Saturday, November 22, 2014

#1,559. She-Devils on Wheels (1968)

Directed By: Herschell Gordon Lewis

Starring: Betty Connell, Nancy Lee Noble, Christie Wagner

Tag line: "Red Hot Mamas From Hell!"

Trivia: Most of the actresses playing bikers were actual bikers

A female biker flick directed by the great Herschell Gordon Lewis? Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?

And 1968’s She-Devils on Wheels is awesome… in spurts.

The leader of the biker gang in question, aka the Man-Eaters, is Queen (Betty Connell), a tough broad who never backs down from a fight. As the story opens, the Man-Eaters are racing against one another for the right to choose from their “collection” of men (whoever wins the race gets first choice of their male companion for the evening). While the gang’s credo has always been “all men are mothers”, one of their regular members, the demure Karen (Christie Wagner), usually chooses Bill (David Harris) as her “date”, leading Queen and the others, including Whitey (Pat Poston) and Terry (Ruby Tuesday), to conclude that Karen is in love with him. So, to test her loyalty, the girls tie a beaten and bloodied Bill to the back of Karen’s motorcycle and force her to drag him down a dirt path (which she does, reluctantly). As if that wasn’t bad enough, Karen’s standing is further threatened when her old boyfriend Ted (Rodney Bedell) turns up, begging her to quit the gang before she ends up in jail, or worse.

And “worse” is definitely in the cards thanks to a continuing turf war with Joe-Boy (John Weymer) and his gang of Hot-Rodders. After being trounced by Queen and her gals in a fight, Joe-Boy and his thugs decide to exact their revenge by kidnapping Honey Pot (Nancy Lee Noble), the Man-Eaters’ newest member, and beating her to a pulp. As expected, Queen doesn’t take kindly to this, and hatches a scheme that might just land her and the entire gang in prison… for life.

As I alluded to above, She-Devils on Wheels isn’t without its charms. While acting has never been the strong point of any Herschell Gordon Lewis film, the cast of She-Devils on Wheels benefits from the fact that most of the women portraying gang members were actual bikers, and though their performances are somewhat weak, each and every one is believable in their role (especially Betty Connell, whose Queen is equal parts hero and villain). She-Devils on Wheels also boasts a few fun scenes, including Honey Pot’s initiation ceremony and the rumble with Joe-Boy and his Hot-Rodders. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Herschell Gordon Lewis film without some gore (a key sequence towards the end of the movie gets a little messy).

Alas, there are things about She-Devils on Wheels that simply don’t work. For one, the supposed “orgies” that the Man-Eaters engage in on a nightly basis are about as erotic as watching a group of teens play “spin the bottle” (despite having directed a number of nudie cuties in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Lewis shied away from nudity later in his career, and She-Devils on Wheels shows no skin whatsoever). Lewis also seemed to enjoy following the girls around on their bikes, and as a result large sections of the movie show them speeding up and down the street... over and over again (the opening race is given way too much scree time). And while the above-mentioned moment of gore is definitely a high point, the film’s effects, in general, fall well short of Lewis’ normal standard.

An occasionally fun motion picture, She-Devils on Wheels nonetheless pales in comparison to such Herschell Gordon Lewis gore-themed classics as Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs and The Wizard of Gore.

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