Movies That Witness Madness is an ongoing series exploring the trashy, schlocky, silly joys of midnight cinema. Part IV, "Dwain Esper Goes To The Drive-In" focuses on the peddlers of cheap Drive-In movies who became the kings of turning a profit from trash, including Herscell Gordon Lewis and Al Adamson. More
"Nothing so appalling in the annals of horror!" They were the directors who didn't care what appeared on screen, who were interested only in nickles and dimes and viewed film-making as just another hustle. They shot laughably inept pictures in their backyards that were released with a great deal of promotional ballyhoo, promising the viewer an experience he/she had never enjoyed before. And people came! They were the exploitation film-makers, the earliest of which, Dwain Esper, spent the 1930s driving prints of such films as Reefer Madness, Maniac and Sex Madness from town to town, theater to theater, peddling his wares with the aid of lurid and sleazy promotional stunts. In the 60s and 70s, film-makers such as Herschell Gordon Lewis and Al Adamson forged careers as the purveyors of Drive-in fodder by following Esper's lead and cooking up their own outrageous gimmicks. They weren't auteurs. They were carnival barkers out to make a buck with films titled Blood Feast and Satan's Sadists, and this is their story.