Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Gruesome Twosome — A grindhouse film to scalp you

By Steve D. Stones

This 1967 Herschell Gordon Lewis feature has the unique distinction of having one of the most bizarre openings in low-budget horror cinema history. After editing, the film was short in length. As filler, Lewis added two wig blocks with construction paper faces talking to each other during the opening. One of the wig blocks is stabbed as blood gushes out everywhere. Even after inserting this opening sequence, the film only runs 72 minutes.

Crazy Mrs. Pringle and her mentally challenged son Rodney run a wig shop near a Florida college campus. The wigs are advertised as 100 percent real human hair. The shop also rents vacant rooms to college co-eds. The renting of rooms is only a disguise for Pringle to lure young women to the shop so Rodney can scalp and murder them. Pringle often talks to her stuffed cat named Napoleon, adding to her craziness. \

A college girl arrives at Pringle’s wig shop to inquire about a room for rent. She is lured into a back room to be scalped by Rodney. The girl’s friend, Kathy Baker, investigates to try and find the murdered girl. During her investigation, other girls are scalped and murdered. Kathy follows a janitor home who buries bones in his backyard from a campus garbage can. She suspects he has something to do with the murders, but discovers the bones are for his dog.

A number of scenes pad out the length of the film with shots that last too long and don’t tribute to the plot of the film. An unrelated sequence of spectators watching a car race is one example. Another example is a scene of college girls in their dorm room dancing on beds in pajamas and see-through nighties while eating Kentucky Fried Chicken — an attempt at product placement. Colonel Sanders would make an appearance in Lewis’ next film — Blast Off Girls (1967).

The police eventually catch up to Mrs. Pringle and Rodney, and arrest them both. A trailer for the film shows Pringle hamming it up for the camera as the police carry her away in handcuffs.

Director Lewis often combined dark humor and horror in an attempt to make gore and over-the-top violence look silly and unsophisticated. His early “Blood Trilogy” films — Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs (1964) and Color Me Blood Red (1965) are all good examples of this. Too extreme for most mainstream theatres, these films played on 42nd street grindhouses in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Blood Feast changed motion picture history forever as being the first film to introduce extreme violence and gore to the movie screen. Anyone with a weak stomach is not encouraged to view these films. See them at your own risk.

Happy viewing and Happy Halloween.

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