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She-Devils on Wheels

1968 saw no less than nine feature films from the prolific Herschell Gordon Lewis. Without a doubt, the best-remembered of the batch was this innovative girl gang mini-epic. Lewis didn't invent the biker film, but the female "Man-Eaters" of She-Devils on Wheels (written by Louise Downe) were the first of their kind. The Man-Eaters live up to their name in all but the most literal fashion. Led by Queen (Betty Connell) and the huge, poetically-inclined Whitey (Pat Poston), they're the terror of their community. To them, men are cattle--to be chosen from "stud lines" at their whim and to be tossed aside after use. Young initiate Honeypot (Nancy Lee Noble), however, hasn't quite got the idea; she tends to stick to one particular "stud." A challenge is set to the candidate: she'll become a full-fledged Man-Eater once she proves her loyalty by dragging the beaten body of her beau from the back of her own motorcycle! Despite her initial reluctance, Honeypot obliges, reducing the unfortunate fellow's face to hamburger in the process. Though most men would tend to take the Man-Eaters seriously at that point, Joe-Boy (John Weyman) and his hot-rod gang have a different attitude: a turf war soon ensues. The stakes are raised when Joe-Boy and company abduct and molest Honeypot. Outrageous, fatal vengeance becomes the order of the day.

She-Devils on Wheels gives viewers uncomfortable with the predominance of female victims in Lewis's other films everything they could possibly want. Though it's by no means one of the director's out-and-out gore shows, a couple of signature shock moments are provided, with men on the receiving end in both cases. Women run this show from beginning to end; they make the rules, they initiate the action, and they won't stand for any male opposition, be it from hot-rodders or from the police. (On that point, a persistent rumor suggested that two endings were shot for the film, with the unseen version having the Man-Eaters arrested for their crimes, only to win the day by being freed on a technicality. However, this is never alluded to in the audio commentary, and given Lewis's penchant for economy, it seems unlikely that he would have gone to this trouble.) Scene transitions are marked by the poster-art image of Queen astride her bike, which spins in a manner suggestive of the segues then seen in the Batman TV series. The attitude of the Man-Eaters is summed up in the catchy title song "Get Off the Road," written by Lewis (as Sheldon Seymour) and his son Robert. Second only in popularity to "The South's Gonna Rise Again" from Two Thousand Maniacs, the song was eventually covered by the group The Cramps on their album A Date With Elvis. She-Devils on Wheels proved handy competition for the male-dominated biker films popular at the time. It was even picked up for distribution in some territories by American-International Pictures.

The audio commentary team of Lewis, Mike Vraney, and Jimmy Maslon can be heard on this DVD release, and Lewis has plenty of behind-the-scenes stories to offer. One of the most amusing stories concerns an eager starlet who had never ridden a motorcycle before, but who lied about her experience in order to audition for the film. Audition she did: she and the bike promptly wound up in a swimming pool in an incident that only seemed funny well after the fact. Lewis also correctly points out the timeless quality of the film: motorcycles don't date nearly as noticeably as automobiles, he explains, and the elements that audiences sought the film for in the first place play just as well today. Something Weird's DVD comes with She-Devils on Wheels theatrical trailer and an obligatory "Gallery of Exploitation Art." Also included is an excerpt from an unidentified documentary (the clip is called "Biker Beach Party" on the DVD cover) which explores the lives and times of a bike club called the Aliens. The viewer may well debate the spontaneity of every incident seen on screen, but this is ultimately nothing like watching the Man-Eaters in action. Needless to say, though, any Lewis fan will consider this release a must-have.


Go to:
A Taste of Blood (book review)
Blood Feast
Two Thousand Maniacs
Color Me Blood Red
A Taste of Blood
Something Weird
The Gruesome Twosome
She-Devils on Wheels
The Wizard of Gore
The Gore Gore Girls