JUNE 15, 2010
The long-awaited surge in made-for-TV movies hitting DVD finally seems to be fully kicking in during the format's twilight years thanks to the folks at Warner Archive, but other companies have unleashed a few interesting offerings as well. Chief among these is Dark Sky's unexpected pair of thriller double features containing a quartet of lesser-known '70s offerings from Dan Curtis, better known as the man behind Dark Shadows and Trilogy of Terror. The format here is very similar to Brian Clemens' Thriller, a marvelous shot-on-video horror/mystery series launched in 1973 with episodes running just over an hour and often repackaged as feature films; the approach is identical here, and while none of these hit the dazzling heights of the Clemens show, it's close enough to be worth a peek for TV movie fanatics. First up is Come Die with Me / The Invasion of Carol Enders, with the former starring George Maharis as a no-good playboy named Walter who beats his brother to death with a poker during a spat. The family housekeeper (Eilieen Brennan) witnesses the whole thing and covers for him during the police investigation, but he realizes that she's also hidden the incriminating murder weapon -- and is now blackmailing him into becoming her live-in lover. Walter's dippy part-time girlfriend isn't so wild about being dumped, however, and the whole murderous thread gradually begins to unravel. The excellent lead performances elevate the routine material, which is shot in a flat, stagy style. Incidenally, this was originally created as an entry in the ABC anthology series Wide World Mystery, which also carried some repurposed Thriller episodes and other oddities like Werewolf of Woodstock and Dan Curtis' Frankenstein. Its co-feature is by far the most notable of the four films, with Meredith Baxter starring as Carol Enders, who's nearly killed by a mugger and awakens into hospital possessed by the spirit of Diana, a woman who died in a car accident at the exact moment of Carol's resuscitation. Diana's boyfriend (Christopher Connelly) tries to help her and becomes involved in a murder plot when Carol/Diana figures out her car was sabotaged. The list of suspects is daunting, with the real killer waiting in the wings to silence this voice from beyond the grave before she puts all the pieces together. Again the execution here is strictly soap opera level, but the good performances (especially Baxter), crafty screenplay, and frequent surprises make this a nifty precursor to similar films like The Eye.
The second pairing of Curtis telefilms (both also created for Wide World Mystery), Shadow of Fear / Nightmare at 43 Hillcrest, is more typical of '70s crime fare with the first film featuring Anjanette Comer (The Baby) as Danna, a woman being terrorized by someone who breaks into her house and leaves nasty messages on the walls. Private eye Claude Akins delves into the mystery and uncovers a slew of suspects (including a young Tom Selleck) before the tale swerves off in a completely different direction. A bit talky but featuring some nice little flourishes here and there, it's a decent timewaster with a solid twist ending. The last film and the dullest of the bunch stars Jim Hutton (just before his stint as Ellery Queen) as a businessman whose home is invaded in the middle of the night by police looking for heroin. Realizing they have the wrong address, the police commissioner plants evidence to cover up the mistake and promptly ruins the lives of Hutton and his family, who must resort to an undercover cop (Dark Shadows regular John Karlen) to clear their name. Purportedly based on a true story, this is a more typical melodrama from the period and barely qualifies as a mystery; that said, Hutton is always great and the film flies through its 66 minutes quickly enough. Picture quality on all four releases is considerably better than their scarce VHS counterparts from the '80s; the shot-on-video aesthetic can really only go so far, but these are more than acceptable and quite a steal given the low sticker price.
Proving you don't have to be a feature film to pack in the thrills, the 50-minute Naked Trip from director Alex Bakshaev compiles a raft of film references both highbrow and deeply trashy into a stylislh B&W stew. Unable to sleep through an entire night, young British aspiring filmmaker George Eastman (Jason Impey, who does not eat babies or himself in this production) has a big problem with his new film; namely, he borrowed mob money for financing and unwisely gave the lead to a cokehead porn star. Deciding he'd rather bolt for his life than try to finish the film and possibly wind up at the bottom of the ocean, he goes on the run with a bickering female actress friend -- but two hit men close on his trail have other plans. The obvious nods (two of 'em credited in the film's dedication) including Joe D'Amato, Jean-Luc Godad, Jess Franco, Tobe Hooper, Jean Rollin, and even Michael Findlay make for some fun cinematic trainspotting, but the filmmakers wisely allow the film to stand on its own as well. Loads of sex and violence (not to mention jazzy music) keep the project grooving along well despite some very dubious acting, and Bakshaev's visual sense results in many nice visual set ups. Given the nonexistent budget and modest origins you can't expect a masterpiece here, but it's a nifty calling card from people we'll most likely be seeing around again. The self-distributed DVD contains a non-anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer that zooms in well enough on widescreen displays; extras include a six-minute behind the scenes featurette (which is actually a lot of fun) and a trailer.
If nothing says entertainment more than nature footage and gore, then Bigfoot is the movie for you. This 2006 horror indie pick-up from Troma kicks off with a mock-Springsteen anthem blasting over the credits as our hero, military vet Jack Marshall (Todd Cox), heads back to his Ohio hometown with his daughter in tow. A pretty forest ranger (Liza Foster) and a friendly, beer-loving cop (played by director Bob Gray) become his investigative partners when townspeople start missing (including a small boy right in the middle of a Little League game), following a recent rash of brutal deer killings. Of course, the culprit is really Bigfoot, who's not happy about developers encroaching on his natural habitat. The blood and fur fly plentifully in this overachieving monster quickie, which was obviously shot on a very low budget but manages to coast by with a healthy sense of humor, better performances than expected, and some decent gore effects that compensate for a respectable but usually overlit Bigfoot outfit. It's no classic, but this is a whole lot more fun than all those '70s Bigfoot and Sasquatach movies (except for Shriek of the Mutilated, but that's another story). The full frame transfer looks fine considering this was shot on video; extras include a making-of featurette, a photo gallery mostly devoted to the monster FX, a trailer, and a fun commentary by Gray who talks about the entire production process and praises his animal co-stars.
Speaking of Troma, one of their unlikely recent pickups is Pep Squad, the 1998 directorial debut effort of Steve Balderson. Definitely a filmmaker to watch, Balderson is perhaps best known for the outrageous horror comedy Watch Out, one of the most audacious, polarizing indie films in the last two years (and which really should have built up a cult following by now). His sensibility is often compared to a sort of Midwestern version of John Waters, though his films (which also include Firecracker and the recent Stuck!) are way more aesthetically ambitious and frequently smash genre conventions together unexpectedly. This title was first given a very marginal DVD release from York that went out of circulation fairly quickly, making Troma's efforts to put it back in circulation all the more laudable. The story basically sounds like a riff on Drop Dead Gorgeous by way of Bring It On and Heathers, but the dark, stylish execution makes it something else entirely. The plot revolves around the high school power play between two rival queen bees, Cherry (Brooke Balderson) and Tara (Amy Kelly), who both want to be prom queen and try to seize their chance when the school principal winds up dead at the hands of three other students, Beth (Jennifer Dreiling) and her friends, Scott (Adrian Pujol) and Julie (Summer Makovkin). The bodies soon begin piling up as prom night approaches, leading to a showdown on a night no one will ever forget. Despite its low budget, Pep Squad features some beautiful camerawork and right-on performances that carry it over a few minor story speed bumps; it's definitely worth of rediscovery alongside the director's subsequent work. The audio commentary by both Baldersons (and exec producer/Steve's dad Clark Balderson and cinematographer Rhet W. Bear) is carried over from the previous release; it's pretty erratic and not even remotely as polished and entertaining as the director's subsequent chat tracks, but the nuggets of info on mounting a low budget production outside of Hollywood or New York are definitely useful and add much appreciation for what was achieved here. The far more valuable extra (which wasn't included on the York disc) is Wamego: Making Movies Anywhere, the first in Balderson's epic concept of mounting feature-length documentaries during the shooting of his films as primers on how to make an idie movie. (His subsequent entries revolved around the making of Phone Sex and Watch Out.) This one also goes heavily into the making of Firecracker and would be worth the disc purchase all by itself, since it was only available previously as a self-distributed disc.
Though it looks like a cut-rate imitation of Mandingo, the regional oddity Quadroon actually beat that studio-made slice of slavery chic into theaters by three years (even if Kyle Onstott's source novel was published in 1957 and most likely had a place on these filmmakers' bookshelves). In pre-Civil War New Orleans, white-bread Caleb is hired to teach a group of social in-betweeners called Quadroons, the female offspring of black female slaves and their white owners. Though he's basically been recruited to turn them into courtesans, Caleb falls for one of his pupils, Coral, who hates him at first sight but suddenly falls for him when he's wounded in a duel. Realizing his fiesty true love is about to be given away at a big cotillion, Caleb is forced into action that will determine their destinies forever. Extremely talky and featuring performances better suited to a local dinner theater, Quadroon doesn't muster up as much exploitation value as you might expect; the sleaze value really only consists of some demure (and pretty unflattering) topless nudity and a couple of mildly bloody fisticuffs and shootouts. The real surprise here is the fact that Caleb is played by a very young Tim Kincaid, who later went on to drive-in infamy directing fare like Bad Girls' Dormitory, Riot on 42nd Street and, under the name of Joe Gage, a lot of gay porn like Kansas City Trucking Co. The only other name that really carries any weight here is co-director Jack Weis, who continued to expose Louisiana's scuzzy underbelly in the VHS favorite Mardi Gras Massacre and the delirious Something Weird favorite, Crypt of Dark Secrets. Saturn's release is another Septic Cinema title, complete with peculiar toilet-themed menu design, and features a pretty battered but watchable anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer (with severely windowboxed opening credits). Far from a pristine presentation, it's still passable if you're willing to go along with the whole scratchy grindhouse aesthetic. The only extra is a pair of radio spots taken from vinyl.
If you want a little more bang for your buck, another Septic Cinema release pairs up two completely different films into a brain-jolting stew of insanity: Wacky Taxi and Superargo. The first film looks like the psychotic, depressing result of what might happen if a San Diego businessman decided to showcase his city by funding a local film without a finished script and two hundred bucks in his bank account. The unlucky leading man here is John Astin, a terrific actor lost adrift with his hyper performance as Pepper, a Mexican-American who, as the opening voiceover informs us, is dissatisfied with his job at a cannery and decides to joyfully walk out (or technically skip and leap out) on his job one afternoon. He goes home, dutifully informs his wife and numerous kids, and buys a battered old Cadillac which he turns into an instant moneymaker by painting the word "taxi" on the side. The rest of the film consists of his nutty hijinks as he shuttles around a lot of people including naval officers and dimwits who don't know directions, gets drunk, loses his car, winds up in the slammer, throttles Frank Sinatra Jr., and generally hangs around the city's most despairing slums, all accompanied to music by the world's worst Herb Alpert imitator. In theory this sounds like an attempt to cash in on the Disney live-action market that was so omnipresent when this was made in 1972, but the end result is something else entirely; it feels scuzzy and bleak, with its family audience likely to be left confused by an implied trip south of border to procure an abortion and what sounds like someone dropping the "f" bomb during one tirade. Yeah, the MPAA was a lot more lenient in the '70s, but slapping this with a G rating still seems questionable. While genuinely entertaining but wildly misguided films like Troll 2 and The Apple routinely cause people to throw around that "worst film ever" label, they're masterpieces of cinematic technique compared to sludgy, soul-draining flotsam like this. Consider that a recommendation if you want to see just how truly low a "family film" can really go. The transfer here is taken from an Avco Embassy print and looks... well, exactly like a colorful but dingy print you might see at a '70s matinee. It's better than the scarce VHS bootlegs floating around anyway. The theatrical trailer is also included.
The second feature is actually a simplified, cover-only retitling of 1968's Superargo and the Faceless Robots, a.k.a. L'invincible Superargo, the sequel to Superargo versus Diabolicus. Don't worry, it isn't necessary to see the first movie (which is tough anyway considering its only DVD release via Italy's Pulp Video is now discontinued). Basically an Italian riff on the popular Mexican Santo films, this concerns the heroic adventures of Superargo, a masked wrestling and crime fighter played by Giovanni Cianfriglia (billed here as "Ken Wood"). It seems a bunch of criminal robots (essentially stocky guys in metallic outfits with stockings over their faces) are running around town robbing banks, and while Superargo is trying to find inner peace via his guru sidekick, he's forced back into action when fellow wrestlers start getting kidnapped. Psychedelic visuals, fight scenes, an unexpected appearance by western star Guy Madison, and a funky score by the underrated Berto Pisano (credited as "Humbert Pinkely!") keep things percolating nicely until the typically feverish climax. In short, this is standard Italian action fare that comes more like a refreshing tonic after the preceding film. The print used here is English dubbed (no surprise) and presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen. Though the first Superargo film was shot in scope, the aspect ratio for this one is a little more puzzling; the opening credits are windowboxed at 1.85:1 and look just fine, while the compositions otherwise range from perfectly workable to cramped. This was still billed as being in Cromoscope, so maybe English language prints were created flat with retooled credits; only someone who saw this puppy first run can say for sure though. The visual quality is pretty scratchy and obviously taken from an element that's started to turn red, but it's still the best viewing option for this film we have at the moment. The only extra here is a jokey commentary by Cinema Head Cheese, who previously appeared on Teenage Mother. The track here is just as poorly recorded (no one sounds remotely close to a microphone) and wears out its welcome after a few minutes, but if you've managed to survive Wacky Taxi, you'll probably be too drunk to care.
For mainstream titillation value, few can beat 1970s Germany where a cottage industry seemed to pump out dozens of saucy sex comedies every year. The Burbank Theater line has been funnelling some of these onto American DVD with mostly dire results, but one of their better offerings is Lonely Wives / Sorry Wrong Bedroom, available under BCI's "Exploitation Cinema" brand (which used to be home to lots of Crown International and kung fu double features). The first film is actually Zum zweiten Frühstück: Heiße Liebe, which circulated widely on the bootleg VHS circuit in its German language version as For the First Breakfast: Hot Love, usually passed off erroneously as a Jess Franco film. Actually it's the handiwork of Hubert Frank, one of the livelier exploitation directors of the period who also helmed such solid diversions as Wedding Night Report, Vanessa, Melody in Love, and the cable TV favorite, Island of 1000 Delights. This is actually one of his best, and it's great to finally see the English language version which actually clocks in about two minutes longer than the original European version thanks to a wild, brilliantly edited rapid-fire opening credits sequence that plays like one of the best trailers you've ever seen. This one piles on a staggering amount of nudity right from the beginning as a sexually frustrated writer (German TV actor Frank Glaubrecht) wakes up one morning and begins spying on his sexy blonde neighbor, while everyone around her seems to be getting busy between the sheets before heading off to work. He gets up the nerve to go talk to her, and as they hook up and swap stories, the film spins off in a number of directions with various characters involved in naked tennis, naked group showers, and weirdest of all, a naked woman fantasizing about being strung up and ravished while talking about her butcher boyfriend, whose occupation is repeatedly intercut for one of the nuttiest sex scenes ever filmed. Skin fans will also note the presence of several major Euro-sex favorites of the time including Ingrid Steeer and Jess Franco regular Ewa Stromberg. The English title doesn't really make much sense as the marital status of most of the women isn't much of an issue, but no one's likely to be complaining. This version contains all the copious frontal exposure intact and looks very good here, presented in anamorphic widescreen at 1.78:1. The quality is actually much better than the Universam German DVD, which is full frame (with some additional slivers visible at the top and bottom) but far with far less impressive detail and color saturation, not to mention a lack of any English language options. The real theatrical trailer is also included, but it isn't half as outrageous as that opening sequence. The co-feature, whose actual German title is Der Ostfriesen-Report, might have been a decent film at one point, but it's hard to tell here based on the wretched transfer from what appears to be an ancient VHS tape. The cropping is ruinous, any picture clarity is nonexistent, and the English dubbing is so muddy you'll get a headache after five minutes. Despite some occasional skin, the focus here is really more on slapstick comedy poking fun at the provincial stupidity of the residents of Ostfriesen, Germany. Well, at least it's a rare one. Snatch this for the killer first feature, then stick around for the second movie only if you're drunk or suffering from insomnia.
Far less sexy but equally dubbed is Code Red's double bill of Challenge the Dragon / The Needle Avenger (billed on the menu and print as The Dragon vs Needles of Death), two obscure '70s kung fu films originally released by 21st Century. The actual order of the films is reversed on the disc, with Needle Avenger (original title: Long hu feng) following a young martial arts student who joins a remote school where he must learn the rigorous meaning of discipline. "He's an obstinate little guy, isn't he?" remarks one of the older students, but his real mettle is tested both when he falls in love with a pretty local girl and has to face off against a band of thugs and one of his former colleagues when he runs off to a neighboring town and gets to practice his expert needle throwing skills. Director Chung Kuo-heng has a decent grasp of action scenes, but these come few and far between with some long exposition passages in between for popcorn and bathroom breaks. A really lousy pan and scan version of this was previously released as a co-feature to Mantis vs. Falcon Claws by Ground Zero, but the anamorphic scope transfer here is much, much better with only a few minimal bits of print damage. The English dub is the only option, but hey, what did you expect? For some reason the voice artists swerve back and forth between British and American accents, including that omnipresent woman who dubbed Stefania Casini in Suspiria. The score features a lot of familiar '70s music library cues, which adds to the entertainment value. Challenge the Dragon (originally titled Long hu tan) is one of the few films by Wei Hai-feng (Ten Tigers of Shaolin) and is one of many standard martial arts films passed off as fake Bruce Lee "Dragon" vehicles. The whol thing kicks off in the woods as a middle-aged peasant man is accosted by some bad guys in the woods, and some traveling martial arts experts fight back to save him. As it turns out, the nearest village is being terrorized by its most powerful Japanese businessman, Tanaka, and the corrupt mayor, Chang; when the residents refuse to work in protest, he has some of them beaten within an inch of their lives. Naturally this kind of villainy can't stand for long. The fight scenes here are incredibly long, including a fun bit involving a grappling hook and a brutal man-to-man showdown in a lake that could have easily resulted in one of the actors drowning. Very low budget and completely typical of the genre at the time, this isn't even close to Shaw Brothers territory but kills time if you're in the mood for a reasonably entertaining programmer. This appears to be the first DVD release for the film, and again it's presented in scope from an English-dubbed print. The quality is definitely more washed out here, but it's still watchable and way better than your average PD print. Full frame US trailers for both films are also included; for some reason the bizarre menu screen touts this as "Master Lee's Drunkard Cinema," a brand found nowhere on the packaging.
A mixed bag showing the confused nature of current softcore films, Horat: The Sexual Learnings of America for Make Benefit Beautiful Nation of Kaksuckistan is an instantly dated spoof of the surprise comedy hit that imitates its model very closely on a budget of about five dollars. Featuring a cast comprised entirely of porn actors, this was prepared in two wildly different versions, a soft-X 80 minute edition for the Skinemax crowd and, incredibly, a 138 minute hardcore version. Thankfully the one under review here is the shorter "mainstream" cut, since slogging through this one for longer than 90 minutes would probably send most viewers into seizures. The story's pretty much the same as the more familiar Sacha Baron Cohen version, with clueless Horat (played by Tommy Pistol, the goofy and incredibly fearless star of several Burning Angel productions including Re-Penetrator) traveling from his Eastern European homeland to New York where he learns all about horny Americans along with his idiot hot blonde compatriot (Katarina Kat). Featuring lines like "Did you clean your pussy with gypsy tears?" and the obligatory sex scene with Horat getting it on with a gigantic hooker and an RV filled with sorority girls, this isn't exactly high art; however, it does score a few unexpected surprises like a guy in a giant teddy bear outfit bursting out of a closet during one sex scene for no good reason. The Pink Lotus DVD is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen (odd for something shot in HD) and is a whole different animal from the hardcore edition, with obviously simulated sex scenes (except for the first one) in which most of the male participants even keep their undies on. Extras include a photo gallery and a trailer for another dated spoof, The HO.C., which was also prepared in two versions. Apparently the crossover XXX-to-Blockbuster success of Pirates is going to be with us for quite a long time.
Of course, fake docs can never compete with the weirdness of real ones; anyone who survived the '70s is bound to look confused or smile a bit when they hear the name of Sunn Classic Pictures, the indie distribution company who made a mint by filling theaters with true-life occult docs like The Bermuda Triangle and In Search of Historic Jesus (and also flooded TVs with Grizzly Adams). That spirit lives on with the folks at Reality Entertainment, a company that's left no stone unturned in its DVDs dedicated to subjects like UFOs, religious conspiracies, and secret sects bent on world domination, a popular subject in recent years thanks to the controversial novels of Dan Brown. For example, The Viking Serpent is a modern day "in search of" doc that explores Norway (featuring some pretty incredible on-location footage) to uncover the hidden ties between Christianity's accepted symbols of "evil" (666, pentagrams, serpents) which are, according to the testimony here by authors Philip Gardiner and Harald S. Boehlke, actually parts of hidden Celtic rituals connected to Vikings and later appropriated by the Catholic Church, with two circular circles built on the same latitude at the heart of the secret. It's all tantalizing fun even if a few of the arguments don't hold much more water than the old Dracula=Vlad Tepes theories, and the idea of a serpent cult pulling strings around the world and instilling secret traditions still at play today is beguiling enough it's amazing Tom Hanks hasn't appeared in a movie about it yet.
The one-hour program is filled out with plentiful promos for other Reality titles, which brings us to another example (and one that actually did turn up in a Hanks movie, sort of), The Rosslyn Frequency. The focus here is on Scotland's infamous Rosslyn Chapel which, according to author Brian Allan (essentially a talking head for the one-hour running time), has ties to the Knights Templar (best known the horror fans as inspiration for the Blind Dead series and also appropriated, awkwardly, into popular fiction like The Da Vinci Code). Is the chapel also the holder of secrets involving lost languages, the site of hidden power, or the haunted doorway to another world? I have no idea, but lots of questions get thrown around (with some good old-fashioned Catholic conspiracies for good measure) to keep your imagination whirling for a while. The simplistic CG animation used to illustrate the major points leaves something to be desired and looks like it wandered in from one of those Mind's Eye videos, but it just adds to the appeal if you're in the right frame of mind.
Speaking of bizarre docs, take Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating, another curveball from the always unpredictable Blue Underground. The title tells you exactly what to expect here as a video camera captures the life and very strange times of the title subject, a New York resident whose proclivity for strange occupations found its ultimate expression as a competitive eater. His 4th of July hot dog binges at Coney Island made him a natural at out-eating his competitors, while his friends, family, and fellow contestants try to explain exactly what's so appealing about shoving your mouth and stomach with pounds and pounds of food. Sort of like a mondo film focused completely on one subject, this is ultimately not exploitative at all and ultimately comes off as rather charming, even if the appeal may be lost on viewers as they watch trays of oysters being sucked up all at once. The shot-on-DV quality is just fine (don't count on this one getting the Blu-Ray treatment anytime soon), and the DVD heaps on loads of extra fixings including an audio commentary with Jason Conti and director/producers Chris Keannelly and Danielle Franco (which packs in a lot of info over the very brief 71-minute running time), six deleted scenes, and lots of other random quick peeks at Conti's other exploits including "I Love Pizza," "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Nude Washing Stunt" (actually in a diaper), "A Tour of Coleman's Bar and Grill," a bonus Q&A, and a stills gallery. Give this to someone as a joint gift with a DVD of Food, Inc.
This just wouldn't be a Sick Picks without some After Hours vintage smut releases. For example, veteran adult film director Carter Stevens takes center stage with their Collegiates Collection, a two-disc batch of mid-'70s titles (the first two of which were available in dismal VHS-sourced editions as part of Alpha Blue's Stevens set along with the hard version of Punk Rock). First up is The Collegiates, a fairly popular 1973 title that put Stevens on the map thanks to its nonstop barrage of sex scenes and a game cast including Kim Pope, Harry Reems (sans mustache), Ginger Jones, Eric Edwards, and "Tanya T. Tickler." The big selling point here is the colorful and razor-sharp brand new transfer, which looks mint fresh and is really stunning compared to the horrible versions out before. It's all upbeat and entertaining as far as it goes, though the story of a sorority girl named Georgia whose sisters conspire to get her to lose her virginity was pretty routine stuff even when this was new. Ditto for The Hot Oven, also featuring Edwards as a randy guy who gets a job at a pizza parlor and makes a bet that he can get one female customer in the sack every day for two weeks. Of course, he's also got a little trick up his sleeve involving the pizza ingredients that spirals a bit out of control... Other familiar '70s faces like Ginger Snaps, Sherry Cass, and Jamie Gillis are on hand along with an infectious wacka-wacka soundtrack. Again it's nothing too memorable, but as far as dumb sex comedies go, you could do a lot worse. It also inspired one of the best porn trailers around which has appeared on dozens on compilations (and is carried over here, thankfully). Unfortunately the transfer here of the feature itself is pure dreck and looks no better than the Alpha Blue version.
The real treasure here awaits on disc two with a pair of much more interesting title making their DVD debuts. Mount of Venus, a wacko sendup of Roman mythology, is a real treat from start to finish with Jamie Gillis in amazing form as Jupiter, commanding a silly and sexed-up roster of gods wreaking havoc with the lives of mortals. Puns, sight gags, and frisky encounters abound with a very enthusiastic cast including a scene-stealing Georgina Spelvin (as Juno), Kim Pope (as Venus), and Eric Edwards again (as a very silly Mercury), along with solid turns by Chris Jordan, Rita Davis, and Kevin Andre. The Mt. Olympus set looks like it was held over from Roberta Findlay's Angel Number Nine, and Stevens definitely makes the most of it. The anamorphic transfer taken from a 35mm print is very damaged and littered in debris, but it's worth the sacrifice to watch the film itself. By far the darkest film in the set, In Sarah's Eyes, stars Lorraine Alraune (touted on the poster as "The porno star working her way through college" and future star of Dear Pam and S.W.A.P.) as the title character, who goes to see her shrink (Marc Stevens) about the "disgusting" fantasies that are increasingly disrupting her life. Her daydreams are acted out as she imagines doing Stevens in his office, molesting her female rooommate, and having an orgy at a wedding party. Unfortunately, her mental meandering proves to have a steep price. Dreamy, strange, and effective, this dramatic departure for Stevens benefits from its strong central performance and lots of imaginative visual touches. Print quality is similar to Venus; anamorphic, definitely damaged, but probably as good as any surviving material right now. Extras besides the trailers include excellent liner notes by Michael J. Bowen (who covers the films' distribution histories very well and explains the reasoning behind the hilarious faux credits for The Hot Oven) and a video interview with Stevens as well as two commentary tracks in which this gregarious, larger-than-life personality (wearing a very colorful T-shirt) rattles off plenty of facts about each film and his own fast-paced career at the time.
Okay, so back to sex comedies again. Apparently the DVD market just couldn't get enough of that perpetual favorite, 2069: A Sex Odyssey, which is now on its third go-round as part of Seduction Cinema's Sleazy Sci-Fi of the 1970s Collection, a three-movie release that's really only of interest for one title. The presentation of 2069 is exactly the same as before; click here if you want to read more about it. The second feature is Invasion of the Bee Girls, a title previously released by MGM in a gorgeous anamorphic transfer as part of a Midnite Movies double bill with Invasion of the Star Creatures. For some reason it's carried over here as well in a brutal-looking full frame transfer from a print that looks like it's been run through a garbage disposal; if you want some idea of how this film probably looked during its many, many reissues in the late '70s and early '80s, this should give you a pretty good idea. Otherwise, skip it. The movie itself is a quite nutty and a lot of fun in that spacey, "socially conscious" way early '70s genre flicks became after the likes of The Stepford Wives, and ever weirder, it was the screenwriting debut of the great Nicholas Meyer, who later went to much bigger and better things with Time After Time, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. You'd be hard pressed to see his influence in this story of a small California town terrorized by the mysterious deaths of men who appear to be screwed to death and a strange conspiracy involving a scientist researching bees, but a few nifty lines of dialogue and odd plot twists keep this above your average drive-in fare.
Anyway, this brings us to the third film, a completely obscure curio called Dr. Dildo's Secret. That's a new title card slapped on the print, and I have no idea what this was originally; the only clue is that it's released by Creative Film Productinos, a short-lived company best known for the outrageous drive-in sickie, Wrong Way. The print looks like crap throughout the 64-minute running time, but sheesh, what a weird one! Two guys, a Brit and an American, are driving through California in an area where people have been disappearing with alarming frequency. Meanwhile the title doctor has a lab where he studies pictures of naked women and his sexy nurse sits around doodling over the penises in Leonardo Da Vinci drawings and then diddling herself to her handiwork. The doctor also listens to self-help tape recordings about how a nurse dropped him on his head as a baby, which might account for the fact that he's allergic to women! To cure himself, the doc keeps a rack of naked women stashed in his basement, which both of the aforementioned heroes discover when they separately wind up in his lair. Lots of sex scenes ensue, intercut with wild, psychedelic scenes of the doc conducting his experiments in which he grows the aforementioned naked woman from fetuses and then soaps down their bodies on a table. The whole thing ends (Spoiler Alert, if that matters) with an orgy that blows up the house and sends the cast up to heaven as Christmas ornaments. Yes, really. Oh, and the film also throws in occasional cutaways to human skulls and stuffed elephants who offer weird voiceover commentary about the sexy antics. A crackpot collision of How to Make a Doll and The Curious Dr. Humpp, this freaky discovery is easily worth the price of the set by itself.
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