DirectorHerschell Gordon Lewis
Release Date(s)1972 (August 14, 2018)
Studio(s)Lewis Motion Picture Enterprises (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: C+
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: B+
The Gore Gore Girls shows a pre-credit sequence in which a young woman is fixing her hair as she looks in a mirror. A shadow looms behind her and then her face is smashed into the mirror over and over, followed by multiple stabbings. Blood splatters everywhere. We can see from the outset that this movie is not for the squeamish.
Post-credits, the scene switches to the home of private investigator Abraham Gentry (Frank Kress). Reporter Nancy Weston (Amy Farrell), on behalf of her newspaper, offers Gentry $25,000 to investigate the horrible murder of a woman we eventually learn was stripper Suzie Cream Puff. He accepts the assignment, with Nancy following him around and becoming a sort of sidekick, though he’s not pleased by this arrangement.
Gentry is arrogant. He likes the finer things in life and his accessories include a silver-tipped cane. The investigation takes him to a strip club, where considerable footage is devoted to a dancer going through her motions, peeling away everything except a pair of pasties and a G-string. She bumps and grinds to the applause, hoots, and ogling of the nearly all-male audience.
The rest of the film is devoted to Gentry as he questions various characters who may provide leads to the murder, and to several additional vicious, graphic murders. Weapons include knives, a mallet, meat tenderizer, a steam iron, and a pot of boiling pasta. Like the first murder, these killings are prolonged exercises in sadism and torture, with effects that range from fair to impossibly crude and excessively gory.
Director Herschell Gordon Lewis is credited with creating the “splatter” subgenre of the horror film and is often called the “Godfather of Gore.” He started making exploitation films featuring female nudity, playing to a niche market. Major Hollywood studios at the time were discouraged by the Motion Picture Production Code from showing sexual content. When the nudie market began to dry up, Lewis turned to horror with Blood Feast (1963) and followed it with several splatter films through the early 1970s.
The Gore Gore Girls is notable for the unlikely casting of Henny Youngman. Playing the owner/emcee of a strip club, he manages to slip in a few one-liners with his rapid-fire delivery. As an actor, he’s better than many in the cast. Lewis, it seems, cared more about grisly visuals than the performances. Line readings are stiff, actors often look awkward, as if they don’t know where to look or put their hands, and their reactions to mutilated dead bodies are totally phony – even laughable.
An inept amalgam of Russ Meyer, Perry Mason, Charlie Chan, and Sir Peter Wimsey, The Gore Gore Girls is a whodunit procedural with lots of bared flesh. At 84 minutes, it’s just barely bearable.
Picture is hardly Blu-ray quality. Scratches appear, mostly at the beginning and ends of reels, and the color is garish, as is typical of low-budget horror of the 70s. Sound is uneven, most noticeably in the same scene. When the camera shifts from long shot to close-up, there is a drop-off in ambient background sound, which picks up once the long shot reappears. Many dialogue scenes have the distracting echo-y quality that reflects filming in non-sound-controlled locations. Editing of the murder scenes is particularly awful. By dwelling too long on the carnage, Lewis allows us to register the artificiality of his “special effects.” The scenes quickly segue from shocking to ludicrous.
Bonus materials on the unrated Blu-ray release include the 1971 Herschell Gordon Lewis feature This Stuff’ll Kill Ya!, about moonshiners in the Deep South; audio commentary by director Herschell Gordon Lewis; audio commentary on This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! with camera operator and Lewis biographer Daniel Keogh; author Stephen Thrower commenting on The Gore Gore Girls; Regional Bloodshed, filmmakers Joe Swanberg and Spencer Parsons on Lewis’ legacy as a pioneer of regional indie filmmaking; Herschell Spills His Guts, Lewis discussing his career after The Gore Gore Girls and his further adventures in the world of marketing; This Stuff’ll Kill Ya! trailer; and reversible sleeve with original and newly-commissioned artwork.
- Dennis Seuling