Slumming With a Trio of She Devils and even a She Freak
No way was I going to include 1965’s Hammer release She starring Ursula Andress in this latest “slumming” edition meant to poke fun at some of the more absurd entries featuring the fairer sex during the classic drive-in and exploitation era of movie making. But I did come up with a four pack of titles aimed at those interested in the guilty pleasures of cinema.
She Devil (1957)
When Mari Blanchard is near death, a pair of scientists decide she’s the perfect candidate to test their life saving serum. Jack Kelly and Albert Dekker soon find they’ve restored the lovely brunette to perfect health. A little too perfect.
They’d like to keep her close by for observation and will soon discover she’s suffering from some major side effects. She’s quick tempered and prone to acts of violence and capable of actually willing her jet black hair to turn blonde when she needs to escape the police after an altercation. That new blonde look will have poor Jack eating out of her hand.
She’ll ditch the boys and after a pair of carefully planned murders will find herself an extremely wealthy woman. All she’ll have to do is stay one step ahead of the lab boys who want to cage her back up and discover where they went wrong.
Blanchard is like a Noir femme fatale taken one step further thanks to a pair of Dr. Frankenstein’s and makes the most of her role looking sexy and glamourous throughout though she’s as deadly as a rattlesnake. More or less a “B” Queen in films like Abbott and Costello Go to Mars and 1954’s remake, Destry. Mari sadly passed away from cancer at just 47 years of age in 1970.
This black and white special was written and directed by Kurt Neumann who was just one year shy of directing what I should think is his most famous flick, The Fly. Interestingly, he’d already had a go around with a She Devil. 1953’s Tarzan and the She Devil.
And a BIG thumbs down to Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide for giving this enjoyable outing a BOMB rating.
She Devils On Wheels (1968)
“We treat men like they’re slabs of meat hanging on a hook in a butcher’s shop.”
One of the more famous exploitation Kings, Herschel Gordon Lewis, directed this attempt to put women in the driver’s seat of a dominating motorcycling gang called The Man Eaters. Led by The Queen, Betty Connell, they’re an aggressive group of bikers who conduct races to see who gets first pick of the neighboring all male gang, The Bucking Broncos, to satisfy their carnal pleasures. Judging by some of the racy 60’s dialogue, I’m sure if the men weren’t available they’d look to one another seeking the same results.
Backing up his reputation as the King of Gore, Lewis, includes a clash that sees the ladies devour a group of men who have moved into their territory. Using chains, fists and tire irons, the gals lay a beating on the men who find themselves covered in heaping buckets of blood by the time the ruckus comes to an end.
One of the group members, Christie Wagner, is living a double life and far more gentle then her counterparts. She’ll even have an old beau from school unsuccessfully try to get her to leave this dangerous lifestyle.
When the men they left banged up return for revenge, the violence doubles down. They’ll attack the youngest member of the Man Eaters, Honey, leaving her a bloody carved up mess which prompts The Queen to seek all out revenge using the tried and true method of a wire strung across the road at a specific height allowing the King of Gore to keep his fans happy.
In case you might be new to the cinema of Mr. Lewis, he’s responsible for the 60’s gore fests, Blood Feast and 2000 Maniacs among other low budget cult hits.
An interesting bit of trivia from the IMDB states that this is the first film to have a scene following the closing credits which today has become a much used gimmick to tease for a sequel or to insert an in-joke.
In closing the Queen had this to say, “We’re swinging chicks on motors and we’re man-eaters on wheels.”
Blood Orgy of the She Devils (1973)
True to form, this drive-in features kicks off with some scantily clad beauties writhing to a beat as they dance around a sacrificial altar and when ordered by the high priestess, they all plunge a dagger into the poor soul tied to the table.
Directed by genre specialist Ted V. Mikels, this witchcraft brew stars Lila Zaborin as a powerful witch who not only has a coven of lovely young ladies but is called upon when needed to assassinate political foes. This leads to one of the films most effective scenes. In order to tie all loose ends, the two men who hired her to take out a political opponent using her dark powers think it best that she be eliminated. She and her high priest are shot to death but she’ll rise and will shortly thereafter use the black arts to seek her revenge in a pair of imaginative death scenes.
Mikels who also wrote the script offers up plenty of flashbacks to the witch hunts of the past. All those in the coven and the men they ensnare are hypnotized to see their past lives. Lives that seemingly result in violent deaths by stake, stoning or torture.
Thankfully Mikels’ regular, Victor Izay is on hand to lead a group of modern day do-gooders carrying crucifixes to the mansion that houses the coven to bring an end to Miss Zaborin’s unstoppable coven of witches and warlocks.
Izay once starred in a 1964 Mikels film titled Dr. Sex, playing the title role. Just one of many cult titles in the catalog of the directors films. Others you’ll surely appreciate include Ten Violent Women, Girl In Gold Boots, The Doll Squad and even a John Carradine number, The Astro-Zombies.
Now back to those barely clothed dancers around the fire pit.
and now onto ….
She Freak (1967)
It’s a carnival backdrop for leading lady Claire Brennan who quits her job down at the diner when the traveling carny’s hit town. Anything’s better than working for the Rod Steiger wannabe who owns the small town diner.
“Just a little country gal looking for something better.”
Claire takes a job serving meals under the food tent and is befriended by a “hootchie cootchie” dancer and even takes on a muscular looking roadie as a lover. All under the watchful eye of pint sized Felix Silla who has played roles ranging from Cousin It on The Addams Family to an Ewok in the Star Wars saga.
But Claire’s evil side is about to surface. She sets her sights on Bill McKinney who owns the traveling carnival. It’s rather odd to see a young McKinney here minus a three day growth and not playing any number of villains that he’d become synonymous with in the 1970’s thanks to an infamous scene with Ned Beatty.
Truth is he’s a nice guy here and defends his friends the “freaks” he has working the carnival despite his new wife’s demands that he get rid of them because they disgust her.
Yes poor Bill has been roped into a marriage with a social climber who wants all that cash he’s earning for herself. While he thinks he’s found a honey of a little gal, she’s still carrying on with the muscular roadie behind his back. But she can’t escape being seen by Silla who is about to blow the whistle on her.
Produced by another exploitation King, David F. Friedman, this 1960’s flick is about to take some heavy inspiration from the Tod Browning film of ’32.
Low budget this may be and despite it’s shoddy production values it does serve as a window to past times. I was caught up in the carnival footage and many of those long lost rides I recall as a kid. The cotton candy and games of chance that have been filmed in abundance to pad the length of the film. I also loved those canvas paintings advertising the oddities one can see for two bits. I’ve seen canvas paintings like these selling for some heavy coin on the show American Pickers as of late.
Tame and amateurish by today’s standards I still liked the payoff and the nostalgia of those carnival days I recalled when I’d be handed a few dollars from Mom and Dad to spend when one would hit our town.
There were a number of other titles I could have gone with for this spotlight including a She-Wolf, a She-Creature, a She Beast or even some Roger Corman She Gods. With that much material I might have to do a follow-up.
Of the titles I did settle on, they’re all in my collection and can all be found on DVD or blu ray.
She Devil was put out by Olive Films
She Devils On Wheels was released by Arrow Video not long ago in a monstrous box set of Lewis’ films.
Blood Orgy of the She Devils turned up years ago on DVD via Image Entertainment.
She Freak was released by Something Weird Video ages ago on DVD.