Pop Quiz, Hotshot: Herschell Gordon Lewis Film Or Children's Book?

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Herschell Gordon Lewis, known as the Godfather of Gore,  directed the 1963 film, <em>Blood Feast</em>.

Herschell Gordon Lewis, who died earlier this week at the age of 87, wore several hats over the course of his life: advertising copywriter. Self-styled direct-marketing guru. And, most famously, director of exploitation films of various stripes (nudie, splatter, nudie-splatter).

Many of those films have achieved the kind of cult status that often accretes to any cultural product made so cheaply, and with such a gleefully undisguised commitment to offend. A savvy marketer, Lewis knew that his films' titles had to do much of the work required to get viewers' butts into grindhouse theater seats, and he infused those titles with a lurid, insinuating, visceral (heh) appeal.

So in honor of the passing of the Godfather of Gore, here is a list of selections from his smutty, blood-soaked filmography. Guess which ones are actual HGL films, and which are instead the titles of some lesser known works of children's literature. Answer key's alllllll the way at the bottom of this post.


1. Blood Feast

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

2. Blood is the Harvest

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

3. She-Devils on Wheels

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

4. The Alley Tramp

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

5. The Blood Diaries

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

6. Scum of the Earth!

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

7. This Stuff'll Kill Ya!

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

8. Kill the Teacher's Pet

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

9. The Magic Land of Mother Goose

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

10. Miss Nymphet's Zap-In

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

11. How to Make a Doll

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

12. Boin-n-g!

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

13. Two Thousand Maniacs!

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

14. The Uh-Oh Show!

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

15. The Girl, the Body, and the Pill

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

16. Goldilocks and the Three Bares

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

17. Monster A Go-Go

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

18. Jimmy, the Boy Wonder

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

19. Scouts in Bondage

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book

20. The Gore Gore Girls

A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film
B. Children's book


Answer Key:

1. Blood Feast, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

OK, this one was a gimme. It's the guy's most famous film, from 1963. Just wanted to get you feeling full of yourself, here at the start.

2. Blood is the Harvest, B. Children's book

Ha! Got you! Blood is the Harvest is an anti-communist jeremiad published in 1950 by the Catechetical Guild Education Society. Feeling a bit less cocky now, eh buddy?

3. She-Devils on Wheels, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Another gimme. Arguably the most Herschell Gordon Lewis-y title of them all, made in 1968. Though I for one would happily give my kid a picture book called She-Devils on Wheels.

4. The Alley Tramp, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

1968. "A teenage girl sets out on a sexual odyssey of having affairs with various men including her mother's secret boyfriend." Gotta say, "sexual odyssey" seems a bit ... lofty for a grindhouse flick, but there you go. I note, with no small amount of delight, that Lewis plays a radio reporter in the film, named Gene ... (wait for it!) .... Stallion.

5. The Blood Diaries, B. Children's book

A 2014 kids' book by Marissa Moss. Full title: The Blood Diaries: Tales of a 6th-Grade Vampire. See? The word "blood" in the title is no guarantee of Lewis-hood.

6. Scum of the Earth!, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

A 1963 film about exploitative photographers. Quoth the film's poster: "From the shadows of their sordid haunts ... they slither like predatory beasts ... to stalk their prey! Hell is their only address and they offer you a cheap substitute for fulfillment ... in exchange for your soul!"

It concludes with this simple list: "DEPRAVED DEMENTED LOATHSOME NAMELESS SHAMELESS"

Which to be fair are the best five of the seven dwarfs.

7. This Stuff'll Kill Ya!, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

A 1971 film about a con-man impersonating a preacher to run moonshine. From the poster: "Too much lovin'! Too much likker! Too much lawbreakin'!"

8. Kill the Teacher's Pet, B. Children's book

A 1991 kid's book by Joseph Locke (aka Ray Garton). Sayeth the School Library Journal, "This pointless bit of horror fluff is neither well-written nor thrilling. Truly awful."

A writer after Lewis' heart!

Not literally! I feel the need to clarify!

9. The Magic Land of Mother Goose, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Lewis made two films for the kiddie market over the course of his career. This one, made in 1966, is a (poorly) filmed version of a stage play that features a Raggedy Ann significantly more disturbing than anything else in Lewis's gore-flecked film oeuvre.

10. Miss Nymphet's Zap-In, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Well, duh. A 1970 collection of sex-themed sketches inspired by Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. From the poster: "You'll laugh your pants off! That's the way we filmed it!"

Gross.

11. How to Make a Doll, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Not, in fact, a kids' book — nor the second of the two kiddie films Lewis made. No, this is one of five films Lewis churned out in 1968, about a nebbishy scientist who builds a female robot. The poster's particularly spectacular, this time:

"Will Sexy Girls Overrun the Country? 'If I Made Her One Way - Can I Do It ... The Other?'"

Um ... what?

It goes on: "IN EYE-POPPING COLOR! The Wildest Invention Since The Pill. Beautiful, Voluptuous Robots Programmed For One Purpose: SEX! SEX! SEX!"

... Which seems like three purposes, somehow. Here's the kicker:

"Production-Line Instant Women Who Do Things Even Casanova Never Dared Hope For!"

12. Boin-n-g!, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

A 1963 comedy about two pals who set out to make a nudie film; hilarious hi-jinx ensue. Also distributed as Untamed Women in Nature in the Raw. Which, qua titles, is arguably somehow even worse than Boin-n-g!

13. Two Thousand Maniacs!, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

If this 1964 film didn't exist, Natalie Merchant would have spent the early years of her career churning out mellow chart-topping hits in a band called Burn Victims. No, seriously. That was their name just before they changed it (adjusting the number of titular maniacs for inflation).

Imagine that for a second: It's 1988, you're watching Judge Reinhold's opening monologue on SNL. "We got a great show for you tonight, BURN VICTIMS are here!"

It almost happened.

14. The Uh-Oh Show!, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

I know, it sounds so cute/quaint, right? But no, this is a latter-day (2009) Lewis film about a game show that dismembers its contestants.

15. The Girl, the Body, and the Pill, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Did you think this was some kind of high-fantasy sex-ed primer? C.S. Lewis meets Kinsey, sort of thing? No, it's a surprisingly nuanced — well, "nuanced" — 1967 exploration of issues surrounding birth control, featuring a progressive high school teacher, puritanical parents and a sexually active female student named ... Randy.

16. Goldilocks and the Three Bares, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Nope, this isn't the second of the two films Lewis made for kids. This is a cheerfully terrible nudie flick, with another outstanding poster. "Filmed in Buffocolor and Seemorescope!" Amazing.

17. Monster A Go-Go, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Lewis' rare foray into science fiction. An astronaut returns to Earth having been turned into a radioactive monster. ... OR HAS HE? (He has.) (Maybe.) (Look, the movie can't make up its mind.) Lewis took over the film when its original director ran out of funds. He added scenes but didn't take onscreen credit.

18. Jimmy, the Boy Wonder, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

This is the second of Lewis' two kiddie films, about a kid who can stop time. The villain of the piece is an evil wizard called Mr. Fig.

19. Scouts in Bondage, B. Children's book

A fantastically titled, and thus internet-famous, chronicle of Boy Scout misadventures (variously dated 1930 and 1935).

20. The Gore Gore Girls, A. Herschell Gordon Lewis film

Not, in fact, an autobiographical children's book by two of the daughters of our nation's 45th Vice President, but a 1972 splatter fest about a gaggle of strippers (named Suzie Cream Puff, Candy Cane and ... Pickles) getting murdered. Features Henny Youngman in a prominent role, because the universe is a vast and confusing place.


So: How'd You Do?

If you scored less than 12, give yourself an F.

If you scored 12-13, give yourself a D.

If you scored 14-15, give yourself a C.

If you scored 16-17, give yourself a B.

If you score 18, 19, 20, or if you noticed there weren't an awful lot of kids' books on this list, and concluded this was because this quiz was little more than a flimsy excuse to publish a bunch of film titles like She-Devils on Wheels on the NPR website, give yourself an A.

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