Arrow Video gives the Herschell Gordon Lewis Biker Film a Blu-Ray Upgrade

Link: Arrow Video

What generally gets lauded for its awful acting and circle-spinning plot, in 1968 Herschell Gordon Lewis joined the likes of Roger Corman’s The Wild Angels and T.C. Frank’s The Born Losers with his version of the biker film. She Devils on Wheels may be incomparable to classics like The Wild One or Easy Rider, there is a certain charm that makes this film a hallmark and legacy to the exploitation genre. Arrow Video raises the glass high with a monumental accomplishment in film restoration and supplementary material to build a completist version. Spinning from the Something Weird foundational release, the movie being transferred to a high-definition 1080p blu-ray output feels alien. Yet teaming up with Something Weird’s Mike Vraney and Lewis for the audio commentary puts things into perspective.

She Devils on Wheels Movie Trailer

My experience of the film came from the Something Weird vault, screened through gritty VHS tape quality and experienced with a sense of rawness that seeps from the film and through the TV. From the psycho reverb of the Something Weird intro to the roaring engines with an image of one of  The Man-Eaters straddling her hog in a state of fury, spinning around and spiraling into some psychotropic madness trip.

The actors have a hard time convincing the viewer of this unabashed sense of revolutionary feminist rage while they ride around and terrorize the men of the town. Yet the idea is clearly stated and for its message, the film pushes the boundaries of stereotypical biker filmmaking that typically utilizes a story built around female exploitation and male dominance. The tables are turned and Lewis makes sure that liberation is felt. It’s not as brazen as Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!, but the concept is novel.

The film was shot in Miami back to back with Lewis’s Just For The Hell Of It, which is also an addition to the Arrow packaging. Both films are rudimentary produced, showing camera shake or bad audio capture on occasion. At the time, it all made sense and  wraps around the gritty Hollywood trash cinema with the likes of Roger Corman or Ray Dennis Steckler.

The soundtrack alone is worth its weight in gold. A combination of jazz, chicken bop, and subterranean ‘60s garage rock, the music carries the film into its hour and twenty minute destination. I picture members of a young L7 gathering around a television screen to soak up the movie’s social soapbox. The Man-Eaters’s “Get Off The Road” garnered recreations by The Cramps as a b-side to “What’s Inside A Girl?” and later a version by The Lunachicks.

The Man-Eaters: Get Off The Road

Men for the taking! The film opens with the philosophy that even in a brazen biker gang, there is a level of democracy involved. The girls are required to compete for the top pick of whatever man meat they want later grabbing greaser hunks at a party. Even the leader of the pack, Queen, has to race with the rest of them. Lewis enlisted real biker women to play the role to an undramatic effect. That decision may have allowed for quality to suffer, but it does build an authenticity to the film’s drive and gives certain power to the collective. Break the rules and there’s hell to pay. The girl’s role is to objectify men to the same standards men commonly objectify women during that era. If that line is crossed then there are consequences. The results are demonstrated when one of the guys show too much affection. The choice is tie him up to the back of the bike and drag him across concrete or the girl, who equally demonstrates affection, has to pay the price. In The Man-Eaters’s world, the answer is obvious.

The Man-Eaters have unadulterated reign over the law. Not even the police can exert authority over the gang that is until revenge takes over and mistakes are made. Not even the Man-Eaters can recover from it.

There is not much talk about She Devils on Wheels from Lewis. Most interviews concentrate on his gory horror film fame. Nonetheless this film should not be discounted much like Monster A Go-Go should be. Be it a fan of Lewis, 1960’s grindhouse, or biker films, Lewis’s vision is enough to be an essential part of your film library. 

Categories: Film

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