Color, 1972, 79m.
Directed by Arthur Byrd
Starring Richard Smedly, Lori Rose, Vincent Stevens, Sandy Dempsey, Barbara Mills, Norman Fields, Lyle Vann, Jim Dannin
THE LOVE GARDEN
Color, 1971, 71m.
Directed by Mark Haggard
Starring Linda York, Jason Scott (Jason Yukon), Barbara Mills
Vinegar Syndrome (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9) / 1.33:1
When a pair of "fifty dollar an hour" fashion models heads out through the sagebrush for a fashion shoot, you just know trouble is soon to follow for The Suckers. Sure enough, Joanne (skin flick regular Dempsey) and Barbara (Rose), along with their bespectacled agency owners George Stone (sporting the ugliest dyed combover in movie history) and his much hotter wife Cindy (Sweet Georgia's Mills), wind up staying at the fancy house of their client, Mr. Vandermeer (Stevens) ("one of the top five game hunters in the world"), where they're wined and dined for the evening. Meanwhile Cindy, who likes to lounge around in completely see-through nighties, has a random flashback (or something; it's hard to tell as there seems to be a little footage missing) as we're "treated" to a lengthy sex scene between her and George. Also on hand is another visitor, Jeff Baxter (Brain of Blood's Smedly), who beds one of them and completely ignores their host's comments about how he's looking forward to hunting "the most dangerous game." Apparently unfamiliar with one of the most famous short stories ever written, they're all surprised the next morning (after an early morning bathtub tryst between Joanne and Barbara) when Vandermeer and his thugs haul them out to the woods and tell them he's going to hunt them down... to the death.
A truly wild piece of work, The Suckers spends its first 45 minutes or so setting up the plot and fiddling around with three long, relatively graphic softcore love scenes (complete with loads of POV groping shots straight out of Street of a Thousand Pleasures), then switches into serious roughie mode for the final half hour once the big hunt kicks in. The centerpiece here is a surprisingly upsetting sexual assault, scored with crazy theremin music and climaxing with a really vicious punchline involving a hunting knife. There's also some pretty jaw-dropping dialogue, too, like "It's hard to tell if she's afraid of being raped or what's going to happen afterwards." A familiar exploitation face, Stevens (a vet from such films as Thar She Blows and Alice Goodbody and the only cast member who doesn't drop trou) has a field day here as the main villain waving his hunting rifle around and threatening his guests and employees alike. The others do well enough with their more limited roles, with the three ladies all giving their all in scenes ranging from passionate to terrifying.
The idea of doing a drive-in version of the pioneering manhunt story "The Most Dangerous Game" isn't exactly a new one, but this may be the first sexploitation variation as it beat The Woman Hunt by a year. There's something about the story that makes softcore films seem more twisted than usual, as Jess Franco proved twice when he adapted the story as both Countess Perverse and Tender Flesh. Though it possesses all the necessary sleaze staples, The Suckers somehow managed to vanish off the face of the earth for decades; even co-producer David F. Friedman couldn't keep any film elements intact, though the trailer did pop up on Something Weird's The Laughing, Leering, Lampooning Lures of David F. Friedman. Friedman's hand here is most easily spotted during the climax, which recalls a similarly kinky showdown in his earlier Brand of Shame.
Somehow Vinegar Syndrome managed to unearth a print of this incredibly rare sucker, and like their other DVD-only releases, it's obviously not in a condition pristine enough to justify a Blu-Ray. That's just fine, as it's miraculous enough just having this in any form at all. The print has its share of scratches, splices, and debris of course, but since this is probably the only one in existence, who can complain? Colors look perfectly fine (which is also miraculous in itself these days), and the transfer itself is handled with as much care as possible.
Rounding this out to make it a double feature is the far more familiar The Love Garden, a three-actor softcore staple that's been floating around from Something Weird at least since the early '90s. Mills turns up here again during the opening credits, soaping herself up in the shower as we see crew names like director Mark Haggard (The All-American Girl), cinematographer Douglas Knapp (Assault on Precinct 13), and executive producer Bob Chinn, who went on to direct porn films like Baby Cakes and Little Orphan Dusty. Then we meet our narrator/protagonist, Mike (Scott), a magazine writer lounging around the pool at his apartment complex reading highbrow movie magazines. However, he's quickly distracted by a pretty young thing splashing around in the pool who turns out to be his new neighbor, Clare (Panorama Blue's York). In voiceover he thinks it'll be easy to get Clare into the sack, but then he finds out she's actually a lesbian who's living with her girlfriend, Inez (Mills). Mike decides to get her to switch teams by hiring her on as his personal secretary after she gets fired from her current job, and while his plan seems to be on the right track, the heart isn't always so easy to manipulate.
A short, steamy little chamber piece, this one is most memorable for its two central, highly intense sex scenes, which take up a pretty large chunk of the running time and manage to veer right up to the edge of hardcore in a few shots. The fact that the gorgeous York never went beyond softcore makes this one a novelty item of sorts, though her male lead with the mighty sideburns, better known as Jason Yukon, also appeared in William Rotsler's The Godson the same year and did make the leap to hardcore with a couple of features and loops. Mills (who also stuck to strictly soft fare) has the least demanding role, but she acquits herself well and manages to generate some sparks with York in their scenes together. Weirdly, there really aren't any other human beings seen anywhere else in the film, which gives it a strange, arty ambience at times emphasized by the frequent visual references to artists and filmmakers. The film itself ain't art, of course, but it's a keeper all the same. The Vinegar Syndrome release is presented full frame as originally shot (unlike the 1.85:1 previous feature), and while the Something Weird transfer was actually fine for its time, this one looks sharper albeit a bit paler at times. As a bonus feature it's a nice one to throw in, though obviously the first one is what really makes this release impossible to resist.
Buy from Diabolik DVD.