Retro Film Report #6: The Gore Gore Girls by Henry James

The guest blogger for today needs no introduction. Henry James has authored dozens of critically acclaimed books including The Bostonians and The Turn of the Screw. Today, he graciously lends his skills with the written word to review the B movie classic, The Gore Gore Girls. Take it away, Henry!

It will be necessary, for several reasons, to give this movie review the form of a short sketch rather than of a critical essay. The data within these ninety five minutes of spinning celluloid is copious, and even if they were minimal they would serve but in a limited measure the purpose of the movie reviewer. This is a film of monumental vicissitudes or variations; one minute the rarest and sweetest fragrance, the next a licentious odor. Indeed, The Gore Gore Girls is a heavenly path with many a curious dint.

Our tale begins with the burlesque queen, Suzie Cream Puff, of whom legions of men ran forth to gaze upon, such was her beauty. All that view'd her were enamour'd on her. O curs├Ęd day and hour! Today, savage lust shall bring a violent end to this Venus of the stage. The stern and black-browed Puritans would have thought it quite a sufficient retribution for her sins. Indeed, the lot of all men is dust, and the silent roll call of Death is without cease - but this was most untimely, and deserving of our deepest sympathy. But who could have committed this ghastly act?

Next, we are taken to the establishment of a private investigator, Abraham Gentry, a man of unexampled neatness. He is visited by a woman from the newspaper who offers him the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars to effectuate the capture of poor Ms. Cream Puff's murderer- a matter to which Gentry is reluctant to give consent. Mercifully, the patience and tender forbearance of this reporter (a certain Ms. Weston) wins the trust of this somewhat irascible old detective.

This mystery took possession of him a while, but Gentry is a man of his word. Soon he began to examine this unhappy situation of  circumstances: Ms. Cream Puff had been occasioned by the tide of ill luck at her place of employment, the club - and, so, to the club he must go.

At the club, Gentry immediately turned a sagacious eye toward an acquaintance of Ms. Cream Puff. Smitten by his charms and the rare favour of flattery, the young women dispensed happily with all she knew. Satisfied, as a bloodhound, whose office is to follow the fearsome trail, Gentry quickly takes his leave.

The scent was gathering thick at present, as Gentry follows a lead pointing to a certain Mr. Joseph Carter.  The occasion required that he interview a scurvy hippie stooped upon a public street.  Further clues were easily gathered - the mysterious Carter was taking up residence with a certain Ms. Candy Cane. This happy advantage now served Gentry anew, and made haste to visit Ms. Cane.

Alas, Mr. Gentry and Ms. Weston arrive too late. Ms. Cane has met the same end as Ms. Cream Puff. Another flower has been nipped by Death's untimely frost. Ms. Weston loudly bewailed the loss, overcome by the sight. Frailty, thy name is woman!

Gentry, however, was untossed by passion. He methodically digested the scene and its clues. Instead of plodding over the same tedious ground, Gentry tried another club named Tops & Bottoms. With skillful charisma, Gentry began questioning the manager of the establishment. Initially, he speaks of the engrossment of humdrum duties and regular occupations, then slyly diverts the conversation to the murders.  The manager introduces another suspect to the equation - a certain Mr. Grout, described as a hateful ape; a Vietnam veteran with a soulless impoverished mind.

Still kidnapped by fright and with hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, Ms. Weston turns to drink as an opiate to dull the mind.

The trail is further muddied by the addition of more suspects - radical feminists; crude hypocrites who screech and howl at the dancers like dogs just let out from their kennel. Soon, a great grim fight erupts, and the suspect, Mr. Grout is able to flee undetected. The quick witted Gentry is able to deliver both Ms. Weston and a stripper far from the wild confusion that had entangled them.

But it is all for naught, for the stripper is brutally dispatched at the home of Gentry!  The police are soon at the scene. Was it foolish to take root within his own habitation? Fault not the man who trusts the protection of his own hearth! Indeed, having learned by experience that safety consists in the familiar, Gentry knew the security of the homestead was his ally. Sadly, his instincts proved false, with tragic consequences.

He was now more determined than ever to solve this Gordian knot. Who was this killer? Gentry hardly knew whether to put him down as a man haunted by a fixed delusion, or as one oppressed by a guilty conscience, or as an unbearably jealous cohort. The probabilities, when reckoned up, certainly pointed to the last idea; but, still, the impression conveyed was that of a more formidable persecutor even than a monomaniac co-worker.

Gentry now had hatched a plan. The full resources of Gentry’s powerful intellect would now be put the test. The first step in the scheme would involve having his lady friend, Ms. Weston, dressed to the nine. Gentry was immediatley smitten. With a new dress on, she was exceedingly, extraordinarily pretty; and there was a brightness in her—a still and scattered radiance—which was quite distinct from what is called animation. Rather tall than short, fine slender erect, with an airy lightness of hand and foot, she yet gave no impression of quick movement, of abundant chatter, of excitable nerves and irrepressible life—no hint of arriving at her typical American grace in the most usual way. She was pretty without emphasis and as might almost have been said without point, and your fancy that a little stiffness would have improved her was at once qualified by the question of what her softness would have made of it.

Inexpressibly frightened as he was, as the next step in his plan, he determined to take his lady friend to Marz’s Heaven, another club of ill repute.

That evening, the eccentric personage of Gentry and his lovely accomplice passed through the doors of Marz’s Heaven; still emitting innocent pleasantries, proceeded on their way,  and took their place in his customary front row chair.

The next step in his stratagem was this: persuade Ms. Weston to perform on the stage, thus inciting the wrath of said killer lured by envy  toward her elegant figure. Then, at last, return her home where he would lie in wait to nab his prey.

Ms. Weston busied herself upon the stage, affecting her best Salome impression. At the beginning, a scintillation of gaiety made its way through the audience. Then, with further garments removed, the reaction became a maddening joyful hurrah! Ms. Weston stayed in character with quickly-rooted fidelity, showing no symptom of desistance. Lo! The young flower, Ms. Weston, has taken the top prize above all the seasoned performers!

The courage of Ms. Weston should be commended here. To go and exhibit one’s self to a loathsome crowd, on a platform, - to parade one’s body and one’s soul? Such was the good deed of the saintly Ms. Weston for the sake of the cause.

Indeed, it came to pass that Ms. Weston did make good bait, for the murderer crept upon her that very night! Mercifully, she had begun to revive; but there was nevertheless between them rather a conscious pause, before the attack commenced. At that moment, our young friend had recognised the whole of the main truth - the attacker was not Mr. Grout or Mr. Carter or the women's liberationist. [And here I shall refrain from unveiling the killer's true identity, and say only that the murderer is of the female gender, so that others who have not seen the film may enjoy the story too.]

Before Ms. Weston had time, however, to recover from the effect of this evocation, the killer was thwarted by the courageous Mr. Gentry, who quickly vanquished their foe. The diabolical figure attempted a retreat through the back, but was cut down in her/his tracks. Indeed it was plain to any one possessed of the least experience that she was not only dead, but had died of an automobile accident whilst crossing the road in escape.

Our story ends with both Mr. Gentry and Ms. Weston feeling much relief having finally reached the conclusion of things. With the idea Ms. Gentry found herself afresh on the edge of laughter, of a sudden and strange perversity of mirth.

Reflecting upon the value of The Gore Gore Girls, I came to the opinion that its strength lies in its power in depicting agony unuttered and unutterable, which may then develop the intellect and the spirit of man; to open these to the ineffable conceptions of the infinite, and to some discernment, otherwise impossible, of the beneficent might that lies in pain and sorrow.



  1. crickets: (chirp)....(chirp)....

    This is one of the few posts I've written in long time to get no comments whatsoever.

    Did anyone get it? It's the noted literary giant from the 1800's reviewing a piece of crap B-movie with his characteristic flair for wordy and complicated English.

    Okay, so maybe it's extremely obscure and not really funny, but still.... oh, well.

    crickets: (chirp).... (chirp)....

  2. Well Gilligan I hadn't seen this one and not only do I get it I happen to be a (lay) James scholar. This wasn't bad I must say. Were you ever an English major?

    It's VERY funny

    I haven't been able to like Cormac McCarthy since I found out he HATES James.

  3. I found this thanks to your 'Retrospace Flashback Episode'. I've been a huge Henry James fan ever since I discovered The Ambassadors back in school, and you completely capture his ultra-precise and wordy style. Anyway, I totally get it... 'scurvy hippie' had me laughing -- its exactly the way James would identify a character.