MARCH 19, 2011

The road to fame hits some odd speed bumps for a lot of stars in the making, and Aussie superstar-in-the-making Nicole Kidman lucked out by having the goofiest skeleton in her closet directed by her native land's preeminent drive-in specialist, Brian Trenchard-Smith, director of cult favorites like Stunt Rock and Escape 2000. His foray into teen-friendly action films is 1983's BMX Bandits, made well before the fresh-faced, reheaded actress made an international splash with Dead Calm. Here she plays Judy, a teenager who winds up befriending a pair of BMX bike-riding guys, Goose (James Lugton) and P.J. (Angelo D'Angelo). Together they uncover a cache of stolen walkie talkies tuned to police frequencies and decide to make some cash for new bikes, but some bank robbers with a penchant for wearing pig masks during their holdups have other ideas in mind. Fluffy and strange but pulled off with an undeniable '80s panache, this film became a cable staple in America for years (along with its closest counterpart, Rad) despite the fact that Trenchard-Smith's typically spacious scope compositions were hacked to pieces thanks to a terrible pan and scan job. Unfortunately the film fared little better through much of the DVD era, with even Australia turning out a cropped version. An HD broadcast master was created but stupidly cropped down to 1.78:1 as well, but finally Severin came to the film's rescue with a correctly framed edition on DVD and Blu-Ray. (Only the former was available for review here, but we'll assume the HD transfer looks even more colorful and perky on Blu.) Image quality (taken from a British print judging from the BBFC card at the beginning) is much better than past versions in every respect, and those gaudy '80s colors and catchy synth music come through just fine. For a fine dose of Down Under nostalgia with a future star already demonstrating her beauty and talent, you can't do much better than this. Oh,and didja know it was shot by John Seale, who went on to win an oscar for The English Patient? No wonder it looks so good. Extras include a Trenchard-Smith commentary in which he talks a lot about Kidman, the stunts, and the location filming; as with his past chat tracks, he's very chatty and seems to remember everything from his films. You also get a crazy early TV apperance by Kidman on Young Talent Time, the theatrical trailer, additional Severin promos, and a new featurette (clocking in at 40 minutes!) with Trenchard-Smith, Lugton, producer Tom Broadbridge, and writers Russell Hagg and Patrick Edgeworth talking about the creation of their little cult classic that hit the short-lived BMX craze at just the right time.

Straddling that very thin line between grisly art and pretension is the 2011 experimental British shocker Where the Dogs Divide Her, a shockingly well-lensed study in psychosis that aims for David Lynch territory and comes a lot closer than anyone had a right to expect. Featuring almost no dialogue (and what you do get is almost entirely voiceover), this is an examination of the mental ruminations and unraveling of a young man (Jon Stoley) tormented by his parents' traumatic deaths, which have smashed his memories into pieces. He may also be a serial killer, though exactly what he's done and where he's heading only becomes gradually apparent. The packaging bills this as "an abstract ghost story and murder mystery," which may be technically correct but only the vaguest indication of the free-flowing macabre set pieces in the film. The shifts in locale and color timing are often very effective, including a sudden switch onto a desolate moor, and the soundtrack is an atmospheric extra character in the film with some very well-chosen songs. At 108 minutes it could have used a bit of pruning here and there, but it's a strong calling card and one of the more stylish recent UK horror debuts. It will be interesting to see where director Martin Rutley winds up going next. The commercial DVD is due May 11 from R-Squared Films; more info is available at the official site.

During the '70s, Roger Corman's love for gangster films really exploded with a string of profitable "guns, sin 'n' bathtub gin" titles featuring a surprising array of stars lured by the chance to put on some vintage clothes and fire prop guns at classic cars. Big Bad Mama is probably the most famous of the bunch, but two equally interesting offerings are available as part of a Shout Factory double feature. First up is Crazy Mama, one of the films director Jonathan Demme made under Corman's wing (along with the excellent Caged Heat). It's definitely the most easygoing of its ilk and even sports a PG rating, which is surprising as it's trying to obviously cash in on the success of Corman's rougher Bloody Mama with Shelley Winters and Robert De Niro. This time it's Cloris Leachman's turn -- after she'd won an Oscar for The Last Picture Show, and made during her transition from The Mary Tyler Moore Show to her spin-off, Phyllis! Here the action takes place in the '50s rather than the Depression as beauty parlor owner Melba Stokes (Leachman) loses her business to a greedy bank and, with the aid of her mother (Ann Sothern) and spunky daughter (TV regular Linda Purl), embarks on a wild crime spree across the Midwest. Stuart Whitman and Happy Days' Donny Most pop up in odd cast, which also includes a villainous turn by Gilligan's Island's Jim Backus for good measure. It's all pretty frothy and disposable, but the doo-wop soundtrack and spirited action scenes make it worth a peek if you realize the trash content here is very low. On the other hand, The Lady in Red is my personal pick for the finest film from the entire '70s Corman crime wave. Making his solo feature debut (after working on the very sleazy AIP curio, Dirty O'Neil), director Lewis Teague attracted quite a bit of attention for his stylish, efficient work here which led to gigs on three memorable horror favorites, Alligator (which shares this film's screenwriter, John Sayes!), Cujo, and Cat's Eye. Of course, it didn't hurt that the film stars Pamela Sue Martin, the gorgeous TV star of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries whose show had just wrapped up. She does show some skin here (which kept this title in constant rotation on cable for years) but also delivers an excellent performance as Polly Franklin, the dance hall girl who hooks up with John Dillinger (Robert Conrad) and ultimately leads to his downfall. The focus here away from the main gangster gives the film an unpredictable, fascinating angle that's milked for all it's worth, and the unusual structure also allows for some colorful supporting actors including Louise Fletcher, Christopher Lloyd (with a very weird make-up job), Dick Miller, and a strangely uncredited Robert Forster. Another Corman disciple, composer James Horner, contributes a unique period score here, and overall it's a class act all around. Shout's DVD features good anamorphic transfers of both titles that blow the old New Concorde versions out of the water; Crazy Mama is a bit gritty and grainy looking at times, but The Lady in Red looks excellent and appears to be from the same HD source that aired on TV a few times. The previous extras are carried over along with some new ones: a Demme/Corman commentary and video interview, two Lady in Red commentaries (Teague and Forster, then producer Julie Corman and Sayles), and the original theatrical trailers. The Teague commentary is probably the best of the bunch; he's a fun guy to listen to, and it's a shame he didn't enjoy an A-list career like many of his peers. Very highly recommended.

Sometimes you get a DVD in the mail involving a director you've never heard of, and you just have to go in hoping it'll all pull together somehow. Take for example James Mirarchi, a guy who's directed two short films in the early 2000s now available as a commercial release. Both are shot on digital video and have a very distinctive, campy, yet disturbing atmosphere that makes them worth a look. First is the milder of the two, Beer and Art, basically a two-character piece about a fledgling poet, Sylvia, whose constant rejection has left her reluctant to show her work. However, co-worker Arlene pops by one day to read her poems, and things take a very dramatic, very violent turn that spills out into the neighborhood streets. This one seems to be aiming for John Waters territory, though exactly what it all means is anyone's guess. The real keeper here is Cave People, a completely insane 2002 gem about two very competitive siblings, emotionally stunted gay man Josh (Matthew Gardner) and his trashy sister, Tammy (Kerry Gudjohnsen), whose daily trysts with a string of men are timed by a peeping Josh with a stopwatch. One day Josh decides to hit up their neighbor, a witch, to help him score with Tammy's latest conquest, whom he first tries to seduce in a novel fashion after a shower. Obviously, this does not all end happily. Utterly nuts and wildly entertaining, this is 22 minutes well worth checking out. Where the heck is Mirarchi now?

Apparently intent on carving out a niche as a neo-grindhouse Texas filmmaker on a budget that wouldn't cover Robert Rodriguez's lunch, Adrian Santiago started off as the cinematographer for the bizarre Bubba's Chili Parlor and makes his directorial debut with 2010's Grim, a nasty little Troma pick-up that tries to package itself as a torture porn film but is really more a throwback to '70s revenge films with a dash of Sam Peckinpah for good measure. The story charts the brutal circumstances that force Nicholas Grim (Christopher Dimock) to embark on a blood-spattered rampage across Texas after his natural parents are murdered in the woods during his childhood, and then his adoptive parents years later by the same self-governed local militia. The Texas atmosphere and short but graphic bursts of violence really give this film an interesting flavor, and the HD photography is often beautifully realized with a strong feel for the land and its inhabitants. Troma's DVD features a very strong anamorphic transfer, and as usual, you get a barrage of unrelated company extras (including a loud intro with Lloyd Kaufman and Debbie Rochon) along with a more pertinent trailer and a Santiago audio commentary that unveils a lot of interesting facts, particularly the fact that the film only cost three grand to shoot. Amazing what a little personal drive, some dusty locations, and a lot of fake blood can accomplish.

Originally known as Star Vehicle, 2010's Bleading Lady is the latest gore-drenched offering from FX man-turned-director Ryan Nicholson, the sick puppy behind the astounding Gutterballs. This one pulls back on the outrage considerably and delivers a more "traditional" story about Donald Q. Cardini (Dan Ellis), a union driver for a low budget horror production whose movie fanaticism is currently focused on the film's scream queen star, Riversa Red (Sindy Faraguna). While they're out shooting in the middle of nowhere driving back and forth, Don's temper begins to explode at the hands of the inconsiderate cast and crew, and soon the red stuff splashing all over the trees isn't just Kayro syrup. Though nowhere near Nicholson's best work, this film (whose original title was a heck of a lot better than the current, very stupid one) piles on enough grue, nudity, and vinegar-laced dialogue to keep things amusing even if it doesn't rise much above the level of a direct-to-video quickie. Some of the meta references are kind of amusing, and as usual, he has a solid eye for shooting in dark, moody spaces and keeping the pace clicking along well enough. Breaking Glass' modest DVD features a pleasing anamorphic transfer, though the screener provided had no extras.

Code Red has developed a solid track record for unearthing unreleased and lost flotsam from cinema's '70s underbelly, and their latest salvage mission is the funky double feature begins with How to Score with Girls, a mid-'70s curio originally released as Cry Your Purple Heart Out. As you might have guessed, it's about a couple of soldiers who decide to spend their leave time cruising around the Big Apple for girls. The post-Vietnam era probably wasn't the best time for a slightly sexed-up version of On the Town, but that's what you get here anyway; it's no overlooked classic by any means, but as a slice of pop culture there's definitely some fascination to be had here. On the other hand, there's a lot of fascination to be had with White Rat, an utterly obscure and brain-meltingly terrible piece of idiocy about a married private dick (named Mike Capon) who's banging the woman whose boyfriend hired him to protect her. When his charge winds up dead from a gunshot wound, he has to scour the rich and poor of New York alike (who, considering this film's lack of budget, don't seem to live all that differently) before solving the crime. The filmmakers were apparently aiming for some kind of neo-noir vibe here but missed so spectacularly you won't be able to tear your eyes away, especially when random touches like a cockfight are thrown in for no good reason. Once again you get a slew of vintage New York locales and a lot of actors you'll never see again in anything else. Both titles are extremely rare and had to be mastered from some pretty lousy-looking VHS masters, complete with visible tape noise at the bottom. The company's been very up front about the nature of the sources, though, so don't say you weren't warned. If you're on the right wavelength and miss the thrill of stumbling on some dusty VHS oddity in the back of a video store, this double feature provides one amazing night's entertainment.

I really have no idea what to make of 2010's Exploited, a film by short video filmmaker Moses that charts the exploitation (obviously) and degradation of Mercedes, an aspiring model. Apparently aspiring to be sort of the sordid, trashy equivalent to Exit through the Gift Shop, the film blurs documentary and ficton by having Mercedes (also a writer and filmmaker) play herself in a series of scenarios that put her through a graphic (but strategically censored) porn shoot, coke binges with her best friend, and (shudder) a close encounter with a very sweaty-looking Ron Jeremy. It's all very strange, skeevy, and unpredictable, which seems to be exactly what the film's going for. The shot-on-DV image quality isn't terribly attractive, but again, that's intentional; on the other hand, I have no clue why it's presented as 4:3 letterbox in this day and age. Independent Entertainment's DVD contains a trailer, six minutes of deleted scenes (mostly photo shoots), "Ron Jeremy's Magic Trick" (you can probably guess), and a photo slideshow.

Someday, someone will write a worthwhile term paper about the sociological reasons for Britain's apparently endless fascination for spanking. Whatever baffling circumstances led to this widespread fetish, you'll find it's one of the more prominent kinks on display in House of Sin, an oddball art/softcore 2011 offering that takes place in a London establishment where people come to escape from their lives and indulge in any sexual fantasy that strikes their fancy, under the supervision of a mysterious owner called the Mage. There's really no plot after that, just a string of barely connected scenes focusing on T&A with some occasional light whackings on the tush here and there. Unfortunately most of the women are, to put it charitably, not particularly suited for the camera, and the soundtrack bombards you with a hellish mixture of rap and hard rock that undercuts whatever sort of sexy atmosphere the filmmakers were going for. On top of that, it was all shot on DV and then fake-matted to scope, which results in some incredibly awkward compositions that aim for artsiness but instead come off as cramped and misframed. On the other hand, the behind-the-scenes featurette after the film on Chemical Burn's DVD is actually fairly amusing; if they'd simply let all the exhibitionistic actors hang out and goof around in front of the camera, they might have actually had something worth watching.

A somewhat better Chemical Burn offering is their black-and-white zombie offering, 2010's Indiana-shot The Defiled, which follows in the intrepid footsteps of DIY undead epics like Meat Market. The dialogue-free story (which runs for over 100 minutes!) is sort of a flesh-eating take on The Road as a zombie plague has ravaged the world, and one guy who's turned has to fend for the survival of his newborn baby. Then he finds an uninfected woman along the way and enlists her help to form some sort of oddball family. Director Julian Grant does a solid job here of creating a rich atmosphere with some interesting widescreen compositions, a unique central concept, and some interesting sound design; while the pokey "European" pacing (compared to Tarkovsky on the DVD sleeve, incredibly) will tick off a lot of traditional zombie fans, anyone with a taste for something different could do a lot worse (like, uh, renting House of Sin). Extras include a pretty dry director and actors commentary, an inexplicable one-minute "home movie," and a trailer.

Proving that recycling isn't just for the environment, Retro Seduction Cinema keeps finding new ways to repurpose all their softcore Nick Phillips and Uschi Digard titles. The obvious apex of this method to date is The Uschi Digard Collection, a two-disc set that packs in their original DVD of the voiceover lesbo fest, Pleasures of a Woman, a 1972 Phillips/Digard collaboration that's basically an excuse to indulge in his usual fetish for thigh-high leather boots. Uschi's the nominal star here as a scheming wife who screws her husband to death but finds the next heir is his sexy neice, Lynn (Lynn Harris), who comes for a visit. Women bump and grind on each other for an hour or so. As far as Uschi vehicles go, this one's pretty good as the increasingly popular '70s sex goddess moans, grinds, licks shoes, and contorts herself all for the audience's entertainment. A much looser and much, much shorter 2002 remake was commissioned by Alternative Cinema, with Darian Caine and Julian Welles doing the whole woman-and-niece thing all over again with more boots and less interesting videography. If you're a fan of those two ladies, though, this should fit the bill nicely. Disc two carries over one of the features from the company's Buxom Bombshell Collection, the fairly raunchy Fancy Lady, which also features Harris; click on that title for the original review, and watch out for that intrusive kitty during the steamiest love scene. This disc is rounded out with six Uschi loops (mostly stripping and all softcore), many of which have popped up on past compilations, along with a strange and pointless "Uschi Phone Sex" video concoction.

Though it can't possibly live up to the lurid promise of its title, After Hours' Sexual Insanity 1970s Grindhouse Collection offers enough debauched thrills to keep your attention from wandering. First up in this two-disc set is the titular Sexual Insanity, yet another mid-'70s softcore sex flick with genre staple Ric Lutze and a top-heavy redhead christening every room in a house, including a hammock and lots of incredibly ugly furniture. One particular leering aftermath shot indicates this might have been partially hardcore at one point, but most of the action is clearly blocked to avoid showing anything that might push this over the edge. The film digresses to follow two other random women as well on their sexual exploits, and there's also some peeping tom stalker on the premises who breaks in and disrupts their idyll which is where the five minutes or so of insanity actually comes into play. Anyway, the next feature is The Family, which looks like it was shot around '72 or so. Basically it's about a bunch of really revved-up young hippes (who apparently didn't get the memo that disco was coming soon) who decide to start a love commune. They sit around, get undressed, drop acid, and then move to another location where they rinse and repeat. Some arbitrary hardcore stock footage pops up for a few really annoying minutes during one drug trip, but otherwise this is (extremely frisky) softcore. A few recognizable faces pop up among the constantly writhing masses of limbs including William Howard, the lead from Terror at Orgy Castle and about a dozen or so other Something Weird titles, as well as busty Malta (Street of a Thousand Pleasures) and Sue Peters (The Ranch Hand). Despite rampant print damage, both features sport new film transfers and are thankfully presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios. All in all, you could do a lot worse... and that's quite evident from disc two, which features two meandering, editorially berserk headscratchers, 1976's Girls in the Band (which is basically yet another excuse for women to lust after John Holmes' biggest talent at a New Year's Eve sex party, also attended by the significantly less impressive Keith Erickson) and the incoherent Skin-Mag Confidential, which the packaging indicates is about the "ins and outs" of the adult skin-mag racket. You'd be hard pressed to find any concept so coherent in the feature itself, however. Both of these features definitely gallop way past the soft-X line, but they're far more interesting as artifacts than their original smutty purpose.

On the other hand, you definitely won't get more of the same old, same old with the Sex Psychedelia Collection, a quartet of completely insane mixtures of art, smut, and stupidity that will scramble your brain into oatmeal. First up is Rampage (Mobility Cathexis), which plays like the unholy love child of Stan Brakhage, Kenneth Anger, and Carter Stevens. There's not much story here as three different vignettes feature beautiful women swirling through a weird patriotic photo shoot, a Jean Rollin-style naked sacrifice on the beach, and a freaked-out orgy in an asylum. The editing, camerawork, and dreamy pacing are far more student film than storefront quickie, and at times it's even surprising when the graphic stuff kicks in. God knows who they thought would book this thing, but it's a wild rescue from the slagheap of porn oblivion. The more straightforward but equally artsy The Last Bath features a guy who hops in a car with two girls on the way to a country weekend; together they do some explorations of both an emotional and sexual nature before a surprisingly grim plot twist that explains the title. This one's a fairly interesting and accomplished piece of work, with a much more attractive cast than usual and a potent atmosphere that at times recalls Joe Sarno. If any of you are familiar with the breakout Something Weird smut-superhero cult favorite Bat Pussy, well, imagine if the people who made that one dropped acid, shot a movie, and threw the results in a blender. The results might look like Waltz of the Bat, a freaky chunk of nonsense about a bearded guy in a top hat named the Bat who has the power to psychically enslave hookers, or something. Then there's a young immortal woman called the Bee running around (in a bee costume) who has to have sex with the Bat before midnight to keep him from sharing her powers or immortality. Or something. Eventually she tracks him down, and the inevitable happens. There are also some mystic Native Americans (one played by an uncredited Tyler Reynolds) who provide an orgiastic subplot in the second half. None of it makes a lick of sense, but you'll probably be laughing so hard you won't care. Last up is the flimsiest of the four, It Came from Love, about an alien, Mr. Zenko, who swipes three couples in the act of love and encases all of them in tinfoil to usurp their energy. This was done a lot better via Harry Novak with Wham! Bam! Thank You, Spaceman, but if that one left you wishing it had some hardcore action thrown into the mix on an even lower budget, well, here ya go. All of the features have full frame transfers, with the latter two looking the best of the bunch. All are pretty solid presentations, though, and among the After Hours library, this is definitely one of their most distinctive releases to date. The package comes with solid liner notes by regular writer Michael J. Bowen, while the sleeve indicates all of these hail from San Francisco. I'll take their word for it.

It seems like DVD labels have made something of a scuzzy sub-industry out of unearthing Rene Bond films from the '70s, both of the soft and hard variety. After Hours in particular has mined this vixen for all she's worth. For evidence, look no further than their Grindhouse Hotties: Rene Bond Sleazy 70s Triple Feature, which packs in enough of the perky brunette to keep fans happy for... well, at least a day or so. First up is one of her more popular adult films, 1971's Sounds of Sex, a retitling of Teenage Fantasies: An Adult Documentary which finds her narrating a spicy anthology of three tales featuring Suzanne Fields, Ric Lutze (of course), Sue Frankel, and one of the guys who got eaten by the plant in Please Don't Eat My Mother. Only one of the actors looks anything close to being in their teens, but the premise is basically that young women are hot to trot and will jump on any guy regardless of age or personality, be it a really old friend of daddy's or a fellow classmate. Rene's the main show here as she, err, excitedly helps out a faceless guy during her narration. Next up is City Woman, a not-very-misleading retitled version of 1974's City Women, which is basically a plotless piece about the shenanigans women get up to in the big city. First up is Sandy Carey as a workin girl who strolls around a city plaza and has an erotic daydream. Most of the running time is taken up with a playful vignette with Bond and some other girls taking a modeling assignment for a guy who uses nude women for body painting; after indulging him, they turn the tables and make him part of the show. Regular drive-in vet Sandy Dempsey pops up long enough to get diddled in the park by another guy who huge sideburns. The whole thing is done with voiceover narration and lilting music, and as far as cheapo '70s smut goes, it's above average and worth it for the great trinity of actresses involved. Easily the worst of the bunch is Show and Tell Hotel, an incredibly ugly, grimy quickie showing a bunch of people messing around in some very unhygienic-looking hotel rooms. Rene pops up for the last sex scene with a skeevy-looking, dirty homeless man; it's not worth the wait. Just pretend this one's a double feature.

Plumbing the seemingly endless depths of forgotten, grungy adult loops lying around in basements across the country, 42nd Street Pete has delivered more digital scuzz on DVD than anyone might have thought possible. The parade continues as, in his usual sunglasses and in front of a host of Nick Phillips smut posters, he showcases his two-disc Extreme Sleaze Showcase Part III: The Peepland Collection. This one delivers exactly what it promises: nasty, silent 8mm '70s shorts, accompanied only by the constant whirring of a projector. Most of them are pretty typical of the era, though bonus points have to be given for "Hold the Mayo," in which a couple of naked lovers in the kitchen do something highly unusual with two slices of bread and a lot of Miracle Whip. I can't imagine anyone getting too excited by the ensuing mess, but it'll definitely make even jaded viewers do a double take. Otherwise it's lots of tacky clothing, excessive jewelry, leather hoods, and overzealous body hair as you witness such sights as "The Brat" (with a bunch of lesbians discovering that their latest members in a satin lavender dress is actually a guy), "Violence," "Crime and Punishment," "Lady in Chains," "Beer Pretty," "Chairlocked," "Satan's Club Gang Bang," "Cat Got Your Tongue," "Have Your Cake and Eat It Too" (with four hippies getting naked on a beach and smearing each other with pecan pie), "Cucumber Heaven" (which manages to combine vegetable sex and a midget in one horrifying five-minute cataclysm), "Little Big Man" (which a much more famous midget, Bloodsucking Freaks' Luis De Jesus, clambering all over Vanessa Del Rio), and a two-part tranny epic called "Alexis Livingston" which Pete dubs "not for everyone!" and chases down with a shot of liquor.

Moving back to somewhat more vanilla territory we now arrive at the 1970s New York Grindhouse Super Stars Triple Feature, promising three titles whose "first time on home video!" tag is only true if you don't count decades of availability from Something Weird. They're all new transfers, though (albeit with a lot of replaced music), with much better compression than the '80s masters that have been lying around. First up is one of my personal favorites from the early days of those Dragon Art Theatre titles, The Tycoon's Daughter, an amusingly cracked '73 spin on the Patty Hearst story about some lowlifes who kidnap a millionaire businessman's daughter and spirit her out to the countryside where they all take turns with her. Then they all wind up at a farmhouse, where things take a definite left turn. Marc Stevens, Mary Stuart (in huge sunglasses), and Ashley Moore play the kidnappers and turn in some of their better work, and Shaun Costello (who supposedly directed this) pops up for a fleeting cameo. The School for Sexual Arts (another presumed Costello title made two years later) is exactly what you'd imagine: a goofy, sex-filled look at an art academy devoted entirely to teaching young women how to draw genitalia and practice various methods of pleasure. Alan Marlowe plays the main art instructor, and Joe Sarno actress Julia Sorel pops up as one of the participants. As with the SW version, this one clocks in at 45 minutes and may not be complete, as C.J. Laing briefly pops up for no reason and may have lost a scene somewhere along the line. We close out with another Costello offering from the same year, Kathy's Graduation Present, about a petulant high school senior (Cedar Houston) whose very sexually active friends decide to throw a big graduation bash-- and get Kathy to lose her virginity in the process. This she does in the most spectacular manner possible as the cast (including Annie Sprinkle, Costello himself, and Jamie Gillis) pulls out all the stops with a wild assortment of props. It's all fast-paced and pretty funny, wrapping up a respectably strong trio of titles. All of the titles are presented full frame as originally intended and look much better than before, albeit with the usual array of time-inflicted damage like scratches and dirt.

Not to be outdone when it comes to feature films, 42nd Street Pete pops up again as host for a quartet of completely unrelated films billed as the Sleazy Grindhouse Picture Show 2. These ones are new transfers of some familiar public domain '70s porn oldies, though this time for some reason most are shown in a 4:3 letterbox presentation. Very odd. So first up is Tattooed Lady, a late '70s cheapie about how women getting tattooes experience increased confidence and sexual pleasure. A tattoo artist trying to talk his way into a girl's pants tells her about some examples, like a lady whose constantly feuding boyfriends finally found closure when she came home with a nice big ink design on her butt. The cast is mostly a bunch of anonymous Californians, but this is notable as one of the only two hardcore films featuring John Tull, who played "Junior" in a slew of Harry Novak country cutie films like Sassy Sue. (Weirdly though, he keeps his pants on in both.) Next up is the considerably less effective (and much earlier) Hawaii Sex-O, whose title is easily the best thing about it. A bunch of people tromp around a mountain in Hawaii, and we see some locals getting busy in the bedroom. It's all really muddy-looking and clumsy considering the location and premise; you can skip this one, a familiar offender from previous Alpha Blue collections. Some of the most hideous interior design ever inflicted on human eyeballs is the star of Love Lies Waiting, a brothel saga about a madame (Cyndee Summers) sending her girls (including Brigitte Maier) to work. One john likes to play with whipped cream, and Ric Lutze (yes, again) pops up to deliver one of ripest performances as a whiny, panty-sniffing weirdo who likes wearing negligees. Last up is the very obscured "mixed combo" oddity, Up at J.J.'s Place, featuring Sharon Thorpe and a couple of other white girls hanging out at a pool hall where they get picked up and have an orgy with a bunch of black guys in an apartment. And that's it. No real classics on here, but they're all suitably retro and kind of insane.

You won't find too many actual virginal types in the Virgin Nymph Grindhouse Triple Feature, but you'll definitely get nymphs aplenty. Sex film vets Kim Pope and Cindy West headine as the title characters of The Young Nymphs, about a couple of city girls who decide to break free of their social shackles and bed down with every male they can find. Well, and that's the extent of it. This 1973 zero-budget timewaster looks like it was shot in a couple of hours, but the cast might make it worth a look. Slightly more ambitious is the Big Apple debauchery of Innocent Girl, one of the earlier films with Dory Deavon (who closed out her career on a high note as one of the leads in Blonde Ambition). This one simply follows a trio of sexual encounters at a New York fleabag hotel where everyone has one thing on their mind, including a fresh-faced girl who hops off the bus from the midwest and learns how to make it the hard way. Last up is by far the most interesting of the set, 1972's widely circulated The Candy Store. Top-heavy matron of smut Candy Samples stars as a madam who has her hands full with her latest batch of clients and new employees. First she has to bust in on naive newbie Nancy Martin to show her to proper method of pleasing a john, and then we follow the other girls as they vie for the attentions of various customers with Candy occasionally offering tips. Samples still has a notable following among vintage adult fans as well as drive-in buffs who caught her in a couple of Russ Meyer films (Up! and Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens) as well as goofy softcore favorites like Deep Jaws, Flesh Gordon, and Fantasm Comes Again; this is one of her few genuine starring vehicles, and she makes the most of it in a swift and entertaining one-hour romp. These are all new transfers, though the elements have definitely suffered a bit over the years.

A mixed bag if ever there was one, the Naughty Nurses Grindhouse Double Feature should appeal to anyone with a fondness for hourglass figures in nurse outfits. The first film, 1971's The Nurses, is a particularly grim example of pre-porno chic hardcore trash with several sickly-looking people going through the motions in the story of a medical clinic where every injection, sponge bath, and urine sample seems to lead to naughtiness. Unfortunately it's all shot in deeply unflattering lighting and performed by actors who often look like they'd thought twice about their current career decisions. Significantly better (though still well below classic status) is 1975's Sue Prentiss, R.N., which has appeared on many, many other labels, probably because Annie Sprinkle stars in it as a nurse. Essentially a bunch of nurses are quarantined in a desolate-looking building and have to undergo a bunch of strange, erotic rituals with some male test subjects (including Bobby Astyr, Alan Marlow, and Levi Richards), with Nikki Hilton and Holly Bush as her medical helpers. This is easily the best-looking release of this Avon title to date, which by itself isn't saying much considering the predecessors were a lousy Alpha Blue version squashed on a disc with five other titles, a Something Weird DVD-R from a choppy print, and a lousy VHS dub from Gourmet Video. It really does look incredibly nice for an Avon title, though, and should give '70s junk fiends a decent kick.

Speaking of vintage '70s New York productions, you get a whole heap of it in the New York Fantasy Club Grindhouse Triple Feature which starts off with 1975's Fantasy Club, a retitling of Fantasy Club of America. This one's a very obvious attempt to cash in on the media buzz surrounding swingers' clubs like Plato's Retreat, with Marc Stevens heading up a club where men show up, put on Fantasy Club T-shirts, and get to indulge in any fantasy they desire. Some very scary wigs and bondage outfits steal the show here, and director Richard Mailer gets a lot of mileage out of the stylish sets. The cast includes quite a few familiar faces here including Keyholes Are For Peeping's Arlana Blue (who lashes into Ashley Moore in one wild scene), Sandi Foxx (A Touch of Genie), and, ahem, Tara the Wonder Dog. Then the reliably intense Jamie Gillis takes center stage for 1973's Road Service as a stranded motorist who, with girlfriend Darby Lloyd Rains, ends up at a nutty house where sex-crazed mom Andrea True is obsessed with news of a rapist on the loose and keeps attacking her endowed husband, Marc Stevens. This movie is completely nuts! The actors are among the genre's best and obviously enjoy their quirky roles, both in and out of their clothes. Defintely recommended. The third feature, 1971's Easy Money, is some plotless, anonymous piece of flotsam about a mixed couple who decide to diversify by whoring themselves out to the neighbors. The cast looks bored, and everyone behind the camera seemed to be, too. The first two features have new transfers and look great, so this still comes with a solid recommendation for two out of three.

December 24, 2010
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May 31, 2008 (Aussie Special)
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