She-Devils on Wheels

When people are asked who the greatest American filmmakers of all time are, they generally mention Cassavetes, Kubrick, Altman, Ford, Scorsese, Wilder and such. But for some reason, no one ever includes the greatest of the lot, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Among his masterpieces are Blood Feast, Suburban Roulette, Black Love and his most transcendent work, She-Devils on Wheels. To understand the Lewis aesthetic, you don’t merely have to set aside all your pre-conceptions about quality and decent filmmaking; you have to reverse them. The very idea that actors shouldn’t flub their lines, that the camera should move smoothly and accurately about the scene, that edits should be clean, and that the dialogue should make sense are anathema to what Lewis was trying to do: make money. And at that, he never failed. In the bleak era of the 1960s, his ultra-low-budget films filled a desperate need for sleaze and nipple exposure. She-Devils, perhaps his most brilliant script, is about a gang of female motorcycle hoodlums who race for sex and kill for pleasure. Shockingly, this paragon work of American Cinema was one of five films that Lewis directed that year. If only second-raters like Truffaut, Goddard and Kurosawa could have kept up that pace. Truly not to be missed, especially if you love cinema. Or hate cinema. Either way.

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