Color, 1987, 63m.
Directed by T. Michael
Starring Steve Malis, Michael Capellupo, Kevin M. Glover, Henry Harris, Darlene Hartwell, Kimberly Kates
Massacre Video (DVD) (US R0 NTSC)

Venus FlytrapVenus FlytrapImagine, if you will, a cheap American remake of House on the Edge of the Park shot on tape in Pasadena in the late '80s. Well, imagine no more-- such a thing exists, and it's called Venus Flytrap. The brainchild of the late Marvin Jones, sort of the male-focused predecessor to Mr. Skin and the pioneering founder of beefcake label Campfire Video (the label that released this on VHS), it's a real oddball treat for fans of SOV fare that refuses to be pigeonhold in one genre while flirting with crime thriller, erotica, and horror.

Three leather-clad hooligans -- Turk (Malis), ultra-permed girlfriend B.B. (Hartwell), and Wimp (Capellupo) -- decide to get their kicks by holding up the owner of a record store (a great opening scene for vinyl heads) and dancing in the aisles. While Turk and B.B. are pilfering the back room for cash and firearms, Wimp warns them that a pair of squeaky-clean yuppies wandered into the store. However, their facade turns out to be a little misleading as Ginger (Kates) sneaks some merchandise into her stockings while Danny (Harris) keeps watch. Turk uses Ginger's sticky fingers as leverage to get an invite to the party they're heading to at the home of Rod (Glover) and Arlene (West), who spend their spare time tended to exotic plants. Of course the party soon turns into alternating sessions of psychological abuse (including a champange-soaked game of Russian roulette) and sex around the hot tub and swimming pool before the twist ending arrives, which shouldn't be too surprising if you've seen that aforementioned Deodato film.

Completely artless Venus Flytrapbut very, very Venus Flytrapentertaining, Venus Flytrap doesn't overstay its welcome at just over an hour and delivers plenty of sleaze value, with pretty much the entire cast going naked at some point. (Malis, the biggest exhibitionist of the bunch, would go on to host four volumes of Jones's popular Movie Buff VHS line at the end of the decade.) It's odd how much Jones's script ladles on the homophobic slurs and gay panic moments, especially when you consider he was dropping Fright Night's Stephen Geoffreys in the middle of Hunk Hotel a few years later; however, it makes sense if you look at it as a kind of over-the-top parody of masculinity with Malis taking the foul-mouthed David Hess character from the Italian film into even more exaggerated territory. The dark, neon aesthetic actually works pretty well for the lo-fi video shooting, with the decor and hairstyles screaming '80s so hard it becomes an instant, lovable time capsule.

Long out of circulation, Venus Flytrap made its DVD premiere from Massacre Video in 2015 with an unlikely but very welcome special edition. Obviously this still looks like a production shot on standard def video, but at least it's off the original master so you don't have to worry about any tracking issues, dropouts, etc. The colors in particular look nice and bold here, so fans sould be happy. Malis and Glover (who also produced) are on hand for both an audio commentary as well as separate video interviews (16 and 14 mins. respectively) in which they chat quite a bit about Jones, pseudonymous director "T. Michael," the approach to the nudity requirements during the shoot, the locations in Pasadena and NoHo, the meaning of the title, and those astonishing costume design choices, among many other topics. Also included are Glover liner notes and bonus trailers for Nutbag, Mr. No Legs, and Six Pack That Bitch, plus a fun little video outtake from the commentary session if you hunt around a bit.

Reviewed on March 30, 2017.