Retro Review : She-Devils On Wheels

Directed by

Herschell Gordon Lewis

Written by

Allison Louise Downe

Starring

Betty Connell
Nancy Lee Noble

Music by

Larry Wellington

Mayflower Pictures

Original Release Date : May 7, 1968

 

`We don’t owe nobody nuthin’, and we don’t make no deals, we’re swingin’ chicks on motors, and we’re man-eaters on wheels!’

The year was 1968. Draft cards were burning. Students were protesting. On April 11th, LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and just one month later She-Devil On Wheels hit theaters.

The film follows this gnarly female biker gang called “The Man-Eaters.” Although their name may create some confusion; sadly they are not cannibals. In fact, they don’t seem to be committing any crimes one would expect a biker gang to commit. No drug dealing, no firearm smuggling, no chop shop. Nah, this is a special biker gang. What do they want? Mens. And they got a whole gaggle of men waiting for them in their dilapidated clubhouse. Members of the Man-Eaters shalt screw the men, but shalt not fall in love with the men…because that would be bad? Yea, the Man-Eater’s rules make absolutely no sense. Anyways, the horny harlots race one another, and whomever wins the race gets to call dibs on the hunk of her choosing. So, so romantic. Things are all groovy until a Man-Eater named Karen (Christie Wagner) is caught banging the some clown over and over again. Then the HBIC, Queen (Betty Connell) roughs up the lucky bastard and pressures Karen to go all Achilles on her beau and drag him around on her bike. Then some other all male gang get their asses handed to them by the ladies (I can’t explain it), there is some gang rape and a be-heading and some people end up handcuffed by film’s end. Not all is shit, however, as the theme song is very catchy. Josie Cotton even covered it.

Historical context…two words to always remember. By today’s standards this film is so very tame…ok…the beheading and gang rape may constitute a strong PG-13 rating…but by 1968 standards this film was shocking. Remember that in 1968 the production code had only been abolished for barely a year…so the “orgies” (although fully clothed) must have been titillating.

Still, this movie was underwhelming. There were too many plots flipping around that the whole damn thing seemed schitzo. Karen was about as interesting and tough as argyle and was easily upstaged by Queen and the BBW named “Whitey” (Pat Poston). If I were to remake this I would scrap Karen and her plot and focus on Queen. We are to believe that these women are tough ass biker chicks…yet it seems as if they just learned to ride. Seriously, their races don’t exceed 35 mph. The fight scenes are just as laughable. The tough men they fight couldn’t bang on Seseme Street.

Yes, there is a feminist edge to the film. The women discard the roles society places on them and adopt roles attributed to the worst of men…the promiscuity, the violence, etc.  Yet here is how you can tell that a man was behind this piece; the beefcakes at the clubhouse seem all too eager to be sexually exploited…and although this may be stereotypically realistic it places them as equal to the Man-Eaters, not lesser than. I feel that if the roles were reversed (which it is all too often in film) the women would not be as eager to be used and would be subjected to humiliation and sexual violence. Here it was just a party.

This film is filed under “exploitation,” and I am sure that it was in 1968. When I think “exploitation” I think I Spit On Your Grave or Cannibal Holocaust. Films that really turn your stomach. Films that were still ten years away from hitting the streets. This film, although underwhelming, was pure camp. And Whitey and Queen made it fun.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcrL19rK0yo


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