NOVEMBER 16, 2009

A New York oddity unearthed in the constant stream of exploitation quickies revived on DVD, The Love Statue is a B&W grindhouse mixture of mild erotica and drug culture pandering (billed as The Love Statue LSD Experience on the packaging) following the urban misadventures of Tyler (Young Lady Chatterley’s Peter Ratray), a struggling bohemian artist with a contentious relationship with his domineering girlfriend, Lisa (Beti Seay). Thanks to the encouragement of a nightclub torch singer ("Choko" Tsukuba), he decides to find some inspiration by dropping acid. His trip seems to be going fine as he has a heated session with his now-living ‘love statue’ (sexploitation veteran Gigi Darlene), but afterwards there’s a dead body in his apartment… and he only has a few hours to unravel what really happened before the police close in. More of a moody art film than a traditional exploitation experience, The Love Statue was one of the earlier efforts from director David E. Durston, who went on to drive-in immortality with the rabid-cannibal-hippie classic I Drink Your Blood and the wacko Phillip Michael Thomas drug-laced freakout Stigma (along with some other unorthodox projects you can read about on imcb). It’s obvious drugs are a continuing theme throughout his work, and on this DVD he even boasts of dropping acid to add some verisimilitude to his direction. The LSD factor is actually pretty marginal in the grand scheme of the film (and contrary to the packaging, it didn’t introduce America to LSD; that honor goes to William Castle’s The Tingler six years earlier). However, the wintry footage of Greenwich Village is priceless and lends the film a haunting, gritty ambience that sets it apart from your average studio-bound quickie. The actors are also a bit better than average, and not surprisingly, Ratray and Seay had continued stage, screen and TV careers. For its video debut, Secret Key has outfitted this release with a pleasing new transfer from imperfect but certainly acceptable elements and a host of extras. Durston contributes both a commentary and a video interview in which he talks about the project’s evolution (it was originally entitled The Love Drug and has three now-lost softcore inserts shot without his consent by the distributors). Also included is a second 10-minute video interview with Ratray (who proudly shows off framed photos of the original theater marquees showing the film), two vintage LSD scare films (“LSD-25” and “Your Amazing Mind”), two alternate scenes, and additional Secret Key trailers.


If you thought a movie couldn't get more obscure than that, feast your peepers on Night of the Dribbler, an unreleased comic slasher from the team who brought you the MST3000 favorite Zombie Nightmare. This ain't Student Bodies, though, as the whole thing revolves around basketball. Yep, it's all about a high school team whose overreaching waterboy, Stanley (Gregory Calpakis), is frustrated in his attempts to go out on the court by the overbearing coach (comedian Fred Travalena). Soon a maniac with a basketball over his head is wiping out the most valuable players one by one, and it's only a matter of time before we find out who the culprit really is. Shot very cheaply and loaded with head-spinning late '80s fashions and hairdos, this film obviously didn't get released for a reason (it's really terrible and there's not much in the way of gore), but the pop culture value is very high. Imagine an episode of Married... with Children in which Bud goes on a killing spree, and that should give you some idea of what to expect. Code Red presents this to an unsuspecting public for the first time anywhere in a loving special edition featuring a full frame transfer of the main feature (it was obviously shot that way and geared for the home video market) along with a host of extras including a Travalena commentary with Intruder director Scott Spiegel and Beat the Geek's Marc Edward Hueck; as you might expect, the tone is light and goofy, mainly focusing on the odd backstories behind the various cast members and the reasons this little production slipped through the cracks. Also included is a goofy video interview with actor George "Hi Top" Thomas, the original trailer (obviously never seen as well), and the usual slew of Code Red bonus previews. For any '80s horror junkie who thought they'd seen it all, this just proves there are plenty more buried oddities just waiting for rediscovery. Watch it with the much later baseball slasher film The Catcher for premium viewing enjoyoment.


In one of the more confusing twists in drive-in DVD history, the same movie came out twice within a couple of weeks on opposite sides of a double bill, both of them worth seeking out for very different reasons. First up, Navarre resuscitated its Exploitation Cinema line with Teenage Graffiti / Teenage Mother, which offer looks at adolescent misbehavior in the 1970s and 1960s respectively. The first film is easily one of the raunchiest PG-rated films ever made, opening up with a topless shot of the leading lady (Head of the Class' Jeanetta Arnette) getting felt up while skinny dipping (the title card even appearing over her bare breast) with other actresses doffing their tops at regular intervals throughout the running time. Obviously someone at the MPAA was asleep that day. The very slight plot, sort of like King Lear but without any murders, follows young Josh (Michael Driscoll) as he graduates from college and becomes the apple of his adopted parents' eye. However, his brothers are less than amused when he gets a hot new set of wheels and starts moving up the social ladder around town, leading them to think he might get the farm instead of them. The title obviously tries to cash in on American Graffiti, but this is a pure '70s laidback drive-in timewaster that plays like a slightly sexed-up version of The Waltons. Far more outrageous is its co-feature, a ridiculous piece of bait-and-switch marketing that tangles itself into a knot trying to justify its existence. The "teenage mother" of the title is apparently supposed to be Arlene Taylor (Arlene Farber), a thoroughly unsympathetic high school shrew who pretends to be knocked up to get the attention of her dimbulb boyfriend Tony (who's smitten with the new Swedish sex ed teacher) and tough guy Duke (who joins her in one of the funniest, longest dance sequences in film history). Soon the teacher's in trouble, the parents are all alarmed about something or other, and the whole thing comes to a head when the cast all sits down to watch an educational film containing horrifyingly graphic birth-of-a-baby footage complete with unforgettable use of forceps. Oh, and a very young Fred Willard pops up a couple of times as a jock. The whole thing clearly wants to be a message movie of some kind, though honestly by the end you'll have no clue what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish. In any case it's pure hilarity from start to finish, and the DVD contains a shockingly good, clean and colorful anamorphic transfer that blows away any other version on the market. (The first feature is anamorphic also but looks a bit more battered.) Apart from cross-promotional Code Red trailers, the only extra is a wholly unncessary Teenage Mother comedy commentary by Cinema Head Cheese; unfortunately it's mostly inaudible and the few coherent jokes (including one about Ruth Buzzi for some reason) don't really hit the mark. The movie's quite funny enough on its own, and don't miss its theatrical trailer, one of the most hysterical and misleading ever concocted by producer/director Jerry Gross. If that's not enough, you can also see a full frame, less impressive version of the film in a Secret Key double feature of a very different kind, Female Animal / Teenage Mother. This time the common link is Arlene Farber, who also takes the lead in the first film (another Jerry Gross production, this time trying to pass the project off as an exotic sexy import a la Isabel Sarli) as a kitten-loving Puerto Rican hot-pants nympho named Angelique who escapes from her drab fishing village existence by hooking up with a count and his cohorts, all of of whom take advantage of her ample charms. Loaded with outrageously purple dialogue and bizarre non-acting, this trashy little treat was previosly available from ei as a solo release but carries over here with all of its extras including a mini-commentary and video interview with Sam Sherman (whose Independent -International released the film) and the wonderfully sleazy, feline-obsessed theatrical trailer.


Up next is... Oh, God, my eyes! My eyes! It's Shameless, Tasteless: Trash Cinema from the Soviet Underground, a digital crime against humanity unleashed by Troma. Did you know there was a guy in the former Soviet Union named Yakov Levi making his own Troma-style films (some shorter than your average music video), except even more demented? This disc collects his finest (ahem) work which, according to the packaging and the copious supplements, consists of real-life hookers, junkies, criminals, and other assorted low-lifes. After seeing the results, that's not too hard to believe. The first two shorts, "Shameless" and "Tasteless," chronicle the adventures of a toothless, old, fat, wrinkly whore who rummages through garbage heaps and somehow keeps hooking up with horny young teenagers, much to the irritation of her smack-taking son. "Matroshka, Dolls of Doom" follows some young women who lay their hands on some Russian dolls that issue sinister, perverted orders to their subconscious. The four-part "Penisella" features a sexy woman in a variety of bikinis strutting around showing off her big prosthetic... well, the title should give you a pretty good idea. In "Ghost of Marquis De Sade," three women summon the titular spirit which instigates some light bondage games. A woman's obsession with her reflection in an old mirror leads to deranged consequences in "Vanity Insanity," and finally "The Killer Bra" features a flying piece of lingerie attacking various amateur cast members in an apartment building. The films are just the beginning through as the disc also crams in "Jack to the Max" (a short doc about the director), a bunch of additional shorts and odd bits like "Lesbian PSA," "Lesbian Pajama Party" (this guy really, really likes lesbians), a bunch of random Lloyd Kaufman interviews with Levi, "Karma Sutra," "Tales from the Whorehouse of Horror," "Babba Alla Board Game," a slide show, a ton of cast interviews and auditions, trailer for three of the films, several reels of deleted scenes, and the usual Troma bonus trailers like Poultrygeist, Mad Dog Morgan, Combat Shock and The Sexy Box. Everything is presented full frame and looks fine considering it was all shot on video; at the very least, you've never seen anything like it.


"I don't notice any other girls anymore." "You're so big, that really gets me going!" With dialogue like that, you know what that means... yep, another careening journey through the nasty, nasty secret lives of Germanic adolescents with Schoolgirl Report #6: What Parents Would Gladly Hush Up. This time the exploits begin when two frisky teens get caught mid-coitus in their school naked underneath a piano, and their horrified teacher calls together the staff to discuss these "terrible things... It makes you want to pull your kid out of school!" When the two kids are called in, they quickly astonish everyone with stories of what everyone really does during and after school hours: mass groping during educational film screenings; a budding lesbian who swears off "selfish" men and fantasizes about her teacher naked but doesn't take rejection lightly; a shapely blonde has sex w ith some ugly balding guy in the woods to get back at her unfaithful boyfriend and gets him beaten to death for good measure; a shaggy-haired Italian window washer in a Speedo tangles with a sex ed classroom of nubile girls and offers the greatest pick-up line ever, "Look at my big cannon;" a pervy dad figures out how to make some money off of his sexually active young daughter and his frustrated construction worker buddies; and a married fencing instructor gets to practice his swordsmanship with a nubile student in a vareity of unusual locales. As you can probably tell, the title's a bit misleading as the message actually seems to be that educators want to hush things up while parents are all too happy to exploit their kids' hormones, and as with the previous films, it's all fast-paced, sexy fun with more than a few surprises along the way. The man-on-the-street interviews are nowhere to be found here, pretty much eliminating any pretense at a documentary approach. Instead you get exactly what you pay for: lots of pretty young German actresses taking off their clothes, getting into trouble, and pontificating about the right to love at such a young age. Impulse's anamorphic, no-frills DVD is about on par with their prior releases; quality overall is fine while colors are probably much more muted than what was seen on original release. Thankfully it's uncut and contains the original German language track with optional English subs.


After a pair of surprising can't-miss double features, the folks at "Saturn Drive-In" have struck again with two forgotten B&W drive-in oddities that will have trash movie fans giddy with disbelief. Ken Kennedy's The Velvet Trap is basically an excuse to show lots of softcore fumbling and unseemly behavior as mascara-lovin' truck stop waitress Julie ("introducing" Jamie Karson, who sports a voice made for silent film) gets in deep trouble when the advances of everyone from her grabby boss Joe (who likes peeping on her when she's changing clothes) to a lecherous customer land her smack in the middle of a Las Vegas hookers-and-porn ring run by ruthless gangsters who say horrible things like "Let me see your legs. And now the upstairs" Naturally, it all ends in tragedy. Though hardly graphic (Karson offers a few peek-a-boo nudie shots), it's all fascinatingly sordid and strange (complete with sets right out of a high school play) with an anamorphic transfer that's many leagues beyond the company's usual standards, fresh off the untouched negative. The co-feature here is Hot Nights on Campus, which doesn't have much to do with college but instead follows a dim young blonde from the sticks who goes to school at Washington Square College in New York and shacks up with a bunch of skanky-looking fellow female students. As she explores the Big Apple (complete with lots of great '60s street footage), she winds up getting involved in wild parties where the women strip down to their lingerie and creepy-looking guys in suits with rifles on their walls like to rub girls' shoulders. Thanks to the nonstop voiceover, fleapit locations, relentless rinky-dink music and random cutaway shots, you could easily mistake this for a Doris Wishman film-- but in fact it's the handiwork of Tony Orlando (the director, not the singer) and, more tellingly, photographer and editor C. Davis Smith, Wishman's regular cohort in cinematic crime who worked with her on everything from Indecent Desires to A Night to Dismember. (He also directed The Girl from S.I.N. and, under the alias "Charles Lamont," the porno In-Flight Service.) Branded as a "Septic Cinema" double feature, the disc features one of the goofiest menu screens ever devised and offers both films in no-frills but fine presentations. Definitely an oddball obscurity worth having on your DVD shelf.


Speaking of girls in trouble, you can't get in much hotter water than the lasses found in the utterly tasteless '70s artifact, Hitler's Harlot. Yes, it's another Nazi-oriented smut cheapie dredged up from the vaults by the folks at After Hours, and if anything, this one's even cheaper and tackier than the usual fare (and was seen excerpted in the company's first 8mm Madness collection). The whole thing takes place in two rooms representing a Nazi office (but looking more like some empty office space in Burbank) where a domineering male and female pair of officers (both with decidedly '70s haircuts) sexually abuse a handful of prisoners on a table. Um, and that's pretty much it. Thankfully the anachronisms have a distancing effect that makes it strangely watchable, and, well, if this is your thing, go for it. The transfer is presented full frame (no fake cropping here) and looks fine, with the usual digitally-altered main credits to toss the enterprise back into copyright. You also get a slew of "bonus shocking vintage Nazisploitation 8mm loops picked by 42nd Street Pete," though only about a third of them have any sort of WWII connection; the rest are basically '70s roughies comparable to what you'd find in your Alpha Blue compilation. Titles include "In the Name of Odin," "Scullery Maid," "Story of O," "Captured," "The Rape of the Waitress," "Caught in the Act," "Entrapped," and the subtle charm of "The Ass Rapers." Definitely not one for your next history class.


Only slightly more reputable is the same company's latest quadrupe offering billed as the Sleazy Grindhouse Picture Show. All are basically early '70s studies in adult filmmaking loaded with tacky decor and people of questionable health copulating in a variety of combinations for your amusement, kicking off with 1970's The Erotic Artist. This plotless time-waster follows a guy who likes dabbling in painting and lots of women, not necessarily in that order; basically he and his friends all take turns in each other's houses having orgies, culminating in him winding up underneath five women at once. The end. Then we jump forward to '74 with Special Order, whose title refers to the exceptional skills of star Juliet Jay who basically spends a day romping around New York hooking up with Marc Stevens, Eric Edwards, and in the creepiest scene, the back of a truck with Sonny Landham and another kidnapper. Sheila's Pay-Off continues in a similar vein (but from '77) and manages to be even seedier as the title character bounces around a bunch of offices and hotel rooms to pay off her boyfriend's debt after he got knocked off by two hoods. We follow her through a variety of johns (including Paul Thomas) before the kinda-clever violent twist ending. Last but not least is 1979's Lenny's Comeback, the most professional endeavor of the bunch, which follows schlubby Brice (Cannibal Holocaust's Robert Kerman, aka R. Bolla) at his ten-year high school reunion where all the girls are disappointed this former hunk is now a sad-sack insurance salesman with a shrewish, adulterous wife. Meanwhile nerdy Lenny comes back as a rich oil man and gets his pick of the women in the room before, yep, another twist ending. Obviously the last two films have the most to offer, but the whole thing is a suitably grimy, action-packed set that ranks with the other "Grindhouse" releases from After Hours, which can be played in the preferred "Grind It!" method of stringing all the content together seamlessly for a long, unforgettable viewing experience. Messy, grungy, and rough around the edges and down to the center, the features are all presented in anamorphic widescreen, which suits the last two films best but doesn't seem to wreak any havoc with the compositions. Not that artistic integrity is a major factor here.


A woman does disrobe and a few ghoulish characters do pop up in Nude in Dracula’s Castle, but anyone expected a cavalcade of short films combining cheesecake and horror is bound to be confused by this two-disc collection which turns out to be another grab bag of random 8mm nudie cutie shorts lying around in some abandoned theater basement. All of them appear to be shot sometime between the mid-1950s into the 1960s, though any release years or talent credits will obviously never be confirmed. The title short starts everything off on a promising note as a sexy young thing goes to spend the night at a creepy old house where she spends the evening running around scantily clad as various bloodsuckers and creatures of the night keep popping out to scare her. That’s it for the scare quotient though as the subsequent loops just involve smiling women dropping various articles of clothing and shimmying around for the camera, which may be enough for most consumers. For the record, the remaining titles are “Lynda” (which is surprisingly gynecological for its age), “Lusty and Young,” “Marty,” “Brandi,” “Blonde and Spunky,” “Red Hot and Ready,” “Luscious for You,” “Innocent and Willing” (also very explicit for its vintage), “Groovy for You,” “Candy,” “Old Fashion,” “Spunky and Loving It,” “The Smiling Blonde,” “Cute and Curly,” “Margie,” “Sweet and Bored,” “Bed Manners,” “A Little Tipsy,” “More from the Pillow,” “Beached Mermaid,” “More than a Wink,” “The Shave,” “Eros POB 813 Copenhagen,” “Beauty and the Beach,” “Double Your Pleasure,” “Cynthia,” “Beauties Bathing,” “On the Road to You,” “Blonde Swinger,” “Missy,” “Close to You,” “Sweet and Anxious” and “Queen for a Night.” All are presented full frame and look more than a bit dingy and scratchy, exactly as you’d expect. For the built-in audience for vintage loops like this, you get exactly what you’d expect.


Continuing that same theme, albeit much more graphically, is Sleazy Stags, American Style, basically an After Hours Cinema companion piece to Cult Epics' stag film releases in the later American Nudes series. There isn't even an attempt at a common theme here apart from late '60s and early '70s anonymous women (mostly blonde) doing filthy things in front of men armed with Super 8 cameras. The 17 shorts here include titles like "Afternoon Lovin'," "College Playmate," "Skin Diver," "Ultra Tub," "Sex and Stockings," "Tattoo x 2," and "Nymph in Times Square," without a familiar face to be found. All of the films are scratchy, jumpy, and anamorphically enhanced (which probably lops off some info from the top and bottom of the frame), but as far as these compilations go, it's pretty thorough for the price tag. Many of them appear to be shot in California judging by the participants, which also marks this as a bit different than the usual loops used to pad out adult feature film DVDs.


If you want actual plot and actors who won't make you run to the nearest VD clinic, perhaps the four-film Skin in the '70s set will do the trick. These drive-in titles are nominally sexploitation (though definitely so in one case) but offer plenty of entertainment value apart from the occasional flash of bare flesh. The collection begins with one of its strongest cards, 1973's Blue Summer, one of director Chuck Vincent's earlier softcore romps. In this case the film follows two young guys, Tracy and Gene, who take their van out for some road adventures which mainly entail picking up hitchhikers, drinking beer, and dodging a bunch of shysters trying to rip them off. The 78-minute film plays like a fun, easy-breezy trip through the back roads with a bunch of SoCal dropouts mingling with a few familiar faces like Chris Jordan and Eric Edwards (who were married at the time). The liner notes speculate this may have been hardcore at one time, though that seems suspicious given the high number of legit actors involved and the simulated appearance of the (few) sex scenes. However, the second film, Sometime Sweet Susan, definitely was a porn film at one time (you can get the explicit version from Alpha Blue) and is presented here in its general softcore variant. The film actually works fine either way as the cast (the first SAG-carrying unionized production) does an excellent job and the story is quite compelling on its own terms. The still-mysterious Shawn Harris stars as Susan/Saundra, a split personality case in an institution whose shrink (Harry Reems) tries to help her come to terms with the damage of her puritanical upbringing and sexual fantasies. Great music, solid production values, and a nifty script make this one a winner no matter how you see it; and for you trivia nuts, this is the movie advertised on the marquee when Robert De Niro took Cybill Shepherd to a porno theater for a date in Taxi Driver. One of Roger Corman's many New World programmers about young women finding sexy misadventure, Summer School Teachers is director Barbara Peeters' study of what goes on when three women land gigs as summer school teachers and, despite the difficulties of their students, manage to get everything right and even help out the whole football team. '70s favorite Candice Rialson is the most familiar face here, though Dick Miller pops up yet again as the coach. Finally you get the most perplexing offering of the sex, Teenage Divorce, a dreamy, arty oddity also known as Josie's Castle (in what is purportedly a wildly different version). The story involves young Josie (co-writer Holly Mascott) who decides she doesn't want the dreary suburban life of her previous generation and dumps her husband, deciding instead to shack up in a rented castle with some other dropouts from society (including none other than Star Trek's George Takei and a young Tom Holland before he directed Fright Night and Child's Play). There's some sex, too, but apparently the producer tacked that on with body doubles to sell the film (which means that naked Mr. Sulu is a fake). All of the transfers are full frame (apparently open matte since the compositions still look fine) and appear to be taken from older video masters, but given the presentation should do just fine as a sunny little diversion with four above-average films worth discovering.





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