B&W, 1965, 68 mins. 46 secs.
Directed by Lee Frost
Starring Byron Mabe, Jerome Eden, Mai Jansson, Mimi Marlowe
A SMELL OF HONEY, A SWALLOW OF BRINE
B&W, 1967, 68 mins. 40 secs.
Directed by Byron Mabe
Starring Stacey Walker, Sam Melville, Bob Todd, Sharon Carr
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Image Entertainment / Something Weird (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)
Ah, the roughies of the 1960s. Filled with antisocial behavior, sexual deviance, and mixed messages aplenty, these forays into the underbelly of the human psyche pushed the softcore "adults only" quickie into truly dangerous territory. Two of the finer examples of this grungy chapter in the grindhouse history have been archived together on Blu-ray by AGFA and Something Weird for another memorable double feature, this time saluting the black-and-white output of writer-producer David F. Friedman outside his celebrated work with Herschell Gordon Lewis (including Blood Feast).
The first film on the roster is The Defilers, which opens up with a dialogue-free sequence in which two spoiled louts (exploitation director Byron Mabe and frequent Lewis actor Jerome Eden from Two Thousand Maniacs! and Daughter in the Sun) escort their two girlfriends for some nocturnal fun and frolicking on the beach. "There's only one thing that makes this worm-infested life worthwhile," Mabe philosophizes. "Kicks -- kicks!" Apparently his slightly more conscientious friend agrees, and while Mabe isn't busy giving his girlfriend some suspiciously willing lashes with his belt, the two buddies decide to have some fun by kidnapping sweet young Jane Collins (Jansson) fresh off the bus in Los Angeles. After some terrific footage of Hollywood Boulevard in all its mid-'60s glory, Jane settles into a hotel room and promptly winds up escorted to the Valley by our two anti-heroes, who drag her off to a basement and keep her prisoner as their own personal love slave. They continue their partying and country clubbing above ground, descending now and then for a little fun and games with their new captive. Of course this not-so-idyllic existence can't go on forever, and it all ends on an appropriately hysterical and gory note.
Directed by sleaze movie veteran Lee Frost (Love Camp 7, A Climax of Blue Power), The Defilers first turned up on DVD way back in 2000 paired up with Lewis' scuz classic Scum of the Earth ("You're damaged merchandise, baby, and this is a fire sale!"); as per Something Weird's standards, these features were kept in excellent shape with Scum coming out on Blu-ray later on as part of Arrow Video's Lewis set. Playing the drive-in option on that DVD assaults the viewer with hilarious promos, kicking off with Julie Andrews' unforgettable endorsement for the new MPAA ratings system and including such delicacies as a sex hygiene book pitch, concession stand shorts, a short subject entitled Intimate Diary of Artists' Models (reteaming the irrepressible Ajax and Sandy), and a snippet from Barry Mahon's Naked Fury. Then there are the trailers, this time with stalwarts like Aroused!, Confessions of a Psycho Cat, Banned, Sex Killer, Sock It to Me Baby, The Curse of Her Flesh, The Ultimate Degenerate, The Pick-Up, and best of all, the absolutely delicious All Women Are Bad ("...and this is the film that proves it!"). There's even a particularly smutty Easter Egg hidden on the trailer menu screen.
The 2023 Blu-ray marks a substantial leap up in quality with an immaculate new scan from a 35mm dupe negative, with detail throughout looking remarkably sharper and the dark scenes in particular benefiting from the jump in resolution. It looks and sounds gorgeous, and the DTS-HD MA 2.0 English track comes with optional English subtitles. Carried over from the DVD is a great audio commentary with Friedman and Something Weird's much-missed Mike Vraney, which not only goes into the players on this film but Friedman's career in general, his move to L.A. after the Lewis blood trilogy, the market for nudie movies, and the nature of his showmanship that evolved throughout the decade. Friedman was always one of the great raconteurs of exploitation, and this one doesn't disappoint.
Also on the same Blu-ray is a longtime Friedman favorite among die-hard Something Weird fans ever since its VHS bow, A Smell of Honey, a Swallow of Brine, a vehicle for the absolutely astonishing Stacey Walker. Though her film career only lasted about a year (also including two nudie shorts and Friedman's The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill), her place in the exploitation hall of fame was cemented with her performance here as Sharon, a young woman who gets her kicks by playing mind games with her male and female partners ranging from verbal insults to last-minute false rape accusations. Her tactics land one poor guy in the slammer, which encourages her to use her office job as a secretary as her personal hunting ground -- as well as digging her claws into her lesbian roommate, Paula Carr), leading to the line "I may be a bitch, but I'll never be a butch," a staple of the SW promo reel. The actual roughie content here doesn't really kick in until the last 20 minutes courtesy of some stylized, time-filling fantasy sequences involving whipping and bondage, and the inevitable ironic ending where karma catches up with Sharon in a twist you'd never see on the big screen today.
A Smell of Honey first appeared on DVD in 2009 as the headliner of an Image triple feature with A Sweet Sickness and The Brick Dollhouse, with extras including a Friedman commentary, a 1991 "A Visit to the Apple Theatre" featurette, the usual Friedman gallery, and trailers for A Sweet Sickness, The Defilers, The Lustful Turk, The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill, and Starlet. The Blu-ray is transferred from the same print (one of the only known ones in existence according to the packaging), with the same damage and splices; here it's matted to 1.85:1 with more horizontal image info visible and some extraneous top and bottom areas removed. Compositionally the film plays out pretty much the same, though the framing does look a bit more artful here at times. The presentation here is quite a bit brighter and more detailed, which comes in handy during the opening scene in particular. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English mono track (again with subs) sounds fine given the limited nature of the print. Carried over here from the DVD is another great Friedman and Vraney track, this time with the legendary Frank Henenlotter joining in for a packed 68 minutes talking about his time working with Walker, the roughie scene, the discovery of that garage rock band, and more. Also included here from an SD master is the full-color Walker nudist camp short But Charlie, I Never Played Volleyball (9m34s), which is a lot more lighthearted than the accompanying feature! You also get a batch of Friedman trailers (11m14s) including both of the main features, The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill, and She Freak, plus galleries for production and promotional photos for both films (10m27s) and promotional material (5m49s) with lots of Friedman on the set and a few revealing shots that never would've made it into the final films. The package also comes with an insert booklet featuring a written salute to Friedman by Something Weird's Lisa Petrucci, who provides an affectionate look at a man whose work was one of the most important cornerstones of establishing the SW brand in the first place.
THE DEFILERS: AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray)
THE DEFILERS: Image (DVD)
A SMELL OF HONEY, A SWALLOW OF BRINE: AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray)
A SMELL OF HONEY, A SWALLOW OF BRINE: Image (DVD)
Reviewed on September 23, 2023