Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sexploitation-A-Go-Go: THE LOST FILMS OF HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS


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Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Cast: Sharon Matt, Antoinette Maynard, Forman Shane, Walter Camp

Vinegar Syndrome / Region Free / Unrated / 1.37:1 fullscreen / Mono / 240 minutes

Disc Extras: Original Theatrical Trailers / Extensive Liner Notes / Special Edition Lab Cards

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Herschell Gordon Lewis is best known for his gory horror exploitation fodder from the '60s and '70s like Blood Feast and The Wizard of Gore. Super fans of Lewis know he's a kind of Renaissance man when it comes to films of the grimy grindhouse era. But horror isn't his only forte. Far from it. He's filmed anything from biker flicks, children's movies, comedies, and yes, even sex movies. If you've seen Herschell Gordon Lewis's films in any genre, you can pretty much cut and paste some softcore sex scenes into them, and you've got a good idea what "The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis" boxed set is all about. The shoddy productions values, cheesy dialogue, and questionable acting are intact, just add tits and ass and lots of moaning. Those of you who are mid-chubby, keep on reading.

First up is Ecstasies of Women, about a group of young men in their twenties partying at a strip club. While women dance topless in the background, the soon-to-be-married guy re-experiences affairs with women in his own head as ten to fifteen minute scenes add up to the same thing: man meets woman, woman flirts with guy via cheesy dialogue, guy takes woman back to his boat, and they boink. Then we return to the strip club for more guy talk and stripper's shaking their assets until our main character daydreams yet again. That's pretty much the movie. Each sex scene featured is essentially the same. It's mostly moans and heavy petting. No hardcore sex here. The strange story culminates to the group of guys at the strip club going to the guy's boat house and having an orgy. I'll admit the sex is more funny than erotic. There is no plot or story, really. But who cares?


Linda and Abilene is by far the weakest of the set. Todd and Abilene's parents have just died. After burying them, our brother and sister go back to the farmhouse and do farm work. Big brother sees his sister cleaning herself in the creek buck naked, and soon, a romantic, incest-driven relationship with sister and brother blossoms. They masturbate to each other, and eventually, work up to having sex. Then they farm some more. Weird situation, right? It gets weirder. Lesbianism, rape, and a cowboy shootout ensues. Sounds exciting, but it about bored me to tears. This plays out more like a crappy drama. The sex is rather tame, and again, this is strictly softcore. I say pass on this one, though Abilene sure is mighty pretty.

Now, Black Love is by far the most interesting in the set and probably for the wrong reasons. The film is what I'd like to call an anthropologist's worst nightmare. It plays out like an educational film about the sexual lives and relationships of black people. The narrator, who sounds so deadpan and matter-of-fact as he describes scenes of humping, about made me bust a gut. Historical-wise, Black Love acts as a fucked up time capsule in regards to race issues. This is also the only film in the set to feature hardcore pornography. There isn't really a story to critique here, because it's just vignettes of couples getting it on as a narrator talks about why they're humping and what it means to their culture. Most interesting indeed. The erotic factor is pretty low, considering the narrator won't shut the hell up. It's really porn in the name of societal critique. In bad taste? Hell yes. Entertaining. I say yes.

Vinegar Syndrome has outdone themselves with the 2K restoration of these three films. You can tell this new movie company means serious fucking business in the quality department. I've never seen such shiny pubic hair in my life! You can argue the entertainment value of the movies themselves, but if you know Herschell Gordon Lewis, or if you're into the skin flicks of the late '60s and '70s, this should definitely be right up your alley. This release also offers trailers for the featured films, and the liner notes are very detailed and thought-provoking about Herschell Gordon Lewis's career. But the star of the show here is the amazing job done on the restoration of these ridiculously obscure movies.

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