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January 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis

When the word “lost” is used referring to the films of a very popular cult filmmaker come to mind people tend to listen. Some movies are just fine staying lost, but when those films are from the great Herschel Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, and The Gore Gore Girls), good or bad, you just need to see what they’re about.  HG Lewis shot three sex films between 1969 and 1971 that fell completely off the radar – The Ecstasies of Women, Linda and Abilene and Black Love all under the pseudonyms of Mark Hansen and R.L Smith.  Thanks to some major digging in film vaults the movie archaeologists over at Vinegar Syndrome have unearthed all three films and remastered them for their debut release. The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis Blu-ray / DVD Combo is Vinegar Syndrome's launch title  Debuts are make or break for any new company but with H.G Lewis’ name attached to these creations it could be something enjoyable for fans of Lewis.

The first film on the Blu-ray (all chronological) is the 1969 sex comedy The Ecstasies of Women. Nearly half of “Ecstasies” takes place in a titty bar with numerous topless gals bouncing their massive areola in the background. A group of gentlemen sit at a table chatting with the various strippers. Their pal Harry (Walter Camp) is enjoying a bachelor party the boys are throwing for him. Stories are told by Walter that usually lead to him nailing a beautiful woman.

The film is pretty soft-core aside from some graphic scrotum shots. The women are actually fairly attractive and quite well-endowed in the chest are with their very natural attributes. The look of the film oozes Lewis right from the very first shot in the strip-club.  In between the generous nudity you will have to deal with some draggy dialogue but surprisingly there are some bits of comic relief. Camp comes off quite the opposite of someone as wonderfully stiff as Lewis regular Bill Kerwin. Camp is here taking a more over-the-top approach, as his delivery is campy as can be. His performance is a hoot.

The second film on the disc (also 1969) is Linda and Abilene. The story takes place in the Old West where a couple of siblings (Sharon Matt and Kip Marsh) start to get way too close after the loss of their parents. The subject matter here is pretty shocking, but that’s really it. I will say although Linda and Abilene kind of looked like a sexed up episode of Big Valley, the sets were cool for such a low-budget nudie. The liners that come along with the release point out that Linda and Abilene was actually shot at the notorious Spahn Ranch. This is post Sharon Tate murders, too so it's quite an interesting fact if you know going into the film. Not my favorite of the trio but worth a watch.

Talk about saving the best for last, Black Love is H.G Lewis’ stab at what was becoming hugely popular in 1971, hardcore sex.  This is something he denys but with these eyeballs I saw some things that I certainly cannot unsee that was most certainly XXX. Black Love is a documentary that explores the sexual behaviors of those of the African-American persuasion. If you think the subject matter of Linda and Abilene is wild – Black Love takes it a step further with hilarious consequences.

Designed as an informative documentary on lovemaking by black folks in the 70’s, Black Love shows scenes of regular adults and not porn stars bumping genitalia.  One scene that had me cracking up involved a young man who must be about 17 years-old, rolling down slides, playing on a swing set like he’s eight year-old. The kid discovers a couple fucking in a car and proceeds to watch the couple. It’s graphic, as Herschell doesn’t pull back on the penetration shots. All of this accompanied by an unintentionally funny voice –over. This flick is gold, black gold.

Vinegar Syndrome has done a fantastic job at restoring all three of the movies. The colors are vibrant and there really isn’t too much print damage that I could see. The folks at Vinegar Syndrome have worked on some of the fine recent releases by Distribpix, so if you've seen those don’t expect a lazy restoration. Extras include a few nifty lab cards - which to me were a cool touch, trailers for each movie and some extensive liners for all three films by Casey Scott.

The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis is no doubt a great debut release by Vinegar Syndrome and a very good omen for future releases by the company. Admirers of the “Godfather of Gore” and exploitation needn't be without this trifecta of super trashy sex films!

(Screencaps for the Blu-ray provided by Rock! Shock Pop!)

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