Posts Tagged ‘John Tull’

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way first here — that’s a pretty crappy scan for the poster of 1971’s Below The Belt, isn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s also the one and only image I could find of it anywhere online, so we’re sort of stuck with it — and that’s kind of a shame given that, as far as Harry Novak softcore productions go, this one actually isn’t too bad.

Novak and writer/director Bethel Buckalew have traded in the barnyards and swamps of hick country for the mean. gritty streets of the (unnamed) big city in this one, and venturing out of their usual “comfort zone” injects the proceedings here with a frisson of realism that most of their collaborations fail to achieve (not that they’re really trying). Sure, it would still be a heck of a reach to claim that this is anything like a good movie, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a successful one in terms of doing what it sets out to do — even if all it “sets out to do” is show a lot of simulated sex scenes.

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For those concerned with a recap of the threadbare plot, here it is : dimwit prizefighter Sammy (played by John Tull, who “starred” in too many flicks of this nature to count) is saddled with a sleazy manager named Johnny (Steven Hodge) who’s in deep trouble with local mobster Louie (Fred Finkleloffe), which is a bad thing because Louie’s the kind of guy who doesn’t really appreciate deadbeats who don’t pay up, and he has the muscle working for him to do something about it. What’s a shady promoter to do? Why, use his charge to get him out of hot water, of course!

Johnny has to keep his fighter focused on his training regimen if he’s going to ride him to a big payday, though, and in order to do that he has to make sure that all of the big galoot’s needs are met — and so while trainer Benny (the always-awesome George “Buck” Flower) works him during daytime hours, leggy hooker Lisa (Mirka Madnadraszky — billed here simply as “Mirka”) is hired to keep him busy at night. Johnny’s definitely not a one-woman kind of guy, though, so look for him to stalk, subdue, and not exactly rape, since she eventually consents, Rene Bond (playing another hooker who’s never given a name), and to have long, slow (but, fortunately, in no way dull) poolside sex with the amazingly-endowed Uschi Digard (whose character is purportedly named “Denise,” although I don’t recall hearing her called that — or anything — in the film), as well. There’s some pseudo lesbian love-making thrown into the mix for good measure, as well, so hey — that’s always a plus.

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In fairness, this flick suffers from the same setbacks that pretty much all of these things do — cheesy theme song, repetitious music during the sex scenes, dull camera work more concerned with obscuring any actual penetration that may or may not be occurring than it is with actually making the copulation look interesting, and cheap studio and location sets, to name just a few obvious shortcomings — but in its favor, it has well-above-average performances from Hodge, Finkleloffe, and Flower, a decidedly unexpected but perfectly logical downbeat ending, and best of all Bond and Digard eating up plenty of screentime and doing what they do best.

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So yeah, what the hell — Below The Belt is definitely worth a look, and look at it you certainly can thanks to (need I even say it?) Something Weird Video, who released it on DVD some years back paired with another Novak sexploitationer, The Godson (which, if memory serves me correctly, I reviewed on this site a few years ago). Both films have been remastered to look as good as they possibly can and are presented full-frame with mono sound. Extras include the standard collection of Novak trailers and promo art, plus a couple of generally pretty decent, if quite grainy, Uschi solo loops (one of which is hidden as an “Easter egg”), which makes perfectly good sense given that she features, to one degree or another, in both films. Worth a buy if you’re a fan of these sorts of movies and can still manage to find it at anything like a semi-reasonable price.

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If you buy the 1971 copyright credit on legendary exploitation producer Harry Novak’s The Godson — and I guess there’s really no reason not to — then that means only one thing : they got this sleazy softcore number “in the can,” so to speak, in a hurry. A quick nudie cash-in on Coppola’s mob masterpiece was a given, of course, but the fact that writer/director William Rostler (who, interestingly enough, went on to a career in children’s television) was able to crank this out for Novak later during the very same year that The Godfather was released — in fact, you can rest assured Francis Ford’s opus was still playing when this one hit The Deuce and various grindhouse and drive-in screens across the country — is a fairly impressive feat, in my view. Not that my standards for what constitutes being “impressive” are all that high, mind you, but whatever.

And speaking of being impressive, a lot of the nubile female flesh on display here is precisely that. The poster for this flick proclaims their main girl, Lois Mitchell, to be “the most exciting new discovery of the decade” (keep in mind the decade was rather young), and while that might be a little bit much, she’s certainly easy on the eyes, particularly in the opening credits sequence that’s lifted more directly from the James Bond series than it is any mob movie. Sexploitation starlets Uschi Digard — who, sadly, only appears in one scene, but at least it’s a memorable one — Maria Arnold, June Allyson, and the one-time Mrs. Richard Pryor herself, Deborah McGuire (who also turned up briefly in Russ Meyer’s Supervixens , so Uschi’s  not the only “R.M. girl” to be ogled here) clock in for duty as well, so hey, there’s not a whole lot to complain about in the simulated-bumping-and-grinding department.

Unless you count that the fact that so much of it is decidedly strange, even by pre-Deep Throat standards, when you had to get inventive to get noticed because you couldn’t legally go “all the way” yet . Seriously, it’s no huge wonder that “discovery of the decade” Mitchell only went on to appear in one more film in her short career (and in a bit part, no less), given the confusing entry into the business she endured here. She shows a fair amount of gung-ho phony enthusiasm for the more “hands-on” aspects of her work, but Rostler can’t decide if he wants to make a hard-hitting misogynistic mob movie or a Benny Hill-style romp, and the end result is softcore with a decidedly split personality .  Still, that gives it a leg up over its mostly-dull competition in my view, and   trust me when I say that the keen eye will be rewarded by paying close attention to one scene in particular that Rostler offers up here. More on that in a minute, though — first we’ve gotta talk plot.

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Calling the story in this one “paper thin” is probably being a little generous, but that’s true for any early-’70s softcore effort, isn’t it? Marco (Jason Yukon) is the godson of a feared mob boss who’s determined to make his own mark in the underworld and break out from the long shadow cast by his benefactor (who, of course, he resents the hell out of) . To that end,  he double-crosses his Don by turning the previously-failing local brothel into a rip-roaring success, but his business acumen angers the wrong folks and proves to the key to his eventual downfall. Whoops, sorry for giving away the ending — suffice to say he’s not the only one who dies, though.

In between all this middling quasi-drama the girls he employs are put through a heck of a workout, and by and large seem to be having fun. Hicksploitation stalwart John Tull turns up to get his willie wet, and I vaguely recognize some of the other guys in this one as well, but the most recognizable face appears only briefly and  is obscured by two naked women positioned on his lap — none other than legendary science fiction scribe Harlan Ellison is the lucky fella in question, in a scene that sees our ladies performing an “outcall service” in the writer’s actual (as in real life) home. Yes, friends, this is most definitely the only (nominal) mob flick that depicts a post-sci fi convention geek orgy, guaranteed!

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The Godson is probably worth a watch for that fact alone, but a little more Uschi would have been welcome (I suppose you can say that about any film, though), especially since even though, as I mentioned, the other ladies all seem plenty hot to trot, she still puts ’em all to shame with her boundless bouncing and eager carnal euphoria. I have no idea if she’s anything like to always-ready-to-ride nympho she plays in every single one of her flicks, but ya know, it warms my heart to think that she might be.

Still, in case I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, The Godson is, at the very least, a decidedly different kind of sexploitation picture. Sure, it’s uneven, and frankly pretty amateurish in many places, but it’s at least never (well, never might be a reach — will you settle for almost never?) dull. I don’t really know if Rostler had a very clear idea of what he was doing here, but watching him try (and, sure, sometimes fail) to figure it out while a bunch of good-looking naked women writhe and gyrate isn’t the worst way to spend 92 minutes of your life.

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For those of you sufficiently intrigued to feast your eyes on this curiosity for  yourself, it’s available on a double-bill DVD from (of course) Something Weird Video, where’s it’s paired with the decidedly darker and more somber Below The Belt (which features a lot more of  Uschi, yay!). It’s presented in a reasonably good-looking full frame print with fairly solid mono sound, and the disc includes a veritable shitload of extras including a feature-length commentary track with Harry Novak and assorted co-conspirators, two short Uschi nudie loops including one where she meets Dracula, a generous sampling of trailers for other Novak sexploitationers,  and that “gallery of exploitation advertising art and stills” that’s ubiquitous on all of these SWV “special edition” discs they put out through Image Entertainment.  All in all it’s a heck of a nice package — and it definitely doesn’t hurt  that the main feature itself is a fair bit more interesting than most similar fare produced at the time.

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Remember what I said the other day about being done with hicksploitation for the time being? I lied.

I didn’t mean to, honest, but earlier today I was a little bored and gave 1971’s Midnight Plowboy (also released under the not-quite-alternate-per-se title of Midnite Plowboy) a go, and ya know what? By the end of it I was still bored. Maybe even more bored than I was before.

The title of this outing that unites the “talents” of producer Harry Novak, director Bethel Buckalew (once again credited only by his surname here) and star John Tull for the first (I’m assuming) time is clever enough, I suppose, given that Midnight Cowboy had just won the Oscar for best picture a couple of years previously and a number of prints of that soon-to-be-regarded-as-a-classic were still playing drive-ins all over the country, but honestly, the “humor” quotient in this one never really rises above the “so obvious you just have to groan” level — which is okay for 10, 20, maybe even 30 minutes, but it’s not enough to carry an entire 84-minute feature, especially when the only thing punctuating it is bog-standard softcore sex that’s even duller than your grand-dad’s old pocket knife.

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Here’s the rundown : dumbfuck inbred hick Junior (Tull, who sure seems to gravitate toward characters with that name) decides to give it a go in Hollywood when the ladies in his po-dunk Alabama (I think, at any rate) town prove unwilling, and within minutes of hitting Tinseltown he’s getting it on in the backseat of a car with some blonde “free love” type while her hubby watches. Then he finds his way to a brothel run by a madame named — errr — Madame (played by Nan Cee — get it? Sure you do) where, despite being flat broke and smelling, no doubt, like a barnyard, he beds every single chick in the joint before being hired on as their chauffeur. Not of a limo, mind you — but of a van, given that the girls seem to work in a pack every night.

The usual inept sexual hijinks ensue — lots of anatomically impossible positions, little to no exposed male genitalia but plenty of boobs ‘n butts n’ bush , you know the drill (no pun intended — I promise) — and along the way Junior actually falls for one of the working girls (who’s portrayed by Debbie Osborne, the only chick in the flick I actually recognized) before — well, shit, that’s about it. The movie doesn’t even “end” so much as it just stops.

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Unfortunately, it probably should have stopped a lot sooner because, while the cast, to their credit, do seem to be having a fun, high-spirited time, that never translates over to the audience very much. I’m glad they all enjoyed gettin’ nekkid together, it’s just a shame that they didn’t give us any reason to enjoy watching them.

Ah well, the Novak/Buckalew/Tull triumvirate would end up following the old “practice makes perfect” adage and do a much better job of things just two short years later with Sassy Sue.

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If you feel compelled to blow off my advice, though, Midnight Plowboy is available doubled-up with another “hit” from the Novak-Buckalew creativity juggernaut, the equally dire Country Cuzzins, on DVD from Something Weird Video. Both are presented full-frame with mono sound,  the prints look reasonably good (or good enough, at any rate), and you can make out all the dialogue and canned grunting and groaning just fine. Extras are the usual smorgasbord of backwoods-lovin’-related shorts, trailers, etc. In other words, nothing too special — and maybe enough to really get me off hickspoitation once and for all. Or at least until the next time I’m bored again.

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I guess it’s pretty obvious if you’re a reg’lar ’round these here parts that yours truly has been on something of a hicksploitation kick lately, and since I never seem to know when to quit, last night I gave ultra-sleazy 1973 Harry Novak production Sassy Sue a whirl, and ya know what? I think I might just have had my fill of this extinct subgenre for awhile.

It’s not that this softcore effort directed by old skin pro Bethel Buckalew (here credited only by his last name for some reason) is all that bad, per se — it’s just that it’s hard to imagine anything sleazier or more tasteless, so I might as well quit while I’m ahead — and by “ahead” I mean, of course, at the absolute bottom of the barrel.

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To the extent that this flick can be said to have a “plot,” then,  here it is : somewhere way below the Mason-Dixon line, farmer/moonshiner Pa Willard (Patrick Wright) is worried that his dim-witted, most-likely-inbred son, Junior (John Tull) is a little too interested in the livestock — particularly Sassy Sue, one of the family cows — than he is the nubile young ladies running around the countryside in their Daisy Duke shorts (when they bother to wear anything at all, that is), and so he arranges for a bevy of hot n’  horny young honeys to come on by the homestead and give seducing his boy a go.

Pa gets it on with some of the gals, and so does Junior (thankfully), but that gol’ durn dimwit just can’t seem to keep his mind off the cow for very long —

So, yeah, the bestiality theme certainly adds an extra layer of unwholesomeness to this turgid cinematic cesspool, but beyond that the one other thing that seems to set Sassy Sue apart from its other county cuzzins is the fact that, tedious and repetitive as things get (and let’s face it, in these early ’70s nudie films that’s entirely par for the course),  the various (no doubt under-paid) actors and actresses all seem to be visibly having fun with this admittedly idiotic material. In fact, the only person who seems bored by it all is Buckalew, who never gets beyond your basic “point and shoot” approach — although, in fairness to him, it’s not like the material requires anything more than that. So the “what the fuck do you expect?” factor definitely comes into play here.

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As for the flesh on display, a veritable “who’s who” of sexploitation starlets bare it all for the camera here, most notable among them being the semi-legendary Sharon Kelly (or, as she’s better known in this day and age, Colleen Brennan), who’s joined by the likes of Tallie Cochrane, Sandy Carey, Karen Cooknell, and Jeanne Durham, to drop just a few names that fans of this brand of “entertainment” will most likely recognize. Sure, Rene Bond and/or Uschi Digard seem notable by their absence, but apart from them, it seems the gang’s all here, and they really do seem to be enjoying their various and sundry rolls in the hay — even if the guys have a habit of leaving their overalls on.

Or, heck, maybe because the guys have a habit of leaving their overalls on.

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Sassy Sue is available on DVD from Something Weird Video (who else?), where it’s paired with another Novak-produced backwoods boobs n’ butts number, The Pigkeeper’s Daughter. The full frame transfers and mono sound  on both movies are pretty darn nice all things considered, and extras are of the usual “assorted shorts and trailers that are of a piece with the main features” variety. Nothing too terribly remarkable, but it all works,  and even though at 84 minutes this one could stand to lose a good 10 to 15 to  help maintain audience interest a bit more, all in all it’s a reasonably entertaining piece of entirely predictable monkey (or , I guess, cow) business.