The Gore Gore Girls (1972)
By: Joe Lewis on May 2, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Something Weird (USA). All Regions, NTSC. 4:3. English DD 1.0. 84 minutes
The Movie
Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: Frank Kress, Amy Farrell, Hedda Lubin, Henny Youngman, Russ Badger
Screenplay: Alan J Dachman
Country: USA
Year: 1972
Herschell Gordon Lewis, I have always maintained, is one of the greatest icons of modern horror. Lewis was the first filmmaker to include pervasive gore in a horror film with 1963's Blood Feast, a psychosexual tale of cannibalistic terror in the Floridian Everglades. Blood Feast was technically inept and unintentionally funny, but it showcased some good effects for its era and signified the entrance of a new and highly influential horror talent. Lewis followed Blood Feast with a number of other gore pictures that were progressively more competent, before finishing his directing career (aside from a sequel to Blood Feast in 2002) with The Gore Gore Girls, his best film.

When dancers at a strip club are murdered by a deranged psychopath, suave detective Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress) and a nosy reporter Nancy Weston (Amy Farrell) must race against time to locate the killer before they strike again. When the murders become increasingly brutal and daring, Abraham and Nancy realise that they must do far more than simply search for the killer – Nancy must pose as a dancer in order to lure the murderer out, risking her own life and that of the girls at the club. Of particular note here is a quizzical cameo by Henny Youngman as himself, in a role that sees him as a comedian at the go-go club. After The Gore Gore Girls was released, Youngman denied his involvement ('Oddly, he denied being in the film' Lewis later said, 'and it's as funny as it is odd, because there he is').

Despite following maligned works such as Two Thousand Maniacs and The Wizard of Gore, the thing that's most striking about The Gore Gore Girls is its violence. By today's standards, Lewis' 1972 film is still fairly puerile stuff, and the director's predilection for voyeuristically leering at scenes of grue has rightfully earned him the tag of 'Godfather of Gore'. The nastiness of the film has led to a number of censorship issues – New Zealand has a cut version classified 18, while the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification banned the picture in 2006 owing to the fact that the level of violence exceeded that of an 18 classification. Such a hysterical response is quizzical given the majority of the objectionable content was very comically done – case in point is when our antagonist bashes in a woman's arse with a meat tenderiser and seasons it, or when one unfortunate girl gets her head deep-fried. That's not to say the rest of the violence is as camp – the queasy opening scene in which the killer mashes up a dancer's face is admittedly heavy-going stuff, surely a reason it's so reviled as a B-picture. The Gore Gore Girls was certified X by the MPAA for violence upon its initial release, one of the first non-pornographic films to receive such a rating.

Adding to the film's impact are allegations that Herschell Gordon Lewis, a marketing agent by profession, used subliminal gore imagery to add to the overbearing tone of violence and depravity. While this has never been proven, it adds to the Lewis legacy – essentially, he was a businessman who just so happened to direct some of the most controversial pictures horror has ever seen. What is most admirable about Lewis however is that he ceased directing altogether after The Gore Gore Girls, ending at the zenith of his career. Ever the entrepreneur, Lewis' attitude was that the gore map had been well and truly charted (a statement that has proven far from true) and devoted the remainder of his filmmaking career towards writing and producing pictures, before heading back to his original profession as an advertiser.

Renamed 'Blood Orgy' in some quarters (usually for audiences that didn't know about 'go-go' dancing, thus missing the point of the title), The Gore Gore Girls is pure, unadulterated cheesy fun. From the opening credits to the final title card (We announce with pride: This movie is over!), I defy any audience member not to get a chuckle out of it. By perspicaciously analysing the horror market in the sixties and seventies, Herschell Gordon Lewis brought to the fore a unique subgenre that paved the way for revered films such as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, not to mention modern day Grand Guignol spectacles Saw and Hostel. With The Gore Gore Girls, Lewis made his most blackly comic, grisly and technically competent film, and he left the film business on a high note.
The picture is presented in 1:33:1 full frame. It's digitally remastered, but don't go looking for super-crystal clarity here – there are still numerous, though undistracting, flaws. It's still a laugh to see the DVD slick proclaim 'In startling colour!', a staple selling point of Herschell's earlier horror films, even though the vast majority of pictures by 1972 were being released in colour.
An English Dolby Digital mono soundtrack. Predictably, and not unlike other SWV audio tracks, it's pretty dodgy.
Extra Features
You really can't fault SWV for selling the consumer short when it comes to special features. As always, there's a Herschell feature commentary. The man is always a delight to listen to, and can be a candid wealth of information. There's a gallery of 'exploitation art', which is comprised basically of posters of Lewis films. There's also a six-minute clip of the 1964 gore film Love Goddesses of Gore Island, which is one of the most riotously violent I've seen. The exotic theme, and a nasty disembowelment, makes this a clear nod to Blood Feast.
The Verdict
The Gore Gore Girls deserves its place as one of the horror golden age's greatest films. As well as being hilariously madcap, Lewis' final salute to the genre is often unremittingly grisly, no matter how many one-liners Henny Youngman spouts out.
Movie Score
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