This two-disc proposition from Secret Key offers no less than four sleazy films from the early 1970s, all of which fall squarely into the "softcore" genre. Yes, that is square, isn't it …?
Disc one kicks things off with HOW TO MAKE A DIRTY MOVIE, a cheap one-day-wonder filmed in someone's home with an ugly, pasty white cast. Even the title card, scrawled on an editor's board in messy white chalk, screams "no budget".
The film opens with Doug McClure-alike Brad popping round his neighbour's house for a cup of sugar. Unwittingly, he's called round on the day that auditions for a porno are being held there.
Despite his efforts to explain his presence to the comely Marlene, she fails to get the message and within minutes is busy telling him what is expected of him. Basically, he is required to deliver a few ridiculous lines then give her a good rogering. For a short while, Brad tries to get his point across … but gives up swiftly when Marlene drags him over to her living room settee and begins to undress him.
Inevitably, a sweaty session unfolds. Although, as stated above, this is the soft stuff: we do get to appreciate what a fine figure Marlene has, by never get to see anything as potentially corrupting as penetration or even exposed labia.
After Brad and Marlene have finished their business, the porno director calls them into another room. Brad is initially alarmed to see a cameraman in the corner of the room, but again soon gets into the swing of things when Marlene gets him on the couch to re-enact their earlier scene. As a bonus, voluptuous redhead Lenore joins in too.
But Brad's fun meets an abrupt end when his wife Billie turns up looking for him. Brad scarpers into a bedroom as the irate spouse rants, but even she is soon tempered by the randy director. Their ensuing scene gets incredibly hot considering you don't see anything - it does at least look like they're going at it for real. They shag twice, and the second ride pales in comparison.
Meanwhile, Brad gets it on with Lenore in a more tender lovemaking scene complete with breathless dialogue and unintentionally amusing strings on the soundtrack.
Ultimately, Lenore and Marlene get back to filming their movie while the viewer's focus becomes more about whether Billie and Brad will get back together.
DIRTY MOVIE obviously isn't explicit enough to excite the rain Mac crowd, but does at least contain some amusing dialogue (whether or not it's meant to be), some entertainingly OTT performances and a whole heap of dimply white flesh. Not to mention copious amounts of heavy breathing.
It's disjointed in it's tone and the editing at times is so flawed it's difficult to know what's going on, but at 51 minutes in length it hardly matters.
Fun, in an innocuous way - although it says a lot when the most interesting thing about the film was that the director bloke looked like a younger version of the Doctor in THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
The second film on disc one is THE ALLEYCAT (A.k.a. HELL'S KITTEN).
The credits here are immediately striking. Not only because there are some (a rarity for this breed of flick), but because we have a director called Otto Von Lickit and cast members baring names such as Beldon Suck and Wilda Fucka!
We meet Book (John Keith), an aspiring young screenplay writer who is struggling to pay the rent on his apartment. He manages to persuade his lusty landlady to give him a few more days to find the cash, and shares his concerns with on-off girlfriend Chessie (Sandy Dempsey).
Chessie's a gorgeous young thing who turns up at Book's apartment wearing a long brown coat, with nothing but knee-high boots and a pair of black knickers on underneath. It turns out she's a hooker, and she tells Book about the previous evening's John: a middle-aged man who beat her and kicked her out of his hotel room without her clothes (of course, we get to see all of this in flashback).
Afterwards, Chessie retires to the bedroom and solemnly contemplates her life as a whore. Before long though, Book has joined her between the sheets and - while she masturbates him beneath the covers - he tells her he's got her a legitimate job: working on the set of a porno movie.
The following day Book takes Chessie to the film set and watches as she passes her audition by giving the director a blowjob. Chessie starts to get into her new job, but Book has second thoughts when he sells his first screenplay and develops designs on marrying her …
THE ALLEYCAT is not without it's fun moments, chiefly the spirited acting of its lead players. Dempsey in particular is captivating. The cast are better looking than average (look out for Suzanne Fields in one scene) and the dialogue is not as clunky as you'd expect.
Weirder still, THE ALLEYCAT has a mild sense of pathos about it - it's more thoughtful than your typical one-day grindhouse offering. It would have made an excellent hardcore film.
As it stands, this is a noble if flawed attempt at something more inward a proposition than what audiences of this type of fare will be used to. Having said that, it's no Joe Sarno production …
Disc two opens with STAR, detailing the desperate efforts of fallen Hollywood screen icon Gaye in her bed to get laid.
Gaye lies in bed all day, a mess of wild hair and scrawled Joker-style make-up - not too dissimilar to Bette Davis in WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?. She places an advertisement in the paper offering acting lessons to young students, and is delighted when one rings for an appointment.
As the student arrives at Gaye's door for his audition (is anyone else sensing a theme developing here?!), Gaye is appalled to see he has brought his girlfriend for support. She swiftly sends her packing.
Gaye takes the student through to her living room and sits him on the settee to ask him questions. The questions quickly degenerate into things such as the size of his manhood. Within minutes, they're improvising a scene from "Camille" which involves a fair amount of sucking and fucking. All of which is kept suitably discreet by well-placed hair and knees, of course.
Shortly afterwards, two teenaged girls turn up to sing a song for Gaye's amusement. Gaye initially rejects them, but then has a change of heart and introduces them instead to her sleazy manager-turned-gardener Rodney. He takes them to his boudoir and takes provocative photographs of them. Why? I don't know.
Then the male student's girlfriend returns to win him back through the art of shagging, much to Gaye's horror: she cries out, "I was the best cocksucker in the world!". But, fear not - Rodney has a way of making the dejected Gaye feel better …
Well, STAR is possibly the most enjoyable out of the four films on offer here. It works absurdly as an energetic comedy along the drug-fuelled lines of early John Waters films. It's got that zestful amateurishness to it, and the dialogue is all wooden profanity and shouting. There's something perversely enjoyable about it's crudity.
The micro-budget further enhances the feeling of sleaze oozing from STAR, and while the sex scenes aren't particularly realistic or memorable, it does work as a whole. Odd, but endearing.
Finally, we get "bonus" film GO DOWN FOR DOUBLE. No auditions in the plot this time around, but we do get a young John Holmes in a rare softcore performance.
It begins with a voiceover that tells of a modern cultural phenomenon called "swinging", and explains that the following events are a dramatisation or real events, aimed at enlightening the viewer …
So, we meet Paula, tossing and turning restlessly in bed one night. She goes downstairs where her husband Byron sits reading in his underpants. She tells him that after much deliberation she's decided to agree to a bit of swinging with him.
Delighted, Byron rushes to work the following day to tell his colleague Seymour (Holmes). Seymour makes sure Byron is up for such things by calling his secretary in to his office to perform an impromptu blowjob on his friend.
Afterwards, Seymour arranges for he and his wife June to pay a visit to Byron's house on Saturday evening. They do, and inevitably the two couples swap partners in the living room. Despite this being a softcore production, the lady playing Paula is either a half-decent actress or she's taking John's meat for real …
Paula is left unnerved by the experience, but still goes ahead to Seymour's house the following weekend where more swingers gather and a full-blown orgy unfolds …
Despite the presence of Holmes, this is the least interesting of our four watered-down rhythm films. This is due to a tepid script (yeah, even more so than the other three films!) and wooden performances. The energy that vaguely saves the preceding three films from drowning is missing in this.
Each film is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and they all look fairly ropey. Vertical lines are everywhere, as are specks. Still, grain is kept to a minimum and while details are sometimes a little soft, colours are strong throughout.
My main quibble on the picture front is the annoying and thoroughly distracting use of pixelating of male genitalia in THE ALLEYCAT. I know this has been done on the source print and therefore is not a reflection of the DVD mastering, but still … it's a gripe.
Audio-wise, we've got a mixed bag. Each film is presented with their original English mono audio tracks. They range from the exceptionally clear (the microphone used on the DIRTY MOVIE soundtrack picks up every background noise - although I couldn't make out what the beeping sound 28 minutes in was) to the annoyingly intermittent (STAR suffers lots of his and actually drops out briefly 43 minutes in; DOUBLE suffers multiple drop-outs).
Still, I'd never even heard of these films before - even the Holmes one - so it's a feat for them to appear in one wallet-friendly DVD package, I suppose.
Disc one opens with trailers for FORBIDDEN DESIRES, SEX HEX and TAYLOR WANE'S EROTIC GAMES. An animated main menu allows access to both features but there are no scene-selection menus. If you wish to navigate through each film, you can do so via your remote control (DIRTY MOVIE has 13 chapters; ALLEYCAT has 14).
Disc one opens with trailers for THE FLESH MERCHANT and BUSTY STAG COLLECTION, and likewise has no scene-selection menus beyond it's animated main menu page. STAR however has 11 chapters; DOUBLE has 12.
The only extra in the package is a booklet with liner notes by The After Hours Collector, which on this occasion offer little more than condensed synopses.
Undeniably tepid but curiously watchable.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Secret Key|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|