Hell on Wheels : Sold Out NYC debut

by Jodi Doff

 Katrina del Mar admittedly, and obviously, influenced by Russ Meyer, likes to make movies with tough girls.  Dubbed “Charles Manson, with giant boobs” by a Hell on Wheels cast member, she is surrounded by wicked-cool, smart & talented women, lots of them, and she puts them all in her movies. Girls that roll, surf, skate, drive and canter – if it moves, her girls are doing it in skimpy leathers and heavy eyeliner. Someone’s going to get hit, there’s gonna be at least one great girl on girl makeout scene and, oh yeah, a kick ass soundtrack.

Like Warhol and John Waters, she has a solid stable of performers, you see some of the same faces from one film to the next. Stick around for the credits and you’ll realize that the women on screen  (men are few and far between) are also the women behind the screen. Everyone is heavily invested in each film, building set pieces, writing/playing the soundtrack, editing, writing dialogue, designing costumes. I’m not sure that anyone has just a single job of actress. Everyone pitches in, because, hello? Katrina makes films about girl gangs.

Her first, Gang Girls 2000 (Super 8mm 27 min. 2000) is already a underground cult classic with one of my favorite all time movies lines. Describing the Glitter Girls rival Brooklyn girl gang, the Sluts, del Mar’s voice over says, “They tend to use the sign of the cross when they’re tagging and the Holy Virgin Mary in their tattoos because the symbols of Catholicism just cry out slut.”

Surf Gang (Super8mm / Video 25 min. 2005) took the rumble from the streets of NYC to the beaches of NYC…and Long Island. On the lam and in search of surf, the Rockaway Ruffnecks flee to the Hamptons after beating down the son of a local Guido don. The uber-privileged blond Hampton (The Ungratefuls) surfer chicks never had a chance against the disenfranchised Ruffnecks.

The third installment in the Gang Trilogy, Hell on Wheels : Gang Girls Forever (HD Video/ Super 8mm 36 min. 2010) sold-out its long awaited NYC debut tonight at the NYC Anthology Film Archives, following screenings of Gang Girls 2000 and Surf Gang. Hell on Wheels is inclusive of all the non motorized wheely-gang-worlds – skateboards, bicycles, roller skates(cameos by the Gotham Girls Roller Derby and Long Island Roller Rebels)–and is funny and clever in ways that the other films were not. There is a richer texture, a sophistication to the humor and the dialogue. Gang Girls didn’t actually have dialogue, the brilliant voice-overs were dubbed afterwards, giving it the feel of a one of those campy Japanese horror movies dubbed in English.

The through line of the trilogy is that all of the girls would be on their own, parent-less, alone and vulnerable,  were it not for the support of their loyal gang sisters.  Sisters are doing it for themselves, in other words.

Hell on Wheels opens with a painfully funny send up of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Rear Window then rolls right into Psycho, with wheelchair bound Krank (Betsey Todd) in an argument with her  self-centered mother (also Betsey Todd, cleverly shot so we never see mom’s face). Even though del Mar says her scripts are mostly improv, some of it is just too good to be spur of the moment.  The scene between wheelchair bound Krank and  Mechanic (Genny “Slag” Pavitt) is absolutely brilliant in its comedic timing, even before the dialogue kicks in.

Of her gang “The Outcasts”, group loudmouth Krash (Ashley “Patch” Evens) sums it all up when she says, “None of us do anything right, but we do it all day.”  Well, that says it all, doesn’t it?

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVU8CJXTDhg 425×344]

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