JUNE 25 , 2008

If you ever had an urge to "join in the sexcapades with dozens of NAUGHTY BAVARIAN FRAULEINS" (as the poster subtly puts it), look no further than Playgirls of Munich. This goofball comedy was shot back-to-back in Europe with 1977's Dutch Treat (featuring almost the same cast) and follows the sexploits of Chuck and Barney, a pair of randy, dimwitted repairmen sent to fix a plane's faulty phone system. Instead they sit around reading a paperback called Sexy Europe and wind up stowing away on the aircraft, which dumps them via parachute into the middle of Munich. Immediately they're deluged with drunk Germans in beer halls, domineering midgets, mobsters, and tons of shapely Alpine vixens including a climactic swimming pool orgy. As with most of its ilk, this is much more sumptuous, clever, and plot-heavy than your average skin flick, and the interplay of the two recognizable American lead actors (hardcore director/actor and Broadway performer Zebedy Colt and the very busy Roger Caine, who "went straight" briefly in George Romero's Martin) is often very funny, particularly when mixed with other bit performers' rude German dialogue complete with English subtitles. The rest of the cast is mostly no-name European players, but everyone seems game whether doing comedy or the bump-and-grind. There's even a twist ending, too, had short-lived Euro director Navred Reef chosen to make a third installment. After Hours' DVD contains a colorful, solid-looking widescreen transfer (and this does look close to the intended aspect ratio this time around) with only a few minor print blemishes to be found. The DVD comes with a mostly disposable bonus disc containing a "raunchy West German loop collection" consisting of some really seedy anonymous quickies of explicit detail and little cinematic value, though curiously Rick Cassidy turns up in one which makes you wonder how Germanic all these women really are. Stick to the first disc for the best bang for your buck. Also included is a nifty four-page insert containing liner notes by James Hollenbaugh, who talks at length about Colt's very odd career as well as a few trivia tidbits about the main feature.

One of the most famous entries from one of the briefest fads in movie histroy, the 3-D feature-length porno, is The Starlets, another entry in After Hours' "Grindhouse Directors Series," this time dedicated to the much more obscure David Summers. Actually 90% of the film makes no use of the 3-D format (here dubbed as Quadravision 4-D, whatever that means), only to throw in some hilarious third-act visuals like flaming sparklers (during an orgasm), clutching disembodied hands, ooga-booga devil masks, and psychedelic skulls. Sound weird? Yep, it is, but that's not surprising given that this was produced by exploitation vet John Lamb (under the name "M.C. von Hellen"), whose Mondo Keyhole was an obvious influence here. The film itself has virtually no plot, instead revolving around the fleshy shenanigans at the Starlets Club, an exclusive Hollywood organization where everyone apparently gets together at a mansion and samples a bunch of upscale hookers. The cast includes a lot of familiar faces including Desiree West, Candida Royalle, John Leslie (briefly), Joey Silvera, and Ken Scudder, and Summers does a surprisingly deft job at juggling numerous simultaneous scenes together for the entire running time, creating the impression of forward momentum for the film itself rather than stopping dead for one isolated scene after another. Summers turns up for the DVD's liner notes booklet and contributes quotes about the film and the challenges of shooting in 3-D as well as its lesser shot-on-video sequel, Chastity and the Starlets, whose star, Bill Margold, also pops up for a quick interview about his career and the intimate challenges of shooting sex scenes in a chlorinated swimming pool. Both films are presented full frame from what appear to be the original elements (great for the first title, but that ain't saying much in the case of the second film which looks like it was shot on VHS) and include trailers for both films as well as the usual After Hours cross-promotional stuff.

If these two releases sound too respectable, then no doubt the cure for that would be our next After Hours collection; Filth on 42nd Street Grindhouse Triple Feature, a curious collection of super-cheap storefront smut films designed to be shown quickly and cheaply in makeshift screening rooms. The wrinkle this time out is that two of the films, The Apartment and The Girl Next Door, date from the early '70s, while the most touted feature on the packaging, The Sex Deviates, is a brand-new "storefront" homage shot on video and then processed to look like a crummy, scratchy, cheaply-shot film. This new entry kicks off in an alley next to a dumpster where "medical researcher" Elliot Forbes (played by co-director Adam Trash) treats you to a batch of hour-long tales in which a bunch of New York girls get naked, mess around with each other, and in one instance team up on a guy peeping on them. It's all quite skeevy and trashy, which was exactly the intention. The other two features (segregated onto a separate second DVD) are exactly the kind of no-story nonsense you'd expect, though The Apartment adds some novelty with the presence of a pantless lesbian strumming her guitar while being serviced by her girlfriend. Not something you see every day. The Girl Next Door also distinguishes itself, if that's the term, by featuring some of the, ahem, limpest sex scenes ever put on film. You really gotta feel sorry for the actresses in this one. Along with the aforementioned After Hours epehmera, the set also includes liner notes by webmaster Dimitrios Otis who can't shed much historical light on the vintage shorts but offers some hilarious (and surprisingly convincing) philosophical justification for the existence of storefront features in general.

Last but easily not least in our tour of vintage smut comes the inaugural entry in the same label's "Signature Performer Series," a two-disc John Holmes Collection. Frankly, apart from the one obvious, tough-to-miss selling point, the neverending fascination with John Holmes is difficult to fathom. He has no charisma, can't act, comes off as an utter creep, and looks like he's about to fall asleep in most of his sex scenes. Still, the guy's a legend, and he certainly gets his due here. Luckily the main feature film here, 1976's Dear Pam, isn't really a Holmes vehicle at all; rather, it revolves around a number of New Yorkers whose lives revolve around Pam Slanders (Crystal Sync), a "Dear Abby" type whose reputation takes a nosedive when her right-wing moral crusader pals catch her getting a little too close to her sex toys during work hours. Everyone decides to investigate one of her latest advice letters, a simply query whose participants turn out to be a bunch of sexual lunatics. Luckily the cast also includes much more likable pros like C.J. Laing, Jennifer Jordan, and Eric Edwards, and the smart, funny script makes this a highly recommended treat. Incidentally, director "Harold Hindgrind" is actually multi-tasking exploitation Roberta Findlay, who turned out to be one of the better '70s adult directors with top-tier fare like Angel on Fire and A Woman's Torment. The second bonus disc heaps on ten short loops featuring Holmes, which is probably more than most viewers can take. For the record, they all feature the overendowed one diddling a bunch of anonymous East Coast girls in such morsels as "Hosed Down," "John to Go," "Dancin' Fool," and "Rough Stuff and Two Blondes." There's not much here you'd want to see more than once (or even without the aid of a fast-forward button), but it's got some nominal historical interest for die-hards. As with first two titles covered here, grab this for the main feature and only wade in the extras if you're feeling really brave. Everything is presented as anamorphic 1.78:1 widescreen, which looks fine for Dear Pam but varies wildly for everything else.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Sick Picks without another mention of Jersey-based Factory 2000, the William Hellfire outfit responsible for such shot-on-VHS curios as Vampire Strangler. Their most famous participant, Misty Mundae, gets the spotlight treatment again for one of their weirdest double features, Cannibal Doctor / Dinner for Two, essentially the same exact thing shot twice (in 1999 and again in 2000). Both of them feature Hellfire as Dr. Ben Orange, a physician whose wife (Tina Krause) shares his belief that chomping down on young girls leads to eternal youth. Enter Misty as a naive patient who's examined, rubbed down, and eventually basted in preparation for a (never shown) cannibal feast. Technically the second feature is a "sequel" with MIsty playing her character's sister, but otherwise you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart. Of course, if you weren't even aware that video buyers with a cannibal fetish even existed, count yourself among the majority; it's tough to see the titillation value in watching Misty getting slathered with basting brushes and trussed up like a turkey, but hey, different strokes for different folks. In any case, this would make a killer double (or triple) feature with Jess Franco's Tender Flesh. Ed Grant contributes a hefty liner notes booklet entitled "The Art of Fine Dining" which offers another valuable entry in the history of Factory 2000, complete with full descriptions of how the films were funded for about $800 apiece by anonymous fetish customers who supplied checklists of exactly what they wanted depicted onscreen. (In other words, be very, very careful the next time you're driving through New Jersey.) Also included is a 2000 interview with Krause and Mundae talking about their early careers. At the very least, it's a wholly unique, oddball release that should please Mundae addicts.

Speaking of inexplicable fetishes, I'm still trying to figure out what's going on with The Black Order Cometh, a Salvation release geared towards folks who really, really dug those Eileen Daly goth-kink intros on their older DVD horror releases. As the sleeve subtly explains it, "Redemption Films presents the Satanic Sluts -- Six Women Unleash the Darkness and Lose Their Souls." Yep, that about covers it. Apparently this was cut in the UK, but lucky Americans can enjoy every second of, to quote the sleeve again, "real bloodletting, Japanese rope bondage, whippings and satanic crucifixions" plus "fantasized sequences involving torture, medical experiments and vampirism." Well, it's mostly vampirism and looks like the Dark Brothers trying to do a Nine Inch Nails music video, plus about only half of the women are remotely attractive. That said, the nun segment is actually pretty entertaining in a blasphemous-Brits sort of way. If stylized goth fantasies are your thing, look no further. The aspect ratio is completely perplexing; everything is encoded as 16x9, but a lot of the footage was clearly prepared as flat 4:3 letterboxed or full frame and then squeezed in or pillarboxed to fit the frame. As a result, some scenes play out fine while others are squished and distorted. If you have a widescreen monitor, prepare to do a lot of squinting. Extras include an alternate version of the "Gimp" segment, some extended footage cut from the final product, a stills gallery, cross-trailers for other titles like Hurt and of course, a promo for the Satanic Sluts book, Blood & Dishonour.

Last up we have the obvious winner for truth in advertising, Blood & Sex Nightmare, a particularly foul cheapie from Bloody Earth with enough "did I just see that?" moments to jar the most seasoned scuzz fanatics. The (intentionally?) hilarious setup is this: after returning from Japan, Amy (Julia Morizawa) finds that her boyfriend, Nick (Andy McGuinness), isn't happy with her lack of interest in sex. Rather than, oh, seeing a therapist, he whines until she agrees to go with him to the Pleasant Mountain Adult Retreat, where people go to hang out in the woods and then retire to their cabins at night for some mattress bouncing. How this differs from pretty much any other wilderness retreat is never explained, but I digress. Crazy, creepy old handyman Walter leers at them, and soon the kinksters in the cabin next door are murdered (in a distinctly perverse fashion) by a rampaging maniac. Could it have some connection to the infamous serial killer and sex maniac who killed himself in the woods four decades earlier? And who's that spooky face Amy keeps seeing in the mirror? And how will any of this help our heroine's libido? Stick around for the unbelievably tasteless climax to find out! Shot for maybe five bucks on digital video, this offering from Joseph R. Kolbek is at least more interesting than your average DIY video affair and delivers both gore and nudity in bucketloads. Oh yeah, and Tina Krause (see above) pops up here to supply some skin as well. The transfer looks pretty dull and smeary for the most part, which appears to be a failing of the original production, but what do you expect? For a slasher redo of Porno Holocaust on a chump-change budget, you can't get much better than this. The disc also comes with two of the filmmaker's incredibly stupid short films, "Boyardemon" and "The Roarin' 20s," which are only worth watching if you're very, very, very curious. (Even the director opines, "They suck.") Don't say you weren't warned. Also included is a rap music video by Devils Everywhere (who's also a victim in one of the film's most unbelievable scenes), as well as a liner notes booklet with filmmaker recollections (a sample: the filming location was really a gay and lesbian retreat with free condoms in the lobby) as well as a closing tribute to the recently departed John Polonia, a hero to camcorder-toting horror fans everywhere.

May 31, 2008 (Aussie Special)
February 19, 2008
January 8, 2008
October 23, 2007
October 8, 2007
September 29, 2007

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