Posts Tagged ‘rene bond’

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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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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.

 

 

 

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.

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!