Friday, July 18, 2014

Mountain of the Cannibal God (Italy, 1978)


Italian title: La montagna del dio cannibal. Sergio Martino, "Italy's Unsung Exploitation King" — aka Julian Barry, Martin Dolman, Serge Martin, Christian Plummer and George Raminto — jumped onto the popular Italian cannibal film bandwagon relatively quickly; this movie here was probably the fourth or fifth one to follow the film that set the template and started the ball rolling, Umberto Lenzi's Man from Deep River (1972 / trailer). Regrettably, Mountain of the Cannibal God is neither one of Martino's best efforts nor a particularly noteworthy movie, cannibal or otherwise, and while it might be "mildly diverting" — as one of our pals described the movie after watching it with us — it is hardly imperative viewing, or in any way truly memorable.
The fault here lies not in Martino's direction, which is effective enough, and not in the dubbing, which is of typical Italo quality, but rather in the entire story, the characters, and the absolutely miscast Ursula Andress, who, at least as long as she is dressed, literally flounders through this movie looking like a lost witch. Nude or in rags, she looks like one hot 42-year-old, the age she was when she made the film, but whenever she appears dressed — which is for most of the movie — her atrocious frizzy hair, never-ending forehead, charcoal-rimmed eyes and total lack of eyebrows makes her an unnerving sight to see, if not simply extremely unappealing. This is less apparent in the opening scenes, during which she wears such obnoxious necklaces that the viewers look at them instead of her, but once those tasteless (and probably expensive) baubles disappear, one can no longer avoid noticing that Andress looks, well, as if either the 16 years since Dr. No (1962 / trailer) had not been kind to her or the on-set makeup artist hadn't liked her.
Ursula Andress plays Susan Stevenson, who arrives on New Guinea in search of her missing husband Henry. She and her slimy brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina of Keoma [1976 / trailer]) end up hiring Prof. Edward Foster (Stacy Keach of The Class of 1999 [1990 / trailer], The Hollow [2004 / trailer] and Ooga Booga [2013 / trailer]), a colleague of Henry, who is convinced that Henry probably went to the mountain of Ra Ra Me — the Mountain of the Cannibal God — and before you can say "You all gonna die" they undertake an illegal expedition to the island where, as to be expected, their native guides get killed one by one and the whities all reveal themselves as dislikable egoists with hidden agendas.
Somewhere along the way, probably because Keach's contract ran out, they hook up with the adventurer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli [13 September 1938 — 13 July 1985*] of Fulci's Murderock [1984 / German trailer], Flavia: Heretic Priestess [1974 / trailer], and Martino's Scorpion with Two Tails [1982 / trailer], Something Waits in the Dark [1979 / Italo trailer] and Big Alligator River [1979 / German trailer]), the only one amongst them with morals, written into the story to enable a romantic subplot and a new heroic lead once Foster reveals himself to be a revenge-crazed nutcase: his hidden agenda (SPOILER) is that he wants to wipe out the entire cannibal tribe because they made him eat human flesh years earlier when he was forcefully integrated into the tribe. Really: he basically wants to exterminate an entire tribe to fix his head cold, and when he finally reveals it to a fellow character, it is met with understanding, as if genocide as an act of redemption is perfectly understandable and acceptable. Hello?
Mountain of the Cannibal God has the requisite number of shock scenes, the saving grace of the movie, even if they are once too often achieved by gratuitous real-life animal violence that does nothing to advance the plot and thus comes across as forced and mercantile. (Martino once claimed that the producers forced him to add the animal slaughtering after the fact, but it is too well integrated into the film to look added to the film as an afterthought; if it was added at all, it was probably added to the shooting script.)
The long trudge through the jungle is extremely dull, with one too many scenes of people running this way and that — amazing how no matter what happens in the entire movie, Andress' butt-ugly make-up remains perfect — and the entire bit in the village where they meet up with Manolo comes across as padding, though it is made a bit more bearable by the chocolate breasts of the village's singular beauty. The big twist revelation at the mountain in regard to one character, we must admit, was unexpected, but for that the last-minute scene of redemption is extremely hollow and unconvincing, obviously tacked on just so that the viewer can like the final survivors once again. As for the cannibal natives, well, let's just say that their traditional tribal garb seems to be white body paint and dirty, bad-sitting wigs, and despite the atrocity of their primitive acts they come across more laughable than frightening.
Mountain of the Cannibal God has some nice scenery but little suspense or tension, even when the scenes are obviously intended to have some. Most of the "money shots" — the animal killings, the emasculation, Andress being prepared to become the goddess, the sex scene in the village — fail to integrate fully or coalesce into the movie and come across as if they were decided upon due to some checklist of standard cannibal movie elements that the scriptwriters (Martino and Cesare Frugoni) were working though systematically. The gross-out factor is high, and the gore convincing, perhaps the only aspect of the movie in any way entertaining, but on the whole the movie garners more giggles and groans than it does involve or affect, and as a result it is almost instantly forgettable.
Still, it is hard to completely hate a movie that has a totally gratuitous cannibal dwarf, regardless of how quickly he is done away with. Mountain of the Cannibal God — mildly diverting, but unmemorable.

* Cassinelli made six films with Sergio Martino and probably would have made more had he, while filming Martino's Fists of Steel (1985 / Italo trailer), not died in an on-set helicopter crash.
 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Terror (USA, 1963)


(Spoilers.) Let us meander and digress...
Aka Lady of the Shadows, The Castle of Terror, and The Haunting. Many a year ago — too many for us to want to admit to here — in our formative years we came home late from Lyles-Crouch Elementary one day and thus caught but the ending of the movie on Channel 20's Creature Feature (hosted by the great Count Gore de Vol,* who didn't write Myra Breckenridge). Not much on stars' names or faces at that age, we knew who Boris Karloff was — who didn't? — but the other faces were all unknown to us back then... but then, as we only caught the last minutes of the movie, no face other than one had a chance of making an impression on us. And the face that did, that of the pretty girl carried out of the flooding basement by the good guy, only impressed us because right after the guy kissed her, it melted away in B&W gooey messiness. (Yes, Virginia, people used to have B&W television sets.) It added, needless to say, a whole new aspect to the ickiness of kissing girls that we hadn't even yet conceived — and that we also luckily forgot when we started getting fuzz on our danglers.
Whatever. In any event, the scene did forever remain ingrained in our minds, though the title of the movie did not — but now we know, as of last night, and as many reading this may have guessed, that the ending that we caught that day belonged to the legendary Roger Corman production, The Terror. And while the face that melted is perhaps mostly unknown today (as when the movie was made), that of the heroic lad doing the kissing is not: it is none other than a young Jack Nicholson, back in the days when he was a lousy actor making good (?) movies. Hard to believe that he was ever a slim, almost handsome lad...
And while it is perhaps redundant for most for us to reiterate why the movie is legendary, we like to assume that those reading reviews such as this one know little or nothing about the film at hand, so perhaps a small historical assessment is needed. Above all, The Terror is renowned for being the apogee of Corman's ability to make a movie from nothing. In this case, in the middle of his Poe Phase, Corman had sets and time left over from The Raven (1963 / trailer) and promptly roped in many of those involved in that film, by low payment and/or promise of delayed payment, to create a film from nothing; what he didn't direct, he let others do it — including Francis Ford Coppola (the director of Dementia 13 [1963 / trailer / full movie]), Monte Hellman (director of Beast from Haunted Cave [1959 / trailer / full movie] and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out! [1989 / trailer]), Jack Hill (director of the masterpiece Spider Baby [1964 / trailer / full movie], Mondo Keyhole [1966 / opening], Coffy [1973] and Foxy Brown [1974 / trailer], among other fine films), Jack Nicholson (of The Little Shop of Horrors [1960 / trailer / full movie] and The Cry Baby Killer [1958 / trailer] and probably more) — and more or less created a movie around the legendary Karloff. The script was written and improvised along the way, and the final result a schizoid, inconsistent and almost laughable event. Almost, we say, because it is very hard not to fall asleep when watching it — indeed, the other day when we finally caught it again, after so many years, all those of the party of four watching the film admitted later to dozing off at one point or another...
We caught the Euro-version, which is different than the American version that is afloat throughout the web as a public domain film; at some point or another — one source we found says 1989 — Corman pulled in an older Dick Miller (who plays the butler) to film a wrap-around sequence to the original version, which thus appears in flashback as past events; Miller, properly older, nevertheless looks rather out of place with his permed hair, and the framing filmic bookends really make no sense, but the special effects are enjoyably tacky. Still, if you really have to see this film, stick with the original version — you can at least get that one for free. 
Full movie:

The scatter and scatter-brained plot involves some Napoleonic soldier named Andre Duvalier (Nicholson, wearing the uniform used by Marlon Brando in Désirée [1954]) who, lost, meets a mysterious woman named Helene (his pregnant, then-and-only-ever wife Sandra Knight of Thunder Road [1958 / trailer], Frankenstein's Daughter [1958 / trailer / full movie], Blood Bath  [1966 / trailer, starring William Campbell], The Haunting of Morella [1990 / trailer] and Inevitable Grace [1994 / trailer]), with whom he promptly becomes obsessed. While searching for her over the course of the film, he crosses paths with an Old Lady (Dorothy Neumann of The Undead [1957 / trailer from hell], Teenage Doll [1957 / trailer] and that masterpiece of sleaze, Private Parts [1972 / trailer]) and some guy named Gustaf  (Jonathan Haze  of  The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent [1957 / trailer / full movie],   Monster from the Ocean Floor [1954 / trailer], The Day the World Ended [1955 / trailer], The Beast with a Million Eyes [1955 / trailer], It Conquered the World [1956 / trailer], Swamp Women [1956 / full movie] and Not of this Earth [1957 / trailer]) and, eventually, Baron Victor Frederick Von Leppe (Karlof) and his butler... in the end everyone but Nicholson and the Butler dies.
OK, there is a lot more to the plot, but it isn't like it really makes all that much sense or really can be followed, so there is no real reason to go into detail about it. Indeed, if one were to re-title The Terror in such a way to actually reflect the movie and its content, its title would something more along the lines of The Idiocy or The Confusion or The Mess. Nevertheless, in all honesty, when considering the genesis of The Terror — no completed starting script, narrative developed along the way, five or more directors all of whom contributed to the story —  the movie is surprising coherent, if in an incoherent way. 
True, none of us four who watched the film recently could, at the end, fully explain the role of all six characters, but then, as mentioned previously, we did all also snooze at one point or another. And though we couldn't figure out the logic of the characters and how they related to each other — particularly Gustaf to the Nasty Old Lady — we did all agree that the The Terror started, progressed (very slowly), and ended. Had we watched it before midnight instead of after, we might have even enjoyed it that special train-wreck way, but we did watch it late at night and thus we must agree with Jack Nicholson's own opinion of the film: "It was incredibly bad." (But then, so was he.)
In all truth, not everything about The Terror is bad. It is sure to scare the little ones shitless, as it does have an oddly nightmarish quality to it and more than one decent shock scene (the opening cellar scene with Karloff, the scene in which a hawk pecks Gustaf's eyes out and, of course, the final kissing scene). Also, anyone who is partial to vintage illustration is sure to find Paul Julian's background drawings to the opening credit sequence fabulous — he's the artist behind The Hangman (1964), our Short Film of the Month for February 2011. (The Euro-version of The Terror totally obliterates the original drawings, another reason not to watch it.) And while Jack Nicholson is totally miscast as a Napoleonic officer, he hadn't yet learned how to convert his natural look of lost confusion and/or sub-intelligence into mischievousness devilry; thus he does have an oddly cuddly appearance that might appeal to some out there. And the directorial schizophrenia is on occasion rather interesting: there are interludes of Bergman-like close-ups, interludes of long shots (and not just for scenes that would require them), and an occasional dolly shot so cinematically pleasant that is actually jarred with the overall incompetency of the movie. (There is also a shot of Karloff which, if we remember correctly, is re-used three times.) It is seriously obvious that different directors were at play at different times in The Terror. And lastly, even though it has obviously faded over the years and is easily less than half that which it once was, The Terror often displays that wonderfully sumptuous color scheme that Corman graced his much better Poe films with...
The Terror: a mess, hardly imperative, but fine for the rainy day at home with kids still lacking peach fuzz...
* We are forever grateful to that man for introducing us to the masterpiece that is The Night of the Living Dead (1968 / trailer / full movie), which he broadcast uncut for the first time ever in the US in 1975 — we know that it was 1975, by the way, 'cause TV spots for the just-released Candy Tangerine Man were broadcast during the commercial breaks.
The TV spot to The Candy Tangerine Man:

Friday, July 4, 2014

R.I.P.: Harry H. Novak, Part IV: 1967



January 12, 1928 — March 26, 2014

"When I was a kid, my Daddy told me, 'There's a buyer for everything.' And I lived to find out that he was right."
Harry H. Novak


Part II — 1956 to 1964
Part III — 1965 to 1966

Harry H. Novak, alongside David F Friedman (24 December 1923 — 14 February 2011) one of the great (s)exploitation kings of the last half of the 20th century, died 26 March 2014 at the age of 86. 
A detailed career review of all the projects Harry H. Novak foisted upon the American public would be Sisyphean task at best and hardly possible, as no full and unequivocal list exists. What follows is a review of the films that we found that, for the most part, probably had Novak's involved somewhere along the way — and some that may not have. It is definitely not a complete list, and definitely not infallible, it is merely culled from sources reliable and unreliable that we found online. We also in no way suggest that the given release dates are the correct ones, they are merely the first ones we found.
If you know any we missed, feel free to send the title...



Mondo Mod
(1967, dir. Peter Perry Jr.)


Opening Credits:
A Wasted Life took a look at this film in our R.I.P. career review of the obscure California exploitation filmmaker surfer Paul Hunt (14 Oct. 1943 — 13 Sept. 2011), where we wrote: "Paul Hunt appears as himself in this 'documentary'. Dvd Drive-In says: 'Cruising into Mondo Mod to the strains of its cheesy title tune, one would expect a fabulous time capsule of outta-sight fashions, far-out hairdos, and all the hip dialogue you can stand. But instead, Mondo Mod is rather a documentary not aimed at the Mods it documents, but the outsiders who want to be hip and would like a 10-step program narrated by L.A. DJ Harve Humble in the process. Sure, there's footage of the Whiskey a Go Go and its terrible house bands, a kooky boutique called 'Belinda's,' and some drugged-out footage of a stripper and a love-in, but the Mod comparisons stop there. What does go-kart racing, karate, bikers, and protests have to do with the Mod scene'?"
Trailer: 




 The Slave Widow
(1967, dir. Mamoru Watanabe [as "Yazuru Watanabe"])
Original Japanese title: Dorei mibojin. Something Weird once released this as a Novak film — it is now available from Cinema Epoch — so we assume that, as is the case with Kôfun!! / Naked Pursuit [looked at later in this career review] and others, he must have purchased the Japanese art house Pink film and released it in the US with a misleading and marketable title. One only needs to see the first two minutes to know Slave Widow is more art than sleaze.
Over at Bullets 'n' Babes, Rick Stanko explains the plot: "When a woman's husband kills himself, she is forced to become the sexual slave of a wealthy businessman in order to settle her debts. When the wealthy man's son also falls in love with her, everything gets a lot more complicated. This early Pink film takes its time to create an aesthetic environment, not just a depraved one."
In Montreal, the goblinhairedguy also finds that there is more than just depravity in the movie, which he describes as "impressionistic eroticism": "The plot is pure soap-opera (a young widow [Noriko Tatsumi] is forced to become the mistress of her late husband's creditor), but this picture is quite haunting thanks to its skilful, artistic handling. The inky chiaroscuro lighting and the impressionistic soundtrack (chamber music and natural sounds) beautifully complement the languid pace. Obviously, its main selling points are the erotic scenes, which are successfully intense not because of any explicitness (the nudity is very tame), but thanks to their focus on the woman's ecstasy (surprising even herself) and the shadowy close-ups of merging flesh. An interesting Eastern counterpoint to Joe Sarno's American contributions to the genre of the same era."
While It Lasts, The Full Movie: 




Way Out Topless
(1967, dir. Lewis S. Francis)

"Now, women from all walks of life, the fat ones and the skinny ones, join in a common cause. They are here to make themselves as beautiful and as appealing as possible to their male partner."

The only movie "Lewis S. Francis" seems to have ever made. Something Weird released this as part of a double feature "Harry Novak presents" video/DVD (now no longer available) coupled with Street of a Thousand Pleasures (1972), so we can only assume Novak / Boxoffice was involved and it belongs in this career review.
Thank you, Last Drive-In on the Left for the GIF above; they say "It's Boobsapoppin with Way Out Topless, a celebration of the Sixties Go-Go Scene that's more funny than sexy today. Girls with Beehives and Bouffant shake it up on the dance floor in this all out Go-Go Mania Blitz that takes you inside the Sin Spots of Baltimore and Washington D.C. See sexy strippers strut their stuff. You're invited to join in the fun."
Creature from the Blog Lagoon…in 3-D! was not impressed: "Practically unrelated narration accompanies opening scenes of naked ladies exercising at a gym, and then we're shuttled across the country to peep in on strip clubs and go-go bars in various major cities. If you were ever curious about the strip clubs of Baltimore circa 1967, this is the movie for you. Most of the girls on display are more frightening than sexy and would seem quite at home alongside Divine and Mink Stole in one of John Waters' early efforts. Don't confuse WOT with Russ Meyer's infinitely more watchable Mondo Topless! (1966), which is still quite sexy today."
Best name of the strippers featured: "Pussy Kate" — followed by "Star Lite".
Trailer to One of John Waters' Great Early Efforts —
Desperate Living (1977): 




Cool It Baby
(1967, dir. Lou Campa)
Written by Lou Palisano and the obscure (and dead) auteur Joseph Marzano, who that same year (1967) also co-wrote wrote and directed Venus in Furs. The online zine Funhouse is of the opinion that "Lou Campa makes William Rotsler look like Russ Meyer. This seedy little roughie oozes from the very beginning. It's almost all done in medium shots or close-up to save on the need for sets or extras. [...] All of the real strange stuff is described or off screen. This one still is a pretty lurid affair."
But speaking of "director" Campa, Flickhead says that "Contrary to what's listed in the opening credits, the picture was not directed by Campa. (On the posters and publicity, the nonexistent 'Louis Champion' is credited.) Marzano was asked if he'd like to do it, but declined when told that the camera (for whatever reason) needed to remain stationary on the tripod. The film ultimately had no director, and screenwriter Lou Palisano delivered an unfinished script which was fleshed out by Marzano. Joe stayed on as an actor and directed some sequences, [Lew] Waldeck directed others, and Campa reportedly lounged on a sofa throughout. Few of them cared about who got credit for what, Joe later recalled, because they simply had fun doing it, feeling as if they were making a Monogram or PRC picture back in the 40s."
The plot, according to DVD Verdict: "When Connie Price (Barbara Ellen) finds herself the victim of the tag team blackmailing pair known as Monica (Beverly Baum) and Herman (Joseph Marzano), she turns to the police for help. Thankfully, her understanding husband (Bhob Stewart), who just happens to be a detective with local law enforcement, takes on the case (he also forgives his gal for the sex film that started this experience in extortion). Eventually, we learn that Monica is a mean, vicious vamp who places men under her power with a combination of humiliation and flabby thighs. Herman just so happened to be involved in a local nudie cutie camera club when he runs into the maniacal miss. When they are both pinched for pornography, the local DA (Bob James) has a prurient proposition: He will hire the couple to run his own personal 'house of pleasure.' They supply the expertise; he will add in some juicy jailbait. One such unlucky foundling is the newly orphaned Valerie (Christine Cybelle). She thinks that the local prosecutor is cutting her a break making Monica and Herman her new foster family. But according to the film, the only thing this duo fosters is sleaze. Soon, their newfound ward is participating in all manner of perverted play dates, including a starring role in a weird warped near-Satanic sex sacrifice. It's up to the fuzz to put a stop to all the group groping. Someone has to tell these craven criminals to Cool It, Baby."
Trailers to Venus in Furs (1967) and Cool It, Baby: 




Venus in Furs
(1967, writ. & dir Joseph Marzano)
Marzano's pretentious masterpiece? As DVD Talk says, "Venus is Furs, is an eccentric, dada-ist step that goes completely over the oddity edge."
After Cool It, Baby producer Campo was so satisfied that he gave Marzano $10,000 to do another picture — this one. Flickhead, of the opinion that "given the opportunity and freedom, Joe [Marzano] could have easily been a respected, major American filmmaker," knows some history to the film: "Given that money and a five-day shooting schedule, Joe got together with his friend Barbara Ellen to write the screenplay. The first dialogue sequence follows the novel verbatim, but after that the only connection between the book and the film is the title. Hired to make sexploitation, Joe instead seized the opportunity to put his personal demons and desires, pent-up disillusionments, failed relationships and fetishes all on 35mm for worldwide distribution, using Venus in Furs (1967) to create an art film that sacrifices boobs for Bergman. [...] Perhaps puzzled by what Joe was filming or jealous of the attention he'd been getting, Campa began interfering and economizing. He wanted to change the title from Venus in Furs to the senseless Cherished Women. For a scene set on the grand stairway outside the New York Public Library, Joe had a Fellini-esque vision of dozens of girls running toward the camera. Campa agreed and lined up the talent, but on the day of the shoot he arrived with just three women. (After making a few phone calls, Joe rounded up two more for a total of five.) As Cool It Baby had lap dissolves and fades, Joe wanted to use these effects but Campa refused to pay for them. He also wouldn't allow Joe to shoot some necessary expository scenes, and instead had him pad a rambling, un-erotic orgy sequence. And when the film was completed, Joe, realizing Campa would try to shaft him, threatened to destroy the picture unless he got paid."
Trailers to Venus in Furs and Cool It, Baby (1967):
Like most who see Venus in Furs, DVD Drive-in likes the movie: "Now enter the hazy dream world of Venus in Furs, inspired by the famous novel but with very little connection otherwise. This is a weird one. Imagine Michael Findlay's Take Me Naked (1966): an arthouse film with touches of depraved sex and grotesque violence. A muscular hunk works selling shoes, but has a very overactive imagination. He falls asleep while reading Venus in Furs and dreams of Venus herself, speaking to him in poetry while he caresses her feet and waits on her as a servant. He also stares at women on the subway and imagines kissing and making love to them. After spending his day waiting on beautiful flirtatious women on his knees, he picks up Marna (Barbara Ellen), a mysterious woman in the library, who invites him to her secluded mansion to join her assorted other guests for a weekend of sensual depravity. There are really no words to describe Venus in Furs. The best way to sum up the film would be: the sexual fever dream of a repressed bookworm. Set in a sprawling Gothic mansion where each room holds a different scenario of kinky pleasure, each successive minute of the film throws more surprising visuals at the viewer. The film includes homosexual overtones, dream women lounging on the lawn, muscle worship, bondage, beating, leather boots, foot fetishists, voyeurs, sado-masochism, lesbians, sex with food, bathing, and an encyclopedia of other sexual turn-ons."
NSFW Trailer to Michael Findlay's Take Me Naked (1966):

Take Me Naked - Trailer von The_Astounding_Dr_Wollmen
 



Free Love Confidential
(1967, dir. "Gordon Heller")
Assuming the name to be real, it seems that this obscure sexploitation flick was the only one Gordon Heller ever made; scriptwriter "Sanford White" seems to have been involved in a film or two more.
DVD Drive-In calls the movie "Yet another unsung cult classic waiting to be discovered by sexploitation fiends, [...] deliciously filthy fun and that's kind of surprising considering that most kinky treats in the genre were coming out of New York around this time (with the exception of Bob Cresse and David Friedman's whipping-obsessed films). [...] The plot twist of transforming the villain from a giggling pothead photographer to a towering butch lesbian in leather is unique and unexpected. Mickey is the real star of the film, with her deep booming voice and giant blonde hairdo, and her show-stopping dance routine at the Club Mojo, dressed in a zebra-print shirt, leather pants and boots, and brandishing a whip, is marvelous. [...] The stark black-and-white photography is quite marvelous and surprisingly professional-looking, and be sure to watch for some attractive lighting effects during the LSD sequence. All in all, Free Love Confidential is a great way to spend 66 minutes of your life, and a valuable time capsule film packed with sexy women, drugs, and kinky shenanigans, capped off with a superb twist ending. Highly recommended!!"
Trailer: 

For that, DVD Talk says some films should stay "dead and buried" and that the movie features "a hideous pair of salty sea hags": "Okay flesh fans, here's the good news about Gordon Heller's Free Love Confidential. In the arena of bodkin, this is one director who bares it all — almost — and often. Sadly, the skanks he hired to do the disrobing look like rejects from the Pazuzu auditions for The Exorcist. Faces pinched up in obvious plastic surgery disaster mode and teeth tarnished by a life laced with bad liquor, loud men, and loose morals, our stars are so skuzzy they make Courtney Love look like Mother Angelica. Since we are stuck with these unattractive gals for the entire film (only Mickey makes a run for their mutt-ugly money when she disrobes and flashes her flapjacks) an exploitation fan has to make a rather difficult decision. Either they ignore the witchy woman weirdness of the duo, accept their lack of looks and get with the grinding, or just ignore this nausea all together and find a hobby. It's a flesh feast given that desirability is as important to arousal as a full frontal shot, and in rare occasions, the availability of nudity can overcome some fairly non-photogenic facets. But the two actresses here are just plain scary. This means that all that's left is the narrative, and it's a barebone bit of bullcrap that uses the blackmailing as an excuse for endless scenes of counterfeit copulating. It all grows very dull and repetitive after a while."
The plot from TCM: "Bored with their lives, Kaye (Karen Miller), the wife of a wealthy Hollywood businessman, and her close friend Gieselle (Yvette Corday) decide to answer an ad in an underground newspaper soliciting figure models with unusual talents. At Robin's (John Warren) photography studio, they are given some marijuana to smoke. They quickly become high and pose in a variety of provocative positions for the camera. After a final shooting session in which Robin joins them in the bedroom, the girls leave, and they suddenly realize that the photographer possesses incriminating evidence of their uninhibited activities. When they return the next day, they are met by a lesbian, Mickey, who forces them to submit to her embraces in exchange for the film's return. When she is finished with them, she demands $500 to complete the deal. Desperate, the women attempt to steal the money, and they are nearly caught by a guard. The next day, they finally meet Robin, who explains that he has no intention of blackmailing them, and he unrolls the spool of film before their eyes."
Lead male John Warren, by the way, began his career in England in 1947; he had his career high point with Ed Wood's Bride of the Monster (1955 / trailer / full movie), and seems to have retired after appearing as crowd filler in Don't Go in the Woods (1981).
Trailer to Don't Go in the Woods (1981): 
 



Women of Desire
(1967, dir. Vincent L. Sinclair)
Shares Only the Title —
The Shaw Brothers' Women of Desire (1974):
Both director Sinclair and screenplay author Carl Baker seem to have been one shot wonders. TV Guide explains the movie: "After being told by the cops that his wife was killed by a truck, a man reaches the bizarre conclusion that she was not on her job as a nurse but instead was working as a hooker. In flashback we see that that strange instinct is true. Upset and drinking over her losses at the racetrack, she was approached by a smooth-talking individual who convinced her where the real money was. After working a motel for a while, she met a neighbor and feared the truth would finally be exposed. She told the pimp she was quitting and promptly ran off — unfortunately for her, into the path of an oncoming truck. A film for which the term 'garbage' is too dignified a word."
According imdb, the movie features Monica Davis; she supposedly started her career with an (un-credited) appearance as a nurse in George Weiss' classic roadshow exploiter Test Tube Babies (1948 / trailer / full movie), but her first known credited appearance seems to have been in Barry Mahon's voodoo flick, The Dead Ones (1961):
Trailer to The Dead Ones (1961):

The Dead One (1961) von bmoviebabe
 



Mini-Skirt Love
(1967, writ & dir. Lou Campa)

 
A rare starring role for the tragic Janet Banzet, billed here as Marie Brent, who committed suicide in 1971. DVD Drive-in points out that "There's not a miniskirt in sight in Mini-Skirt Love, but there's plenty of wild sexual kink on-hand instead. [...] This is without a doubt one of the most uncomfortable sexploitation flicks ever made, like a Joe Sarno film without the class and finesse." 
 
Dance Scene from Mini-Skirt Love:
Digitally Obsessed explains the plot and more: "After her affair with the appropriately named Peter Johnson (Nick Harrison) gets caught on film by her son (Donny Lee as "Billy"), the distraught mom (Bella Donna) tries to commit suicide with a kitchen knife, but only succeeds in 'accidentally' stabbing her understandably upset husband (Guy Sinclair). But in Campa's world, that's okay, because hubbie had already been shown getting it on with a black prostitute, so his death has a 'he had that coming' feel to it. Mommy gets shipped off to the nuthouse, and kindly, but sexually-repressed Aunt Janet (Janet Banzet aka Marie Brent) is sent to care for poor Billy. She's not there ten minutes before she's soaping up his bare ass in the shower, slinking around in see-through nighties, pleasuring herself to pictures of her sister(!) and Peter Johnson, and of course eventually hopping in the sack with the ageing teenager down the hall. The semi-incestuous nature of this is weird, even for Campa, but the late Marie Brent is actually darn good here. She plays the crazy/sexy/weird aunt with the right amount of sexploitation camp, and by the time she falls into a lusty lesbian romp with the Avon Lady (that eventually leads to an implied three-way with Billy), you know the bizarro meter is in the red. But Campa's not done, as he piles on a wacko ending involving the return of crazy mommy, a lucky milkman, and what we're supposed to assume is unimaginable suburban depravity. Fun."
Trailer to Mini-Skirt Love:  

Trailer till Miniskirt Love från rstvideos trailerarkiv. 
Billy — or, rather, Donny Lee — seems to have ended his career in Doris Wishman's Double Agent 73 (1974).
Trailer to Wishman's Double Agent 73 (1974): 




Diary of a Swinger
(1967, writ & dir John & Lem Amero)
 
Novak distributed this sexploiter from the seminal, productive and relatively forgotten Amero Brothers; three years later, in 1970, they made their masterpiece Bacchanale (starring Harry Reems), and directly thereafter they advanced into hardcore porn (gay and straight), only to disappear after 1985. (Lem died of AIDS in 1989, who knows what happened to John.)
Full Movie — 
The Amero Brothers' NSFW Masterpiece Bacchanale:
Bacchanale (2006) from Sam Zimmerman on Vimeo.
One Sheet Index has the original one-sheet description: "How does a quiet girt from a small New England town become a swinger ... a straw girl, a hollow girl? Jeannie (Rita Bennett, credited "Joanna Cunningham") is twenty-one and she has had the course all the kicks ... all the glitter ... and an unsuccessful suicide attempt that finally forces her to accept psychiatric care. Through intimate flash-backs the audience sees in clinical detail all the emotionally searing events that brought her to the brink of suicide. Was it the rape? In the early morning of her womanhood, Jeannie loved to roam the bright, clean farmlands near her home. One morning she met a local farmhand ... they walked together ... talked a while then suddenly she found herself in the fragrant meadow grass ... his virile shoulders blocked the sun and in her eyes warm mist obscured the sky ... a little scream died in her throat. But was it rape? The solid farm folk didn't think so. The accusation in their eyes affirmed their knowledge of her guilt. Escape. From them, from herself. Jeannie came to New York to lose herself in the lonely crowd. There she shared an apartment with Vivian (Rose Conti), warm, knowing and self-sufficient without men. Jeannie became a secretary in a theatrical agency. Here she hoped to begin a career in the glamour industry, and here she met Jim, a smooth, handsome young actor on his way up. At first their relationship seems to be the love she needs so desperately to give and receive. But there is room in Jim's ego for only love. Jim can only take, not give. She runs from him when he tries to seduce her and it becomes obvious that he can only make love, not love. Because of her beauty, Jeannie is fair game for every male on the make. The head of the agency keeps pressuring her and finally attacks her in his office. She moves on to become a model in the shadow world of high fashion. Here the roles of the sexes are obscured and relationships superficial. Jeannie longs for Jim. She tries to reach him, but he has left town on tour. When he returns she runs to him, ready now to settle for only the appearance of a normal love affair. He takes her to an opening night party. But the party turns into a jet-set orgy. When Jeannie refuses to join Jim in the sexual fun games, Jim grabs another girl and makes love to her in front of Jeannie. Frightened, and distraught, Jeannie runs home. She surprises a burglar. Cornered, alone in her apartment, the burglar attacks and rapes her. When he escapes she makes the suicide attempt that brings her to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist tries to help, to reach out ... but it is all too late for Jeannie, her emotional wounds are permanent ... unable now to ever enjoy healthy relations with a man, she turns reluctantly to the security of Vivian's strange, unnatural love."
Trailer: 
 



Pain and Pleasure
(1967, dir. unknown)
 
A truly obscure movie that no one seems to have ever seen, who could not find out who wrote or directed it; personally, we here at A Wasted Life have our doubts that Harry H. Novak even had anything to do with this movie, but the online magazine Funhouse says he did, and who are we to disagree. Pain and Pleasure seems to be one of two "star vehicles" for Sammy Arena (1 September 1931 — 5 December 2012), one half of the Floridian lounge act The Arena Twins.
The Arena Twins sing Judy (1961):
Previously, Sammy Arena had the lead in Enrico Blancocello's horror exploiter The Strange Fetishes (1967) and, years later, he was seen somewhere in the infamous movie Gun Fighter, aka The Amazing Mr No Legs (1979), which we took a look at in Part II of our R.I.P. career review Jim Kelly.
We searched high and low, but the only synopsis we could find for Pain and Pleasure was once again at TCM: "Sammy, a deranged alcoholic, tries to escape from his past life and the pain of his present existence by drinking, going to erotic movies, and dreaming of nude dancers. He attempts to pick up a young blonde woman who reminds him of his former wife. The girl turns him down, and he rapes another young woman in a deserted warehouse. He is later seduced by a nymphomaniac. Sammy goes to another sex exploitation film and returns to the nymphomaniac's home. She is gone, but he discovers that the blonde girl who resembles his former wife is a houseguest. He attacks the girl and discovers in horror that she is his own daughter. She kills him with a liquor bottle." Some woman by the name of "Angelique" co-stars. 
Trailer to The Amazing Mr. No Legs (1979):



Mundo depravados
(1967, writ. & dir. Herb Jeffries)
 
Opening sequence:
We took a superficial look at this movie recently in our review of Sam Newfield's The Monster Maker (1944); Newfield, one of the great one-shot directors of the Golden Age of Poverty Row directed the possible Afro-American and today unjustly under-known jazz singer Herb Jeffries (who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6672 Hollywood Boulevard) in the first "all-colored" musical western Harlem on the Prairie (1937); Jeffries acted in a limited number of "race films" over those years, but this movie here, made 40 years after his debut in Harlem on the Prairie, is his only directorial effort. Pure cheap exploitation, it was meant as a vehicle for his then-wife, the famous stripper Tempest Storm (born February 29, 1928).
Herb Jeffries singing
Baby Won't You Please Come Home:
DVD Drive-In sort of likes the movie, but still calls Mundo depravados "One of the longest 78 minutes in sexploitation history." The Video Vacuum, on the other hand, didn't like the flick: "There's a killer running around with a stocking on his face that gets off on stabbing girls [...]. Two dim-witted sex-starved cops are on the case, but can they stop the killer before he strikes again? Mundo Depravados ([aka] World of the Depraved) is a so-so nudie mystery movie that features a good amount of tits and not much else. I think the big problem is that it tries to be a 'roughie' but it just doesn't have enough balls to get down and dirty. It's telling that the movie is called 'World of the Depraved', yet the most depraved thing in the flick (besides murders of course) is a couple of Peeping Toms. The movie also suffers greatly from the woefully unfunny comic relief cops. I think if all of their stupid banter was left on the cutting room floor in favor of letting more girls get naked, the flick could've worked. Then again, the girls in this movie are kinda rough looking. Tempest Storm in particular looks pretty busted. It also looks like gravity hasn't been very kind to her if you catch my drift."
Gravity seldom is. Currently, Tempest is still alive and retired and living in Las Vegas, but Jeffries, who turned 100 last Sept 24th, was last seen living in Wichita, Kansas, where he died on 25 May 2014.
Full movie: 




For Love and Money
(1967, dir. Donald A. Davis)
 
Donald A. Davis (7 June 1932 — 23 September 1982), aka "Don Davis", was a contemporary and pal of Ed Wood Jr whose films are pretty much of the same artistic level as the man who, as everyone knows, made Plan 9 from Outer Space (in which Davis makes a short, un-credited appearance as drunk leaving a bar).
Trailer to Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959):
For Love and Money is based on an Ed Wood Jr sex novel The Sexecutives (Private Edition 457, credited to "David L. Westermier", cover art by Paul Radar); according to Cinema Head Cheese, "The film rights to The Sexecutives were purchased by Don A. Davis and turned into a film, with a screenplay by Wood, [...]. Suffice it to say that Wood could make even sex boring."
According to Dead 2 Rights, "The movie's plot hinges on a crime ring of sexy young female blackmailers under the employ of Ms. Irene Kelly (Janice Kelly), who runs what might be considered a combination escort-and-temp agency, renting out the services of secretaries and 'convention hostesses' to horny, middle-aged businessmen. What these fellows don't realize is that the young ladies they've hired are not just there to 'serve' them. In fact, they're industrial espionage agents, either stealing hush-hush company information or putting powerful men in compromising positions so that they can later be blackmailed. And what the girls themselves don't realize is that the police are wise to them and have been tapping their phone calls and secretly recording their trysts. Between the girls spying on the businessmen and the cops spying on the girls, a good deal of For Love & Money is devoted to shots of hidden microphones and secreted cameras, and there are many minutes of screen time devoted to people electronically eavesdropping on the conversations — and love-making sessions — of others.
Among the women who don't get naked enough in the movie is the legendary and eternally popular red-headed nude model Michelle Angelo, who according to imdb "Began pin-up modeling as a way to help finance her husband's college education." That's her above, but not from the movie.
Theme Song to For Love and Money,
written by Jim & Chet Moore and sung by Jose Siemens:
 
 



The Girl with Hungry Eyes
(1967, writ. & dir. William Rotsler)
   

"The girls who played both sides of the fence!"

The tagline isn't really all that correct — Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! — as only one gal plays both sides of the fence. Aka Face of Sin.
NSFW Trailer to The Girl with Hungry Eyes:
BFI reduces the film to a terse description, "Strip-tease without plot", while at Movies About Girls, in his long pan of the movie, Ken McIntyre is a bit more detailed in what he dislikes: "William Rotsler (RIP) [...] wrote and directed this woozy, wrong-headed snoozer about an snarly butch lesbian and her tender girl-toy. It wobbles precariously between half-assed morality tale and balls-first exploitation, but never really commits to either. So what's left? Mush, pretty much. [...] So, clearly there's a 'moral' here. And the moral is: All Lesbians are Evil. Also, All Men are Beasts, but at least they're, you know, normal beasts. Welcome to the 60s! Although it started out strong, hinting at a no-budget, Sapphic-centered Faster Pussycat (1965) cop, Girl With the Hungry Eyes quickly devolves into a series of long and pointless flashbacks that pad the running time, but do nothing to advance the story. It's not particularly sleazy or lurid, either, especially given the era it sprang from. It does, however, prominently feature the exquisite bosoms of Vicky Dee [aka Adele Rein] — to say nothing of her still cutting-edge, two-toned punk-chick haircut — so that's something. It's not much, but it's something."
Tigercat (Cathy Crowfoot) kills Tom (Scott Avery):
And the plot? Slashers, Starlets and Sleaze goes into detail: "Kitty (Adele Rein [billed as 'Vicky Dee']) finds herself on the run from her bitchy butch girlfriend Tigercat (Cathy Crowfoot) after a heavy make-out session with hitchhiker Tom (Scott Avery) draws Tigercat's ire. She runs off into the woods to get away from her sneering lesbian partner and plays slap the salami with Tom which triggers the voyeuristic Tigercat's delusions imagining her flogging Kitty against a tree. This sends Tiger into a murderous rage bashing Tom's head in. She assures Kitty that everything is fine and no one needs to know what happened and reminds her of the better times in the relationship that Kitty wanted to escape. They go back home leaving the dead man lying in the woods." After that, Kitty takes a shower, Pat Barrington shows up to get naked at a lesbian b-day party, more relationship stress and Kitty runs to her old ex Brian (William Rotsler), Tigercat searches for her and eventually the film ends, unspectacularly.
Look carefully at the cherry lickers at the party and you probably won't recognize a young Charlotte Stewart, a good ten years before she gave birth to the monster baby in David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977 / trailer). The same year as this movie, Adele Rein ("Kitty") — the blond babe above — also appeared as the buxom daughter Coral in Russ Meyer's Common Law Cabin (aka How Much Lovin' Does a Normal Couple Need?). 
Trailer to Russ Meyer's Common Law Cabin: 
 



My Body Hungers
(1967, writ & dir Joe Sarno)

"A Lace Garterbelt Becomes An Instrument For Murder!" 

Aka My Body Cries and The Lace Rope. This Joe Sarno movie is not found on most on-line lists of movies that Harry Novak was involved in, but it is found listed at one source, an online magazine called Funhouse, which claims he distributed it; a statement supported by TCM, which says the movie was distributed by Boxoffice International, Novak's company.
The good ol' One Sheet Index offers the original teaser storyline for My Body Hungers: "A small New England town explodes into lurid nationwide headlines with the violent death of Janet Ted (Geraldine Baron), a hostess at the notorious High Roost Lodge, a roadhouse and strip joint, situated on the outskirts. [...] At the time of Janet Teel's murder, her younger sister, Marcia (Gretchen Rudolph), is hitchhiking across country for a reunion with Janet, whom she hasn't seen in over a year. [...] From the local newspaper, Marcia is shocked to the point of hysteria when she reads the lurid details of her sister's death. She is incensed by the report that her sister was a girl of low moral standards and vows to find out who killed her sister and why, convinced that when the mystery is solved the licentious charges against Janet's reputation will be erased. [...] She applies for the job as hostess vacated by her sister and after some interrogation by the owner and manager of the lodge, Joan Reynolds (Tammy Latour), a cunning, outspoken woman, Marcia is employed. While working at the lodge, Marcia makes it her business to get friendly with anybody who had been friendly with Janet, mixing in with the "B" girls and floor show strippers in an effort to get information. [...] Lt. Loring (John Aristedes) is somewhat annoyed, although obviously attracted to this beautiful newcomer who is trying to play detective, but the question 'Why,' keeps everybody guessing. Marcia manages to get involved with George Harvey (Tony King), the son of the wealthy and possessive Mavis Harvey (Bella Donna), who runs the local newspaper. [...] Marcia is assaulted and raped by an unknown assailant one evening as she steps out of her bath. She confides this bit of information to Lt. Loring, who keeps a close watch on all that goes on at the lodge. After two attempts are made upon Marcia's life, the killer is finally drawn out into the open..."
 
Also from Sarno & Made the Same Year —
Ride the Wild Pink Horse:
 



Red Roses of Passion
 (1967, writ & dir Joe Sarno)
This Joe Sarno movie is not found on most on-line lists of movies that Harry Novak was involved in, but it is found listed at one source, an online magazine called Funhouse, which claims he distributed it; a statement supported by TCM, which says the movie was distributed by Boxoffice International, Novak's company.
Film France says: "Red Roses of Passion is an American fantasy film [...]. Our overall rating for Red Roses of Passion is: good, not a bad effort, perhaps a little lacking in depth and originality — not a masterpiece but still well worth watching."
TCM has the plot: "Carla (Patricia McNair as "Laurene Claire") lives with her moralizing Aunt Julie (Bella Donna as "Liz Love") and her prudish cousin Tracey (Laura London). Carla's friend Enid (Carol Holleck) advises her to see Martha Kag (Helena Clayton), a mystic who will help Carla with her family problems. Carla does not realize that Enid is employed by Martha to lure young women to her séances, where they are given aphrodisiacs and forced to pay homage to Pan, the god of love. On the first night that Carla visits Martha, she witnesses a woman being sacrificed to Pan, and she flees in terror. She returns later, however, after Enid reassures her that no harm is done to the women. Martha instructs Carla to put a vial of aphrodisiac in Aunt Julie's tea. That night after Aunt Julie has drunk the tea, Pan, disguised as a delivery man, brings her a poisoned rose. She touches the enchanted rose, loses control of herself, and has sex with the delivery man. Tracey is shocked to witness this, but later she is also given the aphrodisiac and reacts in the same manner as her mother. Carla, temporarily satisfied with the revenge on her relatives, asks Martha to release Aunt Julie and Tracey from the spell. Martha agrees, on the condition that Carla becomes the bride of Pan. Carla gives herself to Pan, who is actually Martha's sexually deranged brother, and though she is able to free her aunt and cousin, she falls victim in their place."
Trailer:

To be continued... one day.

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