She-Devils on Wheels (Blu-ray Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: May 30, 2019
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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She-Devils on Wheels (Blu-ray Review)

Director

Herschell Gordon Lewis

Release Date(s)

1968 (May 21, 2019)

Studio(s)

Mayflower Pictures (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: See Below
  • Video Grade: See Below
  • Audio Grade: See Below
  • Extras Grade: B-
  • Overall Grade: C+

She-Devils on Wheels (Blu-ray Disc)

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Review

Arrow Video re-releases two of their offerings from The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast multi-film boxed set with She-Devils on Wheels, and as a sub-feature, Just for the Hell of It.

Most of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ successes were behind him by the late 1960s, which included Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, and Color Me Blood Red. Not one to stick to a single genre if he felt that he could make a profit from another, he decided to try and cash in on the current counterculture wave of films aimed at teenagers. Considered by many Lewis acolytes as one his more interesting films, She-Devils on Wheels takes the formula of wild men on motorcycles, but gives it a gender swap. In the film, the “The Man-Eaters” ride around town, causing havoc wherever they go and taking turns having their way with groups of willing men.

Mostly gore-less outside of the film’s climax, the content of She-Devils on Wheels is about what you would expect: poor acting and long stretches of women riding their motorcycles while a catchy theme song plays repeatedly in the background. It definitely feels its length, but it’s charming in its own way, even incorporating Batman-esque transitions of an illustrated woman on a motorcycle spinning repeatedly. The question is: is She-Devils on Wheels exploitation at its finest? Well, it’s certainly good at being excessive, which is all one can expect from it.

Released the same year was Just for the Hell of It, which is about a group of teenagers who enjoy destroying property and causing mayhem wherever they go. The returns are less satisfying this time around. Like the previous film, Just for the Hell of It also features are a memorable theme song, which is also used over and over again during those previously mentioned scenes of destruction, which are frequent and protracted to the point of boredom. Even the ending, which makes an attempt at trying to say something about teenage delinquency and how it can be deadly, falls very much on deaf ears and seems more contrived than anything. Despite how hard Lewis and his cast and crew were trying, there’s hardly anything about it that’s appealing.

Arrow Video’s high definition presentations of both She-Devils on Wheels and Just for the Hell of It are sourced, from what appears to be, the original camera negative, judging by how good the quality is. It’s definitely a higher quality element than what’s been used for most of the restorations of Lewis’ films. In fact, this may be the best overall presentation package of his work on disc. Solid grain levels and high amounts of fine detail characterize it in just such a way. The color palette, which is always limited due to poor lighting, is still quite strong, revealing a number of potent period hues. Black levels are also deep with good contrast and overall brightness. Everything is clear and well-defined. Leftover damage includes slight instability, speckling, scratches, and occasional flicker. The final reel of Just for the Hell of It appears to be warped and likely could not have been repaired without extensive (and expensive) restoration efforts. Regardless, it’s small potatoes compared to the overall quality of both transfers.

The audio for each film is included in English mono LPCM with optional subtitles in English SDH. Narrow and even boxy presentations, the soundtracks for pretty much all of Lewis’ films are never vibrant. They tend to be poorly recorded and mixed, but in the case of these two films, they exhibit some of the better examples aurally. They still feature their fair share of leftover hiss, pops, crackle, occasional dropouts, and even distortion, but they’re some of the cleaner soundtracks comparatively. Dialogue is clear enough (that is when the actors are close enough to the boom mic) and sound effects, though mostly tinny, do have some presence. For example, in She-Devils on Wheels, the roar of the motorcycles during the aforementioned rotating interstitials are weighty, more so than the rest of the other elements, including the theme song. In keeping with the “warts and all” approach, they’re generally good representations of imperfect film soundtracks.

SHE-DEVILS ON WHEELS (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D+/B+/C+
JUST FOR THE HELL OF ITS (FILM/VIDEO/AUDIO): D-/B/C

Extras for this release include introductions to both films by Herschell Gordon Lewis; an audio commentary on She-Devils on Wheels with Lewis, Mike Vraney from Something Weird Video, and Jimmy Maslon from Shock Films; The Shocking Truth!, an 11-minute interview with editor Bob Murawski who professes his admiration for Lewis and his work; Garage Punk Gore, a 9-minute interview with filmmaker and musician Chris Alexander who contextualizes Lewis’ work; H.G. Lewis on The Alley Tramp, a 3-minute interview with the director about his 1968 film; and a promo gallery featuring a trailer and a radio spot for She-Devils on Wheels and a trailer for The Alley Tramp. Not carried over from the Something Weird DVD release of She-Devil on Wheels is the Biker Beach Party short and an exploitation art gallery.

This could also be the final disc release of the contents contained within The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast boxed set. Remaining as exclusives (at this juncture anyway) are 1.33:1 presentations of Blood Feast, Scum of the Earth, Color Me Blood Red, A Taste of Blood, and The Wizard of Gore. However, the nearly 2-hour documentary Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore, as well as the additional outtakes and trailer, I can certainly see being included in a separate release sometime in the future. We’ll just have to wait and see on that.

Arrow Video’s treatment of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ body of work is to be commended. Despite not being armed with the finest film elements available, they’ve still managed to cull together watchable presentations and secured Lewis’ films for the future, regardless of my critiques of them. If you’re like me and you couldn’t afford to fork over upwards of $300 for the aforementioned Feast boxed set, this is another great disc that’s a little easier on the ole wallet.

– Tim Salmons

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