Linda and Abilene (1969)

OK, so I had a bit of a go at Herschell Gordon Lewis in the last review for the, er, slapdash character of his films. Conversely, this second film from the “lost films” set almost looks as if actual care was taken with it; maybe it’s because Lewis apparently had slightly more money than usual to spend on it, but for some reason the trademark long master shots in this film look like a deliberate attempt at being “artistic” rather than just crummy technique like they do in his other films… or maybe it’s the grindingly slow pace and wispy, minimal narrative… or maybe it’s the incest angle, which I can imagine being given this sort of languorous treatment in an actual European arthouse film of the period. Or maybe I’m just misreading it, cos the film was otherwise essentially exploitative in its origins, part of an end of 60s trend combining the western with the sex film that Lewis’ producer wanted to cash in on. Here, Abilene and Tod(d) are two nice young people in the old west whose parents have just died and left the two siblings all alone, and, well, I did mention the “i” word just then, didn’t I… Tod(d) witnesses Abilene bathing nude in the creek, and before you can say “taboo” both of them are having dirty thoughts about each other. Then acting on them. Yikes. Once again, the actual sex business (when the film finally gets around to same) is softcore as such—if Harry kept his underpants on in the last film, Tod(d) keeps his jeans on in this one—but, well, yikes anyway. Then Tod(d) suddenly realises they shouldn’t be doing this and goes to town, where he meets local floozy Linda (and thereby finally renders the film’s title actually relevant to its contents)… and Abilene meets local rapist Rawhide. We’re set for the traditional western showdown and the less traditional western lesbian clinch when the two girls finally meet… I don’t know, this is kind of an odd one. Like I said, it almost gives the impression that Lewis was trying to actually take something like care with the film, to create something a bit more serious than the average sexploiter (there’s a distinct unpleasantness to the whole affair in marked contrast with the casual jokiness of Ecstasies). Still, as I also said, maybe I’m reading too much into the thing; although the film gave me that impression, this is Herschell Gordon Lewis we’re dealing with, and not even I would be foolish enough to ascribe actual artistic intentions to anything he did…

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