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Die Weibchen (1970)
A cautionary satire on "Women's Lib"
Before she became famous for 15 minutes after shooting Andy Warhol in 1968, militant feminist Valerie Solanas penned "SCUM Manifesto", which "argues that men have ruined the world, and that it is up to women to fix it. To achieve this goal, it suggests the formation of SCUM (Society For Cutting Up Men), an organization dedicated to overthrowing society and eliminating the male sex." Was it satire or dead serious? Many thought the latter -which made it ripe for lampooning- and who better than Andy Warhol's factory crowd in 1971's WOMEN IN REVOLT which turned the feminist movement into PIGs (Politically Involved Girls)?
"Women's Lib" was a shock to the status quo and ridiculed on screen almost from the get-go; the year before Warhol et al had their way with it, there was Gore Vidal's MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and Zbynek Brynych's CARNIVOROUS FEMALES which was set in the scenic town of Van Maren where, at Dr. Barbara's all-girl clinic, Eve goes for a rest cure. The cure includes LSD which could account for the male corpses she keeps seeing but after reading a book on the preying mantis, Eve's not so sure...
The film starts out seriously enough but a copy of Valerie Solanas' "SCUM Manifesto" on display in the local library and a bra-burning rally in town are in-your-face indications things are about to go off the rails. I thought for sure I'd be heading into SOYLENT GREEN territory but no, men are ground up for cat food (beating Ted Mickels' THE CORPSE GRINDERS by a year) and body parts of the particularly stupid are kept as souvenirs. The CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI-esque ending was a satisfying way to wrap up a cautionary tale meant to scare the soon-to-be "weaker sex" and seen in the context of its times, the damn thing was actually kinda fun.
Supernatural sex on passion plantation
A sadistic ranch owner marries a Guarani Indian girl (even though he's having an affair with his foreman) only to learn "you can take a girl out of the jungle but you can't take the jungle out of the girl" when he can't give her the blond baby she so desperately craves. She runs off to a whorehouse to find a man who can but her husband reclaims her and she begins an affair with a handsome blond ranch-hand. She also gets raped by the Amazon demon Pombero while swimming nude so it looks like she's finally gonna have her baby after all
***spoiler***...but not before she's possessed by the demon and kills her husband, her lover, and some other guy she tries to screw in the jungle. WTF?? ***end spoiler***
If Russ Meyer and Jess Franco had collaborated on a low-budget jungle horror flick, it might look something like Armando Bo's batsh!t crazy tale of supernatural sex on passion plantation with buxom, raven-haired Isabel Sarli standing in for Edy Williams. In her birthday suit half the time, "Miss Argentina 1955" was also married to the director and together they made a series of psychotronic softcore "porn" that earned her the title "Ambassador Of Popular Culture" in 2012 with the country's president saying, "Isabel Sarli is considered a true representative of the national culture, as much for her acting skills in films as for being considered a popular icon of her day and an emblematic figure of Argentine cinema." Wow. She's also a favorite of John Waters and anyone who's seen one of her movies can see why. I loved it, cheap special effects and all. 10/10 in demented entertainment!
The Living Idol (1957)
Jaguars and Aztecs and Love, oh my
MGM stalwart Albert Lewin's last film is a bizarre romantic fantasy as lush and scenic as his PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, only twice as bonkers. "A girl's adventure in reincarnation" begins when her father's archaeological expedition discovers a jaguar idol in a secret chamber of an Aztec pyramid which so frightens Juanita (Liliane Montevecchi) she flees the ruins, getting blue smudges on her white dress in the process. Blue pigment is what the Aztecs painted their human sacrifices with so you know exactly where the movie's going from the get-go. After her father gets crushed by a stone monolith depicting the jaguar god devouring a human heart, she goes into an understandable funk and her worried fiancé (Steve Forrest) thinks marriage is the answer but the girl's new guardian, Dr. Alfred Stoner (!), is convinced the jaguar god has stolen her soul. In order to get it back, he befriends a jaguar ("the living idol") in a zoo, sets it free, and sics it on his ward...
Val Lewton's CAT PEOPLE (Juanita mesmerized by a caged jaguar at the zoo) and THE LEOPARD MAN (said jungle cat prowling the night streets of Mexico City) were obvious influences only this time they get MGM gloss, Eastmancolor, and Cinemascope which also gives the film something of a colorful Mexican travelogue feel. I would have loved to have heard all of Dr. Stoner's university lecture on human sacrifice which still goes on in the form of capital punishment (with blindfolded Justice the latest goddess) and the subject obviously fascinated Lewin as well since he adapted his own novel. Filmed on location at Churubusco Azteca Studios, Mexican horror icon René Cardona is credited as assistant director and if THE LIVING IDOL had been made a few years before, MGM would no doubt have assigned it to Ava Gardner or even Lana Turner, who also visited "Leo The Lion La La Land" in THE PRODIGAL two years earlier. Instead we get ballet dancer Liliane Montevecchi who would later find real renown on Broadway but at this point, she's more-or-less another Anna Maria Alberghetti or Pier Angeli -and just as hard to understand. Rarely seen and a reel find for me but obviously mileage may vary. 8/10
Sophomoric spoof you can't take your eyes off of
When penises start washing up on the beach at Great Head, Long Island, Sheriff Coxswain realizes he's up against a murderous mermaid who gives new meaning to "thar she blows" with her fatal fellatio...
This Triple X-rated riff on the previous year's JAWS has very little missionary but plenty of oral with everyone either giving or getting, even Deputy Dick who pretends to be the mermaid at one point. The "she devil" may not have a tail but she wears a little crown, has a phallic underwater lair, and knows quite a few tricks, including lethal muff-diving and popping up in toilet bowls. Add Nazis, blow-up dolls, vagina sock puppets, a claymation (?) vulture that squirts, and human sex with marionettes and you've got a sophomoric spoof you can't take your eyes off of. Which isn't always a good thing, especially when it flirts with bestiality. You don't see sh!t like this every day, that's for sure. Impossible to rate ...and beware the softcore cut.
Stark Fear (1962)
Another low-budget "shocker" influenced by PSYCHO
Ned Hockman's STARK FEAR is yet another obscure low budget "psycho- thriller" heavily influenced by PSYCHO and not just because B-movie babe Beverly Garland resembles Marion Crane while looking at herself in the rear view mirror on her way to a sleazy motel. Husband Skip Homeier (who took over directing when Hockman quit) is a sadistic "pervert" (read homosexual) with a mother fixation and Bev's a plucky masochist who blames herself for everything that happens. When Skip goes missing, she looks for him (God only knows why) in an Oklahoma hometown just this side of DELIVERANCE where she's raped in a cemetery by his childhood friend. Unbeknownst to his ravaged wife, her husband's secretly watching in the shadows of his mother's grave and keeps her bloody bra as a souvenir. He's later holed up in a motel room with her rapist and no explanation's given (connect the dots) as Garland goes home and throws herself into her work where her boss (genre fave Kenneth Tobey) falls in love with her ...but he's got a secret, too, of course. There's no end to this woman's woes.
The IMDb Trivia on the film says it was Beverly Garland's least favorite of all her movies but I don't know why since she gives it all she's got and turns in a sincere performance in a film that's equal parts sleaze and hokum. Bev's best friend actually tells her to stay with her abusive husband rather than end up a spinster like herself and after Garland is raped, she, of course, blames herself and not her attacker. And although she loves him, she won't go all the way with her boss because she's (gasp) still married. Geez Louise. A truly bizarre "shocker" that looks like it's trying to say something, I just don't know what.
No good deed goes unpunished
A teenager becomes the FALLGUY when he speeds away from a malt shop in his hot rod and sees an accident happen on the road ahead. He stops to help but the car wreck was actually a syndicate hit and because the police chief, a prominent doctor, and the city editor are all crooked, they plan to smear the kid in the papers, have him arrested for murder, then shoot him when he tries to "escape". No good deed goes unpunished, indeed.
Like FEAR NO MORE (another film in SWV's "Weird Noir" DVD six-pack), the break-neck speed of FALLGUY precludes any pondering of possible plot holes and it's kind of exciting in a cheap-jack way, from the PSYCHO-esque opening credits to the corny conclusion. The body count's high with almost everyone either dead or wounded at the end and as another IMDb reviewer so succinctly puts it, I "couldn't take my eyes off it".
Fear No More (1961)
Not half-bad if you don't examine it too closely
Mala Powers mistakenly thinks she can FEAR NO MORE when Good Samaritan Jacques Bergerac finds her lying in the middle of the road after she escapes the policeman who arrested her for the murder of a woman on a train. He takes her to her place where there's another dead body and the couple get an even bigger surprise when they go to her employer's house and find the cop and the "murdered" woman there, insisting she's insane. Jacques doesn't know what to think when he's told Mala is also an escapee from a mental institution after having killed her previous employer. WTF?
Jacques Bergerac, handsome star of stage, screen, and tabloid scandal, was like a suave, Gallic version of Mike Henry whose thick French accent made him hard to understand half the time but it never mattered much since he was usually just eye candy anyway. As luck would have it, Jacques is called upon to react instead of act in this "twisty mystery" that's not half bad if you don't examine it too closely and, in its defense, you don't get the chance. Bottom line: it's a fast-moving B- movie held together by Mala Powers, a pretty good little actress, something I never noticed before.
The Seventh Commandment (1961)
The best masochistic potboiler Hugo Haas never made
In the Bible, THE SEVENTH COMMANDMENT is "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (I think) and if it weren't broken, there'd be no movie but I certainly wasn't expecting anything like this. College grad Ted Matthews is out on a date with slinky Terry James when he crashes the car and kills her. He gets amnesia and becomes a soul-saving preacher who can heal crippled kids but his world implodes when he finds out Terry didn't die and she's out get him any way she can. Revenge, sexual obsession, moral degradation, alcoholism, and murder follow in the best masochistic potboiler Hugo Haas never made but could have. Ted & Terry even look like Hugo and his muse, Cleo Moore, and there's an ironic, twist-laden ending Haas would have been proud of. And it's all wrapped in religion, to boot. Yikes.
This is the most "noir" in SWV's "Weird Noir" DVD six-pack with its dark and dirty hotel rooms lit only by neon lights flashing outside with a bottle of whiskey on the nightstand -not to mention a femme fatale (hard-bitten Lyn Statten, a psychotronic's dream) who sashays into a room to the strains of "St. Louis Woman" and delights in having sex with a man who's not the groom on their wedding night. When she's not knocking back the booze or loving the bitch-slapping her pimp daddy gives her, that is. There's quite a bit of SCARLET STREET to the story as well and it's ably helmed by director Irvin Berwick whose previous effort was THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS. The "Weird Noir" set is definitely worth the price of admission for this humdinger alone.
The Naked Road (1959)
It'll talk the pants off ya
"Unbelievably-Fantiscally TRUE! The brutal facts behind the expose of the so-called PUBLIC RELATIONS racket!"
Despite that titillating tagline, the only thing exploitative about THE NAKED ROAD is its title and what a missed opportunity it is, too, considering the storyline. A young model (Jeanne Rainer of YOU'VE RUINED ME, EDDIE! fame) who won't put out for the married ad man she's out with is held as collateral when they're pulled over for speeding and fined by a corrupt Justice Of The Peace. Another motorist is hauled in for the same reason and he pays both their fines but the erstwhile Good Samaritan later drugs the girl's coffee and kidnaps her, intending to make her work for his public relations firm as an escort girl. If she doesn't, he'll turn her into a drug addict...
Although rife with possibilities, the movie's all talk and very little action until the end when an escort girl gets thrown out a window and the cops chuck tear gas at the bad guys' hideout. Unfortunately, the only one home is the kidnapped model. The lethargic cast acts like they're under water and the whole thing looks like it was filmed for about a buck ninety-eight in an endless succession of living rooms and bedrooms. The same room with different furniture is probably more like it. Still, I can't say I didn't like it and why I don't know.
Girl on the Run (1953)
Threadbare "carnival noir", not without interest
GIRL ON THE RUN is actually a young couple on the lam from a phony murder rap who hide out in a two-bit carnival run by a cigar-chomping midget who looks a bit like Jack LaRue, she as a midway "chorine" and he as a boxing shill. The story takes place over the course of a night and I wasn't too sure what was going on other than the place being the nexus of local political corruption involving the murder of a "vice crusading" editor or somesuch. It's the kind of movie where the walls shake when a door slams but although it's far from THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, it's not without its tawdry charms, especially the less-than-lovely kooch dancers who have no business being on stage (although Renee De Milo was oddly fascinating) and they're on stage often. The only cast members I recognized were Frank Albertson as a sideshow barker and an uncredited Steve McQueen in among the carnival "crowd". I'm predisposed to "carny noir" however threadbare it may be so you reely can't go by me.