As of Thursday, film restoration group Process Blue has announced the triumphant rediscovery of three sexploitation oddities by notoriously sleazy cult director Herschell Gordon Lewis, all previously considered lost to the ages – Linda and Abilene (1969), Ecstasies of Women (1969), and Black Love (1971). Thanks to diligent research, perseverance, and shrewd negotiation, Project Blue has acquired the negatives for all three films and launched a Kickstarter campaign to drum up the necessary funds for both digital and photochemical restorations, and archival reissues.
Lewis is recognized as one of the most prolific, bizarre, and eclectic American exploitation filmmakers of the 1960s, collaborating on several projects with notorious producer David F. Friedman. His work with Friedman most notably included the so-called “blood trilogy” in the early 1960s – the initial landmark entry of which, 1963’s orgy of tongue-ripping, eye-gouging, scalp-slashing depravity Blood Feast, is generally considered the first splatter film ever conceived and produced. Later installments in the Friedman/Lewis trilogy include backwoods horror prototype Two-Thousand Maniacs and Color Me Blood Red, a lurid, unofficial revamp of Roger Corman’s 1959 Dick Miller vehicle A Bucket of Blood.
These films, as well as later gruesome entries like Wizard of Gore, The Gore Gore Girls, The Gruesome Twosome, and A Taste of Blood have earned Lewis the nickname “The Godfather of Gore” and made him an enduring icon of cult horror, but his total filmography is varied and eclectic, including a number of kinky softcore films, alt-culture exposes, and even a couple of children’s movies. His bizarre, trippy 1967 mish-mash of LSD and occult hysteria, Something Weird, inspired the company name for Mike Vraney’s seminal DIY axis of low-budget sleaze distribution Something Weird Video when the still-extant company was originally founded in the 1980s.
Linda and Abilene, a semi-explicit lesbian western shot at the infamous Spahn Ranch only months before it would become inhabited by the Manson Family, has been a particularly sought-after lost movie for decades. Black Love and Ecstasies are slightly lesser-known, but are significant examples of Lewis’s prodigal return to the burlesque-inspired nudies of his early career, which included unapologetically goofy Z-grade excursions like The Adventures of Lucky Pierre, Daughter of the Sun, and Goldilocks and the Three Bares.
Linda and Abilene, Black Love, and Ecstasies of Women haven’t been screened publicly in over 40 years, but if Process Blue’s campaign is successful, they’ll soon be available for your perusal and ownership on Blu-ray and DVD. Process Blue also hopes to strike new theatrical prints of all three movies, meaning they’ll once again be available on 35mm for theatrical exhibition. The Kickstarter campaign is live until June 10, with various assorted goodies offered as incentives for prospective backers, including buttons, T-shirts, DVD/Blu-ray combo packs, and – for the really big spenders – your very own Associate Producer credit slapped right onto the finished restoration print.