Unable to sleep last night I stayed up until the wee hours of the morn' watching people get their guts ripped out and high school play level actors stumble over their lines while standing on sets sets so flimsy it looks like you could tip them over with a few fingers. If you haven't experienced at least one of Herschell Gordon Lewis' wonderfully awful films then you cannot rightly call yourself a trash movie fan. The only one I had seen previously, however, was Blood Feast, widely considered to be the first true gore film and a hilariously bad movie to boot. Here's to broadening your knowledge of low culture!
The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
This was Lewis' last film till 2002's belated sequel to Blood Feast and it seems like he decided to throw everything into one pot and add a dose of self satire and decidedly sick humor. It also seems much more cheaply made than his other movies, which is really saying something. So what have we got here? We have an asshole detective trying to solve a string of stripper murders, that means lots of strippers in pasties and sometimes nothing at all, the usual nasty (and cheap) gore, and a cameo by Henry Youngman that he denied he did up till the day he died. Oh, and sleaze. A ton of sleaze. If this movie were a food it'd be a hamburger so slimy that your hands would be soaked in grease when you picked it up. It's all good sick fun though. Mention tomato sauce and chocolate milk to anyone who's seen it and watch them giggle themselves silly. C+
Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
You know you're in for it when the opening theme song to the movie you just put in is "The South is Gonna Rise Again" sung by a hootin' and Hollerin' hillbilly bluegrass band. Yup, it's time for a deranged backwoods hick movie, one of my favorite horror sub-genres! In fact this is the granddaddy of all killer hick movies and without this you might very well not have Deliverance or Texas Chainsaw. I say might for who can predict such things, but it's cool to think about.
Six damn Yankees fall for a really lame fake detour sign and find themselves part of a town's centennial celebration. They're the main part actually you come to find out as they're dispatched in surprisingly gruesome ways while the whole town watches. The gore is pretty tame by today's standards and even by the bar set by Blood Feast, but it sure is inventive. How many times have you seen someone drawn and quartered on film? Or stuffed into a nail studded barrel and rolled down a hill? It's also surprisingly creepy and works much better than it should given its low low budget and cast of non-actors. Or maybe I just love me some hillbilly stereotypes. And Bluegrass music, there's lots of it here and it's actually pretty durn sweet! Check out the arm roasting on the fire while the band plays Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms! Good stuff. B+
As a final note, if I ever find myself in the deep south and hear a banjo playing softly in the distance, I'm turning around and heading back north as fast as I can go, let me tell you.
The Wizard of Gore (1970)
You may have seen a clip of this movie in Juno where she watches it with the guy who's supposed to be adopting her baby and proclaims it to be better than (Dario) Argento. This is just stupid as comparing Lewis and Argento is like comparing McDonald's hamburgers and Italian Pasta. Yes, they both taste good but they're completely different flavors. Plus what sixteen year old girl is into 70's drive-in gore flicks and Italian Giallo films? Do they even exist? And if so, where were they when I was in high school? If you're thinking that I didn't like Juno, then yes, you'd be right. Don't get me started.
The premise of this film is "what if a cheesy magician's tricks were real and he really killed people on stage?" You've got the "saw a woman in half" thing but with a chainsaw, you've got a rather narsty bit of forced sword swallowing, and various other nasty bits of fun spread out around tedious scenes of bad actors stumbling over their lines as their characters try to figure out what's going on. Typical Lewis in other words, but with a decidedly strange and confusing ending. B
It's interesting to note also that the gore genre was already getting self-referential as the evil magician seems to represent Lewis himself, letting you see horrible things that aren't real. Or maybe I'm just digging too far into a movie where the main character is named Montag the Magnificent. Love that name! I think I'll go as Montag for Halloween and announce myself as such when I walk into a room. "Montag the Magnificent is here! Let the party...begin!"
Possibly later today or tomorrow: The last part of season two of Tales From the Crypt!