Grindhouse Classics : “Swingers Massacre”

Posted: February 18, 2012 in movies
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Question : what kind of a movie features Uschi Digard, Rene Bond, and Marsha Jordan — and doesn’t have any of them, as Joe Bob Briggs would say, git nekkid?

If you answer is “a dull one,” or “one that doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing,” you’d be correct. You’d also be correct if you simply answered Swingers Massacre.

To be sure, director Ron Garcia’s 1975 subpar (at least on a purely aesthic level) exploitation effort, filmed back-to-back with Don Jones’ superior Abduction and featuring much of the same “talent” both in front of and behind the camera (be on the lookout for Jones regular Gary Kent as one of the swingin’ husbands in this one, for example — and I probably shouldn’t have put those quote marks around the word talent in the dismissive way I did given that Jones himself was the cinematographer on this one, with Garcia assuming those responsibilities on Abducted, and both are pretty good, and certainly well-respected, talents-minus-scare-quotes-to-imply-derision, with Garcia continuing to work as a cinematographer on mainstream prime-time network TV dramas like the new Hawaii Five-O to this day and Jones going on to direct much more fondly-remembered films than this one such as The Forest) is plodding, drawn out (105 minutes!), and hopelessly predictable — but don’t hold all that against it, because depending on your sensibilities, it’s also one of the downright sickest and most repugnant pieces of business you’ll ever come across, and for that alone, it’s certainly worth watching.

But first, a little plot background — and believe me when I say a little is all that’s needed. Charlie Tishman (Mikel Angel, here working under the impenetrably weird pseudonym of “Eastman Price,” and best known for his directorial work in the exploitation biz himself on such “roughie” softcore fare as The Psycho Lover) is an (apparently) successful criminal defense attorney in the Los Angeles area. He’s got money, status (the cops seems to actually like the guy, which isn’t a common thing when it comes to law enforcement and defense lawyers) and a loving-and-none-too-shabby-in-the-looks-department wife at home, Amy (Joyanne Mitchell, working pseudonymously here as well under the handle of “Jan Mitchell”). So of course he’s bored out of his mind. In between swigging down VO-and-7s (I counted him drinking at least a dozen of them over the course of the flick), he convinces the Mrs. that maybe trying out the local swingers scene isn’t such a bad idea and might jazz things up a bit as far as their love life goes. At first she’s reluctant, but after a few scenes of him doing nothing but prodding her on the subject, and a “love scene” that shows him getting on top of her and getting his rocks off in, I shit you not, exactly eight seconds, she finally agrees. You would too.

They hit a local night spot for the swingin’ set called, again I shit you not, Filthy McNasty’s (a bar that apparently even has its own theme song as the lame-ass band on stage there is playing a number called “Filthy McNasty”), meet up with some other local fun-loving couples (cue the appearances of Digard, Jordan, and Bond mentioned earlier — and again, I stress that while there is certainly a fair, though hardly copious,  amount of nudity in this flick, none of these three extremely-popular-at-the-the-time-and-all-damn-nice-looking ladies ever sheds her clothes in front of the camera — surely some kind of bizarre record, because I don’t think I’ve seen a single other film these women were in, either separately or together (and they often appeared in the same large-cast softcore productions in different scenes) where even one of them, much less all three, kept their assets concealed) and find themselves invited to a little private party at one of the couple’s homes. And that’s where the troubles begin.

That’s because the party is a big hit — but not for Charlie. Ya see, even though this whole swinging thing was his idea, once called upon to perform (geez, how’s that for putting things in the cleanest terminology possible), our guy Charlie’s junior member just can’t rise to the occasion. Amy, meanwhile, is the belle of the ball, getting down and dirty with all the guys and having, as she so demurely puts it afterwards, “a lovely time.” Soon, the other couples — guys and gals both! — are calling the Tishman home and asking for more and more of that good stuff Amy was serving up. At subsequent soirees, though, Charlie always has the same — uhhhmmm — issue : he just plain can’t get it up, while his wife is off having one “lovely time” after another.

So what’s a guy to do, I ask you? Charlie’s answer is a simple one — time to assume the role of impotent superman and kill all the guys who’ve fucked his wife. Again, even though this whole thing was his idea in the first place.

It all sounds like pretty standard stuff, doesn’t it? A mid-70s exploitation flick with an inherently anti-sex, pro-traditional-values message, in this case on the “evils” of wipe-swapping, disguised as a titillating softcore skin parade would certainly be nothing new, after all. But wait — didn’t I say this was one of the “most repugnant pieces of business you’re ever likely to see”? Why’s that? Do things get unexpectedly bloody when the killing starts or something? Nope, in fact the murders themselves are nothing particularly special or memorable (and thanks to Apprehensive Films’ recent DVD release of this film, the ones that occur at night can barely be seen at all due to the shitty, unremastered “quality” of their full-frame transfer that seriously must be a direct-from-VHS job — there are no extras on the disc to speak of apart from a few (quite hastily assembled, by the look of things) trailers for other Apprehensive titles) in the least. But the tone director Garcia takes here — well, dear readers, that’s another matter altogether, and that’s where this film really strikes sleazy gold.

From the moment Charlie can’t get his prick to pop up (for Marsha Jordan, no less), it’s pretty clear that Ron G. wants the audience to both empathize with, and frankly to assume, the limp-dicked lawyer’s point of view! In her very first tryst with another guy (on the floor, how’s that for classy?), we’re “treated” to the movie’s de facto theme song, a lazily oozing little number called “Who Knows What Goes On Inside Amy?” (the movie itself was also released under the title of Inside Amy, which at first sounds a lot less prurient and sensationalistic than Swingers Massacre until you take a moment to really consider how that moniker would sound to patrons of the still-hanging-on-for-dear-life-at-the-time softcore theatrical market — “Yeah, I’d like to get Inside Amy, too!”) , the lyrics for which tell her (and, by extension, us) that it’s Amy herself who’s headed down the road to ruin, that she’d better get home and start being a housewife again, that the nasty, filthy fantasies inside her head are going to tear her loving marriage apart — as if all this shit were her fault! Hell, once Charlie starts killing, he’s just doing what any normal, red-blooded American guy who’s wife has had a fair number of strangers’ pricks in her would do, right?

Weird as that may sound, especially given (and this is the last time I’ll bring this up, I promise!) that the whole idea of fucking around with other “good-time” couples was cooked up not “Inside Amy” but “Inside Charlie,” that’s exactly the editorial viewpoint that Garcia assumes with the rest of this flick.  It doesn’t take long for the cops investigating the case to realize the common thread that unites all the murder victims that have come their way in the last few days, and once they do it’s just a matter of doing a little more dot-connecting before the trail leads them right to the Tishman household, but this enitre time it’s pretty clear that the director’s sympathies lie with the killer, even when (stop right here if you don’t want the ending given away) Amy guns her husband down while he’s attacking her during the film’s climax (which is about as exciting as one of Charlie’s probably is to his wife given that the script telegraphs the fact that there are guns in the home via police radio a few minutes earlier) — she’s the one who wanted to step out on her old man, and he’s a martyr to her insatiable sexual desires. Or something like that. Who the hell wrote this script — Rick Santorum?

So what we’ve got here goes well beyond the simple anti-sex, puritanical messaging inherent in so many exploitation flicks that market themselves as being transgressive, footloose, and fancy-free. This crosses the line from being anti-pleasure into being straight-up, and muscularly, anti-women, in a way that even the most transparent slasher flick that kills all the girls who like sex while having the virgin save the day and be the sole survivor never could. You’d certainly never get away with anything this stridently patriarchal, not to mention openly afraid of female sexuality, today — which is probably for the best, I suppose. But seeing such retrograde attitudes displayed so openly and without pretense definitely makes Swingers Massacre an interesting viewing experience, even if it’s by no stretch of the imagaination, or definition of the term, a good one.

Get back in the kitchen, ladies — or it’ll all end in tears!

Comments
  1. Aaron Babcock says:

    Maybe Rick Santorum did write this script. It seems pretty plausible.

    Still, I guess you have to give this one props for being so unabashedly filthy with the names (Inside Amy, ect), and the mixture of titillation with, well, a stern lecture about promiscuous women. I mean, it is honest about its intentions, even if they are scummy. That’s gotta be worth something. Great review!

    • trashfilmguru says:

      Thanks. I find myself strangely, and probably unfortunately, somewhat admiring of this film forthose very reasons. The unabashed way in which it promulgates its really rather pathetic message makes for some weirdly compelling viewing.

  2. David Brown says:

    The lead actress, Jan or Joyanne Mitchell, is only listed in two films on IMDB. Was this a “non de film” by an adult actress of that era?

    • trashfilmguru says:

      You got it! Joy Mitchell was the name she typically used in the adult biz, if I’m not mistaken.

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