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Movie Review: Ed Wood’s Devil Girls

Angry, snarling, but pretty woman

It takes a brave man to tackle the work of Edward D. Wood Jr. One of those men is named Andre Perkowski. And he may just be the bravest one of them all.

Several years ago, Perkowski produced, wrote and directed — Hey! Just like Ed Wood — an adaptation of one of Wood’s pulp trash novels, Devil Girls. The project then sat on Perkowski’s shelf, but has recently been unleashed on the world.

I haven’t seen too many of Wood’s films, just the big ones — Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen Or Glenda? — but I feel Perkowski has captured the infamous director’s style perfectly, i.e. Devil Girls is intentionally shot to look “bad.” However, one doesn’t get the sense that Perkowski is doing it to make fun of or to mock Wood. It obviously comes from a deep love of Wood and with that, the movie ends up being a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

Devil Girls is loaded with outrageous over-the-top acting, casually dropped and woefully inappropriate horror references, a practically incomprehensible plot, forehead-smacking story elements, a totally unnecessary narrator, unconvincing slang, ill-fitting soundtrack music etc., etc. My two personal favorite bits, though, have to be: 1) A recurring character who, whenever he pops into a scene, has clearly been filmed at some other location; and 2) Perkowski actually found a bald, shirtless dude who is a dead ringer Tor Johnson (except with more body hair).

Another aspect of the film I really enjoyed, and I don’t know if this originated with Wood’s novel or if it’s something Perkowski inserted, is that the story is framed as a “cautionary tale.” We’re told that the teenage hooliganism, female-on-female violence on display and drug running are terrible, horrible things that need to be stopped or American society will crumble all to hell. Yet, it’s the hoodlums who are the only people having any fun and law enforcement are portrayed as bumbling numbskulls who just happen get lucky some of the time. Good may triumph over evil, but Wood is definitely playing his material to the sleazy elements that Criswell so gravely warns the audience about. While Wood was an L.A. man, he probably would have found better success making films for the Times Square of old crowd.

It really takes awhile for Devil Girls to find its plot, but essentially it’s about a gang of four chicks. While consummate bad girl Lilah has been cooling her heels in prison, crazy blonde Dee has taken over leadership of the gang. She arranges for the girls to help local scumbag Lark bring a huge shipment of drugs over from Mexico. Then, Lilah busts out, busts up Dee for control of the gang again and does her best to cozy up to Lark to become his main squeeze.

There’s a lot of other stupid crap going on, but with the title of the film the girls really are the main attraction here. I don’t have a cast list to work with, but I thought the women were all excellently cast and that they all really get into their roles. Lilah looks maniacal with her big, piercing eyes and garishly applied lipstick; Dee is wildly psycho with her wavy blonde mane; while Rhoda — Lilah’s younger sister — talks tough and sexy, but her babyface betrays her inner good girl nature that must eventually bubble up to the surface.

I’m just glad Perkowski dusted off his old project and has unleashed it into respectible society. Ol’ Ed would have gotten a real hoot out of his work being treated so lovingly.

Watch the Devil Girls movie trailer:


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