Sunday, 13 September 2009

Blast-Off Girls (1967)

One thing I can say about Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1967 picture Blast-Off Girls is that it’s a lot more fun than Just for the Hell of It, the other movie included in this double-feature from Something Weird Video. But then root canal therapy is more fun than watching Just for the Hell of It.

Lewis was nothing if not versatile. This time he’s attempting a rock’n’roll movie. A sleazy manager named Boojie Baker decides to make stars of a bunch of untalented musicians. He tricks them into a contract that ensures that virtually all the money they make will go to him. He has a bevy of girls working for him, and most of his deals are made by selling their sexual favours. That’s how he keeps the guys in the band happy, That’s also how he gets them a recording contract. When sex on its own isn’t enough, he throws in a spot of blackmail.

The band is christened The Big Blast, and pretty soon they’re one of the hottest new acts in the rock’n’roll scene. But all is not well. The boys are starting to think they should be paid in money, not just in girls. The rest of the movie consists of their attempt to get the better of the slimy and villainous Boojie.

The biggest problem with this one is the 83 minute running time. As a 60 minute feature it might almost have been fun, but Lewis has no clue about how to pace a movie. Scenes feel painfully padded out, and there’s no coherent structure to the film. With enough energy and enthusiasm an exploitation movie can get away with such flaws, but Blast-Off Girls doesn’t quite have the necessary spark. The cinematography and direction are too dull, and while it tries to be sexy it doesn’t deliver the goods in that area either.

Dan Conway’s outrageously over-the-top performance as Boojie almost saves the movie. He overdoes the wickedness so much you expect him to start twirling his moustache, if he had a moustache. He does have a cane though, so he is very nearly a villain straight out of a Victorian melodrama. It’s a valid enough approach to the role and it works fairly well.

The band members are rather lacking in any signs of actual personality, so their efforts to appear zany in the style of The Monkees don’t really come off. A proper script might have given them some assistance. The girls are there purely for decoration. Women in Lewis’s movies seem to be victims or whores, and in this case they’re whores, but they’re not overly entertaining whores. But they’re not given the lines and there’s no real direction. It would also have helped if the band’s repertoire consisted of more than just one song, played over and over!

With all those faults there is still a moderate amount of fun to be had here. It doesn’t have the unpleasant overtones of Just for the Hell of It, and it does achieve a certain kitschy charm at times. And there’s even a bizarre cameo by Colonel Sanders, feeding fried chicken to the guys in the band.

This double-bill is the only DVD release I’ve encountered so far from Something Weird that has really disappointed me. Fortunately it’s one of the few that’s available in Australia, so I was able to rent it rather than having to buy it, for which I’m extremely grateful. If you’re a real fan of 60s rock’n’roll movies and you like Lewis’s style it’s probably worth the rental. Otherwise I can’t really recommend a purchase all that highly unless you’re a very keen H. G. Lewis fan.

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