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Gore Gore Girls, The
HG Lewis movies, as we graybeards called 'em, were the holy grail of 'splatter' movies, when the VCR era was in full-steam but legendary exploitation movies weren't all that easy to find in the late '70s and early '80s. Lewis would have told you his movies weren't meant to be taken seriously, (something easy to infer after you actually watched them) but try telling that to an 11-year-old freak who just wanted to see the most horrifically gory stuff available. With the wisdom of the ages now in force, the movies are naff, and sometimes barely watchable, though The Gore-Gore Girls (up until the 2000s, Lewis' last gore movie) is actually the best of the bunch, with the proper tone dialed in, decent pacing, and the most horrifically gory stuff available.
Most all Lewis gore movies are police procedurals strung together by high-concept gore set-pieces. Prior efforts included cannibalistic Egyptian Feasts and crazed mutilation magicians. In this case a mysterious private detective, Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress, delivering probably the best-ever performance in an HG LEwis movie) races the police to find the maniacal murderer of vulnerable Go-Go dancers, amidst a variety of red-herrings and possible suspects (two). In order to stretch the thin plot, Lewis adds a plucky reporter, Nancy Weston (Amy Farrell) also a possible love-interest, to the mix. It's a regular Orson Welles-type joint!
Suffice it to say, we're not here looking for drama, so let's get to the good stuff, shall we? My notes indicate murders that are 'too gory' and 'beyond the pale', opinions of a person who has spent much of his life watching gore and horror movies, mind you. Lewis, however, marvelously balances these scenes of uncomfortably disgusting misogyny with a super-light, self-referential tone, (Gentry even raises his eyebrow directly at the camera) making the kills somehow both easier and much, much harder to take.
The budget special effects aren't meant to be hyper-realistic, but in many cases fail miserably at the task, with mangled masses of meat (now in Hi-Def!) looking exactly like what they're meant to represent. People don't just get stabbed in HG Lewis movies; here, faces are demolished with meat-cleavers, or fried in boiling oil, butts are tenderized into hamburger, heads are run-over like melons, and more. But somehow, Lewis makes it all OK, with curious 'gentle' touches like the notorious scene in which someone's nipples are snipped off with a scissors, one spurting milk, the other ... chocolate milk. Or when Gentry refers to one of the suspects, the one at the bar "mutilating squashes and tomatoes" by drawing faces on them and then crushing them by hand or hammer.
Lewis takes his minimize-the-horror attitude a step further with The Gore-Gore Girls, with the wink and nod to the camera, the once-lugubrious soundtrack replaced by a joking, satirical score, and the addition of Lewis' most-famous actor yet, ancient Borscht-Belt comedian Henny Youngman, as the club-owner.
Probably ought to just stop the review right there, don't you think?
The Gore-Gore Girls revels in bodily destruction like no other movie from the Herschell Gordon Lewis ouevre. It's the high-water mark of his career and his most fully-realized movie. If you like your practical gore effects extremely nasty but guilt-free, with a satirical, knowing attitude, then this is the old-school movie for you. Lewis even pulls passable-to-decent performances from his actors, tying it all together with even pacing and a plausible love story, just the thing to round out an evening of watching a maniac fondle eyeballs. With the amount of extras Arrow Video reliably piles on to such releases, this one earns the good-old DVD Talk Collector Series for gorehounds. (However, if you have a shred of sanity or decency, you'll probably skip it anyway.)
This may look better than it did in the theaters, in fact it may look too good. There is plenty of damage to be found, including vertical scratches that pop up every so often, and plenty of rough stuff around reel-changes, such as discoloration, other scratches, and 'cigarette burns'. However colors are rich and deep, film grain looks natural, and details are nicely defined in close-up and mid-range. Those details are problematic, in that even when the gore effects are obviously composed of rubber masks and offal, they are completely disgusting. Which is what you want, I suppose, but don't say you weren't warned when the killer starts fondling chopped-up face parts in HD on a giant screen.
Sound recording was never a major focus of the Lewis cannon, and this film, presented in Mono Audio, exemplifies such. Things are bearable, and dialog is mostly clean and clear, but much of it sounds like room-sound, or ADR that was recorded sloppily in a different, equally echo-filled room. One nice change is the use of satirical music pieces, rather than Lewis' typical plodding horror scores, and on this score things sound fine.
Extras include a Commentary Track moderated by SWV's Mike Vraney. Lewis is a nice little raconteur, while Vraney brings focus with targeted questions. Lewis even innovates by teasing a later part of the commentary, and explains how he repurposes things by keeping fucked-up segments in the film and making such mistakes seem intentional.
A Bonus Feature: This Stuff'll Kill Ya! is another HGL oddity, 90 minutes of moonshine madness, as we follow a congregation of hard-drinking Christians, whose main goal in life seems to be to get drunk as hell while keeping their secret distillery safe from the Feds. A little murder, a whole lot of drinking, and some great music are the hallmarks of this movie, which, despite plenty of outdoor location shooting, comes across almost like a stage-play captured on film. The exploitationer comes with its own Commentary Track in which HGL biographer Daniel Krogh talks (among other things) about the set built for the church, where the bulk of filming occurs. Lewis cranks some pretty good acting out of his stock players and local extras, but music fan viewers looking for another 'in' to the proceedings will really enjoy the local country band that plays a lot while the parishoners dance and booze it up. Both Lewis and regional cinema fans will enjoy this bonus nugget.
Lots more is on hand, like Reversible Cover Art featuring a new work by The Twins of Evil, an Interview with Stephen Thrower focused on the feature film, and a Mini Documentary titled Regional Bloodshed, relating aspects of Lewis' type of local filmaking. A Trailer and short HGL interview about his post-movie-making career round out the package.
The Gore-Gore Girls revels in bodily destruction like no other movie from the Herschell Gordon Lewis ouevre. It's the high-water mark of his career and his most fully-realized movie. If you like your practical gore effects extremely nasty but guilt-free, with a satirical, knowing attitude, then this is the old-school movie for you. Lewis even pulls passable-to-decent performances from his actors, tying it all together with even pacing, and a plausible love story, just the thing to round out an evening of watching a maniac fondle eyeballs. With the amount of extras Arrow Video reliably piles on to such releases, this one earns the good-old DVD Talk Collector Series for gorehounds. (However, if you have a shred of sanity or decency, you'll probably skip it anyway.)
- Kurt Dahlke