Sunday, January 29, 2017

R.I.P.: Herschell Gordon Lewis – Godfather of Gore, Part V: 1968-72


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 Lewis's own, favorite words: "I've often compared Blood Feast (1963) 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 being a filmmaker of actual talent. Were it not for innovators like Lewis, A Wasted Life probably wouldn't be.
One of the truly great has left the building. 
The films below are not necessarily presented in the order they were made and/or released.
Go here for Part I: 1953-60.
Go here for Part II: 1961-63.
Go here for Part III: 1964-66.
Go here for Part IV: 1967-68.



Linda and Abilene
(1969, dir. "Mark Hansen" aka HGL)

"X-rated", but of the softcore variety common to its time — and oddly named, if you get down to it: the tale is actually about Abilene and her brother Todd; Linda and Abilene only meet for the resolution. But they do ride off into the sunset together, more or less.
New Trailer to
Linda and Abilene:


LINDA & ABILENE (1969)

(NSFW) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.
Like Alley Tramp, (1968, see: Part IV), Linda and Abilene was produced by Thomas J. Dowd (20 Oct 1925 — 27 Oct 2002), credited again as "J.H. Wells". (Need we say who the cinematographer, "Lewis H. Gordon", actually was?) Dowd, some of you might remember, owned the Capri Theater in Chicago, where many of Lewis's film would play; slim evidence suggests that he might (big maybe) be the same Florida-based Tom Dowd who was a mega-successful music producer and engineer.
Among our favorite songs Tom Dowd worked on —
Derek & the Dominos' Layla:

Tom "Music Man" Dowd's official bio fails to mention anything of Tom "Sleazemonger" Dowd's activities, be it as the owner of the Capri or working with Lewis. But there is slight evidence out there that indicates they are the same man. The copy of Motion Picture Daily (Jul-Sept 1959) found at the Internet Archives, for example, points out that Thomas J. Dowd, who "lives in New York" and "operates the Capri Theatre in Chicago's Loop district", "took time out for the Navy during WW II". Tom "Music Man" Dowd was born and raised in NYC, and served in the military during WW II where "he oversaw a team of radiation detection specialists at the atomic bomb tests in Bikini Atoll". And both men did indeed die in Florida. In an interesting interview of H.G. Lewis found at William Sloan's Brilliant Thoughts, Lewis mentions that Tom "Sleazemonger" Dowd's "widow called me to ask if I had any prints to any of his movies. I said, 'No, I certainly don't, there's no reason for me to have them.' She said, 'I'm just making sure,' because in Tom's final instructions when he died, he asked that his son Kevin take any old projects or any cans or whatever and throw them in the town dump. He simply was saying, 'I never existed in that business'!"
Personally, we here at A Wasted Life doubt the two Dowds are one and the same person, but you never know...
But to get back to Linda and Abilene, one of the few movies HGL directed in California. The location: the beautiful Spahn Ranch, the home of Charles Mansion and his blind followers. (As far as we can tell, none of them appear in the movie, but then, again according to the Brilliant Thoughts interview, "Nobody had his actual name on a Tom Down movie."
Once again, TCM has the plot: "Late in the 19th century, Abilene (Sharon Matt) and her brother Todd (Kip Marsh) are suddenly orphaned on their western farm. In sexual frustration, Abilene begins to show her body to Todd, and both turn to autoeroticism as the outlet for their passions. One night, Abilene, frightened by thunder, cries out. Todd rushes to her bedroom to see if anything is wrong and caresses his trembling sister. The caresses become more passionate and lead to sex. The couple soon neglect their farm to pursue their passions. Todd eventually realizes that what they are doing is wrong, and he rides to town to console himself with liquor. In a saloon he confides his story to Linda ('Roxanne Jones', aka Bambi Allen), a bar girl. Rawhide ('Tom Thorn', aka Larry Martinelli), a tough cowboy, overhears, rides out to the farm, and there he ravishes the defenseless Abilene. Meanwhile, Todd and Linda are making love in town. Todd returns home the next day to find that Abilene has been raped. He rushes back to town to kill Rawhide. Linda goes to the farm that morning to see Todd, but she finds Abilene instead and attempts to comfort her. They find a mutual sex attraction and make love. Todd arrives in town, and in a gunfight with Rawhide, both men are killed. Linda and Abilene are then left in each other's arms."
 
McBastard's Mausoleum thinks that "Linda and Abeline is a sexy Western that skirts controversy with its taboo subject, but is a pretty tame affair, case in point Todd does most of his dirty work with his dungarees on but we get do get some nice exploitative elements; incest, rape and some nifty girl-on-girl action. Sharon Matt is quite easy on the eyes, all in all fun stuff even if the cast doesn't quite bring the story to life. A fun low budget Western, for a cheapie period set sexploitation flick it's decent [...]."
 
Third Eye Cinema, however, sees more in the movie's lethargy and sloppiness than most: "Because in its very inattention to nearly anything else, Lewis achieves the sort of dreamlike, hallucinatory feel of a Jean Rollin, the sleepy somnambulance of the Spanish horror film of the 70's, the oneiric sense of disassociation of the most mystical of films (Jodorowsky's Holy Mountain [1973 / trailer], the Bruce Lee-scripted Circle of Iron [1978 / trailer], even the likes of Alan Gadney's Moonchild [1974 / full movie, while it lasts]). While this is quite likely unintentional, [...] the effect on the properly conditioned viewer falls somewhere short of soporific, but somewhat north of boredom and distaste. Think of it as a beta wave agonist."
Kip Marsh ("Todd") left the west, lost some hair and gained some weight, and now teaches at Brooklyn College. Sharon Matt ("Abilene") had a brief career in beat sheets and films, the latter all from 1969. They include, among others, Infrasexum, the directorial debut of the prolific Ed Wood Jr of porn, Carlos Tobalina (aka Troy Benny aka Bruce van Buren aka Jeremiah Schlotter aka Efrain Tobalina and probably aka under other names); the only known directorial job of Sam Kopetzky, 2069 A.D. — not to be confused with 1974's 2069 A Sex Odyssey (trailer) — and the John Hayes aka Harold Perkins' movies Baby Vickie (1969) and The Hang Up (1969), the latter of which Harry Novak distributed. Bambi Allen (Linda), born "Rosalie Erbsen Allen", a well-known name to fans of West Coast trash cinema, tragically died in 1973 due to, according to popular knowledge, complications resulting from silicon breast augmentation. The highpoint of the short career of Larry Martinelli's ("Rawhide") is undoubtedly his appearance in Lee Frost's infamous exploiter, Love Camp 7 (1969).
Trailer to
Love Camp 7 (1969):


The Ecstasies of Women
(1969, writ. & dir. "Mark Hansen" aka HGL)


Another no-budget, California-shot two-day wonder sexploitation flick made for Tom "Sleazemonger" Dowd — who once again produced as "J.H. Wells" — featuring his discovery Sharon Matt, and shot by cinematographer "Lewis H. Gordon".
New Trailer to
The Ecstasies of Women:

THE ECSTASIES OF WOMEN (1969)

(NSFW) from Spectacle Theater on Vimeo.
The "plot" of The Ecstasies of Women has all the creativity of toasted velveteen sandwich; it's a chestnut that even today is still regularly used for porn compilations in need of a thin thread to supply "continuity" to different scenes from different movies edited together to create one film-length DVD.
In other words, the lead dick spends a lot of time on cheap sets and in memory-land — as the description at Euro Cult av.com appropriately details: "The Ecstasies of Women [...] features Walter Camp as Harry, a man who is at a strip club with a group of friends [Gene (William Vickers), Fred (James Brand) and Ted (Forman Shane)]. It is his last night as a single man as he is getting married in the morning, and in between watching the strippers do their thing, Harry reminisces about his past female conquests aboard his own personal bachelor pad/love boat. The film ends with Harry deciding marriage isn't for him, and going back to the boat with his friends and strippers in tow for a softcore orgy."
 
The VHS Graveyard, whence the advert above comes, is of the opinion that Bonnie Clark, who plays "Summer Frenzy", the stripper for whom Harry leaves his wife-to-be standing at the altar, "seems to be on heroin for the entirety of her performance, at least judging by her slurred speech, unfocused eyes and baffling 'performance'." (That might explain her limited oeuvre of filmic projects.) And if the (uncredited) bartender looks familiar, it because it's Stuart Lancaster (30 Nov 1920 — 22 Dec 2000), whom we all know from (among other films) the three Russ Meyer classics Faster Pussycat Kill Kill (1965 / trailer), Mudhoney (1965 / trailer) and Supervixens (1975 / trailer); Tom Laughlin's Born Losers (1967 / trailer); and Larry Buchanan's Mistress of the Apes (1979 / a trailer of sorts) and The Loch Ness Horror (1981 / trailer).
Another movie with Stuart Lancaster,
Fredric Hobbs's
Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973):
Of the girls, Antoinette Maynard (aka Lily Foster, Ann Toinette, and Jane Weinstein), or "Chris", went on to a short porn career — roughly 1972 to 1977 — but never became a name or participated in a film of any special acknowledgement, other than Suckula (1973 / full X-rated film, while it lasts). In turn, this film was a step down for Vincene Wallace, or "Sandy", below, who the previous year had had a juicy part in Russ Meyer's Vixen (1968 / trailer) as the other set of boobs who gets it on with Erica Gavin; Wallace and her two talents disappeared a few years after appearing in Pinocchio (1971 / trailer), a film forever remembered for its tag line: "It's not his nose that grows." Victoria Bond, or "Kitty", who was billed as "Eleanor Riggs", has since become a successful conductor.
Film Pulse says: "If you ever wondered what a feature film shot in only two days is like, here's a hint, it's terrible. Everything about this film is [so] sloppy and haphazardly thrown together, it's difficult to even notate everything incorrect with this movie. Actors frequently flub lines and sometimes forget the names of other characters, there're terrible continuity problems everywhere, the script is awful: there’s nothing right happening in this film and yet, all these things make it a fun watch. Like so many campy B movies of this time, it's the brazen lack of giving a shit that makes this film appealing. [...] The Ecstasies of Women is a film that doesn't overstay its welcome and is a breeze to get through. Like many of the encounters in the film itself, it gets in, does its business, and gets the hell out without feeling obligated to cuddle afterwards."
Movie Madame, however, is less entertained: "Some of the dialog in the first twenty minutes of the film is so sixties sounding that it was starting to hurt my ears. There were a couple of flubbed lines as well. Things get slightly better after the half-hour mark, but these are all amateur actors, and it shows. If you love close-ups of Afro-style pubic hair, and pimples on asses, then this is the film for you."


Stick It in Your Ear
(1970, dir. Charles Morgan)



Smut Peddler: "Hey, you wanna buy some dirty pictures?"
David: "No thanks, I'm in one."

Aka Vortex. Herschell Gordon Lewis was the producer of this obscure artsploitation flick shot in Boston, MA., only in that he picked up the finished film around 1972 as the second film for double features with his last splatter movie, The Gore Gore Girls (1972). Statemaster points out that, that "by owning the rights to both features [of a double feature], he knew he would not get fleeced by theaters juggling the box office returns, which was otherwise common practice at that time." Stick It in Your Ears appears to have been so un-noteworthy to him on any other level that he never seems to have mentioned it anywhere we could find online. Hell, he talked more often about Monster a Go-Go (1965; see Part III) than this forgotten movie. Still, going by what we could find online about this seldom seen movie, we are sure the audience that caught it paired with The Gore Gore Girls probably thought, "W.T.F.?"
The plot, as given by Michael Weldon in his Psychotronic Video Guide: "Experimental film set in contemporary Boston, Mass. A young man named David (Guido Conte) wakes up to bizarre images in a ruined church building. He doesn't know who or where he is. He spends the rest of the film engaged in such hippie activities as drug taking and orgies, and having flashbacks to Vietnam. Various people manipulate him as he tries to find out who he is. He is corralled into being a hired assassin, but ends up making love to his intended victim instead."
Stick It in Your Ear "reflects the earlier Carnival of Souls (1962 / trailer / full great film) and anticipates the later Last House on Dead End Street (1977 / trailer)", according to Something Strange, which also proclaims the movie "perhaps the single most psychedelic film ever to be lensed in black & white". One thing for sure, Stick It In Your Ear seems to have been a serious attempt to make art within the confines of the genre of sexploitation. And like Allen Baron's Blast of Silence (1961 / trailer) once was, and John Parker's Dementia (1955 / trailer) to an extent still is, it's one of those films that is undeservedly (both) overlooked and looked down upon.
 Dementia (1955),
the full masterpiece:
One of the few who have seen Stick It in Your Ear is Joseph A. Ziemba at Bleeding Skull, who writes: "Stick It in Your Ear can't be broadly eulogized. But who wants that anyway? If you yearn for a fulfilling cinematic buffer between damaged art and crude exploitation, this film has you covered. It's enthralling, playful, and charmingly pessimistic; a modest underground tornado. When the opening title card states, 'A story so incredible you may even believe it', you can. I certainly did."
Assuming that "Charles Morgan", the name of the director, is real, he doesn't seem to have ever made another movie. Ditto with "Michelle Most", the female lead. Guido Conte, or "David", has one other known film acting credit to that name: he appeared two years earlier in Richard MacLeod's Kitten in a Cage (1968 / trailer), which Harry Novak distributed. (To meander: Richard MacLeod, assuming that was his name, went on ten years later to make the X-rated Ganja Express [1976 / once-famous NSFW scene] and then disappeared.)

The great "Could it be?" of Stick It in Your Ears is Lance Revson, who plays "Nick". As in: Revlon — you know, make-up. "The Revlon name comes from the Revson family, R-e-v-s-o-n, and the Revson matriarch, the mother, [...] had a son, Lance Revson, who liked to race Indianapolis-type cars [...]."
Yep, the son of the "Poor Little Rich Girl" Barbara Hutton (14 Nov 1912 — 11 May 1979) and her second husband, Count Henrik Eberhard Erdmann Georg Haugwitz-Hardenburg-Reventlow (28 Sept 1895 — 13 Aug 1969). His full birth name was Lawrence Graf von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow, but he was also known as Lance Revson (24 Feb 1936 — 24 July 1972). Possible, doubtful but who knows? He would've been the right age...

Lawrence Graf von Haugwitz-Hardenberg-Reventlow, by the way, was married with Jill St John (of Diamonds Are Forever [1971 / trailer] and The Lost World [1960 / trailer]) from 1960 to 63, and then tied the knot with a perky former Mouseketeer, Cheryl Holdridge (20 June 1944 — 6 Jan 2009), whom — we assume — he left a rich widow. 


The Wizard of Gore
(1970, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)
 
Trailer to
The Wizard of Gore:
Not to be confused with The Wizard of Oz (1939 / trailer). HGL Lewis is back in Illinois and in gore form — with his first wife Allison "Bunny" Louise Downe along for the ride as second-unit director — for The Wizard of Gore, the film that the stupid pregnant lead character (Ellen Page) of that stupid and manipulative hit Juno (2007 / trailer) claims is better than Suspiria. (Kotz.)
Trailer to
Suspiria (Italy, 1977):
Still, it is perhaps Lewis's best gore flick since 2000 Maniacs (1964), and the rebus effect of the plot is nicely WTF? It got remade in 2007 by Jeremy Kasten, with Crispin Glover. Here, in the original version, HGL directs, shoots, and does the special effects — and, actually, he wrote it to, as "Allen Kahn" is merely another pseudonym of his (used again for Year of the Yahoo! [1972]). It is without doubt his goriest movie up till that point, with some gore scenes actually lasting minutes.
Famously enough, Ray Sager, the man who played Montag the Magnificent ("the wizard of gore") wasn't even originally meant to play the part: hired as the key grip on a "start the next day" basis, he ended up taking over the lead when the now-forgotten old guy originally hired to be Montag proved to be too difficult. As Randy Palmer says in Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore: The Films, "[Sager] was believable as an evil magician with occult powers, as long as he didn't open his mouth to say anything. He wasn't quite so bad as to be labeled a female [sic] counterpart to Connie Mason, but he definitely did not challenge the acting expertise of other Lewis movie talents. It was almost as if Sager was a student of the Vincent Price school of overacting. He tried so hard to be good, he overdid it."
All Movie, of all sites, calls the movie a "unique horror story", and gives the plot without touching upon the WTF? of the movie: "Though Montag the Magnificent (Ray Sager) appears to be eviscerating beautiful volunteers from the audience with railroad spikes, chainsaws, and punch presses, the girls always smile afterward and walk away unscathed, leading the adoring crowd to admire the magician's handiwork. However, each evening, those same women are found horribly murdered in similar fashions, leading a young couple to take interest in the case. Sherry Carson (Judy Cler) is fascinated with Montag's show and wants to feature his magic on her afternoon television program. Her boyfriend, Jack (Wayne Ratay), is a sports writer, but he decides to investigate the weird homicides that have plagued the city since Montag appeared. [...]"
Image Journal proves they have an intellect by writing: "The surrealism of the storyline is bolstered with reality-challenging elements from beginning to end. Montag's introductory speech challenges the audience (including the viewers of this very film) to prove that they're actually watching the show and not merely dreaming themselves in the theater. No explanation whatsoever is given for the origins of Montag's powers; his goals and motivations are similarly obscure. Montag is seen performing a nightly ritual in which the bodies of his victims are spirited off to a secret location inside a cemetery; no rationale is ever offered. And while many mystery-thrillers have offered a 'nothing is what it seems' finale, it's never been done in quite the way Lewis does it here. Why? According to Lewis, there IS no answer, and he's surprised anybody would ever try to make sense out of it. He simply wanted to make an "unreal" film with plenty of eye-popping gore. And yet it is this very element of surrealism that makes this movie [one] of Lewis's best-regarded films (though the director himself confesses little affection for it)."
As with most Lewis movies, most of the non-actors involved never made another movie. Who knows, maybe they never even existed, maybe they were just illusions... can you truly prove otherwise? After all: what... is real? Are you certain you know what reality is? How do you know that at this second you aren't sleeping in your beds dreaming that you are here reading this blog? Ah, yes... it all seems too real. Well, haven't you ever had a dream that seems so very real... until you woke up? Then again, how do you know that you ever did wake up? In fact, perhaps when you thought you were waking up... you had actually just begun to dream! You see what I mean, don't you? All your lives... your pasts... your rules of what can or cannot be may all be part of one long dream... which, as of November, 2016, is due to become a nightmare.
The Wizard of Gore even instigates the generally highly critically and seldom-pleased Worldwide Celluloid Massacre to gush: "[It] campily explores the usual magician's tricks with saws and swords and other sharp objects only with gruesome, bloody, intestine-ripping results while the audience sits mesmerized. Unusually for H.G. Lewis, it even asks bold questions about imagination and reality."


Miss Nymphet's Zap In
 (1970, writ & dir. "Sheldon Seymour" aka HGL)
Produced by "Francis X. Ploitation (aka HGL), and made in four days. (Really? That long?) Another one of his California productions, it is perhaps one of Lewis's most entertainingly stupid films, though no one other than us seems to like it. It was probably also one of his cheapest to make. We recommend: watch after you've smoked a good spliff. (And pretend you're still in puberty.)
According to Randy Palmer's book Herschell Gordon Lewis, Godfather of Gore: The Films, the movie was made because "Fred and Jerry Sandy, whom Herschell had last worked with on She-Devils on Wheels [See: Part IV], were interested in doing a sex-oriented take-off on CBS television's hit comedy series Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967-73). [...]"
 A real episode of 
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968),
featuring Davy Jones:

"[...] As occasionally happened with some of the pictures he made for other producers, Miss Nymphet's Zap-In could not get played — anywhere. [...] Eventually, Lewis and his production partners stopped giving Zap-In the hard sell, and chalked it up as a loser. [...] Funnily enough, when Laugh-In hits its nadir in popularity [...], theaters suddenly became interested in Miss Nymphet's Zap-In. 'There was an incredible backlash,' confirmed Lewis. 'By 1971 or '72, I couldn't keep enough prints in circulation. It was evolution in reverse!'"
A Groovy Soundtrack:

Over at Moviemeter, they have a plot description: "De film bestaat uit een verzameling korte verhalen. Onder meer de volgende verhalen passeren de revue: Een Franse gouvernante beschildert haar borsten. Een koppel heeft seks, maar wordt gefilmd en dit wordt uitgezonden in een verborgen camera programma. Een blanke jager wordt gevangen genomen door een groep Afrikaanse vrouwen en een vrouwelijke spion probeert een geheim wachtwoord te decoderen."
But since some of us don't speak Dutch, let's go to Letterboxed to get an understanding of what you should expect should you choose to watch this immaturely idiotic psychotronic pleasure: "A series of short comedy sketches featuring the topic of sex. They include: a French governess who paints her breasts; a couple having sex on the Candid Camera TV show; Little Lord Fauntleroy exploring a female body; a 'great white hunter' captured by African women; a female spy trying to decode a secret password; and two exotic dancers experimenting with a new 'dance'."
Due to its skit structure, time, and where it was shot (Hollywood, USA), Miss Nymphet's Zap-In is almost a who's who of the most-affordable and now-forgotten exploitation film figures in California of the time. (Oddly enough, the ubiquitous female of the day, Uschi Digart, is missing.) The most notable forgotten names include: Julie Conners of Sinner's Blood (1969 / full movie), Ray Dennis Steckler's Body Fever (1969 / full movie), Count Yorga, Vampire (1970 / trailer), the fun but unknown Night of the Witches (1970 / trailer), The Curious Female (1970 / trailer), Trader Hornee (1970 / trailer), and Hard on the Trail (1972 / scene); Debbie Osborne of Cindy and Donna (1970 / credits & theme), Tobacco Roody (1970 / trailer), The Cult aka The Mansion Massacre (1970 / trailer), Midnight Plowboy (1971 / trailer), and the Harry Novak produced classic, The Toy Box (1971 / opening credits); Sonora (aka Loray White), the naked babe below, who played Cleopatra in The Notorious Cleopatra (1970); Phyllis Stengel of Getting Into Heaven (1970 / trailer) and Mrs. Stone's Thing (with Ed Wood Jr, 1970 / theme song); John Vincent of A Clockwork Blue (1972 / scene), The Psycho Lover (1970 / trailer) and Paul Hunt's Wild, Free & Hungry (1969); and the only one to have a half-way real (if walk-on-walk-off heavy) career, Luanne Roberts of Jack Starrett's lost House of Zodiac (1969), The Ravager (1970 / burn, baby, burn), Marsha: The Erotic Housewife (1970 / trailer), Trader Hornee (1970 / trailer), The Tale of the Dean's Wife (1970 / trailer), The Dark Side of Tomorrow (1970 / trailer), Weekend with the Babysitter (1970 / reviewed), The Joys of Jezebel (1970 / first two minutes), Welcome Home, Soldier Boys (1971 / scene), Tom DeSimone's Prison Girls (1972 / trailer), Bonnie's Kids (1972 / trailer) and more.  She, like everyone named above, seems to have disappeared by 1976, perhaps to husband, kids, and a house in the valley.
Over at Something Weird, Frank Henenlotter writes: "Among the 'lost' films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, probably no title has been more sought after or aroused more curiosity than the oddity known as Miss Nymphet's Zap-In. Well, the search is over [...]. Rapid-fire dirty jokes are, quite simply, also the entire plot. Dirty jokes about doctors, psychiatrists, cheating wives. Great White Hunters, French restaurants, peepshow loops, crabs, and gays. Cheap jokes on cheap sets and punctuated by two hilariously mismatched topless go-go dancers, as well as the entire cast periodically screaming 'Zap!' as they freeze in wacky positions, all of which is accompanied by a typical Lewis garage-band soundtrack from his son, Robert Lewis, and 'The Zaps'. [...] Is it funny? Does it matter? Hell, this is Herschell High Concept! This isn't about comedy, it's about sex! It's Exploitation Film in extremis! It doesn't have to be funny! [...] Though Zap-ln's X-rating was self-applied, the MPAA probably would've given it an X anyway. While the nudity doesn't include full-frontal, it's nevertheless wall-to-wall. [...] But let Miss Nymphet herself have the last word: 'For you students of sociology or anthropology or political science or even English literature, I have an important observation for you: Isn't watching this a heck of a lot nicer than studying?'"
Miss Nymphet, By the way, is played by the uncredited Bambi Allen (2 May 1938 — 21 Jan 1973), whom we written of before.


Chicago 70
(1970, dir. Kerry Feltham)
Aka The Great Chicago Conspiracy Circus. The mind boggles: Herschell Gordon Lewis writes an experimental film that crossbreeds the Chicago Seven trial with Alice in Wonderland? It even played at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1970, where it won the New Cinema Forum, and some of the actors involved even went on to act in other serious movies, too.
Trailer to
 The Great Chicago Conspiracy Circus:

So, sound ridiculous? Sound impossible? Well: it is. Despite what the imdb says, what Wikipedia says, and what numerous websites (that take their info from those two sites) say: Herschell Gordon Lewis had nothing to do with this movie. Someone out there was having fun when they entered that tidbit of info onto imdb — and it wasn't us. (Although the mistake may actually arise from the fact that Lewis's second wife,Yvonne Gilbert, supposedly acted in this experimental political film. It should be noted that her name is not always included in all the "Cast" listings found online — The New York Times, for example, fails to do so in their review of the movie — but then, perhaps her part was tiny.)
In any event, over at South Side Projections, they have an interview with the real people (Kerry Feltham and Diane Grant) responsible for the avant-garde movie that, while not lost, is as good as if. And South Side Projections explains: "During the Chicago Eight (later Chicago Seven) trial, a Toronto theater group who had an inside man in the federal court building in Chicago started working on a play based on smuggled transcripts of the trial. In the cast was playwright and actress Diane Grant. Later, during a successful New York run of the play, called Chicago 70, director Kerry Feltham made a film of the play. [...]"
Kerry Feltham [above right, email: kfeltham@palihigh.org] now teaches film at Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades, California; Diane Grant [above left] works across the street from the school at the community theater. In any event, it is flatly stated at South Side Projections: "Despite what the Internet Movie Database maintains, schlockmeister Herschell Gordon Lewis was not involved."


This Stuff'll Kill Ya!
(1971, dir. "Sheldon Seymour")
HGL, once again as the multi-talent "Sheldon Seymour", returns to Hixploitation. Aka The Devil Wears Clodhoppers — seriously? Naw, that was only the working title: as far as we can tell, it never got released anywhere under that title. Shot in Checotah and Oklahoma City, both located somewhere called Oklahoma, one of the nether-regions of the USA. (We drove through the latter town, once; don't remember anything about it.)
 Trailer to
This Stuff'll Kill Ya!:


We caught this flick once, long ago here in Berlin at the Eiszeit Kino, and much like Oklahoma City we don't remember anything about it — other than that the sight of the obviously alcoholic and over-the-hill Tim Holt (below, 5 Feb 1919 15 Feb 1973) as Agent Clark was extremely depressing. Holt, of course, has and had hardly been a household name for decades, but as a not-so-good-looking young man he was once a Western star and also had juicy parts in a variety of worthy projects, including some true classics: John Ford's Stagecoach (1939 / trailer), Orson Welles's so-so The Magnificent Ambersons (1942 / trailer), the cheesy Hitler's Children (1943 / trailer), and the great John Huston movie The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948 / trailer); by the late 1950s he was out of Hollywood, but he still did a rare prestige movie like Arnold Laven's The Monster that Changed the World (1957 / trailer), Russ Marker's The Yesterday Machine (1963 / full movie), and this HGL project.
Of the other thespians in the movie, one — perhaps for the first time among all those who ever worked with HGL — went on to have a real career: This Stuff'll Kill Ya! was the feature-film debut, as "Bubba", of Tulsa-born Larry Drake (21 Feb 1949 — 17 March 2016), a character actor whom we all remember from Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981 / trailer), Darkman (1990 / trailer), Dr. Giggles (1992 / trailer), Darkman 2: The Return of Durant (1995 / trailer), Dark Asylum (2001 / trailer), Spun (2002 / trailer), and Dead Air (2009 / trailer). Also there for the ride, James Garner's older brother Jack Garner (19 Sept 1926 13 Sept 2011), seen somewhere in the TV horror flicks This House Possessed (1981 / full movie) and Midnight Offerings (1981 / full movie).
This Stuff'll Kill Ya! is one of Lewis's least-liked and most-denigrated films, and rightly so, for it is a painful bore to sit through; the few sleazy or bloody highlights are spaced so far apart that they in no way make up for the excessive and boring dialog (most of it delivered with relish but no talent by Lewis fav Jeffrey Allen as Rev. Roscoe Boone) and the thin plot that goes nowhere. As Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings aptly says, "Talk is cheap, and so is Herschell Gordon Lewis. [...] There's a reason Lewis is known as the 'Godfather of Gore' rather than the 'Dean of Dialogue'. At least in his gore movies he has something to catch the attention; in this movie, [...] the emphasis is mostly on long-winded talking, and when it comes to writing dialogue, Lewis has the same ability as Jerry Warren [of Teenage Zombies (1959)], in that he knows how to write a dialogue scene that will cause you to zone out twenty seconds after it begins because you know nothing of interest is going to be said. [...] The end result is one of Lewis's dullest stretches of celluloid. No, it won't kill ya, but it may just put you into a deep sleep."
Over at Blu-ray.com, Jeffrey Kauffman briefly contemplates whether "some folks might actually find parts of This Stuff'll Kill Ya! on the offensive side, for reasons other than the usual brickbats thrown at Lewis, namely his emphasis on blood and guts and female nudity. There's at least some of that going on in the film (of course), but there's an unmistakable skewering of religion (and, let's face it, one religion: Christianity) at play in the inner workings of this film, something that's perhaps intentionally provocative but for some viewers at least potentially off putting." He continues: "It's hard to get too worked up over something as patently silly as This Stuff'll Kill Ya! (does that title refer to the hooch or to religious belief? — just wondering). The film has the requisite gory deaths and even a crucifixion (or two), and it provides a real showcase for a typically hyperbolic Allen. Uneven at best and hilariously inept at worst (in the Lewis tradition), This Stuff'll Kill Ya! may inadvertently provide evidence as to why Lewis was nearing the end of his feature film career."
The plot? At All Movie, which gives the movie and unjustified one-star rating, Sandra Brennan noticed it: "A renegade backwoods reverend (Jeffrey Allen) practices what he preaches and gets into all sorts of trouble with the FBI and some of his more upstanding parishioners in this lurid crime drama that was originally made to be shown on the Southern drive-in exploitation film circuit. The preacher's problems begin when he continues to expound the glories of moonshine and fast women on his pulpit. It is the former (the preacher makes illegal corn squeezin's on the side) that gets him into trouble. The story's mandatory violence and bloodshed comes in when one of the rev's most ardent supporters begins to graphically slaughter those who oppose him. Unfortunately, this is not the sort of support the minister wants and in the end, he and his psycho fan get into a bloody final conflict."
DVD Talk says, "In between the lengthy musical numbers (Lewis loves his overlong hoedowns and close-ups of toothless extras), we get attempts at comedy, with Boone delivering ridiculous monologues and relishing in his own hypocrisies. But the lighthearted attitude is marred by an unyielding creepiness as Lewis unwisely opts to mix in his standard shock violence. A newlywed is gang-raped (off screen, but still), another woman is stoned to death (on screen), and two others are crucified. Never mind that Lewis does a terrible job setting any of this up (the stoning sequence is mostly incoherent), or that his script attempts to keep Boone on the good side by having him denounce the murders; by this point, we're so put off by the ill-fitting brutality that we're in no mood to chuckle."
The music is good, in any event —
One More Swig of Moonshine:



 

Black Love
(1971, dir. "R.L. Smith)



"A study of an important aspect of the Black experience."

A John Q. Black Production. Not to be confused with Jose Benazeraf's L'Homme Qui Voulait Violer Le Monde (1974), aka Black Love, another forgotten "black power softcore sex flick" from the forgotten French Tinto Brass. (Poster below.)

HG Lewis's long-lost porn flick, though to the end he denied directing it — and, indeed, not only is he credited only as the cinematographer (using his beloved "Sheldon Seymour" moniker), but the credited director and producer R.L. Smith truly existed.
As Lewis explains in an interview on William Sloan's Brilliant Thoughts, "Bob Smith — Bob was a black guy [...] who owned a Baskin and Robbins franchise on the south side of Chicago. And he simply wandered into my office one day and said, 'I wanna make one of these things' — he had friends or whatever who had the cash. [...] All I did was photograph it. That was my total capability."

At Theater of Guts, Lewis adds: "I supplied only the technical aspect of film making; he was the producer. I also put the campaign together for him, which was irresistible; Black Love, from the view point of box-office draw, was an absolute smash, but I didn't own it; I was for a while, unwillingly really, the distributor. [...] Ultimately, Bob Smith disappeared and that was the end of that deal. I had no regrets about it." Nevertheless, for all the nay-saying, what the NPR quotes Frank Henenlotter as saying is true: "[...] He's always been uncomfortable with Black Love [...]. But the thing is, when you're working on zero money, and Herschell Gordon Lewis is the cinematographer, well, then it looks like one of his films."
Unrated Film has the following to say about what is basically less a white-coater than a fake documentary: "Black Love is an un-intentionally hilarious documentary [...] on the many love-making techniques and habits of a modern black couple. The film is made up of various segments of black couples having sex while an over-the-top narrator [...] discusses and explains the origins of African-American love making. [...] Black Love is a riot. It does over stay its welcome after awhile, but the dated and silly narration on top of the graphic sex scenes [...] make Black Love the best film [...]. And why does the music sound like a jazz score from a Charlie Brown special? Is Black Love P.C.? Hell no. But it sure is nothing I have ever seen."

Black Love seems to separate the boys from the men: you either hate for what it is (a badly made, possibly unintentionally racist porn flick with zero erotic factor) or you love it for what it is (a badly made, possibly unintentionally racist porn flick with zero erotic factor). As possibly to be expected, McBastards Mausoleum is of the latter school, and writes "Black Love is [...] not to be confused with a sex film... yeah fucking right! Boom, right from the start you get a close-up of some black cock with an even closer-up shot of some down n' nasty penetration. There can be no doubt about it, this is a genuine fuck film ever-so-thinly disguised as an educational documentary, but don't you believe it for a moment. [...] The shenanigans onscreen never went quite racist, but they're definitely weird, the vignettes within are bizarre to say the least, you just gotta love it. The images combined with our narrator dropping sweet nuggets like 'He sees the vaginal opening of the woman, looking like some hallowed chamber' are worth the price of admission alone, great stuff. The film never once bordered on anything erotic despite the hardcore sex acts, the scenarios preposterous and would make for great group-viewings along the lines of say Reefer Madness (1938 / trailer / full film), it's sure to be a crowd pleaser that will elicit howls of laughter, a film that once you've seen it you cannot unsee it!"

The narration and script is credited to "Joseph L. Turner", but it is a safe bet to assume that someone else is hiding behind the name — but we'll never know who. Just like we'll never know any of the names of the "stars". Indeed, this porn movie is so obscure it hasn't even made it into the iafd.
But, assuming that the music credit is real, the fine funky soundtrack of this z-porno is from Harold Harris, a forgotten but possibly still alive blues and jazz musician (pianist), born 1934, who released a couple of LPs in the 60s — including Here's Harold and Harold Harris at the Playboy Club.
With narration,
the groovy soundtrack to
Black Love:

 



The Year of the Yahoo!
(1972, writ. & dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis)


The mind boggles: Lewis returns to hixploittion to make a political satire shot in Texas. Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, it got eclipsed by the other political satire of that year, The Candidate (1972 / trailer).
Trailer:
Don't be fooled by the "Allen Kahn" screenplay credit; it is merely another pseudonym of Lewis (he used it for The Wizard of Gore [1970] as well). Lewis, once again as "Sheldon Seymour", also wrote the songs performed by Claude King (5 Feb 1923 7 Mar 2013), the real-life country music singer playing the lead in the movie. (King's best known hits are probably The Comancheros [1961] and Wolverton Mountain [1962].) The Year of the Yahoo! is the second of King's two movie credits: the year previously he had second billing in regional filmmaker Donald A. Davis's hixploiter, Swamp Girl (1971 / trailer).
Pop Matters  loves the movie, claiming "Yahoo is a real rarity amongst supposed skin and sin exploitation films […]. Instead of some sleazy exposé in which naughtiness and nudity are the only salient selling points, what we have here is a really great movie with an incredibly well-written script, a narrative that navigates the truths about government in a way most mainstream efforts would likely avoid."
Bleeding Skull has a plot description: "It's Year Of The Yahoo! Hank Jackson is a Johnny Cash-meets-Ringo Starr pop singer, played by real life country and western star Claude King. He offers up nuggets of wisdom like 'You wouldn't know music from fartin' in a rain barrel' and wears pit-stained green shirts with frills. For some reason, Hank is picked to run for senator by a bunch of crooked yes-men. They gain control of the polls through lying on TV, disposable country songs, and an endlessly repeating commercial of Mr. Jackson riding on a horse while the word 'HOPE' flies across the screen. Ray Sager returns as the always-pissed right-hand-man, constantly yelling and sharing a gross, unexpected sex scene with a girl who has weird feet. A couple of very fake riot scenes go down, Hank's fiancée (Ronna Riddle) is beaten and raped, and it all caps with defeat, as Hanky decides to go with his true feelings and speak out about what he believes in."
The most commonly shared critique of the movie, even among the oddly numerous amount of people who like it, is that it suffers all the normal flaws of an HGL flick: lousy acting, unprofessional direction, bad cinematography, horrendous blocking, crappy everything but the tale itself.

Somehow, however, we here at A Wasted Life have the feeling that it cannot be as good of a critique and satire of American elections as the real one of 2016; that was a satire, horror story, and social critique rolled in one. (May the Flying Spaghetti Monster spare our souls and save this planet from our nation.)


The Gore Gore Girls
(1972, dir. Herschell Gordon Lewis )


Aka as Las Chicas Gore and Blood Orgy. Produced and directed by HGL, with music composed by "Sheldon Seymour". Scriptwriter "Alan J. Dachman" supposedly also does a cameo somewhere in this black cum splatter comedy as a stoner; he disappeared after the movie, perhaps to middle-class respectability. While that is not rare for a H.G. Lewis movie, what is a bit different from most of H.G. Lewis's films — aside from the tightly interwoven combination of nudity and gore, which was generally kept separate in Lewis's earlier movies — is that most of the women participating in the movie don't look that bad (at least, that is, until they get killed). It should be added that after this movie, H.G. Lewis more or less also disappeared, leaving  the realm of exploitation film first for rumoured swamplands of disreputable business deals before reaching the greener pastures of junk mail prosperity.
Trailer to
The Gore Gore Girls:


Odd among the participants: Henny Youngman (16 Mar 1906 24 Feb 1998), "The King of the One Liners" — his most famous possibly being "Take my wife ... please!" — has a part in this movie as a strip club owner. But then, he was known to do a job, grab the money, and go home. (A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do.)
Famous (?) for being the only movie Lewis ever submitted to the MPAA — who gave it an unjustified X-rating. (A step further: it is considered the first movie to be given an X-rating due to the violence.)
In Australia, as late as 2005 it was still refused classification and thus effectively banned down under: "Convenor Maureen Shelley said that 'the cumulative impact of the violence, including some sexualised violence, was very high, such that under the guidelines the film must be refused classification'. Under the guidelines, films will be refused classification if they contain 'gratuitous, exploitative or offensive depictions of violence with a very high degree of impact or which are excessively frequent, prolonged or detailed'. In the Review Board's majority determination [2 out of 3], The Gore Gore Girls warrants refused classification status because it exceeds the R18+ classification in a number of depictions. These include those of five female exotic dancers who are all murdered while semi-naked. The killings show prolonged and detailed scenes of gore, including removing a face from a skull, removing eyes from their sockets, cutting off the nipples of one victim, and the face of another victim being boiled off with the parts shown floating in a pot of oil. [Refused-Classification.com]"
Cinematic Threads has the plot: "A dapper, sarcastic private detective (Frank Kress) is hired by a reporter (the adorably klutzy Amy Farrell*) to track down the person responsible for murdering go-go dancers (at a club owned by Henny Youngman!**). Though typically sleazy and cheesy as all of Lewis' work is there are actually several humorous moments in this courtesy of The Killer, whose 'methods' of wiping out the dancers keep getting progressively more creative: one has her face ironed, another has her head boiled (along with some french fries!), yet another has her buttocks literally tenderized and yet another (!) gets her nipples snipped with scissors ... only to discover that one breast produces whole fat milk and the other, chocolate (babies got it good). When it isn't being outrageous with smashing up makeup and prosthetics, however, it goes back to cornball humor and overacting and inane plot revelations ... but at least there are plenty of strippers to keep the (almost exclusively) male audience distracted."
* Amy Farrell went on to appear somewhere in Airport 1975 (1974), a hilarious disaster movie that the Medveds included in their 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All Times and that was later listed as one of "The 100 Most Enjoyable Bad Movies Ever Made" in The Official Razzie Movie Guide.
** That's Henny Youngman above looking all gangster-like from between the gore-gore girl's legs.
Trailer to
Airport 1975:


What one person finds funny, another finds extreme — to quote DVD Infatuation: "[...] The harsh [X-]rating was the result of the movie's bloody gore. No stranger to violence, Lewis nonetheless took things to a nauseating level in The Gore Gore Girls, treating fans to some of the most gruesome kills he'd ever concocted. [...] As the title itself suggests (not once, but twice), this one's all about the gore. [...] Even by Herschell Gordon Lewis' standards, the kills in The Gore Gore Girls are extreme. Ranking right up there with Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs and The Wizard of Gore as one of Lewis' best films, The Gore Gore Girls will also go down as the movie in which The Godfather of Gore managed to 'out-gore' himself."
Images Journal fails to notice the visual link — black gloves and unseen killer — to the Italian giallo film, but for that they point out some interesting considerations: "The emphasis is on the director's inventive trademark murders, this time carried out not only in graphic detail, but with the sickest humor imaginable. Tenderizing mallets, boiling french fries, and a household iron are all brought into play, while the infamous "chocolate milk" sequence remains indescribable outside of well-seasoned company. [...] This was also the only Lewis gore film to function as a mystery. As a result, the murders are more uncomfortable than usual, for they foreshadow the 'faceless maniac' theme popularized in the 1980s and leave the viewer with less insulation than before from the increasingly personal mayhem. And finally, the twisted humor is by no means limited to the gore scenes. [...] The combination of sick gore and sick humor remains as potent today as ever. Many viewers (including some horror fans) still find it unwatchable. [...] Lewis is neither defensive nor apologetic: he made the film, he states, for adults only; and for that matter, for adults who possessed a certain sick sense of humor. No attempt was ever made to disguise the nature of the film, and the idea that anyone would take it seriously is simply bewildering to the director."

Go here for Part VI.
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