When we last saw Herschell Gordon Lewis, he was fielding questions and accepting kudos after a typically irreverent presentation at the Direct Marketing Association's annual conference several years ago at the Moscone Center. His successful career as a direct-mail guru for the last quarter-century capped by induction into the DMA Hall of Fame might seem at first blush to be worlds away from the work that won him immortality among a certain breed of film fan. Back in the early '60s, Lewis was one of the pioneers of low-budget, no-conscience exploitation films, producing a slew of titillating "nudie-cuties" before adding deep-dish gore to the recipe. Like most entrepreneurs, he was interested in making money, not art, and he knew how to profit from the allure and the shock of the forbidden. A key ingredient of Lewis' strategy was marketing, by which he meant free publicity generated from staged or manufactured controversy. The legendary horror trailblazer returns to town to introduce his 1970 cheapie The Wizard of Gore at the Late Night Picture Show, and to bask in (and no doubt mock) the adulation of a new generation of admirers. Cult fandom trumps respectability every time.
Nov. 2-3, 2007