She-Devils on Wheels (1968)

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis

RIP HG! The passing of the gorefather at the ripe old age of 87 would never have made Big News anyway, I’m sure, but he was even further obscured today by the presidential “debate” in the US. I noticed, though, and to mark the occasion I pulled this off the shelf… I saw a quote by Lewis earlier today about how he always viewed filmmaking as business and pitied anyone who called it an art, and, well, no one will ever call his films “art” (at least not with a straight face), especially not this. And yet, while watching it, I kind of felt like you could actually read an aesthetic of sorts into this and, indeed, other films of his. It really just isn’t a matter of Lewis not knowing how to make films, and really is about, you know, breathtaking contempt for how “normal” films are made. This film screams “FUCK YOU!” at conventional niceties of filmmaking like style, cutting, etc, even more than Lewis’ films usually do. It’s like Lewis knew what most filmmakers would do, and he could’ve done so himself, but he actively refused to do it.

Anyway, apparently this was his biggest box office hit, cashing in on the biker movie trend. Lewis’ particular twist is that his gang is all-female, and they basically race to see who’s going to have first pick at, well, which of their male hangers-on they’re going to fuck that night. So it’s really about female sexuality and female strength (they wallop a male gang in a fight that ends with the girls literally pissing on them), albeit scuppered, as Lewis notes in the DVD commentary, by such considerations as, you know, censorship regulations that still prevailed before the MPAA ratings system was imposed six months after this came out, cos he wanted to release it as widely as possible, which meant, well, not actually directly showing the pee-fest, and indeed no nudity, none of the overt lesbianism you might’ve expected, things like that. This is ripe for remaking free of those constraints, with more violence, actual nudity, girls on girls, etc, and things like, well, adequate budget, technical skill (the sound is particularly terrible here), and acting (cos the girls were hired mainly for their bike riding abilities)… you know, like an actually good film, which, let’s face it, this isn’t really. But it’s still kind of fascinating as an artifact of the period, perhaps more so in its curious way than some of its contemporaries…

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