The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Vinegar Syndrome. Ever heard of them? I hadn’t either, until this month I received a blu-ray release from them called The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis, which contains three of his films that had previously been thought to be lost, completely restored to look and sound just as pristine as possible. Now, I own a fair number of Herschell’s films, and I’ve been a fan for a very long time now, so I was really excited to get this in the mail, but still puzzled as to who this company was. Before we get to that however, let’s get to the reviews of the three films, and then I’ll talk about the release as a whole.

Ectasies of Women (1969)

The Story: This film is all about a guy named Harry. He’s a swingin’ kind of a guy, but he’s finally decided to settle down and get married. Before the wedding, his three buddies take him out to a go go club for a groovy bachelor party, where they all get drunk, and Harry starts reminiscing about all the women he’s had sexual encounters with over the years. Ultimately, he gets cozy with one of the go go dancers, and they all end up back at his place for a drunken orgy. Now he has to decide whether to stay with the go go dancer he just had sex with, or to say goodbye to her and go on with the marriage. Oh whatever shall he do?

The Review: Of the three films in this release, this one was the most entertaining and fun. The guy who plays Harry is really cheesy in a fun sort of a way, and his friends are right there with him. The sexual encounters he has are decent sexually, but the fun part is how he ends up with these girls. Some he has to sweet talk, others practically jump on top of him whether he wanted it or not. The characters are all likeable, the girls are really hot, and there’s a decent amount of fun to be had here. While slow at times, it’s far less slow than the other films in this release.

Linda and Abilene (1969)

The Story: With their parents dead, Abilene and her brother Todd suddenly find themselves having to take care of the family farm. They love each other dearly, and live in a very isolated area, far from town. Being young, and spending so much intimate time together however, they start to develop sexual feelings for each other. They try to fight the urges, because they know its wrong, but in the end, they just can’t help themselves, finally succumbing to their most intimate desires. After numerous sexual encounters, Todd finally decides it’s wrong, and goes to find himself the companionship of another woman in town. When he goes into the saloon, he meets up with Linda, who he then has sex with, but while he’s there, a real scumbag named Rawhide goes out to the farm and rapes his sister. When Todd finds out, he goes to kill rawhide, and while he’s gone, Linda goes and introduces himself to Abilene, and tries to comfort her over what happened. By comfort, I mean they end up having sex. Will Todd be able to get revenge against Rawhide and return to this guaranteed daily threesome, or will he end up in the ground like his parents, leaving his sister and Linda alone and horny out on the prairie?

The Review: Ok, Abilene is really cute, and the whole incest angle to this film made it more of a turn on. The acting wasn’t bad either. But the big problem with it is that it’s just really slow. Once Todd and Abilene start having sex, we get to see them have sex more times than a pair of rabbits in the springtime. One thing that becomes noticeable in many of their encounters however, is that most of the time, Todd doesn’t even bother taking his jeans off, and neither did Rawhide. Man, if I was Abilene, I’d start to get a complex about that. Anyway, the slow and unsure buildup of Todd and Abilene’s attraction and eventual lust worked really well, and it constantly showed how much they loved and took care of one another. The buildup is almost too slow however, and the overabundance of sex scenes really takes time away from what could have, and should have been additional story content. While watching them have sex is nice, anything you see too much of starts becoming boring. Other than that, this really wasn’t too bad of a film.

Black Love (1970)

The Story: There really isn’t much of a story here other than to say that it’s made to be like a documentary about the physical and social aspects of sex and love between black people, presented in a series of amusing vignettes. It covers everything from social interaction to love making to physical build and appearance.

The Review: Of the three, this one was the slowest and most boring, with only a few amusing parts here and there. There was one scene in this one however that had probably the funniest moment of any of the three films, when a girls mom walks in on her having sex and she stands there mean mugging the guy until the girl lets him know she’s there and he takes off running. The girl just sits up and can’t help but to start laughing. While there are a few fun moments like this, in general it’s just mind numblingly slow, and the sex is incredibly boring. Of the three though, this one is the only one that actually shows penetration and oral sex.

Notes About the Overall Release:
This blu-ray / DVD combo release comes with a booklet that details out a whole lot of background info on these three films and even some other stuff that Herschell was working on during this time period. I could have included some of this info with the reviews, but it’s better if you just pick up a copy of the release for yourself and read it in full, as there are some very surprising things about these films that you’ll find incredibly interesting. The booklet is extremely well written and informative, and along with it, you get a copy of the RGB cards for each of the films.

The films themselves are all just incredibly slow as far as the pacing, even to the point of becoming quite boring. You’ll most likely find yourself reaching for the fast forward buttong frequently on Linda and Abilene and Black Love. Ecstacies of Women isn’t so bad in this department, but the most amusing parts of it are in the go go club.

All three films are nicely shot and edited however, and have the look and quality of acting you’d expect to find in the H.G.L. films of this era. So for fans of his work, they’ll have a familiar look and feel to them that will make them more enjoyable to watch, despite any story or pacing issues they may have.

The Restoration: The picture for all three titles was sourced from 35mm conformed original camera negatives, and the audio was sourced from 35mm optical track negatives. 2K scanning and restoration, a process which I have seen used in various other restorations I’ve reviewed, was performed by Process Blue, which is the parent company of Vinegar Syndrome.

An unbelievable amount of work and time went into restoring these films, and it shows. The sound is amazing, and the picture quality and color are just stunning, especially for films that were once thought to be lost. You can tell when a company cares about putting out a quality product, and that’s what you get with this release.

Conclusion: A lot of time and care went into restoring these films, and the quality of everything about it is simply stunning, from the movies themselves, to the physical release, to the liner notes and lab cards. If you’re a fan of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ films, this is a release you’ll definitely want to add to your collection, and you can add it knowing that you’ll be getting an absolutely top quality release for your money.

Vinegar Syndrome only has a few releases at the moment, but I’m sure after seeing what they did with this one, that they’ll continue to grow. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to review more stuff from them in the future, because as a reviewer, there’s nothing better than getting releases from a company that cares about putting out the best product they can, and doesn’t cut corners.

If you’d like to find out more about this release, you can visit the Vinegar Cinema website here, and if you’d like to pick up a copy of the DVD / blu-ray combo release for yourself, you can get it from Amazon here, or from any of the other usual outlets.