When we think of Herschell Gordon Lewis, we think of The Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls, Blood Feast and maybe even Something Weird. These films should eventually get their time to shine on this site. At this point in time, however, they seem way too obvious and predictable. Since I own many of HGL’s films, I dug deep into the vault and pulled out the lesser known She-Devils on Wheels.
Since I was born in the eighties, I really didn’t grow up in the time of the sleazy drive-in movie. There was a drive-in near my home when the Detroit area started going to Hell. They turned the Pontiac Silverdome into one for a while. It was their last attempt at turning the once insanely valuable property into something that would at least bring a few people to the area. The venue was once home to the Detroit Lions, one of the highest attended Wrestle Mania events in history, the World Cup, and even a stopping point for the Pope. In the early 2000’s, however, it couldn’t even make money as a roller rink, a home to a professional soccer team, or a drive-in. After many of these failed business attempts the land value dropped to an amount that would make your head spin; but, you can Google that story.
At this drive-in, I saw Four Brothers, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Dark Water all in the same night. There was nothing there like She-Devils on Wheels. You know, one of those films created to spit in the face of mainstream cinema. We had some underground films that did this. At the time, however, I was finding that only bootlegged foreign films could quench my thirst for extreme cinema. So the exploitation drive-in film was not a film I was given the opportunity to see in the way it was meant to be seen. I had a vague knowledge of these types of films. I just didn’t really understand the importance of such films in my 1998-2002 high school days. I definitely, at this time, had no idea who HGL was.
Since those days, I have developed an a great love for the films of HGL. Lewis created exploitation films to make a statement against the squeaky clean Hollywood films being made during his time period. Since my mom also made me watch films like Gidget, Beach Blanket Bingo, and Roustabout, I know why the exploitation filmmakers were losing their shit. It is because of HGL that we still have filmmakers speaking out against society through their own twisted creations. For instance, many people don’t know that A Serbian Film was meant to do just that in its country. As a film, it is a political statement. It is not just being disgusting for no reason.
The disgust factor in the films of HGL, on the other hand, is there to push the envelope. He made these movies to stretch the limits of filmmaking. He wanted more blood and more violence every single time he got behind the camera. She-Devils on Wheels pushes cinematic limits, but not necessarily in the gore department. It has a couple of cool scenes, but its statement is one of sexism and feminism. This is an interesting film, but one of many. There are numerous other girl-biker-exploitation-films out there, all questioning society’s view of feminist roles. There are examples that are more violent. There are examples that have more gore. This film just falls into the average category when compared to those of a similar genre.
Sadly, it falls right in the area of average in regards to the other films of HGL as well. I really wanted more from this film. When it started, I instantly had flashbacks to those overly joyful films my mom made me watch as a kid. I wanted this film to blow my mind. Although it didn’t blow my mind, it did do some interesting things by putting the female biker gang in the position of power. They were bad ass girls that wouldn’t let men slow them down. In fact, they treated men like sex objects and kicked their asses when they got challenged. They had rules, values, and a code for their sisterhood that would make you think Kurt Sutter may have seen it back in the day. Was it a precursor to Sons of Anarchy? I wouldn’t say that directly. I would, however, like to think that these biker movies all influenced the history of these types of gangs and their portrayals on film. This could, in turn, make it an influence on SOA.
I am also sure that this film influenced any film dealing with feminism, sexism, and the reversal of sex roles in society. From the Blaxploitation films of the seventies to Boys Don’t Cry, it is films like this that must be made. Despite the fact that these types of films were crudely pieced together low-budget works of almost guerilla filmmaking, they are integral parts of film history. Once again, I am sad to say there are just better examples out there. This film is still worth owning if you are a fan of Lewis or other films of the genre; it just won’t be your favorite. It gets a 3/5 from me.