Retro-review: New this week on a special edition Bluray from Arrow Films: help me out and pick it up on DVD/BluRay here on Amazon!
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME (1967)
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis
Written by Allison Louise Downe
Starring Elizabeth Davis, Gretchen Wells, Chris Martell, Rodney Bedell, Ronnie Cass, Karl Stoeber, Dianne Wilhite, Andrea Barr, Dianne Raymond, Sherry Robinson, Marcelle Bichette, Mike Todd
Retro-reviewed by M. L. Miller aka Ambush Bug
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME begins with two Styrofoam heads done up to look like women wearing wigs talking to one another about the premise of the movie. This conversation goes on for an excruciatingly long time (later I would read that the film’s length was so short, Lewis decided to add in the extra scene to make the magic 70 minute mark), until we switch scenes to a wig shop owned by a kindly looking old lady named Mrs. Pringle (Elizabeth Davis) and her mentally challenged son Rodney (Chris Martell). Mrs. Pringle prides herself on the most realistic looking wigs in town and it seems all the girls are cutting their hair short just so they could wear her wigs. But Mrs. Pringle’s trade secret is that her wigs are made from actual scalps taken from beautiful young girls who happen to enter the secret back room of the shop occupied by Rodney and his cutlery instruments. One by one, the ladies end up being sliced and diced by Rodney until one Junior detective named Kathy (Gretchen Wells) with a tendency for getting herself caught up in trouble begins to track all of the missing girls to the wig shop. Besting the police and the newspapers, Kathy ends up getting closer to the truth, but will she survive once she uncovers it?
As with many of Lewis’ films, the premise is better than the execution. Filmed on a zero budget, THE GRUESOME TWOSOME seems to want to make you laugh as much as wince. But while the effects are nice and gory, the humor lacks as much potency. Those looking for old school gore effects are going to have the most fun with this film as Lewis isn’t shy on the red stuff. And while there are extended scenes of Rodney dissecting his victims and playing with the organs, the Day-Glo red blood and the fact that the victims can’t keep their eyes from blinking and moving (despite the fact that they’re supposed to be dead) really make it hard to take seriously. At the same time, though, the attempts at humor, such as Mrs. Pringle announcing every line she utters to the back bleachers, and her constant references to her stuffed cat Napoleon, flop like pancakes over and over.
THE GRUESOME TWOSOME may not be high art, but it does have some moments of absurdity that make it somewhat digestible such as the aforementioned Styrofoam head monologue and an odd scene where all the gals dance in their bedroom whilst eating fried chicken. Still, this film is going to be tough for most to stomach. Not for the gore, but because it really is amateur filmmaking at its worst. Horrible acting, featherweight story, and paced to ensure boredom, this is not one of Lewis’ best. It is interesting that Lewis attempted to add humor to the gore, but still, that doesn’t make it entertaining. See it for the gore, fast forward past the rest.
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