Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis
Director - Herschell Gordon Lewis
Cast - Various
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 2
Distributor - Vinegar Syndrome
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 01/12/13
The Films (3.5/5)
Herschell Gordon Lewis in 60's was a director who worked the exploitation genre from every possible angle. In the earliest part of the decade he started with Nudie Cuties like Goldie Locks and the Three Bares, and the Adventures of Lucky Pierre, before moving on the Blood Trilogy (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs, Color Me Blood Red) that would end up making his name. Aside from those 2 genres he made biker films, roughies, softcore sex romps, drug films, and beyond. In the late 60's he would make 3 films that would fall squarely into the porn category that his fans would deem lost forever.
Fortunately, new upstart label Vinegar Syndrome has managed to unearth the negatives to these Lost Films of H.G. Lewis, restore them, and put them out on Blu-ray for his fans around the world to enjoy. It's not many exploitation filmmakers of that period who have their entire work available to the viewing public, but due to efforts like this one by Vinegar Syndrome, and those by Something Weird Video over the years we can now safely say that the entirety of H.G. Lewis' filmography is now available for home viewing.
The films in this collection as previously mentioned are of the pornographic variety. The first 2 films the Ecstasies of Women, and Linda and Abilene are of the softcore variety, while the third film Black Love is Lewis' one venture into hardcore pornographic territory. All 3 of these films have allegedly been disowned by Lewis' over the years, as he did not wish to work in porn, but the former 2 have his directorial stamp all over the finished product, while the third feels at times like familiar Lewis, is definitely a departure for the director, and not just with the inclusion of the hardcore content.
The first film in the set is the Ecstasies of Women and features Walter Camp as Harry, a man who is at a strip club with a group of friends. It is his last night as a single man as he is getting married in the morning, and in between watching the strippers do their thing, Harry reminisces about his past female conquest aboard his own personal bachelor pad/love boat. The film ends with Harry deciding marriage isn't for him, and going back to the boat with his friends and strippers in tow for a softcore orgy.
The second film Linda and Abilene is Lewis' take on the western porno genre. This is pretty much as tame sexually speaking as the prior film, and actually features sex scenes where the man never removes his jeans (depending on your perspective this might be a good thing). The film follows brother and sister duo Tod and Abilene left to their own devices after the death of their parents in a ranch setting in the middle of nowhere. One day after watching Abilene skinny dip, the two end up succumbing to their incestual desires (although as stated earlier Tod never removes his jeans). Tod feeling guilty leaves the ranch, and finds himself in the arms of Linda. Unfortunately, while he's away Abilene is brutally raped by the cowboy Rawhide. Upon returning Linda and Abilene desceds into a bloody and not so surprisingly (if you paid attention to the title of the film) sapphic finale.
The third film in the set, Black Love, as stated earlier is Lewis' one known foray into hardcore pornography, and it also has the distinction of being the most interesting film content-wise on this whole set. While I will state the film does not entirely feel like an H.G. Lewis film, it is a strange exploitation ditty, and well worth checking out. The film blends the worlds of Blaxploitation, hardcore pornography, and the educational film into something entirely unique and surprisingly entertaining. The film starts out quite disturbingly as various youngsters find all about the origin of the species, by catching various couples in the act. Obviously, much like Kubrick's claim that the actor who played Danny in the Shining never seeing any scenes of violence, you can pretty much tell these kids never saw anything, but the implication is nonetheless quite the attention getter, and sets a moderately shocking tone from the start. After a few rounds of snooping people walking in on sex acts, the film finally gives up on that conceit. The film ends with a party scene, followed by 2 scenes with a variety of couples.
It's doubtful any of the 3 films in this set will ever make it to the top of the list of any fans favorite H.G. Lewis films. However, this is definitely a unique treat for fans of the exploitation auteur, and an opportunity to catch a glimpse of something that was thought to be lost forever.
Right out of the gate those folks at Vinegar Syndrome have proven they are a distributor to take seriously. The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis has been presented on Blu-ray (with an accompanying DVD Edition) with a 2K 1:37:1 transfer on all 3 films taken from the original negatives. All 3 films considering their source materials look absolutely fantastic. The detail on these transfer is fantastic, each has a healthy level of grain, solid black levels, and accurate flesh tones. There is minimal print damage to speak of, overall a fantastic looking package.
Vinegar Syndrome has presented all 3 films with Dolby Digital mono tracks that all get the job done. The dialogue comes through completely clear, and what music and effects are mixed nicely together. I did not detect any instances of pops, cracks, or hissing on the tracks.
Vinegar Syndrome have included theatrical trailers for all of the films on the set. There is also an extensive booklet of liner notes written by Casey Scott that gives some background to the films, and some replica lab cards.
Far from the best films in H.G. Lewis' filmography (that might send some people running). The 3 features that make up the Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis is still a massively entertaining set for fans of the exploitation auteur. It is also at this time quite possibly the best release of his work from any label as far as restoration is concerned. The extras on the disc itself are slim, but the trailers (especially the one for Ecstasies...)are amusing, and the liner notes are informative and fun. This Blu-ray/DVD combo pack welcomes an awesome new label to genre media distribution, and if their releases continue to be this much fun Vinegar Syndrome's releases will definitely be a welcome addition to our viewing libraries. As it stands the Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.