She Devils on Wheels (1968) – Riding Strong with HG Lewis’ Classic Biker Chick Epic
Time for a little personal history – After the time when going to Punk shows with friends was nearing the end by the Fall of 1988 and the search for anything interesting was on, nothing screamed “this is the way” to me louder than watching She Devils on Wheels when it came to sparking my research on these films. Rented from the Video Connection, which had a number of World Vision tapes (as well as those from Regal!), this seriously was my first Herschell Gordon Lewis film which still remains one of my favorites and I always wanted to find out about the history that was in every gritty frame of this classic. You know the rest of the story centering around years of renting, research, and raving.
Like every great Exploitation film, She Devils on Wheels fitted perfectly with the Drive In screens it played (most perfectly at those that were getting rough around the edges) as well as the indoor places that welcomed these films on a regular basis Downtown, Down on the Corner, or just plain Down and Out, but it stood out from most of them when it was playing it’s runs through the years, and this is looking beyond the fact that Lewis’ classic featured an all girl motorcycle gang played by real riders in a time when women in these films were usually an accessory or a romantic side story (several of the cast were reportedly from a club called the Iron Cross Motorcycle Club). The film was perfect to play with the best of the Biker films, especially as exchanges of the mighty AIP had this film in some territories thanks to a deal with Executive Producer Fred M Sandy who worked at the Washington DC branch, but it was also rough and rugged to be with the Westerns and Action flicks as well as hip to play with the swinging Acid flicks of the day (once more, usually at the places where AIP had some Distribution) – and it also played with Horror films, too…
7-5-68, Chicago area
The adventures of the Maneaters, led by Queen (Betty Connell), first focus on their weekly races to see who chooses first from a stud line which sees Karen (Christie Wagner) getting hooked on one man – something that’s totally against the code of use them and lose them. After punishing the goody-goody member by being forced to drag her dream prize around on pavement, she’s shocked to see her ex-boyfriend Ted (Rodney Bedell) in “the line” in the next race. After getting some information that Joe-Boy’s gang was in for a turf war which involved ruining the Maneaters, starting with turning their young mascot-turned-legal-member Honey Pot (Nancy Lee Noble) into a bloody mess, things go for the gold until the end when the Maneaters win the war and get away with their actions due to a lack of evidence.
Featuring some effective gore (possibly helped out by Dr. Gore himself, JG Patterson Jr.), as well as some well-executed tastelessness, sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll, She Devils on Wheels is a classic Drive In flick. Great supporting performances by Pat Poston as Whitey, John Weymer as Joe-Boy, and Steve White as Doodle as well as amusing Lewis-World cameos including that of Roy Collodi as the bartender roughed up by Queen are all good and the light attack on the small town of Medley, Florida is a highlight (Medley’s in Dade County, resting on Route 27 in case if you were wondering). Connell is perfect in true Tura Satana mode, making this perfect with Russ Meyer’s classic Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, and the Maneaters all together predate a number of classic gangs including the Jezebels…and keep those titles in mind as we go on the paths burned by the She Devils through the years.
(Sorry, Honey Pot fans, Nancy Lee Noble may be a cross of the Rural High School flirt and Marianne Faithfull if she rode a moped, but Girl on a Motorcycle will not be a part of this journey…although it would have been great as well)
As usual with Lewis’ films, the advertising is great and was very effective in selling the film, especially in rural territories and smaller cities where it was perfect.
9-17-68, Chicago – First, let’s take one brief detour to Lewis’ own small cinema The Blood Shed, here known as Le Cinema Bizarre, renamed due to some pressure about the name of the place. At least the monsters were still a part of the show!
5-31-68, Salisbury, Maryland…Go Johnny Go and Teenage Wolf Pack was originally a DCA release, once home to Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space, which played with Go Johnny Go in many areas.
Keeping in mind that there were Maryland plays dating back to May, 1968, there are plans for further installments of this run of first run ads, but what is here reveals a cool look at how well it did play ad what it was paired off with in various territories.
9-14-68, Gastonia, NC
10-3-68, Alamogordo, NM
Freeport, Illinois, 10-14-68
10-15-68, Fayetteville, Arkansas
10-20-68, Paris, TX
10-23-68, Greenville, Mississippi
North Carolina, 10-17-68
Sedalia, MO, 11-3-68
11-15-68, Abilene, TX
12-6-68, El Paso
12-6-68, Burlington, NC – take note of David F, Friedman’s Costume Cutie as the next show!
So, I know what many of you are thinking…”Where did it play with Born Losers?!!!” The answer to that question will be answered in the next installment!