Studio: Vinegar Syndrome
Theatrical Releases: 1969 / 1971
Blu Ray Release: January 8, 2013
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Review by James Klein
Herschell Gordon Lewis, aka The Godfather of Gore, is well known in the horror genre as the pioneer of the gore film. His 1963 cult classic Blood Feast is considered to be the very first gore film ever released, followed by 1964’s 2000 Maniacs and 1965’s Color Me Blood Red which rounded out his “blood trilogy”. Lewis continued to make biker films, vampire films, and slasher films but his more obscure and harder to find films, the films he rarely talks about or acknowledges are his soft core adult films. Thanks to Vinegar Syndrome, three of Lewis’s nudies are finally released to the public. And only a true Lewis fan will appreciate (or can sit through) these sexploitation classics.
The first film on this disc is maybe my least favorite, Ecstasies of Women (1969). This ultra cheap and shoddy sexploitation film follows the adventures of Harry (Walter Camp, his one and only film) a soon to be married man who, with his moronic male friends, reminisce the sexual conquests that Harry conquered before he had decided to hang it up and get himself hitched. Told in flashback, we see Harry meet and bang just about every lady he meets.
Set in Los Angeles, this comedic look at a swinger’s life can be amusing at times for those who want to take a look at a time capsule of 1969 L.A. The topless go-go girls, the gaudy clothing, the massive hair styles, and the thick bush are all on display here. But what makes this film tolerable (or for some, intolerable) is the awful, amateurish acting by the entire cast. I busted out laughing when Harry and his buddies are talking to one another at the bar and the characters start to forget each others name. Why Lewis kept this in is beyond me but absolutely funny. With the bland direction and lousy “story”, its apparent Ecstasies of Women was done solely for a paycheck.
The second film, Linda and Abilene (1969) is also quite dull but did have potential for being a somewhat interesting soft core flick centering on incest in the Old West. After the death of their parents, brother and sister Todd and Abilene (Kip Marsh and Sharon Matt) are left alone on their families farm to live their lives out. While Todd is able to get over his parents passing, Abilene continues to grieve and can’t seem to get past their death. While the two siblings continue to comfort one another and help each other out while working on the farm, the two being to have feelings for one another.
While Todd and Abilene try their best at holding off their urges (the two both masturbate in each others room, thinking about the other) their passion soon overcomes their morals. These two kissing cousins have sex in the bed, barn, a creek, pretty much everywhere. When Todd goes into town, he meets up with the prostitute Linda (Bambi Allen, who died a few years later after a breast enlargement!) who makes love to Todd but quickly runs off to the farm and makes love to Abilene. This is the only moment in the film where Linda and Abilene meet which seems odd that this was called Linda and Abilene when Linda is barely in the picture.
While certain segments of the two siblings doing chores around the farm are about as entertaining as watching paint dry, it is interesting to see a soft core Western with two semi-attractive leading actors. One interesting side note, the film was shot on Spahn Ranch, the habitat of Charles Manson and his “family”. But clocking in at 92 minutes long, only a dedicated Lewis fan can find the patience to sit through the entire film. I will say the film does get more interesting as it goes along but it moves at a snails pace.
The final film is Black Love (1971) and one that makes this blu ray a must buy. Black Love is an un-intentionally hilarious documentary or science project if you will on the many love making techniques and habits of a modern black couple. The film is made up of various segments of black couples having sex while an over the top narrator (Joseph L. Turner, who also wrote the film) discusses and explains the origins of African-American love making.
Vignettes include children who learn about sex from seeing their elders make love by accident. This is both very funny and also kind of creepy as children watch and react to various sex acts. While this is all done via cutaways, its still rather disturbing to think of these young kids could have been on the set or even cast in an adult film. One question raises to my mind: Why is it that only black children learn about sex from catching adults in the act? This doesn’t happen to white, Mexican, or Asian children?
In one arty sequences, the narrator discusses the bodies and desires of both black men and women as we see a completely nude couple on a revolving platform with various gels and lights all around them. This is the “arty” section of the film and another one that provides big laughs.
Black Love is a riot. It does over stay its welcome after awhile but the dated and silly narration on top of the graphic sex scenes (this is hardcore, as opposed to the other two films on this disc that were soft core) make Black Love the best film of the three. And why does the music sound like a jazz score from a Charlie Brown special? Is Black Love P.C.? Hell no. But it sure is nothing I have ever seen.
The three films by Vinegar look and sound absolutely amazing. I can’t get over how well these lost films look and sound. With bright colors that pop and a crystal clear soundtrack, these films get the A+ treatment by Vinegar. I noticed a little bit more wear and grain on Black Love than the other two films but that is a minor complaint, if at all. While the films offer very little special features, the original theatrical trailers are included as well as a small booklet by Casey Scott, an exploitation and adult film aficionado. There are even three small reproduction lab cards included!
While not for everyone, The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis are a great time capsule to the late 60’s and early 70’s and a must own for fans of the directors work.
Ecstasies of Women Rating:
Linda and Abilene Rating:
Black Love Rating: