The Blood Shed, Herschell Gordon Lewis' short-lived attempt at Théâtre du Grand-Guignol, opened at 1331 North Wells Street in Chicago's Old Town on Friday, July 19, 1968. Before the Godfather of Gore moved in and painted it red, the building had been home to a restaurant called Mr. Pumpernickel. Lewis turned the kitchen into a projection booth so he could show horror movies, including his own, but the theater's raison d'être were the stage shows featuring characters like Wanda Werewolf, Irving Vampire, and especially Count Satan, who would simulate the throat slashing of audience members and even recreate the infamous tongue ripping from BLOOD FEAST. Daniel Krogh, co-author of The Amazing Herschell Gordon Lewis and His World of Exploitation Films (FantaCo, 1983), worked as "the non-union projectionist" as well as "sometime ticket taker and troubleshooter" at the Blood Shed, and provides a description of the theater and its gruesome live shows in his long out-of-print book (Chapter 11, "Butchery Live on Stage: The Saga of the Blood Shed Theatre"). Not one of Lewis' more successful business ventures, The Blood Shed -- later renamed Le Cinema Bizarre -- didn't stick around Old Town for more than a few months but remains a fascinating sidebar to his films and most likely inspired him to make THE WIZARD OF GORE two years later.
John W. Donaldson
and Chris Poggiali