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Remembering a True Indie Giant: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Herschell Gordon Lewis (Courtesy: MUBI)

Herschell Gordon Lewis (Courtesy: MUBI)

by Legendary Lew

Herschell Gordon Lewis, the famed exploitation filmmaker dubbed “The Godfather of Gore” passed away on Monday. Varying reports have him aged at 87 and 90.

Lewis practically invented a movie sub-genre that still exists today: the gore film. With his early grindhouse box office success of  The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, a nudie film, Lewis wanted to move on to a style of movie that Hollywood wouldn’t or couldn’t touch. He came up with the idea of the gore film with the infamous Blood Feast.

The low-budget horror film tells the story of an Egyptian immigrant who runs a catering business and plots a feast of dismemberment and brutality. But many people who have seen the movie won’t remember the story line nor even care. That’s because Lewis inadvertently, but ingeniously, brought forth the cult party film–the type of wallpaper movie you can screen while chatting with a bunch of your friends until someone hushes the crowd saying, “Wait! Wait! You gotta check this out!”

Blood Feast was not the drive-in movie you would think to take your date to in bloodfeastthe 1960’s. It was the movie you would drive miles on a dare with partying buddies packed in your car. Reports surfaced of theater lines stretching for miles to see the movie.

Lewis tapped into young peoples’ thirst for the outrageous and scored big with that film, plus Two Thousand Maniacs!, probably his best.

He was a marketer of film in truly the greatest sense. Yes, he went for the bucks and admitted to doing so. But with films like Color Me Blood Red, The Gruesome Twosome and The Wizard of Gore, Lewis knew how to entertain the audience with his audacious gimmickry. There was no pretense to his films. They were poorly acted, dimly lit, sometimes set in high schools with sets that matched. That last point was especially true with his kids’ films (The Magic Land of Mother Goose and Jimmy, the Boy Wonder). Lewis also sporadically returned to sexploitation as well with a few of his lost films recently released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

two_thousand_maniacs-1964-mss-poster-06But his independent spirit in these movies was true. Ironically, Hollywood eventually became quite influenced by Lewis’s gore films, banking on sub-genres like the 80’s splatter films (the Friday the 13th series) and the more recent torture porn films (Saw, Hostel). These latter films intensified the depravity, but also removed the true sense of fun by moralizing slut shaming (promiscuous women in slasher films tend to have the most torturous, drawn-out deaths). Hyper-realism in torture porn films, with hanging slaughterhouse hooks and blood-stained walls, intended to shock. However, the gimmicks never scared me. The spooky touches simply became annoyances, especially when added with bad actors screaming like the “emoting” exercises of a community college’s Acting 101 class.

Lewis went his own way and knew when to stop making films, concentrating on other pursuits. He may have gone about making movies as a purely capitalist enterprise, but his movies show a sense of cheesy pleasure. Watching those works of creative joy, I never felt as though he was giving me the business.

lew-win_20160713_205425Legendary Lew is the co-founder of The Underground Multiplex and former personal video consultant of almost 20 years. He’s a writer, producer and host of the podcast “Mediatrocities” and the upcoming “Vital Media” series.



3 Lessons From the Box Office Failure of Ghostbusters 2016

Courtesy: Funny or Die

Courtesy: Funny or Die

by Legendary Lew

The news is now out that the 2016 reboot of Ghostbusters is a box office failure. Reports are coming in that the Sony Pictures feature, directed by Paul Feig, will end up as much as $75 million in the red.

Finger-pointing is bound to bubble up like the flasked, hate-laced goo in Egon’s laboratory and, indeed, it may be signaled by Feig’s promise to never direct any future classic movie reboots.

Well-covered on social media is the tussle between pro and anti- 2016 Ghostbusters, sliming each other with accusations of misogyny, racism and shameless pandering to women. After Cinemassacre’s James Rolfe posted a video stating he would not watch the 2016 Ghostbusters based on what he perceived (along with 1,000,000+ viewers) as a poor trailer, he was attacked in social media unfairly as being misogynist. Coming to his defense was Comic Book Girl 19 making some very good points about how the criticisms against Rolfe were misguided. About halfway during her video, she brings up more valid points regarding Sony Pictures and its enterprise, so I urge you to watch her video as it’s really worth watching:

I would like to go further, however, because we’re now wading through another flood of social media outrage on Twitter, this time over remaking Ocean’s Eleven as the new release, Ocean’s Eight, with women in the leading roles once held by George Clooney and Matt Damon.

If you’re one those numbskulls bitching about how a once male-dominated movie remake can’t be good because women, you’ve no idea what the real issue is. If we don’t get the lessons right about what’s going on with blockbusters nowadays, we’re doomed to have this social media nonsense repeat, so I would like to offer:

3 Lessons We Should Learn from the Ghostbusters 2016 Failure

1. Ghostbusters is Not Strong Movie Franchise Material

I can just hear all the clicks as people turn away from the page at this point or hurry down to breathe dragon fire in the comments, but hear me out.

If a movie is to be timeless, then it must be able to stand on its own merits over long periods of time. It’s completely reasonable to re-evaluate certain movies considered classics but showing signs of poor aging. A few examples I can think of are Gone With The Wind, The Graduate and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. (BTW, the reverse can be true as well with such movies as Buster Keaton’s The General, It’s a Wonderful Life and White Dog.)

Ghostbusters should go through an honest re-evaluation. Peter is introduced as a con-artist who delights in torturing students and is a sexual predator to female college students and eventually to Dana. Some of the special effects, such as the dogs, are great. Others look cheesy nowadays, reminding me of the now-hilarious squid attack scene in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Yes, CGI has advanced since 1984.

Egon and Ray are one-dimensional characters, a major flaw that Ghostbusters 2 tries to correct with a copycat script. And speaking of GB2, didn’t the first GB establish that the quartet of buddies were news worthy heroes in NYC and even get the mayor possibly reelected? If so, why then de-establish the GBers and have them go through the very same plot devices a second time? How many times are they going to be incarcerated or isolated before they’re dramatically called up for services when the city goes to Hell?

I find it totally understandable that Bill Murray had major trouble with the series. The first GB was mildly entertaining with some good special effects and Sigourney Weaver and Rick Moranis stealing every scene they’re in. Sony should have left well enough alone.

2. Sony Pictures is Remarkably Irresponsible

I agree with Comic Book Girl 19 that Sony saw the value in generating a sexist and racist fight on social media regarding GB 2016. Who thought that removing damning reviews from Sony’s YouTube account and leaving vehemently sexist and racist comments was a good idea?

This irresponsibility follows a long line of incredible blunders Sony’s made over the years. James Spaltro made the infamous claim as director of infomation security in 2007 that spending significant amounts of money in cybersecurity wasn’t necessary. Making such a claim was an unintentional challenge to hackers. Playstations were hacked four years later, causing an outage for as many as 77 million accounts. Then, in 2014 Sony went through a catastrophic hack that released private emails and personal information of many Sony employees. Some former employees stated that Sony’s cavalier attitude towards cybersecurity was a disaster waiting to happen.

The hacker group, Guardians of Peace, claimed the action and eventually caused an international incident regarding Sony’s pending release of the comedy, The Interview, starring James Franco and Seth Rogen. Washington got involved when the Guardians of Peace threatened to bomb theaters showing the bomb (believe me on this, I’ve seen it).

Earlier this year, Sony settled a class action lawsuit for $8 million brought on by employees whose information was compromised in the massive hack.
If all that weren’t enough, Sony is now in the middle of another hack-related lawsuit, this time by the production company of the film  To Write Love on Her Arms. The drama, involving a teenager’s battle with drug addiction and depression, was dropped from theatrical release consideration after the hack exposed the movie to piracy online. Sony’s response so far has been to claim they “had no obligation…to take any anti-piracy measures whatsoever.” They may have the legal edge, but this sure doesn’t make them look good.

Allowing a Ghostbusters PR campaign to feed off what Comic Book Girl 19 calls a “false flag” feminist issue gave Sony hope that people would read GB 2016 as a women empowering film, when in fact, it’s simply a cynical, lazy attempt to target women for on-screen ads. This is right in line with their history of callous business attitudes.

3. Sony Pictures Really Doesn’t Give a Shit about Ghostbusters Fans

The final point is the most depressing one to me.

You can currently watch the recently released documentary, Ghostheads, which shines the spotlight on several diehard GB fans and what the movie means to them. The stories are all warm-hearted: a GB group that visits young cancer patients in hospitals; a woman who quelled her alcoholism after becoming a fan; and a few stories of how family members connected to each other, thanks to the movie.

All of these stories are good and could have made for a fine film. However, like ghosts hidden in paintings and water pipes waiting to be released, Sony’s specter hung over the entire project waiting to spring in at the right moment.
That moment came at the end of the doc, when 60 GB fans were invited to the Hollywood studio screening of the first trailer. They each received a paper certificate and a lapel pin. Now, keep in mind, the people invited did the PR work for Sony on a stalled franchise that the company had no idea what to do with for a long time. Those fans, through their work and dedication to the film they love, helped Sony make a ton of money.

A paper certificate and lapel pin? Hell, they should have been flown first class to Japan and met the president of Sony.

What I’ve posted here is not meant to discourage you from being a fan of Ghostbusters. If the movie means a great deal to you, indulge in the fantastical pleasures. Bond with your children and grandchildren as Peter, Ray and Egon set out to save NYC from ghosts. Socialize with other fans who’ve had their lives changed by the film. There’s really nothing wrong with that.

My point is that Ghostbusters is a classic case of a movie viewed as merely consumable product by a company that doesn’t care about what the movie has meant to so many millions of people. The way Sony handled this property and their own history of bad judgments prove it.

Many of us have had childhood memories and family bonding involving corporate products. Our example was dinners with Kentucky Fried Chicken, long before their current trademark change to KFC. They were fond memories, but not so much that I’m walking around dressed like the Colonel (or a chicken for that matter). The reason is that at some point, either understood immediately or occurring later, we, like most people, can separate ourselves enough from the product to have proper perspectives on how its presentation is designed to manipulate us.

But what do you do when your deep connection to a company’s damaged product is broken? In the case of KFC, I learned how unhealthy the ingredients were. The solution was easy, because there are alternatives. You can seek out other restaurants serving fried chicken or prepared in healthier ways or even make your own chicken dishes at home.

In the case of Ghostbusters, owned by a company that has a hold on your memories, who you gonna call?

Mediatrociities Podcast #23: Dylan Reeve of “Tickled”

tickledby Legendary Lew

This episode of Mediatrocities features Dylan Reeve, co-director (along with David Farrier) of the hit documentary, “Tickled.” You’ll want to give a listen, because you’ll learn something about me you’ve never known before.  We talk tickling contests, strange festival happenings, lawsuits, abuse of power and what it’s like to be part of a male/male tickling community. By far, the most personal discussion I’ve ever given.

Check for local screenings here:




The Profiles Theatre’s Latest Show Ends Before It Begins

At the same time that allegations of physical and sexual abuse against its actors went public, Profiles Theatre had this ad for its next--now cancelled--production

At the same time that allegations of physical and sexual abuse against its actors went public, Profiles Theatre had this ad for its next–now cancelled–production

by Legendary Lew

The Chicago Reader recently published a blazing expose of Profiles Theatre and the decades of abuse suffered by some of its actors and actresses. If you’ve yet to read it, please do so. It’s an exhaustive piece by Aimee Levitt.

Well, after nothing happened for decades to stop the alleged abuses by manager Darrell Cox and complicity by company co-founder Joe Jahraus, the clouds burst.

The massive article has been picked up by Jezebel, Playbill and has gained the attention of The Jeff Awards Committee, which stated it will review its award given to Cox for an acting performance he gave during a period of alleged abuse.

Now the latest bad news for the theater: their newest production, The Village Bike has been shut down by its playwright Penelope Skinner, who rescinded the rights to the work due to the expressed allegations.

Much more is going on while this news article catches on like wildfire. has more in this post of updates.

Next week, we’ll have some footage of some of the brave folks who dared thunderstorms to take a late-night action against the theater. Stay tuned!

Film Franchises Could Ruin Hollywood Movies


Courtesy: AP News. From the documentary “Food, Inc.”, a food processing production line. Are Hollywood films becoming no different?

by Legendary Lew

Friend of The Underground Multiplex and contributor to Mediatrocities, Dominick Suzanne-Mayer comes up with an astute write-up of Warner Brothers’ decision to produce more DC Comics-based movies. His views parallel mine in discussion of what I’ve termed Imitation Movie Products.

You should head over to Consequence of Sound and give it a read. It’s yet another movie lover’s concern for how movies are being made and distributed to the detriment of those who can never have their films projected on the big screen.

BREAKING: Rich Donor Eviscerates Jeb Bush for SC Loss; Demanded He Quit Race (NSFW)


Courtesy: Ad Week

by Legendary Lew

The Underground Multiplex has uncovered a never-before publicized voicemail recording left by a Jeb Bush donor angry at his poor campaign performance.

Dolly Dentura, CEO of Dentura Enterprises, funded Jeb Bush’s campaign almost single-handedly and in the voicemail recording discovered by Legendary Lew, she berates the former Florida governor for his poor performance.

In a profanity-laced tirade, Dentura exclaims that Bush was a “big, fat mistake” a quote she attributes to Donald Trump, who she disdainfully refers to as “Chief Orange Hair.”

Dentura also had choice words for former First Lady Barbara Bush, who she blames for talking her into giving the famed son the millions of dollars that ended up “in the toilet.”

The voicemail recording reflects the frustration many rich Republican donors have had with a number of Republican presidential candidates, many of whom spent millions of dollars on their failed campaigns.

Click below to listen to the irate voicemail recording left at the Jeb Bush 2016 office:

Thrillo Pad DIY Holiday Special Open Mic This Saturday

ThrilloPadFBby Legendary Lew

The Underground Multiplex is proud to present the first-ever DIY event at our new location dubbed “The Thrillo Pad” on Saturday December 12th beginning at 2pm (check details below).

The Thrillo Pad is a cozy, welcoming space for small intimate evenings with friends sharing food, drink and lots of talent.

This event comprises of two parts:
FIRST, at 2pm: The first Star Wars Trilogy shown on glorious VHS, hosted by Mountain Drew of “Mediatrocities” fame. Relive the glorious years when George Lucas was making tons of money and you really did not care. Screenings will be held in the lower part of our split-level pad.

SECOND, AT 7PM: The Thrillo Pad DIY holiday open mic party featuring YOU! That’s right, if you have readings, poetry, acoustic music (non-electric, please, we have neighbors), short films to show (10 mins. max, any format) or anything else you would like to demonstrate in our space, feel free to express yourself! Keep in mind that we have a space that will accommodate probably 10 people comfortably at a time, so that epic opera or high-wire act will most likely need to happen elsewhere.

We would also love to have you recorded as our performance guest on The Underground Multiplex’s youtube channel as part of our “Mediatrocities” series.

We are serious about promoting Chicago as a center of talent rivalling that of other cities that lay claim to having the best artists. Let’s show everyone we’ve got it!

Because we have limited space, PLEASE RSVP DIRECTLY TO EITHER THE EMAILS OF THE CO-HOSTS BELOW. We will need to know 1) who will be attending, and 2) what you will be performing. Performers for open mic will take precedence over just observers.  A “going” tag on our Facebook event will NOT be counted as a certainty you will be attending. 

To help with security, since this is happening at a private residence, you must RSVP  at one of the emails below by 11pm Friday Dec. 11 so that we may expect you. Once we’ve received the emailed RSVP, you will receive a reply email giving our address.

If you will be performing, please let us know what you’ll be doing and how you want to be presented. All performers who want to appear on our YouTube channel will need to sign talent release forms for public appearance.

BYOB. Some hot boozed punch (TBD) will be provided and some snacks, but you’ll definitely want to bring some of your own as well if you so incline to be a chowhound.

PLEASE NOTE: FROM 2PM UNTIL 7PM, THE EVENT WILL BE ALL AGES SO WE WILL **NOT** BE SERVING ALCOHOL DURING THAT TIME. After 7pm, the event will be 21+ and we will serve hooched punch and have some beers here, I’m certain.  No illegal drugs will be tolerated on the premises and violators will be asked to leave. 

Photographed here are the basic rules for The Thrillo Pad:



We welcome your suggestions as to how to make this better. Let us know. We want this event to be a collective one with great minds and talents collaborating.

Legendary Lew

Legendary Lew–
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