• Gabe Powers

The Gruesome Twosome Blu-ray Review (originally published 2018)

Little old Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis) develops a scheme to keep her wig shop in business by renting rooms to local college girls and forcing her mentally disabled adult son to murder and scalp them. Meanwhile, a plucky coed named Kathy (Gretchen Wells) mounts an investigation into the disappearances.



Gruesome Twosome saw The Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, slipping another “quick ‘n dirty” gore flick between two of his most ambitious and strange pictures – A Taste of Blood (1967) and Something Weird (1967). Lewis and writer Allison Louise Downe boiled the gore formula down so far into its base essence that the final edit came in well under an acceptable feature length. With no money on hand, Lewis shot a jaw-droppingly bizarre prologue where two styrofoam mannequin heads have a conversation about the events of the movie. Gruesome Twosome is possibly the weakest of Lewis’ so-called splatter comedies (ironically, this prologue is the funniest part), but it’s difficult to completely dismiss. When broken down, it is essentially a Nancy Drew adventure garnished with go-go dancing breaks and hastily produced (even by Lewis’ standards) gore scenes. Structurally, it is a frontrunner for the slasher genre, even more so than Blood Feast (1963). It’s quite possible that the Friday the 13th series borrowed its mother/emotionally-disabled son motif from Lewis and Downe. Bill Lustig’s celebrated 1980 sleazefest Maniac (as well as Franck Khalfoun’s 2012 remake), which also revolves around a mad killer who collects ladies’ scalps, certainly owe them a debt.



Video

Arrow issued the following statement with their original Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast box set:

Although the best existing elements were sourced for this project and every attempt was made to present the films in this collection in the highest quality possible, some of the films still exhibit varying degrees of damage that could not be digitally repaired to our satisfaction....Throughout the restoration workflow process, our priority was to retain the original photochemical look of the films rather than create unwanted digital artifacts by heavy handed picture cleanup. Therefore, many of the films in this collection exhibit "warts and all" appearance, in keeping with their distribution history and physical condition.


That ‘warts and all’ comment was meant to apply to the set as a whole, but it really applies to Gruesome Twosome, which is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The scan was taken from a 35mm printed source that is in such rough shape that I’m honestly surprised they decided to give it a solo release before the better-looking and more popular Two Thousand Maniacs (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965), or The Wizard of Gore (1970). The majority of the image has a raw, grindhouse projection-like look that kind of fits the griminess of the film itself. Details and textures are actually good, thanks to the quality of the scan. Unfortunately, that quality scan also captures some heavy artifacts, the most consistent of which are vertical black scratches and significantly thick green lines. In addition, there hasn’t been any restoration in terms of grading, so the colors are washed out and sort of purplish.


Audio

The original mono soundtrack was transferred from directly from the same 35mm print and is presented in uncompressed 1.0 LPCM. None of the films in the larger Feast box set sound particularly good (and they never will), but, again, Gruesome Twosome ended up being one of the more ‘damaged’ tracks (though not the worst of the series by any means). Still, despite some ‘buzzy’ moments and a few startling pops, there has been some effort made to normalize the sound quality, drop the sound floor, and soften high-end distortion.



Extras

  • Newly recorded director intro (1:05, HD)

  • Gruesome Twosome Commentary with director H.G. Lewis and producer David F. Friedman (Gruesome Twosome only), moderated by Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney

  • Second Feature: A Taste of Blood (aka: The Secret of Dr. Alucard, 1967) – Though he considers Two Thousand Maniacs his favourite, he (and some fans) considers this comparatively lavish and surprisingly long (almost two hours!) version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula his best movie (and some fans agree). Its unique qualities aren’t tied to its concepts – Hammer had already remade Dracula with oodles of Technicolor gore as far back as 1958 and Herbert L. Strock’s Blood of Dracula (1957) had already brought the title character into the modern era – rather, the innovation is the fact that Lewis is actually trying this time. Reportedly, screenwriter Donald Stanford’s original script was even longer, which forced the director to make some drastic cuts to the epic subject matter, yet he still manages to convey a rather dramatic scope on a $40-$65K budget. The performances are decent and the production values match more typical B-movies from the era, yet the framing/camera movements are still awkward and the dialogue is constantly stifled by exposition. A Taste of Blood is a rare glimpse of what movies might’ve been like in a world where Lewis actually developed and improved his technique. It’s still schlock, but it’s schlock of a higher order.

  • Peaches Christ Flips her Wig! (9:54, HD) – San Francisco drag queen/performer/filmmaker Peaches Christ recalls her affection for Lewis’ work and other early gore movies.

  • It Came From Florida (10:48, HD) – Lewis fan and fellow schlock filmmaker Fred Olen Ray discusses the cultural history of Floridian exploitation movies.

  • Herschell vs The Censors (7:53, HD) – Lewis explains some of the censorship battles he fought throughout his long career.

  • Gruesome Twosome and A Taste Of Blood trailers

  • Gruesome Twosome radio spots


The images on this page are taken from the BD and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.


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