Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maniacs! Gore! and a 'Geezer'! Too

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Maniacs! Gore! and a 'Geezer'! Too

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Soergel

Herschell Gordon Lewis did more than direct, write and shoot his 1964 masterpiece, Two Thousand Maniacs! ("AN ENTIRE TOWN BATHED IN HUMAN BLOOD!" said the poster. "MADMEN CRAZED FOR CARNAGE!").

He also wrote - and sang - the theme song, a brisk banjo ditty in which Lewis informed watchers of Maniacs that, Yeee-ha! Oh, the South's gonna rise again!

He's still singing that song, 40-plus year later. And he'll do it Saturday night at the San Marco Theatre, when he will appear with a 35-millimeter print of Maniacs. And he'll get up there with a banjo player and, at 77 years old ("that's geezer age," he says), he'll sing that theme song again.

Yeee-ha!

"I'll stand up there and make a total ass of myself," he says. "I have at least as much talent as Paris Hilton."

Then the hillbillies on the big screen will try to slaughter some Yankees (including a Playboy model) in revenge for that War Between the States ("BRUTAL . . . EVIL . . . GHASTLY BEYOND BELIEF!")

Over the phone from his South Florida home, Lewis - who's often called "The Godfather of Gore" - is genial, charming and self-deprecating.

Those qualities will likely be evident Saturday, when he introduces his film at the San Marco (it's at 9:30 p.m., and tickets are $10; there will also be a screening of Maniacs, without Lewis, at midnight tonight for $5.)

Lewis has plenty of stories to tell: In the '60s and early '70s he made more than 30 exploitation movies, works designed to make money - and to be made cheaply.

"One thing you never heard on our sets was, 'Take two,' " he notes.

His films had catchy titles (She-Devils on Wheels, anyone?) and typically featured naked women, gory killing, monsters and bloodthirsty hillbillies - or some combination thereof.

He's now the guru of direct marketing - he's written 30 books on the topic. There's a connection between making movies and selling things, after all. "What people want is satisfaction without embarrassment, and that's what we try to feed them."

Lewis taught English and humanities at Mississippi State, then went into TV, radio and advertising before making movies - movies intended to make money, not win prizes. …

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