This is the third DVD from Something Weird that I have seen that is devoted to the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis, who has made some of the most boring B-movies that I have ever seen (the answer to your unasked question is not that I am a glutton for punishment but that I am apparently committed to checking out every Something Weird DVD I can find). However, while "This Stuff'll Kill Ya!" is a typically boring Lewis picture, "The Year of the Yahoo!" is actually worth watching. After all, there are not too many B-movies that deal this well with politics in the pre-Watergate Nixon years and I would hate to think that the best part of this DVD ended up being the Something Weird introductory montage (which I almost have memorized I have seen it so often this year).
But first you have to sit through "This Stuff'll Kill Ya!" This 1971 effort stars Jeffrey Allen as the Reverend Roscoe Boone, a Foghorn Leghorn sort of redneck windbag who has started a congregation based primarily on the effects of white lightin'. But these are perilous times for the Reverend because the F.B.I. have a thing about bootleggers. Meanwhile, the price of a sip from the jug has gone from a dime to two bits and really bad things are happening to not only those helping the revenuers but also members of the congregation. That is how Lewis gets to work in the requisite blood in this film, while the sex scenes consist mostly of pieces of clothing flying through the air. In the How Far the Mighty Have Fallen category we have Tim Holt in his last screen appearance as F.B.I. Agent Clark, but this one rises and falls on the performance by Allen, because you are not going to like the film more than you like that. I come down right in the middle on this one and give it 2.5 stars.
The premise of the 1972 film "The Year of the Yahoo!" is that the President of the United States wants liberal Senator Fred Burwell (Robert Swain) defeated. So the political operatives and media hucksters of the party decide to run Hank Jackson (Claude King), a country and western singer. The idea is that a political neophyte who happens to be a celebrity can take the lead in the polls over an incumbent U.S. senator when he shuts up and does what they tell him to. If that means sitting on a horse and looking concerned about the problems facing the nation, then that is what Hank will do while one of his patriotic songs plays in the background. The fly in the ointment is a rent strike, which Hank is supposed to support. But the facts and his fiancé Tammy Parker (Ronna Riddle) are on the other side, and it becomes clear this is what is going to bring the candidate to a crisis of conscience.
Allen Kahn wrote the screenplay for the second movie and that becomes the simplest explanation for why this film is superior to the first (and every other Lewis movie I have seen to date). Kahn was an ad copywriter at Lewis's ad agency and apparently had a working knowledge of Marshall McLuhan ("The Medium is the Massage") if not Vance Packard ("The Hidden Persuaders") and Joe McGinnis ("The Selling of the President"). Then again, maybe this is just a cross between "A Face in the Crowd" and "The Candidate." By those standards this is not much of a film, but in the world of Herschell Gordon Lewis (you feel compelled to use his entire name every time) this would probably be considered his masterpiece. If I did not recognize Jeffrey Allen and several other San Antonio locals who are in both films, then I probably would never have suspected this was one of his productions.
Credit goes to Sheldon Seymour for most of the songs in "The Year of the Yahoo!" because they capture the political spirit of the time and place, but it turns out that Seymour is really Herschell Gordon Lewis, which means the man is more talented than I had thought (the song he wrote for "This Stuff'll Kill Ya!" is pretty catchy too). Kahn wrote the lyrics for the "Welfare Rag," with music by Robert Lewis. The movie also has the advantage of Claude King, who had a Top 10 hit in 1962 with "Wolverton Mountain," singing all of these songs, so there is no problem believing Hank Jackson is a country singing star. King is never as comfortable acting as he is singing, but that is to be expected and there are enough telling jabs at politics and the media to warrant this one coming in at 3.5 stars.
The Cornfed Extras on this DVD include a pair of above-average commentary tracks by Lewis camera man Daniel Krogh (who plays Steve in the second feature), which justify rounding up to get to 4 stars for the entire DVD, a rustic musical short for the first feature involving singing "The Old Grey Goose Is Dead," and a short entitled "Naked Moonshine" which involves topless women making booze in the privacy of their own home. There is a relative short gallery feature this time around because this is specifically a "Gallery of Herschell Gordon Lewis Exploitation Art," and trailers for a half-dozen trailers of Lewis films, including both of these features "She-Devils on Wheels," "Two Thousand Maniacs," "A Taste of Blood," "The Wizard of Gore," and "Blast-Off Girls." Based on my experience to date, watching the trailer for a Hershell Gordon Lewis film is almost always better than actually watching the film, with "The Year of the Yahoo!" would be the exception that proves that particular rule.