We are all interested in bad movies, inexcusable cinema, worse-than-mediocre pictures, and amateur glamour shots, for that is the stuff we use to fill the empty spaces in our souls. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, and the titillating—that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of a band of hooligans and rapscallions. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a screening. I am that miserable soul. The absurdly low budgets, the cheesecake photos, the old-timey misogyny—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these will affect you in the future!
All you kids make me sick! You act like little Miss Muffet, but down inside you're dirty; do you hear me? Dirty! You're greedy and self-centered and think you can get away with anything. You're no better than the girl who sells herself… to a man. You're worse because you're a hypocrite. And now little Miss Muffet is in trouble, and she's all outraged virtue. Well, you listen and you listen well; you're damaged merchandise and this is a fire sale. You walk out of here, and your reputation won't be worth fifteen cents. You'll do as I tell you! Do you hear me? You'll do as I tell you!
Johnson clearly finds this life almost as repugnant as we do; it has driven him to alcoholism. Sandy (Sandra Sinclair) is a model whose life has already been ruined. Local mob boss Lang (Lawrence J. Aberwood, using the pseudonym “Lawrence Wood”) offers Sandy a way out of this awful life: “recruit some new girls,” suggests Lang, “and I will release you from your obligation.” Sandy recruits sweet, innocent Kim Sherwood (Allison Louise Down, as “Vickie Miles”) but no one involved in the racket has any idea of Kim’s inner strength and PLUCK!
Like most “roughies,” this movie has a plot that is offensive to modern sensibilities. If you can get past that, however, the real fun of Scum of the Earth (besides Lang’s over-the-top monologue) is watching the David Friedman/Herschell Gordon Lewis reparatory company do its thing. Leads William Kerwin, Sandra Sinclair, and Mal Arnold all appear in both Scum of the Earth and Lewis’s earlier, much-more-famous classic Blood Feast, the first widely distributed American film with explicit gore. In fact, Scum of the Earth was released only three months after Blood Feast was unleashed on the unsuspecting public. It’s the requested-by-no-one Blood Feast reunion! I wish I could say that anyone involved in either project gained any skill or talent in the intervening three months. Sadly, I cannot.
My friend, you have now read this column, based on my own sworn testimony. Can you prove that this film doesn’t exist? Perhaps on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, but he may have been Herschell Gordon Lewis (or Lewis H. Gordon or Marvin Lester), the director/screenwriter/cinematographer of Scum of the Earth. He may ask you to pose for some innocent bikini photos—take my advice and run away! Run far away! We once laughed at fire, gravity, the horseless carriage, cheesecake, the electric light, and Ajax. So much laughter! And now some of us laugh at very bad movies. God help us in the future.
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