Posts Tagged ‘William Rotsler’

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What the hell, I’m in the mood to crank out one more review of a Harry Novak-produced softcore sexploitationer, so let’s close this little week-long series out with probably my favorite of the bunch — 1966’s black-and-white smutfest The Agony Of Love. What sets this one apart from the rest of its well-populated — and sadly extinct — genre? Two words : Pat Barrington.

For those who may not be familiar with the name, Ms. Barrington, who passed away in 2014, was a true standout of sultry sensuality at a time when, let’s face it, just about any woman who was willing to take off all her clothes in front of the camera could find work on these sorts of productions. This was her first crack at a “leading” role, and while she certainly displays no real acting range to speak of, that actually suits the material perfectly, given that her character, Barbara Thomas, is a bored and unsatisfied (both emotionally and sexually) well-to-do housewife who takes to renting out an apartment and prostituting herself behind the back of her cold and distant husband, Barton (played by Sam Taylor) in a fun, but ultimately fruitless,  quest for fulfillment.  Her unnamed shrink (James Brand, working under the name of R.A. Silverberg to disguise the fact that he throws on a hairpiece and portrays one of her clients later in the film) knows all about her supposedly lurid fantasies, of course, but apart from that her secret desires — most of which are pretty tame by today’s standards apart from a truly bizarre food-themed scene — are only shared with those willing to pay for her services, who are more than happy to indulge her at every turn. As they damn well should be. You’ve honestly gotta wonder who’s getting more out of the exchange — her or them?

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Given that this is a pretty early entry into the sexploitation canon, plenty of “rules” of the genre are broken, given that they hadn’t even been established yet. For one thing, rather than a guy getting it on with a lot of different ladies, this one’s about a lady getting it on with a lot of different guys. For another, no one seems to have informed director William Rotsler that all he needs to do is point the camera and shoot, and so we actually are treated to a fair number of interesting and highly effective shots.  And lastly and perhaps most importantly, The Agony Of Love is one of the far-too-few skin flicks that understands that a plot is more than some throwaway device cobbled together to have some sort of plausible explanation for why everyone is fucking all the time and can instead be utilized to make all those sex scenes matter to viewers for reasons other than just getting their rocks off. In fact, one could even argue that Ms. Barrington is given an honest-to-goodness “character arc” here and that said sex scenes further it along.

As mentioned already, emoting isn’t really one of our leading lady’s skills, but she sure can do the “blank stare” look just fine, and given her character’s mental and emotional state throughout, it’s pretty easy to read those listless expressions as purposeful “far away, empty gazes” even if they’re simply signs of either supreme uninvolvement or, more likely, just good old-fashioned inability. It’s not too terribly often that a genuine lack of skill plays to someone’s strengths, limited as they may be, but that’s definitely the case here.

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And yeah — it sure doesn’t hurt that our gal Pat is shapely in the extreme, either. She’d later go on to appear in a number of roles more, shall we say, tailored towards her specific physical endowments, such as when she popped up (and popped her shirt off) in Russ Meyer’s Mondo Topless, but it’s to Rotsler’s credit that he treats her as more than just admittedly quite delicious eye candy here and trusts her enough to actually carry a picture while providing her with a script, which he also wrote, that puts her in a position to do precisely that.

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So, now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that The Agony Of Love is actually worth seeing, where can you find it? Why, on DVD from Something Weird Video, of course, who saw fit to pair it on a double-bill with the far-more-lackluster The Girl With The Hungry Eyes. Both films are presented, as you’d expect, full frame and with mono sound, and both actually look quite good. Extras are, primarily, the usual smorgasbord of Novak-related stills, promo art, and trailers, and there are a couple of thematically-and chronologically-relevant, but by and large dull, short loops included, as well. Probably only worth buying for the sake of the main feature, but hey — that alone definitely justifies the price of admission.

 

 

 

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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.