Many moons ago Something weird Video released a box set of H.G. Lewis' Blood Trilogy consisting of BLOOD FEAST, 2000 MANIACS and COLOR ME BLOOD RED. Now, anyone familiar with Lewis' output as a director realized that this was the tip of a gory iceberg. Something Weird must have realized this as well and gave us this collection. Six of Herschell's lesser known films in one beautiful package, with nice-looking full frame transfers (with the exception of SOMETHING WEIRD). Here's a look at what we get:
Herschell Gordon Lewis made his gore films with a little humor in them. He was more concerned with the actual deed. For THE GRUESOME TWOSOME he went for full out humor. Seems old lady Pringle, her son Rodney and their stuffed bobcat Napoleon run a successful wig shop. The kids nowadays love to cut off their own hair and wear beautiful wigs. (??????) To supplement her income she also has a room for rent. The room is always for rent since Rodney whacks the young ladies to harvest their hair. I guess that's easier than just shaving their heads while they sleep. Herschell has always been a fan of filming actual events and incorporating them into his movie. There's a stock car race, a drive-in, although the drive-in is obviously faked. The movie they're watching is a definite dig on the experimental foreign films of the time. At the shortest running time of 72 minutes, the movie is over before you know it and any real logic has been thrown out the window from the opening shot of two styrofoam heads having a lengthy conversation to set up the film for us. I would have to give best acting to Napoleon the stuffed bobcat. He was good.
The DVD gives us an informative commentary by H.G. Lewis and moderated by Something Weird Video president Mike Vraney. We also get the theatrical trailer and a short subject entitled, "Wigs-O-Rama."
ON WHEELS (1968)
Of all the films in the collection this is probably the most recognized of the bunch. Herschell gives us the story of the female motorcycle gang The Man-Eaters. They ride around town, terrorize the locals and have races to see who gets first pick from the 'stud line.' Trouble starts right after they initiate young Honeypot (Nancy Lee Noble) into the group. A turf war with Joe-Boy and his gang of hot rodders ensues and it isn't long before the screen is painted with the familiar shade of H.G. Lewis red. Watching Pat Poston as the woman mountain Whitey is true exploitation fare. This woman is huge and mean. I'm not sure much acting was involved with Pat. And Queen (Betty Connell) in her skin tight clothes is a definite looker reminiscent of Tura Satana, right down to the attitude.
In the commentary, it's funny to listen to Herschell getting the shaft from Arkoff at AIP. Seems that they released the film along with their flick BORN LOSERS and in every territory they played it, it lost money. Herschell did a lot of his own distribution at the time and made a wad of cash wherever the movie played. He pretty much comes out and calls AIP crooked and I would have to agree with him. What I've heard about Arkoff he probably thought he was doing Herschell a favor. In addition to the commentary we get the trailer and a bonus short called "Biker Beach Party" that is quite funny.
WIZARD OF GORE
Clocking in at a brutal 95 minutes, THE WIZARD OF GORE is one of Herschell's more ambitious productions. In it we have Montag The Magnificent and his Grand Guignol act of magic and dismemberment. When he saws a lady in half it's not with some wimpy saw. He gets out the electric saw and does a good job, showering her torso with gore. And if that wasn't enough he uses a punch press in one of the better effects in the film along with a spike through the head, a guillotine and he brings the act of sword swallowing to a new, disgusting high.
Television talk show host Sherry Carson decides that she must have this man on her show. What she doesn't realize is that Montag is doing his act for real. All the women in his act die gruesome deaths later that day. And now Montag has decided on Sherry as the focus of his newest illusion.
THE WIZARD OF GORE is unique in that Herschell had decided to dispense with the pleasantries and give the audience what they wanted. Lots of gore on the flimsiest of storylines. The title even tells you what to expect. A trick he would repeat with THE GORE GORE GIRLS (see below). The effects are some of the best he had ever conceived up to that point. It seems odd that this is the disc that gets the least attention. Besides the commentary and trailer there are no other extras on this DVD. Kind of a shame considering all the shorts that Something Weird has at its disposal. I'm sure they have some crazy magician shorts that would have been a perfect compliment to this feature.
TASTE OF BLOOD
It was bound to happen. With all the horror films that sprang forth from the mind of Herschell Gordon Lewis, it was inevitable that he would mine classic literature for one of his features. A TASTE OF BLOOD is the feature and DRACULA was its source.
It begins when businessman John Stone receives an inheritance in the mail -- two bottles of brandy. Since earlier shots in the film establish the entire cast as screaming alcoholics who must have a drink in their hand at all times, it isn't long before John is swilling the brandy. Unbeknownst to anyone, the brandy is mixed with the blood of John's ancestor. Count Dracula! It isn't long before John is consumed with the effects of vampirism. He is also compelled to seek out the ancestors of the people responsible for Dracula's death and dispatch them in various gruesome ways. His only slip up is when he takes out a dancer named Vivacious Vivian. This alerts Dr. Howard Van Helsing and we all know what that means.
With a running time of an unbelievable 118 minutes, this is Herschell's GONE WITH THE WIND. The production values are the best he had ever done and we are even treated to a rare cameo by Herschell himself doing a dead on British seaman. Add to that a great plot device of Dracula's ancestor avenging his death from beyond the grave and you have what is actually a great piece of cinema. Most critics of the film complain of the long running time and I would have to disagree. Every second of the film works. From establishing John Stone's character to the long boat ride to Europe, this is a fabulous film that manages to do what many of its bigger budget counterparts failed to do. Deliver the goods both in story and the gore that Herschell was famous for.
The DVD gives us another informative commentary by Lewis as well as the obligatory trailer. In addition we get a creepy piece of celluloid entitled “Nightmare At Elm Manor.” A perfect capper to a true cinematic masterpiece.
GORE GORE GIRLS (1972)
With the exception of the recent BLOOD FEAST sequel, this was the last film Herschell made. He went with a very basic idea of someone slaughtering go go girls and then stuffed in as much gore and mayhem that would fit into 81 minutes. Couple that with a cameo by Henny Youngman that the comedian denied to his grave and you have a worthy addition to the library of The Godfather Of Gore. I thought especially humorous that the lead, private eye Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress) was so damned obnoxious. Obviously riffing on the cool and collected British private eye mold, Abraham is hilarious to watch as he bumbles his way through this case trying to discover who the murderer was. The gore in the film reaches new heights as women are not only killed, but mangled beyond belief. Of course there is more humor in the killings than ever before. From the bubble gum chewing girl who when her throat gets slit her bubble fills with blood to nipples being cut off and milk flowing from the wound. Herschell has done it all by this point and self satire was really the only avenue left to the director. He shows no shame in jumpin feet first into the intentional hilarity.
The DVD gives us the commentary and trailer that we have come to expect along with a short that is really just a section of a film that was believed to be lost. LOVE GODDESS OF BLOOD ISLAND is a highly stylized film of blood and nudity that I already own on another disc. I'm not sure why it would be included on this disc as well, but it is a great oddity to watch and highly recommended.
Here we are at the end of our boxed set. I saved the best for last. SOMETHING WEIRD, the namesake of the company that released the disc is also the best of the pack when it comes to this collection.
SOMETHING WEIRD tells the tale of Cronin Mitchell, an electrical line worker who becomes severely disfigured in an unfortunate accident. This imparts psychic powers on him that he uses to his own ends. He is visited by a gorgeous girl who tells him that she can cure his disfigurement if he agrees to become her lover. Since she is a definite hottie he has no problem agreeing to this. Unfortunately for Tony, Ellen is actually an old witch that uses the powers of illusion to hide Tony's scars and her hideous, true form. After ridding a funereal home from a ghost problem, Cronin goes on the trail of a small town maniac. He evens goes to the extreme of taking LSD to amp up his powers. From there it gets weirder than it has ever gotten before in a H.G. Lewis picture. It is something that every viewer should experience once in their lives.
To make the package even more attractive, this disc is loaded. Not only do we get our commentary with Lewis, but David F. Friedman joins in and it is then that we get the true origins of Something Weird Video. There are three shorts that deal with the realm of psychedelic drug use and witches that are the perfect garnish on the delectable dish that is SOMETHING WEIRD! This one is actually presented in 1.85:1 widescreen (non-anamorphic) with a pleasant transfer -- sharp and colorful, but not without its share of minor age defects.
There you have it -- the ultimate collection that is known as THE HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS COLLECTION! Something Weird has managed to out do themselves yet again. I obtained this set at Best Buy for the measly sum $35! Unbelievable that such a definitive set, jam packed with enough film history for even the average viewer would be so inexpensive. If you own nothing else from Something Weird this is the perfect introduction to what they are capable of. Enjoy. (Douglas A. Waltz)
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