Friday, August 19, 2011

Double feature time again: two hyphenated-title chick-led features from '68

She-Devils on Wheels
D: Herschell Gordon Lewis

The exploits of the all-girl gang the Man Eaters, and their feud with some local hot rodders

Though best remembered for his horror titles, Herschell Gordon Lewis met few exploitation genres he didn't like, and it was just a matter of time before he let loose his own biker film, done as only he could. While, for example, the movie below (released the same year) and the previous year's "The Hell Cats" were female-driven biker films, none were quite so chick-dominated as this one, and of course none had the HG Lewis weirdness of this one.
Led by Queen and including, among others, the on-the-fence-about-being-an-outlaw Karen, attractive but mega-butch Terry, rather large Whitey, and incredibly cute prospect Honey Pot, the Man Eaters are the scourge of whatever small town they're supposed to be in and men everywhere. They party, fight, and do whatever they want, and even have what's essentially a harem of men to serve them. This ain't your kid sister and her freinds out on scooters.
Though Karen is rather conflicted about the life, particularly after Queen scolds her for selecting the same guy to service her--as if a man is a person a gal can get attached to and not someone to be used-- things generally go along fine, with everyone knowing their roles and staying out of the gang's way.
Problems arise, however, when Joe Boy and his hot rod buddies attempt to take over the old airstrip where the Man Eaters have their races and generally hang out. The girls handily kick their asses, and a couple even piss on them (offscreen). Humiliated and out for revenge, the guys abduct and brutalize Honey Pot--and then Queen gets really mad.
Like any Lewis movie, this one hints at and implies far more than it actually shows. The bevy of guys who service them notwithstanding, the girls are clearly lesbians. For all the "sex," not a single female nipple is ever seen, and despite fights, a guy dragged from the back of a motorcycle, and even a beheading, it's really not very violent. Even the dialogue is rather tame, with dirty limericks that aren't very dirty and lots of people referring to body parts as "the you know what." Yet like any Lewis movie, with all that it still fails to disappoint, even if you don't know to expect that going in.
In fact, I'm glad I'm writing all this down (or typing it out--whatever). I pop this one in every few years, and am always surprised at how much I enjoy it. It just seems to be better than I remember it being. Not much really happens yet it flies by entertainingly.
As for the biker movie trappings: Pretty interesting selection of bikes, with Harleys going to the tougher girls (nice detail). Honey Pot has a moped that Whitey refers to as a "sewing machine." The colors look great, except the dopey bowtie. Good soundtrack of cheesy, sleazy rawk and absurdly overly dramatic orchestral stuff. The theme song is trash genius, and the Cramps' cover is one of the few times they didn't do justice to a classic (it's just not as ghostly).
My only complaint would be that, like most HG Lewis movies, the sound is pretty bad. A solid 4.

The Mini-Skirt Mob
D: Maury Dexter

Hell hath no fury...

There have been (and will be) a few films covered that are really only barely biker flicks; this is not a biker movie. But that's what it was marketed as, so here we are.
Rodeo star Jeff (Ross Hagen) has just gotten married. His rodeo buddies, notably his ex- Shane (Diane McBain), Lon (Jeremy Slate), and their flunkies LG (Ronnie Rondell) and Spook (Harry Dean Stanton), who happen to also ride motorcycles (probably a late addition), decide that they don't much care for Connie (Sherry Jackson), Jeff's new bride. Jeff's attempts to play peacemaker fail.
The problem is Shane, who is clearly still obsessed with Jeff; this is essentially a stalker movie. She whips up the guys and, with her kid sister Edie (Patty McCormack) tagging along, begins the stalkin'. Unfortunately, this leads to Jeff unknowingly running LG's bike off the road, killing him. With the men riled up further with pleas for revenge for LG, they persue, leading to the expected showdown.
The plot here is pretty decent, especially the buildup to the climax. Mostly solid cast, with the great Jeremy Slate, Harry Dean Stanton in a Harry Dean Stanton type role, loveable doofus Hagen, and Patty frickin' McCormack. Female lead McBain, however, does not pull this off. Granted, the lines are pretty bad, with lots of "creepy" (dull) monologues. Still, anything can be pulled off.
The attempts to make this into a biker movie are just painful. They stuck them on motorcycles and put cute Mini-Skirt Mob cuts on a couple of the girls. When the larger group peels of, two guys who get a couple of lines look, repectively, like a casual menswear store manager and a very low level mob associate. And not one Harley. So much for meeting the nicest people on a Honda.
If I watch this again, I'll fast forward through every scene Spook isn't in. 2

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