Posts Tagged ‘Maria Arnold’

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When a couple of big-city musicians head out to the sticks to play a country music gig at a backwater honky-tonk, any number of things could happen, I suppose — but if they’re doing it in 1974, one thing that was almost ubiquitous along the two-lane roads (paved or otherwise) of our always-lusty country were sexy female hitch-hikers.

Unless, ya know, TV and movies have been lying to me all these years. Which is, I suppose, distinctly possible.

Still, County Hooker being a Harry Novak production and all, veracity is of little concern to the proceedings, and so our ostensible “heroes,” Dave (played by Rick Lutze) and Billy (John Paul Jones — no, Zeppelin fans, not that one) do indeed come across a pair of comely young farmer’s daughters named Sue (Rene Bond, in an early, pre-breast implants performance) and Jan (Sandy Dempsey) with their thumbs out, offer the ladies a ride, and find themselves “paid back” for their troubles in the way that men always are by grateful and/or desperate women in flicks of this sort.

When all that good backwoods fuckin’ is done, though, our quartet quickly finds that they’ve got big  problems on their hands —

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The ladies haven’t been entirely honest with the gents, you see, and not only do they work at the very same banjo-twangin’ joynt the fellas are headed to, the throaty singer, Mike (Louis Ojena) who makes his regular home on the stage there is also a bad-ass hayseed pimp, and the waitresses — including Sue and Jan (and be on the lookout for softcore stalwart Maria Arnold) — all work for him off the clock. Sue’s committed the ultimate infraction in the “pleasure business,” though, by immediately falling head over heels for Dave, but if she thinks she’s gonna get out of her — ahem! — indentured servitude and go live the life of a musician’s main squeeze, she’s got another thing coming, because nobody breaks out of Mike’s lecherous clutches without a fight.

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For about 75% of its roughly 75-minute runtime, Country Hooker plays out more or less exactly as you’d expect, with only the most threadbare of “plots” on hand to string together a fair number of distinctly unimaginative, “point-and-shoot” softcore sex scenes, but towards the end director Lew Guinn and whoever wrote the (I’m guessing) six-or eight-page screenplay decide to throw some tragedy into the mix, and tragedy of a decidedly brutal nature at that, and so one of our leading ladies — I won’t say which — meets her end at the hands of her boss in a genuinely stomach-churning (and unconscionably lengthy) rape-and-murder scene that could give even I Spit On Your Grave a run for its money.

Can you say incongruous? Sure you can, even if you were educated in a one-room country schoolhouse. And that, with apologies to Pee-Wee Herman, is our word for the day around here. Most of what’s on offer here is bog-standard rolling in the hay, with a selection of half-assed wisecracks and badly-dubbed country music to break up the monotony (not that watching Rene Bond faux-screwing is every truly dull), and it’s obvious that no one from Novak on down is taking things very seriously because there’s absolutely no reason to. And then, pretty much out of nowhere, things take a turn for the way darker, way bleaker, and way deadlier. Frankly, the whole tone of the film is shot right to hell and I honestly have to wonder how drive-in and jack-shack inner city grindhouse audiences reacted at the time, because it’s a serious mood-wrecker.

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Still, if a woody-killer is what you’re in the mood for, Country Hooker is available on DVD from (who else?) Something Weird Video where it’s paired with another Novak barnyard romp, Sweet Georgia, Both are presented full-frame with mono sound and extras are the usual SWV collection of thematically-related loops and promo materials. I’ll say this much for this movie — it’s certainly memorable, even if for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

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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.

NECROMANIA

Whenever I think of the last years the iconic Edward D. Wood, Jr. spent on this Earth, I — like you, I’m sure, dear reader — can’t help but feel a deep and abiding sadness that permeates right down to the fucking core of my being. If he’d just been able to hang on for a few more years, who knows how things could have ended up for the guy? Ed passed away in 1978, and by the early 1980s he was being celebrated as “the worst filmmaker of all time” even though we all know he wasn’t/isn’t. But when he died — of heart failure brought on by years of chronic alcohol abuse — he was homeless and crashing at a friend’s place, just another Hollywood has-been who was forever dreaming up one “big comeback” after another that never materialized.

He deserved so much better, didn’t he? Think of the untold hours of joy his work has brought to a legion of fans that continues to grow to this day. Shit, it’s not hard to meet people who have watched Plan 9 From Outer Space alone dozens, if not hundreds, of times. How many folks would love to have had the opportunity to shake the man’s hand and just say “thank you”? I know I count myself among that number, and it’s a fair bet that if you’re reading this, you do, as well.

The ’70s were by far Wood’s toughest decade to endure (as evidenced by the simple fact that he didn’t endure them completely), and it’s not hard to see why — the man who gave us Bride Of The MonsterGlen Or Glenda?, and other singular works of celluloid vision — the man who defined the term “outsider artist” before it was even coined — was reduced to writing dime-a-piece porn novels and living in unimaginable squalor. Diving the bottom of a bottle of Imperial Whiskey must have probably seemed like a pretty good option given the cruel hand fate had dealt him, even if his boozing only made matters (much) worse.

So let’s not hold 1971’s  Necromania — apparently his last film, although he wrote and directed another skin flick, The Young Marrieds, that same year, and which actually came first is a bit of trivia that’s been lost to the ages — against him too much, shall we?

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I don’t know a whole hell of a lot (okay, anything) about Cinema Classics Production, the outfit that hired Wood to helm this softcore (with hardcore inserts filmed,  but not added at the time) stinkbomb, but whoever was behind this one-and-done operation, they do deserve thanks for giving Ed two days and $7,000 to realize his admittedly meager vision with this flick and, hopefully, to feel at least somewhat alive again.

Anecdotes about the production of this film — whose complete title is the admittedly bizarre and gramatically incomprehensible ‘Necromania’: A Tale Of Weird Love! — are few and far between, but according to the Bible of all things Wood, Rudolph Grey’s Nightmare Of Ecstasy, Ed was positively in his element while on set. Sober, on top of his game, directing his miniscule cast with enthusiasm — hell, he even worked in drag and didn’t give a shit what anyone had to say about it. He tackled his assignment, by all accounts, with positive zeal.

Not that any of this shows in the finished product, mind you, because even by early-’70s softcore standards, Necromania is an interminably dull slog. But since a breakdown of the particulars of a film’s “story” is part and parcel of any good review (or, hell, even a review written by me), here we go : a young couple , Shirley (legendary skin starlet Rene Bond, who would also go on, tragically, to drink herself to death)  and Danny (Ric Lutze) are having problems in the bedroom. Specifically, Danny can’t get it up. So they do what any newlyweds in their predicament would, I guess, in the days before Viagra — visit the home of an occult practitioner of sexual magic.

The lady of the house, one Madame Heles, is apparently nowhere to be found, but her lovely young assistant, Tanya (actress uncredited — actually, everyone is uncredited, but it’s no chore to figure out who three of the four “major” participants in the proceedings are) invites them in and selects among her supposed plethora of “marital aides” a purportedly magical dildo that, when left on one of their bedposts, will solve all their problems.

Hey, that was painless, right?

Cue one boring sex scene after another — Shirley and Danny get it on, Shirley gets it on with some random chick, Tanya motor-boats a plastic skull before getting it on with some random guy — and then it’s time for everyone to go and meet Madame Heles (Maria Armold), who’s crashed out in, I shit you not, the very same coffin that the one and only Criswell apparently slept in every night, and a rather listless orgy of sorts ensues before everybody lives happily ever after.

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As boring as all that was to write (and no doubt to  read) about, I assure you that watching it is worse — there’s nothing going on here beyond typical “point and shoot”-style filmmaking, the canned library soundtrack music is, like the “action” on screen, just kinda there, and frankly it’s impossible to imagine even the most hard-up and desperate individual finding anything to get hard and/or wet about here, even if Rene Bond is, as always, drop-dead gorgeous to look at naked. It’s all pretty below-standard stuff for a genre whose standards were, almost without exception, appallingly low to begin with.

Still, shit — it’s Wood, ya know? And even if precisely none of the director’s signature tropes were anywhere on hand, people were going to be looking for this thing like it was some kinda Holy Grail of sleaze, at least for completeness’ sake if nothing else. Until 2001, only a partial (under 60-minute) print survived, and this was released on VHS by Something Weird Video as part of their “Frank Henenlotter’s Sexy Shockers From The Vault” series. Come 2001, however, a for-all-intents-and-purposes unedited (as far as we know) print was discovered, complete with unused hardcore footage, by aforementioned Wood biographer Rudolph Grey at, apparently, a yard sale, and this was subsequently released onto DVD by an outfit known as Fleshbot Films, who have remastered the full frame image and mono sound to what one supposes to be their best possible standards (it still looks and sounds a little rough, as you’d expect), and so now we can, in fact, see Necromania in all its — and I use this term loosely — “glory.”

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Whether one is watching  either the softcore or hardcore edits available on this disc, though — and I give Fleshbot credit for presenting it either way, since one is (again, as far as we know) “complete,” while the other is the version that was seen in Kleenex-providing theaters ( or at least would have been — all prints of the film quickly disappeared, and despite a few different companies being listed as “distributors” of it, whether or not it actually played on any screens anywhere is something of an open question) — the end result is the same : sheer ennui of the sort that leaves one pondering the very fundamental question of when did watch people fuck (or at least pretend to fuck) become so boring?

I can’t answer that any more than I can answer why a film that has absolutely nothing to do with having sex with the dead should be called Necromania, but I do know this much : only the most die-hard of Wood completists are likely to find anything of interest here, and even for them it ain’t gonna be easy.