God bless Something Weird Video for digging up any old films in people's vaults, basements, trash bins, etc., and unleashing them again for a new generation of discriminating viewers who appreciate the subterranean qualities of "fringe cinema". (Now if only they would find some more Phil Tucker films... hint hint)
SMOKE AND FLESH sounds like a title for a Tennessee Williams play, but is instead a near-plotless account of a sex and drugs party gone awry. This is the SCORPIO RISING of the 60's softcore sex film-- on the surface it is a campy piece of trash, but hindsight reveals it to be a scathing portrayal of 60's liberation gone straight to hell.
This film is cheerfully bereft of any pesky things such as character development. It seemingly operates as a simple exploitation picture-- if all you want is people getting high and rolling in the hay, well, that's all you're gonna get! Even so, this study of mankind's primal activities shows just how much less civilized we are than the beasts.
The long opening scene shows this dude in leather on a motorcycle going through alleys, parking his hog, going up a fire escape, hopping over into another building, and finally, into someone's apartment to buy some dope for tonight's big party. That's the crux of this whole picture: the extremities people will go for some pleasure. And what ensues in this party is a non-stop laugh riot up until its bizarre third act.
There's enough steamy sex and campy laughs to keep you interested. Most memorable is the guy making love to a beautiful woman (with generous amounts of whipped cream for good measure), and the 50-ish professor who encourages these hippie studs to make love to his wife for some research he's doing! Wilheim Reich, eat your heart out.
The movie turns sour when bikers crash the party and begin to have their way with the booze and the women. The stoned-out hippies retaliate by putting acid in their beer! So much for "peace and love", man! Sure this campy romp ends on an ugly note, but this is not necessarily a flaw. What is this picture but a sobering look at the outrageous limits of a supposedly liberated society.
Most assuredly, SMOKE AND FLESH seems like a picture from another world now, but what distinguishes this from a dozen other exploitation films is its curious misanthropy, and its surprisingly creative B&W photography. It is apparent that the filmmakers were at least trying to make something out of the undemanding conventions of its exploitation contents (check out when the bikers freak out on LSD- everything is shot in negative).
It is discovering lost goodies like this while flipping blindly through the titles way back in your favourite non-corporate video store that makes an incurable film archaeologist so much fun.
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