B&W, 1965, 65 mins.

Directed by Lee Frost

Starring Byron Mabe, Jerome Eden, Mae Johnson, Mimi Marlowe / Written and Produced by David F. Friedman


B&W, 1963, 71 mins.

Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis

Starring Thomas (Sweet)Wood, Allison Louise Downe, Lawrence Wood, Mal Arnold, Sandra Sinclair, Craig Maudslay, Jr.

Image Entertainment /Something Weird (DVD) (US R1 NTSC)

Ah, the roughies of the 1960s. Filled with antisocial behavior, sexual deviance, and mixed messages galore, these forays into the underbelly of the human psyche pushed the softcore "adults only" quickie into truly dangerous territory. Two of the finer examples of this grungy chapter in the grindhouse history have been archived together by Something Weird for another memorable DVD drive-in double feature, complete with trailers and psychotronic goodies bound to make the discerning sleaze fan sit up and take notice.

The first film on the roster is The Defilers, which opens up with a dialogue-free sequence in which two spoiled louts (Byron Mabe and Jerome Eden) escort their two girlfriends for some nocturnal fun and frolicking on the beach. "There's only one thing that makes this worm-infested life worthwhile," Mabe philosophizes. "Kicks -- kicks!" Apparently his slightly more conscientious friend agrees, and while Mabe isn't busy giving his girlfriend some suspiciously willing lashes with his belt, the two buddies decide to have some fun by kidnapping a sweet young thing (Mae Johnson) fresh off the bus in Los Angeles. After some terrific footage of Hollywood Boulevard in all its 1963 glory, Johnson settles into a hotel room and promptly winds up escorted to the Valley by our two anti-heroes, who drag her off to a basement and keep her prisoner as their own personal love slave. They continue their partying and country clubbing above ground, descending now and then for a little fun and games with their new captive. Of course, this not so idyllic existence can't go on forever, and it all ends on an appropriately hysterical and gory note.

"You're damaged merchandise, baby, and this is a fire sale!" snarls one of the pornographers in Scum of the Earth, a mostly blood-free collaboration by that unbeatable Blood Feast team, H.G. Lewis and David F. Friedman. Less grungy but far more hilarious than Friedman's The Defilers, this heavy breathing twist on Ed Wood's The Sinister Urge reveals what cheesecake photographers really do to snag pretty girls in front of their cameras. The latest victim is the impossibly naive Kim (Sherilyn Fenn look-alike Vickie Miles, a.k.a. Allison Louise Downe), who's trying to save up for college and agrees to earn a few extra bucks with the help of kindly photographer Harmon (Blood Feast's Thomas Wood, a.k.a. Bill Kerwin, billed here as "Thomas Sweetwood" and sporting a bizarre skunk hairdo). Along with scuzzball Larry (Fuad Ramses himself, Mal Arnold), Harmon talks his girls into compromising positions where they remove their tops and perform acts best left implied, some involving hairy and horny strongarm Ajax (nudist camp vet Craig Maudslay, Jr.). Larry scoffs at the constant threats to go to the police: "You got nothin' on me, daddy-o; I'm a minor!" (never mind that he looks way past thirty). However, Kim proves to be more trouble than she's worth, particularly when the porn peddlers force her to do a "nature study" with equally tortured modeling veteran Sandy (Sandra Sinclair) and another girl, in which they're coerced into - horror of horrors - posing in their bathing suits while waving party hats and baseball bats. Murder and mayhem ensue, with a frantic oceanside finale containing a most unexpected color homage to Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound.

Though both films run barely over an hour each, they certainly pack in enough entertainment value to fuel a dozen Oliver Stone epics. Scum in particular weaves in and out of a surprising number of subplots and supporting characters (never mind the atrocious acting), while both features sport that wonderfully shadowy, atmospheric black and white photography that made these disreputable quickies look far more polished than their budgets would allow. Lewis fans in particular will enjoy seeing most of the "Blood Trilogy" regulars popping up and giving their usual stilted performances, laced with insane and endlessly quotable dialogue.

As per Something Weird's standards, these features look exceptionally good for their age and probably couldn't get much better. The Defilers is virtually in mint condition, with perfect contrast levels and nary a flaw to be found. Scum looks a bit more battered, though the image quality itself is quite good. Sound on both is consistently clear and satisfying, with every dramatic pause and whip of lashing leather perfectly intact.

Of course, the movies are just half the fun. Playing the drive-in option on the DVD assaults the viewer with hilarious promos, kicking off with Julie Andrews' unforgettable endoresement for the new MPAA ratings system and including such delicacies as a sex hygience book pitch, concession stand shorts, a short subject entitled Intimate Diary of Artists' Models (reteaming the irrepressible Ajax and Sandy), and a snippet from Barry Mahon's Naked Fury. Then there are the trailers, which alternate between knee-slapping hyperbole and shocking lapses of taste. Reel and gasp to the delights of Aroused!, Confessions of a Psycho Cat, Banned, Sex Killer, Sock It to Me Baby, The Curse of Her Flesh, The Ultimate Degenerate, The Pick-Up, and best of all, the absolutely delicious All Women Are Bad ("...and this is the film that proves it!"). There's even a particularly smutty Easter Egg hidden on the trailer menu screen, so brace yourself for hours and hours of good, scuzzy fun.

Color, 1972, 102 mins.

Directed by William Allen Castleman and Robert Freeman

Starring Douglas Frey, Robyn Whitting, John Alderman, Jude Farese, Penny Boran, Robert W. Cresse / Written by David F. Friedman / Music by Bill Loose / Cinematography by Ferd Sebastian

Format: DVD - Image (MSRP $24.95)

Full Frame / Dolby Digital Mono

Another saucy take on a familiar American legend, The Erotic Adventures of Zorro drops the viewer right into the middle of pre-statehood California, where no-good racketeers control the land and exploit the Mexican people (as opposed to now, of course, where everyone is treated fairly and equally...). In the tradition of his earlier softcore romps, producer David F. Friedman piles on the jokes as fast as the skin, though the increasing explicitness of the era (on the eve of Deep Throat) causes this film to crank up the explicitness several degrees. It's still not quite hardcore, but that's not for lack of trying.

The local people are currently held in a reign of terror by tax-happy Luis Bonasario (Friedman regular Jude Farese). His exploitation ranges all the way to ravishing the local ladies along with the corrupt Sgt. Latio (sexploitation legend Bob Cresse), who dispenses one liners even during his hyperbolic sex scenes. At the behest of his father, expert swordsman and ladies' man Don Diego (Douglas Frey) arrives in town from Spain and poses as an outrageous homosexual to divert the evildoers' attention from his true identity: Zorro, defender of the people. Diego falls for Bonasario's niece, Maria (Robyn Whitting), who has developed quite a crush on the masked hero. Will he save the day? And more importantly, will he become monogamous?

As with most Friedman productions of the era, Zorro is extremely well mounted, wittily scripted, and lots of fun for those who are game. The film takes about half an hour of plotting before the plentiful sex scenes begin, but luckily the performers are all skilled enough to make their dialogue engaging enough on its own. The sets and costumes all look like the real thing, at least as convincing as any "real" Zorro movie (and yes, that includes the Antonio Banderas one). Oddly enough, for such a ghettoized film, this Zorro has been imitated a lot of the years, including a much-noted similarity to 1980's Zorro, the Gay Blade, which lifts many plot points and jokes in their entirety. At least Hollywood hasn't gotten around to copying The Long Swift Sword of Siegfried... yet.

Not surprisingly, this Something Weird special edition looks quite spectacular, with sharp print quality and almost-Technicolor hues providing plenty of eye candy. Though this is one of Friedman's longest films, the excellent presentation makes it fly by in what seems like minutes. The commentary track with Friedman and Something Weird's Mike Vraney is a rollicking good time as usual, filled with anecdotes about the grindhouse business and trying to sell a softcore item in an increasingly competitive market. Also included is the very explicit theatrical trailer, another trailer for Siegfried, a gallery of Friedman posters and ad art, and a short called Scarred Face which, well, is a lot of fun and belongs on here as well as anything else.

Color, 1967, 83 mins.

Directed by Byron Mabe

Starring Claire Brennan, Lee Raymond, Lynn Courtney, Bill McKinney, Claude Smith / Written by David F. Friedman / Music by Billy Allen / Cinematography by Bill Troiano

Format: DVD - Image (MSRP $24.95)

Full Frame / Dolby Digital Mono

Something of an odd man out in the run of '60s exploitation films, She Freak is an obvious labor of love for producer David Friedman, a lifelong fan of the carnival and huckster scene. While the premise and ads promise grotesque thrills and perverse shocks, what the viewer actually gets is something much more peculiar, sort of Tod Browning's Freaks redux with a tangy Southern slant.

A group of customers at a local carnival shuffle into a tent, lured in by the come-ons of the local barker (played by Friedman himsef). Inside they see something monstrous, something terrifying... and in flashback, we learn the story of how this freak came to be. Jade Cochran (the appealing Claire Brennen - whatever happened to her?), a waitress at a greasy spoon, walks out on her job to work at a local carnival. However, she soon learns the hard way that a life among human oddities is not for her. She uses her home grown charms to catch and marry the carny owner, Steven St. John (Bill McKinney), but on the side she carries on an affair with the piggish Blackie (Lee Raymond). The local freaks notice Jade and Blackie's scheming ways, and after the illicit couple takes things a bit too far, it's time for revenge.

Unlike the original Freaks, Friedman's version paints the female lead in a somewhat more sympathetic light, thanks in no small part to Brennen. Unfortunately, there also weren't as many freaks at Friedman's disposal for this film, with most of them making a sudden first appearance during the creepy finale. While the lack of any overt gore or sex might put off some horror fans, She Freak is really more of a mood piece, a candy-colored ode to the carny life. Several minutes on end are devoted to the camera swirling inside ferris wheels, following men setting up tents, skirting along the sideshows, and prowling into the trailers. You can almost smell the cotton candy and peanuts from the opening minutes, and the quirky, off-kilter jazz score twists the atmosphere even more out of the ordinary.

While She Freak has been issued on video in several variants from Magnum and Something Weird, the DVD is truly an entirely new experience. The eye-popping color on display here simply defies description; even Brennen's dresses, ranging from saturated sherbert to luminous crimson, are perfectly defined and seem to glow like neon. If only all movies of this vintage could look so good! The disc also includes a commentary track with Friedman, conducted by Something Weird's Mike Vraney, in which he elaborates on his own carny experiences and the process of adapting Browning's classic for the '60s grindhouse crowd. Other goodies include a theatrical trailer (whose muddy quality emphasizes just how good the feature itself really looks) and a jaw-dropping reel of actual black and white film footage of a carnival sideshow during the '30s, along with interview footage of the Hilton Sisters (from Freaks) and the Gibb Sisters, two sets of Siamese twins. Definitely not for the politically correct, this disc earns a high slot in the pantheon of weird cinema.

Color, 1970, 84 mins.

Directed by Tsanusdi (Jonathan Lucas)

Starring Buddy Pantasari, Elisabeth Monica, John Alderman, Christine Murray, Lisa Grant, Fletcher Davies / Written by David F. Friedman / Music by Billy Allen and William Loose / Cinematography by Paul Hipp

Format: DVD - Image (MSRP $24.95)

Letterboxed (1.66:1) / Dolby Digital Mono

A surprisingly benevolent and playful "adult" film from producer David F. Friedman, Trader Hornee represents an effort to break out of the grindhouse circuit thanks to more lavish visuals and silly humor. Decades later, the film is quite an odd curio, a mixture of Carol Burnett Show lampooning and harmless cheesecake nudity -- a combination we will not likely see again.

In order to satisfy the technicalities of the will in a large family's estate, intrepid private eye Hamilton Hornee (that's pronounced "Horn!") is hired to venture into the jungles of Africa to ascertain whether a long lost heiress is actually dead. He's joined along the way by his luscious assistant, Jane (Elisabeth Monica), as well as two scheming heir to the fortune, dedicated scientist Stanley Livingston (who's searching for Africa's mysterious "white gorilla," Nabucco), and the frisky Tender Lee (Lisa Grant). When Hornee learns of the local African white goddess, Algona, he believes he may have stumbled upon the lost heiress after all.

Though hilariously filmed in the Hollywood Hills instead of Africa (except for stock footage), Trader Hornee is nevertheless a sprawling epic by Friedman's standards. Real elephants, colorful and varied costumes, and a surprising number of subplots and cross cutting give the film a patina of respectability, aided by the fact that the generous amounts of female nudity rarely lead to anything resembling a true sex scene. For anyone yearning to try out the sexploitation genre without the nasty intrusion of "roughie" footage, this is the perfect place to start.

While no one could have ever pegged Trader Hornee as a candidate for special edition treatment on DVD, well, here it is! The film suffers a little bit from its late '60s film stock, which produces duller colors compared to some of the earlier erotic films, but the transfer quality is top notch for what it is. The mild letterboxing looks fine, trimming off some dead space from the top and bottom while revealing a bit on the sides compared to Something Weird's older VHS edition (and the first VHS edition, Legend of the Blonde Goddess). The disc also includes the funny original trailer (in rougher shape) and, as usual, a bouncy commentary by Friedman and SW's Mike Vraney, which dishes out the usual head-spinning amount of detail about financing and shooting a naughty epic back in the golden days of sleaze.