the Godfather of Gore…”

In the ’70s, Lewis turned away from filmmaking to focus on copywriting and direct marketing — and he wrote numerous books, such as “The Businessman’s Guide to Advertising and Sales Promotion” and “How to Handle Your Own Public Relations” — but he returned to filmmaking after a decades-long break, with 2002’s “Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat.”