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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Gruesome Twosome (Blu-ray)
The Gruesome Twosome (Blu-ray)
Arrow Video // Unrated // February 6, 2018 // Region A
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by William Harrison | posted April 3, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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THE FILM:

Directed by "Godfather of Gore" Herschell Gordon Lewis, who died in late 2016, The Gruesome Twosome mixes black comedy with splatter horror and a touch of the absurd. Actually, the film does not so much mix these elements as offer jarring tonal discrepancies between scenes. This is not Lewis's best film, as neither the comedy nor the horror elements are particularly effective. A second feature-length film, Taste of Blood, is offered as a substantial bonus feature, and may be the superior of the two flicks. Arrow Video's Special Edition offers solid bonus features as anticipated, but those expecting a pristine HD transfer will be sorely disappointed. I am sure there are a number of fans who will want to add this to their collection, but I do not recommend a blind buy.

This 1967 film follows the exploits of Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis), a seemingly innocuous wig-shop owner who lives with her mentally disabled son, Rodney (Chris Martell). Viewers quickly learn the old woman hides a dark secret: Mrs. Pringle encourages Rodney to torture, kill and scalp young women so she can use the hair to make her wigs. The store promises wigs made of human hair, and it delivers. Mrs. Pringle attracts young college coeds by offering cheap rooms for rent above the store, and they quickly become victims of Rodney and his blades. Rodney does not know any better, so one feels a tinge of sadness for the poor momma's boy. After a young woman named Dawn (Dianne Raymond) visits the shop, her friend Kathy (Gretchen Welles) begins investigating her disappearance.

For reasons intentional or not, this movie looks absolutely terrible in HD. The entire print is full of scratches, dirt and missing frames. That's not necessarily a fatal flaw, as it adds to the Grindhouse quality of the film. It is too bad The Gruesome Twosome does not live up to the promise of its campy premise. At a scant 72 minutes, the film still feels like a chore to sit through. Lewis offers scene after scene of Kathy and local law enforcement officers asking Mrs. Pringle questions, and only inserts brief moments of horror and gore. There are also some absurd scenes of dark comedy, mostly involving the pleasantly fussy Mrs. Pringle, but those border on grating. The best comedic scene is the opening, in which two Styrofoam heads with accompanying wigs and facial features engage in a back-and-forth conversation about a stabbing. It comes completely out of left field, and is the most pleasantly perplexing scene in the film.

I did enjoy parts of Davis's performance, and most of the issues are a product of Allison Louise Downe's script. The gore is limited but quite graphic, and includes squished eyes and bloody hairpieces. Watch this after having a few beers. Although it's marketed as a bonus feature, A Taste of Blood may be the better sit. In that film, businessman John Stone (Bill Rogers) drinks a brandy that turns him into a vampire, much to the chagrin of his wife (Elizabeth Wilkinson) and friend (William Kerwin). Stone gets a taste for blood and travels to London to stalk descendants of Dracula. The gore is light and story heavy for Lewis, but this offers a nice change of pace from the feature proper.

THE BLU-RAY:

PICTURE:

Prior to the film's start, a text card explains that the film has been restored in 2K resolution from surviving sections of the original 35mm camera negative and sections of a 35mm print. The soundtrack comes from that print, and the text confirms there will be some audio issues. So, the sections taken from the 35mm negative look decent, while the sections culled from the print are scratched all to hell. It does not ruin the viewing experience, but there are extended portions of this film that are completely covered with vertical lines, scratches, dirt, etc. There are noticeable missing frames, wildly varying color timing and plenty of blown-out highlights. Resolution is actually halfway decent, which enhances the damage in spots. Details and sharpness vary, but, on the plus side, you can see what is going on! Of course there is black crush and limited shadow detail, but some of the blood and guts is quite striking.

SOUND:

The DTS-HD mono mix suffers from source imperfections, but it's overall not a terrible accompaniment to the picture. There are pops and some hiss, a couple of which are a bit jarring, but the overall range and volume is acceptable. This track was apparently quite damaged, so it's remarkable it is even this presentable. English SDH subtitles are available.

PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:

This single-disc release is packed in a clear Blu-ray case with two-sided artwork and a multi-page booklet. Extras include Introductions by Lewis for each film (1:05/HD and 1:42/HD); a Commentary by Director Lewis and Producer David F. Friedman on The Gruesome Twosome; Peaches Christ Flips Her Wig! (9:54/HD), comments from a San Francisco drag performer on her love for this film; It Came from Florida (10:48/HD), in which filmmaker Fred Olen Ray discusses Lewis's work; Herschell vs. the Censors (7:53/HD), about the director's battle with oversight; Trailers (2:44/HD) and TV Spots (1:07/HD).

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Arrow Video offers a strong package, including a bonus feature-length film, for The Gruesome Twosome, with what I expect is about the best restoration you could do given the quality of the elements. This horror-comedy from Herschell Gordon Lewis is not his best work, and offers a jarring mishmash of tones and mood. I can't recommend this disc unless you know what you're getting, so Rent It first if you're a genre fan.

William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.

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