TAKE IT OUT IN TRADE
Color, 1970, 79 mins. 44 secs.
Directed by Edward D. Wood, Jr.
Starring Donna Stanley, Michael Donovan O'Donnell, Edward D. Wood, Jr., Nona Carver, Duke Moore
THE LOVE FEAST
Color, 1969, 59 mins. 35 secs.
Directed by Joseph F. Robertson
Starring Edward D. Wood, Jr., Casey Larrain, Heather Starr, Cynthia Denny
American Genre Film Archive / Something Weird (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC)
Since the career of the late Edward D. Wood, Jr. became a cause for celebration among "bad movie" fanatics salivating over Plan 9 from Outer Space, his followers have been trying to solve a number of mystery titles starring and/or directing the cross-dressing maverick ranging from abandoned projects to ultra-obscure pornography. One of the most tantalizing of these titles has long been Take It Out in Trade, which was considered a lost film for decades with little evidence to confirm its existence at all until an hour-plus reel of silent outtake footage was discovered and released from Something Weird Video in 1995. What unspooled there was confounding but wonderful, a montage of naked women, Wood in drag, nearly hardcore sex scenes, and some sort of mystery plot. Against the odds, the actual film managed to turn up courtesy of a dupey version screened in New York in 2014, with a 2K-scanned restoration bowing with some controversy at Fantastic Fest in 2017 (making it one of the strangest footnotes in the #metoo movement to date). As it turns out, the film itself is a funny, frothy little softcore comedy that shows Wood at his most deliberately playful with plenty of quirky touches among the nearly wall-to-wall bare skin.
When sweet young Shirley Riley (Stanley) goes missing, her upper-crust parents bring in L.A. private eye Mac McGregor (O'Donnell) to track her down at any cost. Operating out of a phony office that's really a men's room, he goes on a quest that sends him hopping all over the globe just to run up the expense tab, the wildest sojourn involving a lime-clad transvestite billed as "Alecia" (actually Wood) who gets the third degree by having her wig torn off. We already know Shirley's right across town at an infamous brothel called Madame Penny's, but hey, why not get a little travel in and peek at lots of nookie along the way.
The actual plot here isn't anything special (and Carlos Tobalina recycled it almost verbatim in Las Vegas Girls), but the execution is completely nuts with a goofy comedy soundtrack, florid narration worthy of Russ Meyer ("Sex, that's where I come in! Dead or alive!"), and surreal touches like a woman decorating her bare butt with lipstick over the main titles, random bursts of bright light, and a non-binary couple who predate It's Pat by a very long time but without the discomfort. You even get some priceless vintage Los Angeles footage including the Brown Derby, with the other locales economically consisting of interiors and very creative, zero-budget title cards.
Obviously the film's first appearance on home video in any format, a Blu-ray/DVD combo from the team of AGFA and Something Weird, is a must for any fans of Ed Wood, nudie-cutie cinema, or just plain bizarre cinematic artifacts. They've done an impressive job of presenting the film with a very colorful, nicely textured rendering of the feature that actually looks quite crisp for a cheapie 16mm softcore film. (Evidently the print was never run, and indeed, the film was most likely never really released at all.) The English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio is perfectly fine for what it is, given the mixture of on-set and looped dialogue alternating throughout. The film can also be played with a new audio commentary featuring the always lively team of Rudolph Grey (author of Nightmare of Ecstasy) and Frank Henenlotter, in conversation with AGFA's Joe Ziemba. Anyone who's savored the Wood-themed Grey/Henenlotter tracks in the past (on The Violent Years, Orgy of the Dead, and Fugitive Girls) should have an idea of what to expect as they fire out a string of facts and observations, whether it's trying to figure out those flashing lightning effects, taking a jab at some of the actors ("He's got the charisma of an ashtray"), explaining the salvaging of the film and the outtakes, the straddling of soft and hardcore going on at the time, and expounding on Wood's appeal, his personal ups and downs, and the joys of uncovering some of the adult novels he wrote on the side. Also included is the familiar reel of outtakes (70m5s), newly transfered in 2K and looking far better than the previous one out there. It's still totally uncensored as well and a bit stronger than the finished film, including lingering shots of O'Donnell at full mast and some more explicit angles on several of the actresses. Tucked away in the bonus features you'll also find an entire second film, The Love Feast, a 1969 softcore outing most infamous for featuring an acting turn by Wood getting degraded by a couple of women while wearing baggy white undies and a frilly pink blouse. There isn't much of a story here, basically revolving around Wood as a cheesecake photographer whose bedroom starts piling up with models and other assorted characters in a giant orgy. This was the directorial debut of future hardcore helmer Joseph F. Robertson, who used Wood again in Mrs. Stone's Thing (a.k.a. The Sensuous Wife), and it's a pretty grim viewing experience to see Wood in such a soused state while the unflatteringly filmed younger actors roll around a lot and pretend to have sex. This one turned up earlier from both Something Weird and (as Pretty Models All in a Row) Rhino Video, with this version scanned in 2K from a pretty banged-up theatrical print with lots of splotches and splices throughout. It's much sharper than before though, so take that into account since this is basically a thrown-in bonus. Grey also provides liner notes ("There's Always a Shirley") about the making of the film, including quotes from its participants and speculation about how it ended up nearly vanishing from the planet entirely.
THE LOVE FEAST
Reviewed on October 30, 2018.