POSSE FROM HEAVEN
Color, 1975, 87m.
Directed by Phillip Pine and Todd Compton
Starring Fanne Foxe, Todd Compton, Ward Wood, Rod Roddy, Sherry Bain, Dick Burch, Dee Cooper
S.L.I.P.: SEXUAL LIBERTY IN PRIVATE
Color, 1970, 49m.
Directed by James Wilson
Starring Eve Brent, Hy Chase, George Berkeley, Byron Clark, Candice Roman
Code Red (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)
Every now and again there comes a home video release so completely cracked, so far removed from anything resembling normal cinema, that you have to wonder whether it actually came from this planet. Something Weird used to deliver one or two of these a year back in the good old days thanks to titles like Roseland and Psyched by the 4-D Witch, but it's gotten tougher to find these nutty little mutants recently. Well, now Code Red pulls one out of its hat with Posse from Heaven, an unholy cinematic patchwork job that's equal parts slapstick Laugh-In routines in heaven, strip routines, stock footage, and folksy western. Does it work? Good God, no, but you won't be able to take your eyes off of it.
Up in heaven, everyone sits around in the clouds watching a buxom angel-in-training (Foxe) do burlesque routines while angel Gabriel (Wood) blows away on his trumpet, all under the supervision of Rod Roddy (the announcer from The Price Is Right) in a red toga. They're looking for something new to pass the time and set their sights on Appletime (Compton), an American soldier discharged from service and left to wander the west. They decide to help him out and send down Gabriel as his guardian angel, only to have him turn into Appletime's wisecracking horse. Foxe still wants to help him out (so she can become an "angel first class"), so while Appletime goes skinny dipping, she pops up naked on a rock and sings a song called "Life Is The Magical Thing." Then Appletime dumps his bullets at Foxe's insistence and gets tied up by some train robbers, only to escape and wind up swapping philosophies with a prospector named Liberty (Cooper). Then he takes off with the sole female members of the outlaws, Lola (Bain), and gets cozy with her while the soundtrack swells with one twangy tune after another. It all leads to a long, nonsensical showdown between Appletime, Lola, and The Hills Have Eyes' James Whitworth as the black-clad baddie in an abandoned ghost town destined to get sprayed with orange stage blood. Oh, and in between all this we get a loudmouthed country preacher named Buffalo Dick (Burch) yelling dirty morality tales to the audience.
Judging from the end result, this started off as some kind of quickie western directed by Compton, who's still credited for the "earthly sequences" here. Everything else feels shoehorned in, of course, with plenty of corny comedy and rampant T&A thrown in to make this more palatable for an R-rated theatrical release. The finished product is obviously a star vehicle for Fanne Foxe, an Argentina-born burlesque performer who made headlines when she was pulled over during a drunken joyride with Wilbur Mills, the married head of the House Ways and Means Committee. Her impulsive plunge into a nearby lake was caught on film and led to the politician's downfall, which was enough to give her fifteen minutes of fame and this bizarre starring gig. (You can read more about her and the film here.) She sings, acts, and dances aplenty, and while she isn't terribly good at any of those, it's certainly a vanity project unlike any other. The film's celestial and comedy scenes were also a rare directorial effort for late character actor Phillip Pine, who popped up in crime films like Murder by Contract and The Set-Up.
Considering this was barely released and has never been on home video, there isn't much else to compare to Code Red's DVD edition. The source print probably hasn't seen the light of a projector in decades, and it looks fine for a film that looks like it cost a few hundred bucks to shoot. As if that weren't enough, you also get a second feature, sort of: S.L.I.P.: Sexual Liberty in Private, a baffling courtroom drama primarily of interest for "introducing" actress Candice Roman, who went on to star in The Big Bird Cage and The Unholy Rollers. Our story involves Michael and Ellen Parsons, a suburban couple brought up on charges of the felony act of "oral copulation" after a food delivery woman, Blanche (character actress Eve Brent from The Green Mile), and her impressionable teenaged granddaughter stumble on them doing the deed while getting ready to go out for dinner. But do the witnesses have some dirty secrets of their own, and what's the price of pointing fingers at the sexual activity of others?
Playing like a particularly sleazy episode of Perry Mason, this is quite the strange obscurity whose existence is explained on the DVD packaging as a film "shelved and lost" after completion, sold off by the lab to a distributor who "cut down on the talking" to create the 49-minute version we have now. It's certainly choppy, especially in the very jumpy opening half hour, but you can still follow the story easily enough. It's odd that a film so obsessed with sex would feature so many love scenes but no actual nudity; you could easily run this unedited on TV today. However, it's fun seeing Roman as the hot-to-trot granddaughter, and there's plenty of fiery overacting in the courtroom scenes as everyone debates the moral implications of "compromising positions." Not surprisingly, it all leads to one of those gigantic question mark endings so popular at the time, which will probably have more than a couple of viewers hurling their beers at the screen. The print used here isn't as immaculate as the first feature, but it looks fine overall and is probably the only remaining cinematic evidence of this weird little sex drama. Also included are trailers for both features and extra ones for The King of Kung Fu, Death Machines, The Police Connection, Class of '74, If He Hollers Let Him Go, The Vampires' Night Orgy, Splitz, and Raw Force.
Reviewed on November 30, 2013.