I’ve covered the Herschell Gordon Lewis Blood Trilogy here and here. After those films, Lewis continued grinding the meat…I mean, churning out the horror flicks. Things got campier, more disgusting, and more cheesy bad. The only reason to watch some of these films is for the heinous gore that puts most present day horror flix to shame.
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967)
The Gruesome Twosome is a fairly toned down gore flick that is also filled with some nonsense scenes and repetition.
The nonsense includes two dolled up wig heads having a conversation, excessive food footage during a movie date, a beach party, and a car race. As a result, there are actually only three kills in the entire movie.
And the formula is always the same. College girl goes to house/wig shop to rent room (a house that is on Elm Street, no less). Nice old lady chats with her and talks to a stuffed bobcat (at which point I’d be so fricking out of there, but the girls stay). Nice old lady shoves girl through a mysterious door in the wig room and locks her in. Girl tries to get out. Old lady’s cackling son appears, attacks girl, and scalps her.
Back on campus, one chick decides to play Nancy Drew in between dancing around in her nighty with her dorm mates. So yeah. She’s the final girl. And while this twosome is not as gruesome as some of Lewis’s previous flicks, there’s a good template here for modern slasher/torture flicks.
SOMETHING WEIRD (1967)
The weirdest thing about Something Weird is that Herschell Gordon Lewis’s movies seem to be getting worse the more effort he makes to step away from the shocking gore and give us more of a story.
In this one, some dude’s face is fucked up in an electrical accident. As a result, he gets psychic powers. He’s also visited by a witch who offers to restore his face if he’ll be her lover. Problem is, she looks beautiful to everyone else but still looks like a hag to him (more like a cheap 5 and dime Halloween costume witch).
Anyway, he becomes a professional psychic, helping police on murder cases…and dodging karate chops.
Man, it’s bad.
A TASTE OF BLOOD (1967)
For the first time, Lewis goes for a more classic monster…Dracula! A man drinks a bottle of wine that turns him into a (very Christopher Lee) vampire with a creepy blue face and one goal—to kill the descendants of Van Helsing.
A Taste of Blood is almost a pretty good vampire flick for its time. The worst part I’d say is the fact that it runs two hours long—too much time for a Herschell Gordon Lewis flick. It’s padded by painfully long stretches of dialogue. But in between we get fog, scary music, howls in the distance, bites and blood, a coffin, crucifixes, the old no reflection in the mirror trick, and creepy neon color lighting.
Children Shouldn’t Play with…Vampires?
Then there’s the vampire’s futuristic trance ring (meaning, it looks like a miniature Pong game system), a visit to a strip club, and a fast talking dude with a detective dog. Even the addition of a cute dog won’t stop you from begging for it to end already.
SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (1968)
This biker chick exploitation flick is a failed departure from Lewis’s splatter flicks. I imagine back in 1968 it may have been shocking and controversial, but it is pretty much lame and laughable these days and filled with way too much footage of a girl biker gang named the Man-eaters riding around town.
Sure, they look like a bunch of bull dykes, hate men, have a kissing ritual, and start a war with a rival all-male biker gang, but these chicks also throw sex parties with men! And they also get concerned when one of their girls starts banging the same guy on a regular basis; the rule is they are not allowed to fall in love.
Virtually goreless, She-Devils on Wheels gives us one scene of a beat up guy being dragged by a motorcycle and a final decapitation scene that at least gives a hint of the Herschell Gordon Lewis we expect.
THE GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
Back to form! Not wasting a second, Lewis starts The Gore Gore Girls with a stripper getting her head mutilated by a mirror. It is heinous.
Aside from absurd sped up footage of a bartender mixing drinks, a female reporter and a male detective spend a majority of the movie watching strippers dance between uber gory kills of prostitutes. We get:
- A gum-chewing chick blowing bubbles while feeling up her tits in a mirror before the killer hacks her head to smithereens and fingers the innards.
- A chick’s ass getting beaten into chop meat with a tenderizer and then seasoned with salt and pepper.
- A chick’s face ironed and then her nipple tips snipped off so that milk squirts out of them.
- A chick’s face deep fried.
So it only makes sense that after all this misogyny, female protestors show up at the strip club. And in order to catch the killer, the reporter and detective set up, well, a booby trap: a stripping contest! As brutal as the movie sounds, much of it has an odd comic twist. Plus, the mood of horror is totally killed by ridiculous marching band music during the slaughter scenes. A different soundtrack could make this a much more effective horror flick…one you might not be able to stomach in the least.
And finally, I’ll just say that atheists might have a problem with the conclusion of The Gore Gore Girls.
THE WIZARD OF GORE (1970)
Next there’s The Wizard of Gore. The premise is disturbing but the movie becomes totally formulaic fast. The wizard does a stage show in which he supposedly hypnotizes the audience into believing he’s mutilating a volunteer from the audience. Volunteer will leave the theater all intact, but soon after, out in public, will absolutely fall apart! Gross!
The movie feels incredibly corny and the wizard’s routine becomes repetitive as he always makes the same speech before each kill. But who cares? We’re in it for the vomit-inducing mutilation and gut feel ups.
The Wizard of Gore would make for one hell of a modern remake with a stronger plot. Oh wait. There was a remake….
THE WIZARD OF GORE (2007)
Damn. This is how you reimagine Herschell Gordon Lewis. Fantastically trippy with a film noire edge, the remake brilliantly casts Crispin Glover as the wizard. He’s made for this role.
The cast also includes horror icons Brad Dourif and Jeffrey Combs (who is unrecognizable here). The stars are cutie Kip Pardue (Stag Night, Hostel 3), who gets hung upside down in just his boxers at one point, and Bijou Phillips (Venom, Hostel 2, It’s Alive remake) of the Mamas and Papas Phillips family!
Instead of defaulting to torture porn to capture a modern audience, the remake gives us style and a whole lot of substance as Kip, playing a reporter, gets sucked deeper and deeper into the illusions created by the wizard. The entire movie keeps viewers wondering what is real and what isn’t…exactly what the audience at the wizard’s show in the movie is going through.
And don’t worry. While the movie doesn’t revel in guts as the original did, the much more elaborate macabre acts the wizard puts on in this remake will definitely get your stomach jumping.
THE UH-OH SHOW (2009)
Perhaps energized by a renewed interest in his work due to the remake of The Wizard of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis himself stepped back into the horror game a few years later with The Uh-Oh Show.
So after leading the charge in pushing the boundaries of heinous horror to new heights, how can the original master of gore compete with the very monster he created? In Lewis’s case, he decided to pretty much make a Lloyd Kaufman Troma film.
The framework of The Uh-Oh Show mimics and updates the concept of The Wizard of Gore. There’s a gory show to fascinate audiences. But this time, it’s a game show. Get the wrong answer and you have to spin the wheel to find out what body part you will lose. Then a big muscular black dude comes out to buzz saw your limbs away.
However, a reporter starts investigating the television show and television station with a little help from her friends, including a muscular black guy (bonus black guy!) who’s always horny, having sex, and wearing leopard print speedos.
Loaded with bad gimmicky comedy, repetitive game show segments, and slapstick gore, The Uh-Oh Show also features Lewis himself as a storyteller of some gory segments playing off Grim Fairy Tales, and Lloyd Kaufman as a pimp who even has some drag queens on the roster.
So the only redeeming qualities of this film are the two muscle hunks…and a killer granny at the end of the film. She should have been the star attraction.