Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Short Film: Santa (Greece, 2013)

Oh, shit! Forgot: T'is the season to be jolly. Is that even still possible, considering the greedy little hands we've put our nation in? Well, we can surely be jolly in a few months to come, when he starts royally fist-fucking the misguided souls who put him in power. He'll be their gift that never stops giving … his Vaseline-smeared little hands. 
But in the meantime, here's our Short Film of the Month for December, 2016, with a seasonal theme as tradition calls for, entitled Santa. This little flick, though Greek, can almost be read as an allegory of the US and what's to come. You simply don't always get what you expect, and you just might find you get a monster instead.
As far as we can tell, directors/writers Dionysis "Let's Paaaarty" Atzarakis and Manos "Hands of Fate" Atzarakis have yet to direct/write another movie. For a one-shot wonder and quickie, Santa packs a nice wallop. It is also probably the shortest short film we've ever presented. Indeed, it is shorter than the average commercial, so in the time you've spent reading this you could've already watched it. So do so, now.
To give credit where credit is due:
Directed by: Dionysis & Manos Atzarakis
Produced by: Thaleia Misailidou & Panagiota Kouaki
Cast: Achilleas Sakelariou, Maria Olympiu, Apostolis Tampaksis
Director of Photography: Aggelos Mantzios
Music by: Kleanthis Konstantinidis

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Herschell Gordon Lewis – Godfather of Gore, Part IV: 1967-68


15 June 1926 – 26 September 2016

"He seen somethin' different. And he done it."

A seminal force in the world of trash filmmaking, he is considered the inventor of the modern gore film. (In theory, a position he holds with David F. Friedman, but when the partnership ended Friedman's true interest proved to be sexploitation.) To use his own, favorite words: "I've often compared Blood Feast (1963, see: Part II) to a Walt Whitman poem; it's no good, but it was the first of its kind." And a truly fun gore film, too — which makes it "good" in our view. 
Unlike Blood Feast and his "better movies", many of the projects he worked on are unbearable cinematic experiences; but more than enough of the others are sublime, otherworldly, like the best of Ed Wood, Juan Piquer Simón or John Waters (the last, however, being a filmmaker of actual talent). Were it not for innovators like H.G. Lewis, A Wasted Life probably wouldn't be.
One of the truly great has left the building

Go here for Part I: 1953-60.
Go here for Part II: 1961-63.
Go here for Part III: 1964-66. 


Blast-Off Girls
(1967, writ & dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Despite the title, the flick is actually about an all-male music group called the Big Blast. The "blast-off girls" of the flick are the over-aged gals hired by the unscrupulous music manager to make scenes at the band's concerts.
Trailer to
Blast-Off Girls:
Ever one for creative plots, the storyline here echoes at least one earlier film, namely Wild Guitar (1962 / trailer), if not any many others. (See Sonny & Cher's Good Times [1967], for example, or even parts of the far superior Beyond the Valley of the Dolls [1970 / trailer] — managers and bands just don't mix.)
Famous as the H.G. Lewis film featuring a guest appearance by no one less than Colonel Sanders (as in: KFC / Kentucky Fried Chicken). Imdb says: "According to director Herschell Gordon Lewis, the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Colonel Harland Sanders, whose company supplied Lewis's production company and advertising firm with fried chicken during the filming of this and other movies, insisted on appearing in a cameo at a KFC restaurant located in Wilmette, Illinois. Lewis recalled that Colonel Sanders was very difficult to work with because Sanders made several unreasonable and self-serving demands for, among many things, multiple rehearsals, top-billing, and wanting to direct the scene himself."
TCM has the plot of what All Movie calls "one of the cheapest-looking films of Lewis's low-budget career": "Boojie Baker (Dan Conway), a manager of rock-and-roll groups, is fired from his job for withholding money from his associates. He goes to a cheap bar, sees a ragged group of musicians, and signs them to a contract which states that the profits from their performances will be divided equally with him. The band is [re]named 'The Big Blast', and their first concert proves successful when Baker arranges for a group of girls to run onto the stage and rip off the boys' shirts. The band's success — ensured by the women Boojie makes available to promoters — leads the group to rebel at the terms of the contract. Inviting the boys to an orgiastic party that night, Boojie has a man pose as a policeman, raid the party, and arrange fake arrests in order to blackmail the boys into signing another contract giving Boojie an even larger share of the profits. 'The Big Blast' soon loses its enthusiasm and the group's popularity begins to wane. Television appearances, recording sessions, and concerts end in disaster. Finally, the boys rip up the contract and humiliate Boojie, who leaves them to look for another band to manage."
Music from
Blast-Off Girls:
The Video Vacuum is of the same opinion of almost everyone else who has ever bothered to sit through the whole movie: "[…] Like most films directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis that don't feature any gore, it's barely watchable. […] You know you're in trouble when the only thing worth a damn about this turd is the gratuitous Colonel Sanders cameo. After that minor thrill has worn off, what you're left with is a predictable, boring mess."
The music group in the movie, "The Big Blast", is first seen performing under the name "The Faded Blue". According to Garage Hangover: "Ralph Mullin [of The Medallions] is apparently the same person who appeared in two of Herschell Gordon Lewis's late '60s films. In Blast-Off Girls, from '67, he's part of a band called the Big Blast. The band was a real group whose name was actually the Faded Blue, a much cooler moniker if you ask me. The Faded Blue's members were Tom Tyrell, Ron Liace, Dennis Hickey, Ralph Mullin and Chris Wolski. […] The Big Blast release a record in the movie, but so far no one's found a 45 by the Faded Blue."


The Girl, the Body, and the Pill
(1967, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Trailer 1:
Supposedly written by Lewis's then wife, Allison Louise Downe, aka Bunny Downe, credited here as Louise Downe. 
Wikipedia points out that "Always in search of uncharted exploitation territory, Lewis turns his attention this time to the then-controversial topic of birth control. Given the nature of the film, it is surprising that it contains practically no overt sexual situations beyond a couple suggestive dissolves. One of Lewis's more multifaceted productions, The Girl, the Body, and the Pill follows the subject through multiple perspectives."
TCM has the plot in greater detail: "Marcia Barrington (Pamela Rhea), a progressive, young high school teacher, is forced to abandon teaching sex hygiene as part of her regular curriculum when the school principal, Mr. Price (Otto Schlessinger), and Wesley Nichols (Bill Rogers), a powerful member of the school board, object. Marcia's students, including Wesley's daughter, Alice (Kay Ross), ask their teacher to continue the classes outside of school. Unaware that many of the permission slips are forged, Marcia agrees, much to the disapproval of her fiancé, Brad Martin (George Brown). Trouble arises when Randy (Nancy Lee Noble), a wild youth, lies to her mother, Irene (Valedia Hill), and tells her she spent the night at Alice's house when in fact she stayed with Pike Grover (Roy Collodi) and his gang. Irene visits Wesley and mentions Marcia's classes. Wesley then returns the visit under the pretext of looking at Randy's notebooks on the class, whereupon Irene and Wesley begin an affair. Wesley's guilt causes him to pressure Mr. Price into firing Marcia. Meanwhile, Alice and her boyfriend Ray Stanton (James Nelson) break up because Ray wants to tell Wesley of their love and Alice fears that her father will disapprove. When Ray begins to date Randy, Alice makes love to Ray and then confesses to her mother. Irene discovers she is pregnant because Randy had stolen her birth control pills and replaced them with saccharine. Irene has an abortion, and Randy, fearful that her mother will die, rushes to her and asks for her forgiveness. Irene rejects Wesley, who returns to his wife. All ends well when Mr. Price reinstates Marcia, Marcia and Brad marry, and Alice and Ray decide to finish school before they marry."
At Letterboxd says "Lewis directs this OK teen picture […]. It's extremely cheap, and prone to bad acting, but it's pretty consistently engaging, which is about the best you can hope for in Lewis's work."
Trailer 2:


The Gruesome Twosome
(1967, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Lewis returns to Florida (Miami) to shoot another splatter film, this one heavy on comedy of sorts. Supposedly, it was written by his wife, Allison Louise Downe, aka Bunny Downe, credited here as Louise Downe.
Critical Review offers no real criticism, but does have the story: "The plot revolves around a wig shop owned by a seemingly innocent elderly lady, Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis) and her socially inept son, Rodney (Chris Martell). The shop is in the midst of a college town. This is an all too convenient location, for in the late 60s it is popular for college girls to cut their hair short and wear wigs. Mrs. Pringle further entices the girls by advertising a room for rent under false pretense. The girls who grow tired of the dorms go to the shop to see if the room is still available. Once there, the girls are locked in a store room and brutally attacked by Rodney. It doesn't take a great deal of foresight to imagine where the wigs in the shop come from. Their major selling point is that they are made from human hair. The main character and hero of the story is a young coed named Kathy (Gretchen Wells). She is a curious girl who finds mystery in the mundane and is certain that sinister forces are to be blamed for everything that goes wrong in life. As the body count rises Kathy's curiosity is peaked. After many feeble attempts and wrongful accusations she finally manages to save the day by uncovering the dark secret of Mrs. Pringles little wig shop." 
Last Movie Review on the Left shares an opinion of many: "The opening scene is, hands down, the most bizarre-o introduction in the history of film. The rest of it is pretty strange, but nothing compared to that." The scene they speak of was added by Lewis after the film was completed when he realized that Gruesome Twosome was too short for general release.
Moviecrity make an interesting observation: "Lewis often gained loose inspiration from existing material. […] To wit, Gruesome Twosome involves elements of Sweeny Todd and Mrs. Lovett. Traditionally, Sweeny Todd would dispose of people by slitting their throats while Mrs. Lovett would bake the victims into her renowned meat pies. Gruesome Twosome involves a similar pair of murder-for-profit miscreants, though that's where the similarities end." Could, however, the scalping of this movie have been an inspiration to William Lustig's Maniac (1980 / trailer)?
Trailer to
The Gruesome Twosome:
The Vault of Bunchenness, which describes the flick as "Nancy Drew meets Jack the Ripper", says: "Though the film is never boring, per se, it does test the viewer's patience with its overall mediocrity and a lengthy sequence in which our daring amateur sleuth trails the college's janitor while incorrectly assuming he's the murderer, a plot contrivance made more annoying because we know for a fact that he's not the killer. There's also yet more padding with a ridiculous drive-in movie sequence in which a couple shares a romantic meal of potato chips, fruit, and beer while spouting insipid stock soap opera dialogue that has to be seen to be believed. All of this is accented with stock music, bad editing, and that queasy look that marks Lewis's body of work, and all save for the most ravenous of gorehounds will feel gypped since all we end up with is a scalping, a beheading, an ultra-fake evisceration, and a stabbing to the eye, all of which look like the effects could have been achieved in your mom's kitchen. But when all is said and done, an undeniable sense of self-aware humor is involved here, one that knows in no uncertain terms that this is the horror movie at its most base level and it aspires to be nothing more than that. It may not be pretty, but at least it's honest."
"Mrs. Pringle", or rather Elizabeth Davis, may have also either already been or went on to become a novelist; the less than spectacular Shelley Winters' TV flick Revenge (1971 / first 15 minutes) is based on a book some sources credit as being hers.


A Taste of Blood
(1967, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Aka The Secret of Dr. Alucard. Filmed in Miami, A Taste of Blood is Herschell Gordon Lewis's self-professed flawed "masterpiece". Screenplay is by "Donald Stanford", who seems never to have written anything else; according to Images Journal, however, "When Lewis received Donald Stanford's screenplay, he was more impressed with the story itself than with the outlandish claim that it was intended as a project for Sammy Davis, Jr. and Frank Sinatra (!)."
One might call the movie a sequel of sorts to Bram Stoker's Dracula, as many of the characters of A Taste of Blood are all descendents of the characters of Stoker's classic (if miserably written) novel. If the imdb is to be believed: "For a Herschell Gordon Lewis film, A Taste of Blood was very well-made enough to impress Roger Corman, who offered the director a directing gig at working for his production company in Hollywood, which Lewis politely turned down." One assumes Corman was desperate for new "talent" … and, perhaps, Lewis realized the limitations of his own.
Trailer to
A Taste of Blood:
On some DVD releases of A Taste of Blood, the British short Nightmare at Elm Manor is added as an extra; here at A Wasted Life, we presented Nightmare at Elm Manor as our Short Film of the Month over two years ago in April, 2014. (Great "vampire" film; we know where we would want to sink our teeth were we vampires.)
Wiki has the plot: "A Miami businessman, John Stone (Bill Rogers), receives a parcel from England containing two old bottles of Slivovitz brandy from his recently deceased ancestor, and after drinking both bottles, becomes a vampire. Stone uses his newfound vampire powers to keep his wife, Helena (Elizabeth Wilkinson), in a trance as he travels to England to kill the descendents of Abraham Van Helsing that murdered Count Dracula. Meanwhile, Helsing's distant relative, Howard Helsing (Otto Schlessinger), pursues Stone with the intent to put the reborn vampire to rest for good."
Mondo Digital, which says the movie "is perhaps the most ambitious project for director Herschell Gordon Lewis" and that "as uneven as the results may be, it's a fascinating artifact of its time and is perhaps the closest thing to a 'real movie' in its creator's career", points out that: "Considering its reputation, there isn't much graphic gore in A Taste of Blood. Sure, the red stuff flows readily and looks just as realistic as ever, but for some reason in this context it isn't much more shocking than your average mid-period Hammer vampire film. The real fun lies in those unmistakable Lewis touches, ranging from the searing colors of those interiors to a jaw-dropping cameo by H.G. himself as a salty seaman."
Speaking of Hammer, three years after A Taste of Blood, they released Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), which likewise involved a man (Ralph Bates) becoming a vampire / Dracula (Christopher Lee) after ingesting dried Dracula blood mixed with wine.
Trailer to Hammer's
Taste the Blood of Dracula:


Something Weird
(1967, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

Ever wonder whence everyone's favorite source for obscure films took their name? Like, duh! Co-producer James F. Hurley wrote the script, which he followed up a year later, in 1968, with his directorial debut, The Psychic, which he co-wrote with HGL. According to Brian Albright's Regional Horror Films 1958-1990, "Hurley was a friend of TV psychic Peter Hurkos, and intended this as a serious study of psychic phenomenon. […] Hurley was also a college professor and a karate buff (which at least partly explains the awkward martial arts sequence." As with the lead psychics of both Something Weird and The Psychic, Peter Hurkos claimed to have developed his "powers" after receiving a head injury.
Trailer to
Something Weird:
TCM has the plot: "Horribly disfigured when burned by a high-tension wire, electrical engineer Cronin Mitchell (Tony McCabe) discovers that he has acquired powers which allow him to read minds and move objects. As a masked fortune-teller, he enters into a bargain with Ellen Parker (Elizabeth Lee), an ugly witch, becoming her lover in return for her giving him a handsome face. The combination of beauty and extrasensory power brings Mitchell fame. Accompanied by Ellen — who is beautiful to all but her lover — Mitchell is called to a Midwestern town to help the police solve a series of bewildering crimes. There, Ellen is wooed by playboy Dr. Alex Jordan (William Brooker), an ESP expert sent by federal authorities to observe Mitchell. Alerted by Ellen, Mitchell telekinetically causes Jordan's bedclothes to strangle him, but Jordon escapes. Mitchell predicts an attempt on his life by Maddox (Ted Heil), a local police detective responsible for the crimes, but he is killed nonetheless when Jordan delays the police. After killing Maddox, Jordan sees Ellen as she really is and flees. She causes him to fall and burn his face, then offers to restore it in exchange for his love."
Through a Shattered Lens says: "To be honest, Something Weird is not one of Herschell Gordon Lewis's best films. Even by typical Lewis standards, the plot doesn't make much sense and the acting is incredibly bad. Whereas other Lewis films (like Blood Feast) featured performances that were deliberately over the top, the cast of Something Weird come across as if they were as confused while making Something Weird as the audience would later be while watching it. […] However, I still love Something Weird because, unlike so many other movies, it actually lives up to its name. This is a movie that promises to be weird and that's exactly what it is. There's just so much to love in this film. Check out the way that Mitch's 'facial scars' never look the same from scene-to-scene. […] Watch in amazement as the same set is used and re-used for almost every scene in the movie, with just the furniture occasionally being rearranged depending on whether the scene is supposed to take place in an office or a hotel room. […] In the greatest tradition of the grindhouse, there is no other movie like Something Weird and, for that reason alone, it's worth watching."
Repulsive Cinema lauds the movie as "Required viewing for fans of H.G. Lewis and fans of strange and weird films!" It finds "Something Weird is another strange gem [...] and it is an exciting and exotic journey into a bizarre world of drugs, hallucinations and witchery. [...] It is filled with weird and wonderful psychedelic scenes accompanied with weird and a deliciously funky jazz score. I got a strange feeling when I watched the film, as the atmosphere sucks you right into the movie. Several scenes in the film have an almost nightmarish quality over them, the murder scenes for example is filmed with quirky camera angles and leaves you fumbling in the dark on the identity of the serial killer. One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Dr. Jordan is violently attacked in his sleep by his own blanket (!) and has to struggle with the light blue piece of cloth before ripping it to shreds. The long LSD induced dream sequence of Mitchell is also one of the highlights in the film, where Mitchell gets clues to the murder case while running through a desert. All of it filmed with a mind boggling orange filter. Indeed the film lives up to its name and provides the viewer with an equally strange experience as those in the film just by watching it."


The Magic Land of Mother Goose
(1967, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Aka Santa Visits the Magic Land of Mother Goose and/or Sarah Visits the Magic Land of Mother Goose. The story is credited to Roy Flubrer, and the original play to Eve Weiher; according to the Indianapolis Star (Thur, 23 Dec 1965), however, the national road company production of The Magic Land of Mother Goose was directed by Eve Weiher and the book written by Roy Fluhrer; as some of the cast names are the same as those in the movie, the action of which transpires on a stage, we would hazard to guess that Lewis perhaps acted more as a directorial advisor for this snoozer while doing his other credited job, the cinematography.
Roy Fluhrer, by the way, has gone on to become Dr. Roy Fluhrer, the director of the Greenville County Schools Fine Arts Center. We sent him an email asking some questions about The Magic Land of Mother Goose, but an answer was not forthcoming. Seeing that this movie is famous for being unwatchable, it is easy to assume he does not list it on his resume and would prefer his involvement be forgotten.
Trailer to
The Magic Land of Mother Goose:
The plot of the movie, which seems to have been shot on a high school stage, involves various fairy tale and traditional characters, beginning with Old King Cole (David Hammond), escaping from a Mother Goose book and into the real world. (Since when is Raggedy Ann [Valerie Lynne] a Mother Goose character?) Mother Goose (Judith Snow), assisted by Merlin the Magician (Roy Huston), also enter the real word to gather her flock back into her book.
Most of the thespians involved, as normal with HGL movies, were never again involved with a (currently known) project, but one or two did better trash than this movie. Both Roy Huston and Linda Lee (Mary Mary / Little Bo Peep), who were married,* went on together to Donn Davison's mostly forgotten hixploitation flick, Moonshiner's Woman (1968 / trailer); Linda Lee — the moonshiner's woman — can supposedly also be found progressively showing more skin in such noteworthy movies as John/Jon Donne's The House of the Red Dragon (1969), Bobby O'Donald's The Night Hustlers (1968 / trailer), and Unknown Filmmaker's I Am for Sale (1968), while David Hammond disappeared soon after his next film, The Mad Generation (1969).
* Magicpedia says that Roy Huston (born 1940), who toured the country as the Great Huston, married his assistant, Linda Lee, on December 23, 1966. The marriage obviously did not last, for Kenneth Roy Husted (aka Roy Huston) married Yuka Darlene Allen on September 27 1993. Befitting of such a performer, he retired to Gibsonton, Florida, where he died June 28, 2009.
 Trailer to
Roy Huston's 1960s Stage Show,
Huston's Illusions:
According to Lisa Petrucci at Something Weird, the film is a "kooky kiddie klassick": "Producer J. Edwin Baker (a 1950's spook-show veteran who performed as 'Dr. Silkini' in his act, 'The Asylum of Horrors') hired Herschell to shoot this abomination as a vehicle for magician Roy Huston, who plays Merlin. […] H.G. couldn't have made a movie worse than this if he tried. For that reason alone, you absolutely must see The Magic Land of Mother Goose (also known as Santa Visits the Magic Land of Mother Goose despite a glaring no-show from Mr. Claus) […]." The last sentence is not 100% true, according to Weird Retro, as the version they tired but filed to sit through had a "seemingly drunk slurring Santa […] in the inserted segment at the beginning."
TopTenz seems to have watched that version, too, and write: "This uncomfortably bright and surreal film ranks number 10 on our lists of inadequate Santa Clauses. It goes without saying that it is possible, just possible, that any child who saw this 1967 film ended up on a therapist's couch. The plot centers around Old King Cole and Raggedy Ann and their plight against an evil witch. A slurring and slumping seemingly drunk Santa Claus introduces the story, which includes a burned-up witch corpse and capering man-sized woodland animals. Raggedy Ann's face looks like a mask from The Strangers (2008), and I had nightmares after watching the first 5 minutes."


She-Devils on Wheels
(1968, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)
Repulsive Cinema has the plot: "Meet the Man-Eaters, an all vicious, all female motorcycle gang who lives for racing, sex and violence. As a tradition the gang races down an abandoned air strip and the one that finishes first gets to have first pick at a man when they return to their clubhouse. On this particular race, a young girl named Karen (Christie Wagner) wins as she has done many times before and so she gets to have her pick at the men waiting for them. Karen picks her man (David Harris), but much to the rest of the gangs annoyance, she picks the same man she always picks, and that is against the rules of the Man-Eaters. On the morning after a rough night with the men, the gang meets without Karen to discuss the problem. It is decided that Karen has to prove her loyalty to the group and their leader, The Queen (Betty Connell). A devious plan is thrown together and they call Karen, and tell her to meet them next night on the air strip. When Karen arrives on the strip the next night she discovers to her horror that the gang has brought with them the stud that has captured Karen's heart, and she is faced by an ultimatum: Prove your loyalty to the gang by racing down the strip, dragging the stud after your motorcycle, or if you break the rules of the Man-Eaters, you'll be dragged along with him. A tough decision for her to make, but after a little while she decides to drag the guy around on the strip. The gang is happy to see Karen prove her loyalty to them and things goes on as usual. But one day when the Man-Eaters return to their air strip they discover that there is another gang there, a gang of guys who's using the old strip for racing with their cars. The Queen and the Man-Eaters are not happy with intruders on their territory, and attacks the rival gang. Soon after the brawl, Karen is being contacted by an old boyfriend (Rodney Bedell) who says he knows all about the Man-Eaters and the big fight with the rival gang of guys and has come to warn her that his brother is a member of the rival gang and a plot against the Man-Eaters is being made… And it's not long before the rivalry between the two gangs goes too far…"
Trailer to
She-Devils on Wheels:
Shot in Medley and Miami, Florida, at a time when Cubans were mostly in Cuba, written by the first Mrs. H.G. Lewis (Allison "Bunny" Louise Downe), and based on an idea of Lewis's then regular co-producer Fred M. Sandy, who surely thought that if movies about male-dominated motorcycle gangs make money, a film about a woman-dominated motorcycle gang would surely be a box-office killer. Indeed, according to Celluloid Nightmare, She-Devils on Wheels was Lewis's "biggest box-office success [and] is one of Lewis's weakest efforts. Unless you're a Lewis completist, or the sort of movie masochist who watches Manos: The Hand of Fate (1966 / trailer) […] to cheer yourself up, you will probably find She-Devils on Wheels an extremely difficult and tedious road to ride."
It would seem, for some, that the movie about violent fems on motorcycles is not necessarily better than the violent-fems movie that may have inspired it — not the movie it references in its title, namely Hells Angels on Wheels (1967 / trailer), but the neo-feminist masterpiece featuring three man-killing babes in fast cars: Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965 / trailer, with the great Tura Satana and fabulous Haji). Nevertheless, She-Devils on Wheels is one of the first of the tiny subgenre of women motorcyclist flicks that includes such illustrious tiles as The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968 / trailer), The Hellcats aka Biker Babes (1967 / trailer), and the artsploitation flick The Girl on a Motorcycle (1968 / trailer) — not to mention Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1991 / trailer).
The House of Self-Indulgence has a strong opinion about what is good and not good in Lewis's "feminist (!), proto-riot grrrl masterpiece": "Two fully-clothed orgies, two abandoned runway motorcycle races (the winner gets first dibs when the time comes to select the kind of cock they want to penetrate with their pussy), one poetry slam session, one airport runway adjacent biker brawl, one missing belly chain, and a whole lotta funky vests […]. Ah, I couldn't help but notice that your eyes lit up when I alluded to the fact that this film may contain a plethora of funky vests. Well, my friend, your ocular luminosity is totally justified, as the vests in this movie are to die for. […] Other than having your film be about an all-girl biker gang who wear flashy vests, one surefire way to get in my good graces to open your movie with a catchy song. And She-Devils on Wheels does not disappoint in that regard as it gives us the classic, Get off the Road (words by Herschell Gordon Lewis, music by [his youngest son] Robert Lewis), right out of the gate. If the movie turned out to be nothing but seventy minutes of Pat Poston's Whitey doing naked jumping jacks, I still would have given the movie a passing grade based solely on the awesomeness of the film's theme song. […] If I had to list one gripe about this movie, it would be the lack of nudity. The film would have so much better had the two clothed orgies had been more pornographic in nature."
She-Devils on Wheels
Credit Sequence & Title Track —
The Faded Blue's Get off the Road:
Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings, though "rather charmed by the fake-out ending of the movie", is less of a fan, saying: "If you were in the mood to lay into a bad movie and wanted an easy target, you needn't go any further than the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis; his movies usually have bad sound, atrocious acting, bad music, stupid dialogue, etc... it's like shooting fish in a barrel. […] Nevertheless, I can't help but notice that, despite his penchant for extreme bloodletting, his taste in other exploitation elements is sometimes pretty tame; the orgy sequences here would rate no worse than a PG. And if the theme song of this movie is any indication, then Lewis is no better a song lyricist than he was as a director. At any rate, those familiar with Lewis's oeuvre won't be surprised by anything here, but will probably need to know that, this not being one of his horror movies, it's far less bloody than his more famous work."
Video Vacuum also points out that "the movie is a bit light in the gore department", but adds: "Most biker movies released at this time were usually boring or pretentious, but She Devils on Wheels is actually a lot of fun. In the first half of the movie, Lewis shows a documentarian's eye and is content on just showing us the Maneaters' day to day routine. We see them hang out, race their bikes, get drunk, and even witness one of their initiation rites. We live with them, we love with them, and really get to know them for the disgusting human beings they are. That's why when one of them is killed, we really side with the Maneaters and want them to get their gory revenge. If the script seems authentic, it's because the screenwriter Louise Downe […] actually rode with a biker gang for a while. […] She Devils on Wheels may not have the same kind of impact that Blood Feast did, but it still one of Lewis' best movies, not to mention the greatest all female biker movie ever made."
To toss in some of the sexist locker room talk A Wasted Life is known for, She-Devils on Wheels is noteworthy for its amazingly unattractive cast; indeed, we assume Lewis must have advertised "Unattractiveness a Plus" when doing the casting call. As Celluloid Nightmare puts it: "With the exception of the gang's newest member, Honeypot (played by Nancy Lee Noble), none of the Man-Eaters are particularly attractive. The trailer describes leader Queen as 'gorgeous', 'desirable', and 'unattainable', but she's only marginally prettier than most of her underlings. The most interesting member of the bunch is the big, burly Whitey (Pat Poston), a husky blonde who generally dresses more practically for life on the road (foregoing the colorful, K-Mart fashions of her peers for a white t-shirt and stretch pants) and seems at times to be the only one strong enough to actually handle a motorcycle (she is frequently shown helping another lady lift her bike or move it into a securely parked position). Poston also gives the best performance here, [but] few of the cast members of She-Devils on Wheels went on to appear in any other films, and it's not hard to see why."
And what did some of the cast later do? Betty Connell (The Queen) and Christie Wagner (Karen) and most of the cast disappeared, as did Pat Poston (Whitey) after appearing as an extra in Lewis's Just for the Hell of It (1968). As late as 1992, however, Pat seemed to still be on a motorcycle, travelling through South Dakota with Ted Pasche. Nancy Lee Noble, who later appeared somewhere in Jackson County Jail (1976 / trailer) and the TV remake Outside Chance (1978 / trailer), is now Nancy Lee Zorick and living in Indio, CA; her interests include "teaching Sunday school, ballet, bookpals reading". Rodney Bedell, who had parts in a couple of HGL movies, seems to have retired from the biz after his last (and starring) role in Stewart "Terry" Merrill's forgotten flick, Beach Boy Rebels (1969).
The Cramps
cover
Get Off the Road:


How to Make a Doll
(1968, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

"Could it be that girls are better than textbooks?"
(Percy Corly [Robert Wood])

Aka How to Love a Doll. Screenplay by "Sheldon Seymour", aka Herschell Gordon Lewis; he also does the narration. The script was supplied by one-hit wonder (or possibly pseudonymous) Burt Ray, whom we suspect may have sourced the film's basic plot element from the earlier, indefinitely better "bad films" Dr Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965 / trailer) and Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966 / trailer), the movies which definitely inspired the fabulous Fembots of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997 / trailer), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999 / trailer) and Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002 / trailer).
Like many of his 1968 movies, HGL producer for this movie was the Russian-born composer, actor, and producer David Chudnow (29 June 1902 - 8 April 2002), who previously had done the music to films as diverse as Russ Meyer's Erotica (1961 / full movie at X-Hamster) and Sam Newfield's The Mad Monster (1942 / trailer), and, after Lewis, went on to produce Byron Chudnow's Doberman trilogy, The Doberman Gang (1972 / trailer), The Daring Dobermans (1973) and The Amazing Dobermans (1976).
Opening Credits & Main Theme
to
How to Make a Doll:
In any event, this obscure sci-fi comedy is one of Lewis's least-appreciated films, the biggest compliant being that it has all the trappings of a lame nudie cutie but the nudity. Most people seem to share the view of Video Vacuum, which says that "Usually when Herschell Gordon Lewis made a gore movie, you had to sit through a lot of bad acting, awful dialogue and kooky music before you got to the 'good stuff'. Unfortunately, there IS no good stuff in this flick. […] Even though the movie promises sex, it's all tease and no please. There's no nudity, and the 'lovemaking' is nothing more than extended make-out sessions. […] The 'comic relief' in this movie is anything but funny […, while] the inane music on the other hand will crush your soul and force your mind to teeter on the brink of insanity."
Bleeding Skull agrees, up to a point: "Now, forget about the gore and spooky stuff. How to Make a Doll is a film that's so odd, so strangely concocted, that it defies categorization. There's no rhyme or reason and I can't begin to figure out what this movie is aiming for. Comedy? Sci-fi? Nudie-cutie with no nudity? I think it may have been filmed on another planet. […] Terms that come to mind frequently while watching How to Make a Doll are 'unwatchable', 'pointless', and 'a chore to sit through'. This is all true. But to me, How to Make a Doll is an unknown bad-film peach, just ripe for the pickens. It's so off the wall and out there, that I couldn't take my eyes off of the screen. The acting and line delivery is completely over the top. The computer spouts tons of ridiculous sounds and dialogue for minutes on end. The jokes are preschool-level awful. The computer is comprised of some wood paneling, a lite-brite, a punch-card typewriter, and an IBM reel of tape. The whole thing looks thrown together and extremely cheap. The ending makes no sense! None of it makes sense! I love you!"
And the plot? Of course, TCM has it: "Mathematics professor Percy Corley (Robert Wood) joins Dr. Hamilcar West (Jim Vance of Scream Baby Scream [1969 / trailer]), his superior, in perfecting a computer that creates beautiful women. Although Dr. West dies of heart failure during an orgy with his creations, he lives on in the computer's brain. Percy, whose sexual experiences with the computer-generated women give Dr. West great satisfaction, is sad because he has never shared his love with a real woman, and he provokes a battle with the electronic brain of West. Although Percy cancels West's memory bank, West creates a horde of beautiful androids who attempt to pacify Percy, who destroys them by tearing up their punch cards. Dejected, Percy, whose eyeglasses have been smashed, meets unattractive graduate student Agnes Turnbull (Bobbi West), who is secretly in love with him, and, not able to see clearly, falls in love with her. After Percy tells her he would like a bunny as a pet, Agnes kisses him and is transformed into his computer dream 'bunny'."
Blink your eyes and you miss Brad F. Grinter (18 May  1922 — April 1993, credited as "Brett Jason Merriman") — he who directed Flesh Feast (1970 / trailer), Blood Freak (1972 / trailer) and Barely Proper (1975), a remake of Lewis's 1962 nudie Daughter of the Sun (see Part II) — playing Agnes's father.
Rock Shock Pop, which opinions "How to Make a Doll is an irredeemably awful film — and as such, completely worth checking out for fans of Lewis's screwy output", points out the obvious: "How to Make a Doll is hardly a feminist statement, in fact, it's pretty dire in that regard portraying pretty much all of its female characters as little more than receptacles for male pleasure. Never mind the fact that most of them are robots! At the same time, the men in the film are complete dolts, so the picture is an equal opportunity offender in that regard […]."


Just for the Hell of It
(1968, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)

After all those years and all those films, HGL suddenly decides to do — a JD movie? Why not? Written, once again, by his wife of the time, Allison "Bunny" Louise Downe, and filmed in Miami (the school is the Miami Palmetto Senior High School, 7460 South West 118th Street, Pinecrest, Florida, USA). Just for the Hell of It is supposedly aka Destruction, Inc., which also happens to be the theme song sung by Tary Rebenar (but written by HGL and son), who went on in the early seventies to release a folk rock album entitled Just A Dream Ago. At the Mudcat Café, we learn from Malick Rebenar: "Tary Rebenar was my father. He originally started the Barbarossa 1117 N. Dearborn St. Chicago. He also wrote the song Chicago Sounds it is the jingle song for the CBS local news which is on his album Just a Dream Ago. On 11/11/89, he died of AIDS from a bad blood transfusion he got when he had surgery for some really bad skin cancer at Lutheran General Hospital."
The efilm critic was not impressed (by the film, not the song), saying: "Lewis is best remembered for his '60s horror flicks, and for very good reason — all his other movies sucked Easter eggs. Like this. Basically, a pack of bored teenagers terrorize people [...]. Eventually a plot develops, and we get a few murders, but it's too late. Suffering from static direction, indifferent acting, and far, far too many scenes of hip dudes spontaneously deciding to 'tear this joint up, man!'" and throw chairs into the nearest mirror and so forth, JFTHOI is a lethally boring and badly dated artifact. […] Watch them at your own risk."
 
Bleeding Skull sees things a bit differently, despite the fact that "the film grinds to a halt a little over an hour in, suffers from some boring padding", and points out that "Like most of H.G. Lewis's films from his prolific late 60s period, Just for the Hell of It is completely bizarre and for the most part, hilarious. It's filled with many classic moments. […] Overall, I couldn't help but laugh. I mean, where does the spark of inspiration for something like this come from?"
Trailer to
Just for the Hell of It:
At All Movie, Fred Beldin believes that "Just for the Hell of It has more to offer fans of Lewis's well-known gore films than his other genre deviations, though it's unlikely that many other viewers would be amused": "There's still plenty of outlandish action in this ridiculous juvenile delinquent story, even if the cast appears unsuitably wholesome for their roles. The hoodlums beat a blind man with his own cane, put a baby in a garbage can and destroy its pram, wreck entire roomfuls of furniture, and gang rape a quartet of schoolgirls. The obnoxiousness of this mindless violence offers the only real entertainment value of the film, regaling the audience with constant scenes of vandalism and mayhem that range from sickening to silly (like when four boys use axes to destroy a bicycle)."
DVD Talk would add that the "kids are MEAN. […] Only they don't LOOK like delinquents, in fact, they look more like members of the Young Republicans. Still, they wander the city engaging in random acts of willful and wanton destruction. They pick fights with little leaguers. One of them burns a poor lady's newspaper WHILE SHE'S READING IT!!! These cackling teenagers even steal a blind man's cane, for heaven's sake! Such reckless behavior can only go on for so long without someone getting hurt — and tragically, they do."
The plot? Who cares? You do? Then let's once again look to TCM: "Dexter (Ray Sager), Denny (Steve White), their girl friend Bitsy (Nancy Lee Noble), and Lummox (Ralph Mullin) are members of a vicious gang bent on violence. They capriciously wreak havoc and destruction at a party and later at their restaurant hangout. The gang assaults a couple, then dope and beat up some teen-aged girls. When they interrupt and fight a group of boys playing baseball, a confused old woman calls the police and says that Doug (Rodney Bedell), who disapproves of the gang's antics, started the incident. While Doug is temporarily jailed, the gang threatens his girl friend, Jeanne (Agi Gyenes). Bitsy calls Doug away on a ruse, and the gang brutally attacks Jeanne. Doug chases Denny and Bitsy, who escape on a motorcycle. The intervention of the police precipitates an accident, killing the couple."

Girls, Guns and Ghouls takes the movie surprisingly seriously: "Well, A Clockwork Orange (1971 / trailer) doesn't have ownership of the ultraviolence concept. While it starts off pretty silly with its pranks on bumbling civilians, Just for the Hell of It quickly gets nasty and by the time we see the [spoiler removed], things have gotten mighty serious. While there's no great acting involved, you can't help but feel something for the unfortunate girl. Most of the first three quarters of the film is the gang — both male and female — attacking people and raising Hell, which could bore some viewers into switching over to something else. Stick with it though, Herschell is going somewhere here. The cheap pranks are building to rape and murder. Amorality and nihilism cannot lead anywhere but further into darkness. For those of you with a penchant for vintage exploitation, you can do a lot worse than Just for the Hell of It. Aside from any thematic concerns, you've got the great sixties decor, clothes and soundtrack. After these surface thrills you can appreciate the pretty confronting violence and themes. Lewis has crafted a fairly potent essay on mindless evil, despite the sometimes clunky performances and low budget."
Tary Rebenar
sings:
Unlike most people who participated in HGL movie, Ray Sager ("Dexter") went on to have a career in the film biz. He went on to move to some country called Canada where he worked as an assistant director on such movies as Cries in the Night aka Funeral Home (1980 / trailer), Terror Train (1980 / trailer), My Bloody Valentine (1981 / trailer) and Humongous (1982), acted in Prom Night IV: Deliver Us from Evil (1992 / trailer), which he also produced, as he did films as diverse as Prom Night III: Last Kiss (1990 / trailer), Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II (1987 / trailer), and American Nightmare (1983 / full movie).
Trailer to
Humongous:


The Alley Tramp
(1968, dir. "Armand Parys" aka Herschell Gordon Lewis)

All credits wonderfully fake and French. Aka Ach, blas mir doch mal einen Marsch, Alla är vi nyfikna, Pleasure Me, Master, Alley Tramps, and I Am Woman and Phillip and Maria.
First released in Chicago on 12 June 1968, The Alley Tramp was once thought a lost film, but not any longer! Radley Metzger made The Alley Cats (1966 / trailer), so HGL made The Alley Tramp — supposedly in only two to three days. The 2002 German book Die schlechtesten Filme aller Zeiten ["The Worst Films of All Time"] lists it, well, as one of the worst films of all time.
But while it would seem almost everyone who's seen this movie is floored by its total lack of any apparent capabilities (be it acting, directorial or dramatic), most seem to more or less find the movie — a "time capsules of a by-gone era, when political correctness didn't dictate society or the sludge pumped out of the exploitation industry" [DVD Drive-In] — inexplicably appealing. As Video Vacuum puts it: "[The Alley Tramp] is an unheralded classic of sleazy '60s skin flicks. It's proof that Lewis could make a shoddy sexploitation movie just as well as a gruesome gore film. Although I can't quite in good conscience rank it with his best work yet (I would first have to see how it holds up to repeat viewings), but I can safely say that it is an exploitation classic that certainly deserves a bigger following. […] It's the charm that Lewis puts into the enterprise that makes it work. Every frame has his unmistakable touch. The man just has a knack for turning bad smut into its own deliriously entertaining art form."
The Alley Tramp is also one of an untold number of sleaze movies that is based around the basic fact of life that a woman or girl need only see a penis or people having sex to be turned into a sex-hungry slut. (So, guys, don't listen to the Prez: if you wanna get laid, don't "grab them by the pussy", show them your schlong.)
Trailer to
The Alley Tramp:
Isn't it great to see the lead actress (Julie Ames nee "Anette Courset") reading from the script as she throws her tissy fit? One wonders where she went in life…
The Alley Tramp was a job for hire for HGL. In Xavier Mendik & Steven Schneider's Underground USA: Filmmaking beyond the Hollywood Canon, he reveals "[…] You have to understand that Alley Tramp was not my movie, it was Tom Down's. I did direct it [but], that kind of movie which has almost a documentary overtone to it was the kind of film that Tom Down loved to make. He owned a theatre in downtown Chicago called 'The Capri', which played this kind of picture."
Tom Dowd, whose real name was Thomas J. Dowd (20 Oct 1925 — 27 Oct 2002), produced a number of Lewis films, including Linda and Abilene (1969). If the birth and death dates found at imdb are true, one can't help but notice that they are the same as those of the Thomas John "Tom" Dowd who had a major and successful career as a music producer and engineer, working with artists as diverse as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk, Cream, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band, and Dusty Springfield. There's even a film out there about him now. So: Could it be that...?
Trailer to
Tom Dowd & the Language of Music:
But to get back to The Alley Tramp, (as always) All Movie has a serious plot description (written by Mark Demming): "A teenager develops a ravenous appetite for physical love in this vintage sexploitation drama. Marie (Julie Ames) is a sixteen-year-old girl whose sexual curiosity goes into overdrive when she comes home one evening to discover her parents making love with no small enthusiasm. The next day, Marie's third cousin Phil (Steve White* [credited as "Lamone Baimu"]) stops by to help with her French homework, and Marie seduces him. Soon Marie and Phil are cutting class on a regular basis for assignations in cheap motels and in the woods; while Phil wants to get married, Marie isn't interested and insists cousins aren't allowed to wed. Meanwhile, Marie's father is having an affair with his secretary and is rarely seen at home, while his wife Lily (Ann Heath** [credited as "Annette Souvet"]) retaliates by picking up strange men at cocktail lounges. Lily becomes aware of Marie's budding nymphomania when the teenager beds one of Lily's recent conquests, but Marie's recklessness catches up with her when she discovers she's pregnant."
* Some online sources hypothesize that "Steve White" is actually a pseudonym for the singer Tary Rebenar, who we know died of AIDS — gotten from a blood transfusion, not from the Alley Tramp.
** Imdb says Lily Barker is played by "Jean Lamee", while Ann Heath plays "Darlene the secretary"; we ourselves don't know.

Digitally Obsessed is of the opinion that "The supposedly sixteen-year-old Marie's Lolita-transformation is a campy hoot, made all the more fun by her vocal hysterics ('I'm a woman!') and the subsequent preaching about the dangers of nymphomania ('We never realized!') is meant to legitimize the message somehow. Lots of sex — including a strange encounter performed while a political debate plays on the radio — allows 'Parys' to give what the genre demanded. This really could have been directed by a camera on a tripod for all I know, but it shows another oddball side of Herschell Gordon Lewis, so that should count for something."

Pleasant Productions says: "My favourite part of the script is its basic premise. It's so ill thought out — parental sex turning a teenager sex mad. I would've thought seeing your parents having sex would put you off it for a good decade! […] The plot is as thin as my description. The structure is as uncomplicated and mindless as this: Marie sees parents doing it -> Marie does it with lots of people -> things sort of go bad -> the end. Fantastically, the film switches Marie from innocent teen to rebel without a cause with little to no transition in-between. […] She has two levels once turning into a nymphomaniac — seductive and furious. And when Marie gets furious, the film gets hilarious. Julia Ames was clearly cast for her scarily youthful looks, her willingness to get naked and her mild attractiveness, but her horrible performance is a stroke of accidental genius. When Ames is ranting and raving, her acting is so inconsistent and stilted that she genuinely comes across as mentally unstable. When attempting to exude sexuality in her seduction scenes, it feels more like the uncomfortable come-ons of a madwoman. […] The Alley Tramp is one of the funniest and most enjoyable films that I've seen from the trashy 60s exploitation era."


The Psychic
(1968, dir. James F. Hurley)

Aka Copenhagen's Psychic Loves, but filmed in Chicago. Psychic-believer James F. Hurley, producer of the psychotronic HGL flick Something Weird (1967), takes bits and pieces of that flick to make something less interesting… so uninteresting, in fact, that it ended up being recut into a softcore sex film. Hurley himself sat in the directorial chair this time, with HGL sharing the writing credit and pointing the camera (as "cinematographer").
Trailer to
The Psychic:
According to Brian Albright's book Regional Horror Films, 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide with Interviews, Hurley made this flick because he was "let down by HG Lewis's treatment of his script for Something Weird" and, later, that Lewis "added some softcore sex scenes when Hurley was unable to sell the film". The Psychic seems to have been the end of Hurley's involvement in film, though TCM does have him listed as having appeared as "the General" in Harold Prince's Something for Everyone (1970 / trailer) — indeed, Hurley had done a film appearance prior to his two projects with Lewis: he is also found somewhere in Ken Kennedy's roughie The Velvet Trap (1966).
 
Someone on imdb calls The Psychic "the really poor man's version of Dead Zone" and questions whether Stephen King happened to have seen the film before writing his book. And like many a Stephen King book, The Psychic is — at least in the eyes of Bleeding Skull — "a magnificent train wreck": "The Psychic is positively awful. However, it's an awful that you'll love every minute of. The script is so deliriously bad, that you can't help but laugh throughout. Pretty much every plot point is implied and nothing makes sense at all. I don't need to tell you how bad the acting is — I'm sure you can imagine. On top of that, there are loads of hilarious dialogue bits — 'You're not exactly a cadaver yourself!' and 'I guess THAT'S why she received straight A's in college.' The film drips with sleaze as well: over-exaggerated (or actors bored to tears) sex scenes with classic bad narration explaining what's going on, implied rape, implied child molestation, and an absolutely hilarious, innuendo filled TV talk show reenactment."
At Ozus' World Movie Reviews, Dennis Schwartz has the plot: "The family man suburban ad executive, Dan Thomas (Dick Genola), suddenly acquires psychic power when he falls off a ladder and has a brain operation. He starts acting weird and gets into tiffs with his wife Ellen Thomas (Robyn Guest) and they split-up when he quits his job. Dan thereby begins a nightclub magic act with sexy blonde dancer Bobbi (Bobbi Spencer). When seeking national fame as a celebrity psychic, Dan's a guest on the Jerry Larsen TV talk show in NYC. Acting like a jerk, he ruins his life by outing a celebrity over the air." Schwartz fails to mention that Dan's daughter (Rhonda Reed) gets kidnapped by a pervert, a situation Dan tries to take advantage of to further his career — but "Dan's powers disappear when he needs them most and he becomes a loser."
Over at Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings, Dave Sindelar opinions "One can see the movie attempting to be a serious drama, but with most of the acting on the same level as that of a movie by Lewis himself, ludicrous dialogue and bad sound, the movie was doomed. Furthermore, by trying to make a serious drama in an exploitation filmmaking environment, he [Hurley] found it impossible to sell the movie until some softcore porn footage was added. […] Needless to say, the result is an awkward mess, but, like Ed Wood's Glen or Glenda (1953), you can see something more substantial trying to glimmer through. […] This one is definitely an oddity."
Trailer to
Ed Wood's Masterpiece,
Glen or Glenda:
It is claimed that Dick Gjonola (31 Oct 1939 — 25 Oct 2009) — billed as "Dick Genola" in The Psychic — went on to have a minor career that included a brief period of national facial familiarity as the face of the Marvelous Magical Burger King for Burger King, but as far as we can tell that honor actually goes to the even less-known actor named Fred Barton. The last film of note that Gjonola seems to have appeared in the underappreciated Hoodlum (1997 / trailer).


Suburban Roulette
(1968, dir. "Sheldon Seymour")
Trailer:

"This story is fictitious. If you know of any resemblance to any living person, keep your mouth shut."


Filmed in exciting Wood Dale, Illinois (est. 1928). HGL seems to have been out to save money on this project. He produced it as HGL, and hid behind his "Sheldon Seymour" pseudonym for the directorial credit; as "Sheldon Seymour", he also added "additional dialogue" and composed the music — and maybe even sang the faux Sammy Davis Jr title track? HGL's wife, Allison "Bunny" Louise Downe acts in the flick, credited as "Vicki Miles"; it seems to have been her last film appearance ever. (She and HGL were divorced in 1971, by the way.) Although the screenplay is generally credited to "James Thomas", in Randy Palmer's book Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore, HGL flatly states "It was written by Jim McGinn, who had also written Living Venus." (See: Part II.) For whatever reason, McGinn decided to bill himself as James Thomas III.
Title Track:
It's Craptcular tells it like it is: "Herschell Gordon Lewis made a lot of weird, crappy movies, but Suburban Roulette is a different kind of sordid trash — basically, it's The Ice Storm (1997 / trailer), but thirty years earlier on a hundredth of the budget."

"They do things differently in suburbia and it's the differences that make suburbia what it is. Remember: It's Monday morning — it takes a couple days to get everybody back to the right house."

At Letterboxd, Andrew Swope opinions, "There are moments in Herschell Gordon Lewis's wife-swapping epic that look and sound authentic. The dialogue and performances hit upon a note that has a sense of legitimacy and the couples get involved with wife swapping for convincing reasons. None of this is to say Suburban Roulette is good. It really isn't, nor is it as memorable as many of Lewis's other films. The […] sex scenes are incredibly tame, even for the era. It does have a surprising amount of milk being thrown about various rooms. The sleaziest moment features a mother being to have sex with a neighbor in front of her sleeping daughter. Lewis, for some reason, employs psychedelic lighting during a swinging montage."
Wikipedia, which points out "Lewis was known for using everyday people instead of actors in his films", has the most complete synopsis we could find: "The Fisher family, which makes up of Bert (Ben Moore) and Ilene Fisher (Elizabeth Wilkinson) and their 13-year-old daughter Cindy (Debbie Grant), move into the seemingly perfect suburban neighborhood to get away from the nearby city of Chicago. Private marital troubles between the Fishers include Bert's drinking problem, and Ilene's propensity for other men. On their first day living in "suburbia", they meet the neighbors, Ron (Tony McCabe) and Margo Elston (Allison Louise Downe), who invite them to a pool party at the Elston house. Bert and Ilene have cocktails, partake in a cookout, and flirting with each other's mates, but not without guilt and repercussions. The Fishers fall into a dangerous game of wife swapping until the unwilling Bert can't take it anymore. Ignoring the presence of the other guests, including Ron's wife Margo, Ilene succumbs to the advances of Ron and has sex with him in a bedroom. In the weeks that follow, Ilene and Ron's secret affair heats up as the Fishers and Elstons join a third couple, Fran (Ione Rolnick) and Marty (William Kerwin) Conley, whom appear to be the perfect conservative suburban family complete with raising four kids, but they are in fact closeted swingers. The three couples partake in drunken parties at each of their houses which eventually leads one evening to them playing a form of roulette in which the prize is someone else's marital partner for the night. Outraged by everyone's immorality, including his own, Bert demands to Ilene that they move out of the neighborhood, but Ilene refuses for she has quiet confidence that Ron will divorce Margo and marry her to make a new life for themselves. But one evening, when Ilene confides in Ron about her choice to leave her husband, Ron makes is clear to Ilene that his interest in her is only physical and that he has no intention of breaking up his family. Depressed over this turn of events, Ilene attempts suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills, but is saved from death by Burt and their daughter, Cindy, who find her in time and rush her to the hospital. In the final scenes, Ilene and Burt and their daughter move out of the neighborhood to another location to resolve to try to save their marriage, while the debauched Ron and Margo, Fran and Marty, begin to look for new participants in their continuing game of suburban roulette."
At Ozus' World Movie Reviews, Dennis Schwartz says, "Cult low-budget filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis, a mediocre filmmaker, directs this exploitation film of no redeeming social value and almost no worth as entertainment, involving wife-swapping in the 'burbs. It comes with a prudish moralistic message (fooling around always leads to bad consequences), stilted dialogue, awful acting and a lousy story If one can handle the theme song with the same title as the pic and risible lyrics […], then one should be able to handle this third-rate lurid tale without puking."
As for the "everyday people instead of actors" Lewis used in this movie, "the cleanest dirty movie ever made", Ben Moore went on the play a cop (blink and you miss him) in The Mutilator (1984 / trailer), while Ione Rolnick became a local celeb in Chicago as the hostess of "The Prize Movie With Ione" on WLS-TV (Channel 7) in Chicago from 1968 until 1975.

More to Follow — Next Year.

Thank you Scene of the Screen for most if not all newspaper advertisements used above.
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