Director/Producer – Herschell Gordon Lewis, Screenplay – Louise Downe, Music – Larry Wellington. Production Company – Mayflower Pictures
Elizabeth Davis (Mrs Pringle), Ronnie Cass (Cathy Baker), Chris Martell (Rodney Pringle), Rodney Bedell (Dave), Gretchen Wells (Dawn Farrell), Ray Sager (Swenson)
Mrs Pringle runs a shop where she sells wigs made of human hair. She lures young female students to her home with ads that promise cheap rent but then locks the girls in a room with her idiot grandson Rodney who kills and scalps them. University student Cathy Baker is an amateur sleuth who has a tendency to call the police out on wild goose chases. Becoming obsessed with finding the missing girls, Cathy follows the trail of a friend who has disappeared, which leads her to Mrs Pringle’s home.
The Gruesome Twosome is one of the splatter films from the legendary Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis also made the likes of Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964), Color Me Blood Red (1965), Something Weird (1967), A Taste of Blood (1967), The Wizard of Gore (1970), The Gore-Gore Girls (1972), Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat (2002) and The Uh-Oh Show (2009). His splatter films were notorious for the extremes of bloodletting they would go to and a cult has grown up around him. The Golden Turkey Awards (1980) nominated Lewis as Worst Director of All Time, only for him to be beaten out by Edward D. Wood Jr..
Some of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s films have an almost endearing sense of humour and sometimes their outrageous grotesquerie places them in the same vein as the films of John Waters. Amid its ineptitude, The Wizard of Gore, for instance, has a bizarrely intriguing level of meta-fiction to it. That said, there is little to redeem The Gruesome Twosome. There are some unrelievedly nasty gore effects – a stomach-churning scene where Chris Martell holds a woman down and we see him hacking her throat open and blood splattering as she continues to scream, followed by him cutting her scalp off amid a welter of gore and pieces of dripping brain. There is another thoroughly gross scene where we see Chris Martell cut a girl up and then start playing with her exposed intestines, and another where he pokes a hatpin into a girl’s eyeball. In fact, the only thing The Gruesome Twosome has going for it is Herschell Gordon Lewis’s splatter effects – outside of that it is unwatchably inept in all departments.
Oddly though, Herschell Gordon Lewis proves surprisingly chaste when it comes to nudity – as though he were so extreme in every other department that he felt the need to restrain himself there. Lewis directs what is probably the lamest chase sequence ever committed to film – one where Ronnie Cass pursues the sinister janitor, ducking behind cars, trees and hedges with a ludicrous obviousness that nobody could conceivably miss. Lewis regular Ray Sager plays the janitor with an atrocious Swedish accent, giving what surely must be one of the worst performances ever committed to celluloid. There is an instrumental score that is often wildly inappropriate to the scene it is accompanying.