More softcore shenanigans from the folk at Secret Key Motion Pictures. You've got to give them due credit for continually unearthing this stuff ...

This time around, the theme is films that were screened on American cable television in the early 1980s. The channel in particular was Cinemax, who would screen soft sex films late on an evening for the benefit of horny teenagers and sex-starved dads across the United States. All they had to do was wait for the rest of the household to retire to their beds ...

The term "scrambled sex" relates specifically to those who lived in areas that did not receive cable. People could purchase a set-top box that allowed them to tune in to certain cable TV channels during certain hours. Those without the box, could only see fleeting images that would soon scramble ...

So, this rather odd package refers to an era, a time and a place, that will no doubt be of huge nostalgic worth for the likes of liner notes writer Ed Grant. For those of us who didn't tune into obscure channels on American TV in the dead of night almost three decades ago, hoping to glimpse a flash of tit, the theme comes secondary to the fact that this 2-disc set offers four intriguing films from yesteryear.

First up on disc one is 1981's HONEY (a.k.a. MIELE DI DONNA).

Directed rather flatly by Gianfranco Angelucci, the first point of interest is that the cast includes frequent Luis Bunuel collaborator and THE FRENCH CONNECTION co-star Fernando Rey.

He stars as a book editor who answers his door one day to a sharp-dressed woman (Catherine Spaak) pointing a pistol at him. She directs him to his office and demands that he reads her manuscript, entitled "Pension Of Desire".

As Rey begins to read aloud, the action comes to life as we follow the story of pretty young Annie (Clio Goldsmith). She arrives by taxi in a new town and makes her way to Pensione Desidero, a hotel where she is booked in to stay overnight.

The landlady (Donatella Damiani) introduces herself after catching Annie spying on her getting ready, and invites her guest into the hotel's labyrinthine walkways where she suggests she can take a bath before retiring for the evening.

Then the weirdness begins. The landlady, after assisting Annie's bathing, compels the innocent young brunette to observe a few of the hotel's other guests: a tantric muscleman here, some frisky housemaids there ...

HONEY is a bizarrely fascinating pot-boiler that plays as a story-within-a-story (which may well be a dream in itself), coming across like the tale of one girl's loss of innocence through the eyes of Lewis Carroll.

Don't go into this expecting a flesh-fest: there's surprisingly little of that on offer. But the film manages to achieve a respectable amount of erotica through its use of attractive female casting, classy dreamlike set-pieces and slow, sultry dialogue shared between the girls. Damiani's hefty knockers didn't hurt, either.

LOVES OF LADY CHATTERLEY (a.k.a. MALU E L'AMANTE; AMANTE THE LOVER) follows. This 1989 effort is credited to Frank De Niro (!), who is actually Pasquale Fanetti - director of other, er, classics such as SCENT OF PASSION and LADY EMANUELLE.

It opens with Joelle (Malu) "contemplating nature" on the veranda of a Turkish mansion, overlooking some beautiful countryside. Her rich husband Franz (Anthony Steffen) appears and advises her that handyman Charles (Mack Kiran) is due to be released from prison the following day - and he has invited him to return to work for them.

Joelle pretends to be perturbed by this news. But, when she retires to her bedroom, the truth is revealed: Joelle speaks internally (wow, no-one does this anymore - but it's really funny) about her lust for illicit lover Charles ... and then lies on her bed for a good wank over a photograph of him.

Charles returns to the fold - a suave, tanned young man who looks not unlike Kieran Canter from BEYOND THE DARKNESS - and their relationship soon blossoms once again. But only after a few more cringe-inducing flashbacks have made us chuckle ...

Soft-focus photography, gentle piano-led music, bad dubbing and energetic simulated sex - CHATTERLEY is typical of softcore European films of the 1980s. It's terrible, but oddly compelling as a result.

Over on disc two, the fun continues with SORRY WRONG BEDROOM (a.k.a. SWEDISH PLAYGIRLS; DER OSTFRIESEN - REPORT) from 1973.

It begins amiably enough with a gorgeous blonde being fucked by a magician in the back room of a low-rent nightclub. The scene climaxes in Carry On-style as the pair accidentally suffer from some high voltage action.

Then we get to meet a few of the strippers working at the club. They've got wind of the fact that their boss Alois (Josef Moosholzer) not only has terrible facial hair, but is suffering from money troubles with his ailing club too.

Things only get worse when wealthy fat-cat (literally) Ossi (Joachim Hackethal) turns up to discover the club dead - and announces to Alois that he is removing his financial backing. Without it, Alois knows he is screwed.

Cue a journey into Germany's rural regions where Alois and Ossi's seedy henchman hope to find some new cute strippers to boost the club's dwindling profits.

Typical joke: "Why are you putting pepper on my TV set?" "Because it'll help spice your lonely nights in". Yep, that's right - this is pretty awful stuff.

But the women are nice, the energy of the cast is undeniable and the naivety of the whole thing remains oddly charming. I expected more, however, from Walter Boos.

Finally, 1970's MOONLIGHTING MISTRESS (a.k.a. DEAD SEXY; ICH SCHLAFE MIT MEINEM MORDER) rounds off the main features.

"I have no intention of divorcing you" our antihero Jan (Harald Leipnitz) tells his wealthy, domineering wife, "I have big plans".

That's right, after a deceptively playful opening (Jan frigging his pretty blonde mistress off in his car, much to the amusement of passing truckers) this film takes on a darker tone as the beleaguered hubbie plots to kill his oblivious wife.

This clunker plays out like a poor episode of Columbo, with terrible dialogue and a weird editing style that may or may not be attributable to the composite elements used to tell the story. It's a blessing that the storyline is so straightforward, as otherwise this would be an incomprehensible mess.

One thing it certainly isn't is erotic.

The back cover of this DVD states that the films contained herein are presented in "4:3 Full Screen".

In actual fact, HONEY is presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 during the opening credits. The framing appears to be correct. It's unfortunate, then, that the rest of the film is indeed blown up to 1.33:1. The image is somewhat soft and colours look rather drab. But grain is minimal and compression issues never become unbearable. A couple of horizontal lines reveal that this transfer is sourced from videotape.

The mono audio which equipped the film was a tad quiet during dialogue, but nice and clean regardless and well-rounded for its playback of Riz Ortolani's cheeky score.

CHATTERLEY does indeed come in a full-frame presentation, again soft but more colourful than the first offering. English dubbed audio is clean and consistent throughout.

Also soft and faded in the picture front, SORRY at least fares equally strongly in the mono audio stakes. It's another VHS transfer. It's worth noting that Code Red also released the film onto DVD earlier this year, as part of a double bill with LONELY WIVES. I believe their presentation was also full-frame.

MISTRESS comes with 1.66:1 framing. The opening titles seem to originate from differing sources. Some of these shots are more faded than the covers of books that have been left in shop windows throughout the summer.

Once the film settles into its main story though, this actually looks fine in terms of colour and brightness. It's still rather soft - another video transfer, most likely - but is perfectly watchable for the most part. However, this composite print does contain some scenes that are incredibly washed out.

The English mono is acceptable for the most part, but rather muted on occasion.

Both discs open with a vivid, animated main menu page allowing access to the films. No scene-selection menus are provided, but each film has several chapters.


A fold-out 6-page colour booklet completes the package, with the aforementioned liner notes from Ed Grant. Which, in terms of contextualisation, are very good.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Secret Key
Region 1 - NTSC
Not Rated
Extras :
see main review