Written by: George Pacheco on February 1st, 2013
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1969 (The Ecstasies of Women / Linda and Abilene), USA, 1971 (Black Love)
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis (All Films)
Cast: Walter Camp, Jeanette Mills, Sharon Matt, Vincene Wallace, Bonnie Clark, Sharon Matt, Kip Marsh, Roxanne Jones, Tom Thorn, Joseph L. Turner
BluRay released: January 8th, 2012
Approximate running times: 74 minutes (The Ecstasies of Women), 92 minutes (Linda and Abilene), 74 minutes (Black Love)
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1 Full Frame / 1080 Progressive (All Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (All Films)
BluRay Release: Vinegar Syndrome
Region Coding: Region Free / NTSC
Retail Price: $24.98
In what is surely a coup for latest label on the block Vinegar Syndrome, this freshly uncovered archive of formerly “lost” H.G. Lewis films certainly arrives with loving care and expert handling on the part of everyone involved.
That being said, it’s a shame that the actual films contained here on this high definition triple feature are so lackluster, given the obvious attention to detail placed by Vinegar Syndrome in the restoration of these late sixties/early seventies sexploitation flicks. Frankly, The Ecstasies of Women, Linda and Abilene-both released in ’69-as well as 1971’s Black Love are boring in their ineptitude, although this may not come as much of a shock to those who have seen Lewis’ frustrating, yet undeniably important splatter pictures, Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red.
Considered the director’s “Blood Trilogy,” all three films were some of the first to display explicit gore on the screen, something which shocked movie-goers to the gore back in the early sixties. That being said, however, their resonance as enjoyable films is debatable, as all three were severely hampered by flat pacing and uninspired acting by Lewis cast of characters.
Ultimately, all three of the pictures contained here within The Lost Films of H.G. Lewis suffer from a similar malady, with Ecstasies of Women literally following a cyclical pattern of “dream sequence-to house boat sex scene” interspersed with tedious, seemingly endless, nonsensical dialog pieces. Although the plot of this first film basically follows a bachelor on his last night of “freedom” before marriage, the actual results of said story isn’t nearly as sleazy or salacious as it sounds. Despite the frequent sexualization of its female co-stars, The Ecstasies of Women often struggles to rise above its status as a more explicit “nudie cutie.”
Linda and Abilene is even tamer by comparison, attempting to capitalize on the rising trend of such “sex westerns” as Lee Frost’s Hot Spur or The Ramrodder. Whereas Frost’s film actually works as a gritty, sleazy western-albeit with some awkwardly hemmed in nudity and sex scenes-Lewis’ take on the obscure sub-genre is relegated primarily to, you guessed it, more mind-numbingly talky monologues, spliced with some jazz soundtrack nudity for the drive in crowd. It’s a frustrating film which never even gets out of the starting gate.
In comparison, Black Love is exactly that: a hardcore pornographic effort which masquerades as an “informative sex film.” Utilizing this description-indeed, there is a narrative disclaimer which sets this up right from the opening frame-Lewis was able to circumvent any such stigma attached to being a “director of porn films,” while at the same time being able to rake in all of the money associated with the “raincoat crowd” who frequented triple X theaters to watch such films.
Black Love utilizes plenty of gynecological close ups in its photography, yet the end result is leagues away from erotic, instead almost coming across as some sort of perverse (some might say mildly racist) twist on the Italian mondo film-in its exposing of “previously taboo” footage and behavior-melded with the traditional American health class lecture. It’s a cinema curiosity, for sure, albeit one which sadly doesn’t translate into “enjoyable” for audiences.
This is the connecting thread which runs through The Lost Films of H.G. Lewis: none of the films are particularly “good”–Black Love is still a bit shocking, while The Ecstasies of Women has its moments of unintentional hilarity-yet their presentation here within Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-Ray and DVD presentation is nothing short of phenomenal.
Just as the famed films of Herschell Gordon Lewis have proven to be an acquired taste for horror and exploitation fans, so too are these “lost films” considered interesting footnotes within the life of this historic filmmaker. Yet this is really all they are, and, as such, can really only be recommended for diehard Lewis obsessives.
This review originally appeared at Examiner.com and is reprinted here with permission.
Note: The BluRay portion of this review was written by Michael Den Boer.
The Lost Films of H.G. Lewis comes on a 50 GB dual layer BluRay. All three films included with this release are presented in a 1080 progressive 1.37:1 full frame aspect ratio. Outside of some very mild print damage, all three of these films look extremely good considering their rarity and age. Details always look crisp, print damage is minimal and there are no issues with compression.
Each film comes with one audio option, a Dolby Digital mono mix in English. Though limited range wise, all three of these audio sound very good as dialog is always clear and everything sounds balanced.
Extras for this release include trailers for each film, three special edition lab cards and a ten page booklet with extensive liner notes about the three film that are included with this release. The liner notes were written by adult cinema expert / film critic Casey Scott. Overall three rarely seen H.G. Lewis films finally arrive on home video via a superb release from Vinegar Syndrome. And if this release is any indication of what is yet to come from this new boutique label, the future is looking very good from cult movie enthusiasts.
Note: Also included with this combo release is a DVD copy that has all the contents that are included on the BluRay counterpart.