SKIN IN THE 70S is yet another generous helping of vintage softcore shenanigans from the folk at Secret Key Motion Pictures.
This time around we get four films spread over a 2-disc set.
Disc one opens with BLUE SUMMER (1973). This opens to a fantastic lazy pop song as Tracy (Davey Jones) loads up his camper van and picks up fellow student pal Gene (Bo White) from his bickering parents' house, to embark on a weekend trip to wherever.
Having told their respective folks that they're staying at a family cottage for a couple of days, these chirpy lads have no idea where they're headed - just that they're looking for fun. They quickly find it in the form of two attractive female hitchhikers.
From there, the boys take their new acquaintances to a nearby campsite and the shagging commences as they live it up in their last days of freedom before leaving home for college.
Directed by genre veteran Chuck Vincent, BLUE SUMMER works both as a light softcore comedy and as something deeper - an interesting if somewhat shallow attempt at a coming-of-age character study.
Best of all though, it has a great catchy soundtrack, an unflagging pace, some keenly shot sex scenes (albeit one will be a little disconcerting for those who balk at the notion of shagging mature ladies) and genuinely likeable leading men.
Also known as LOVE TRUCK (although a more obvious alternate title would have been "Meat Wagon", as that's what Tracy calls his vehicle), BLUE SUMMER is innocuous fun with a big heart and a smile on its face.
Next up is SOMETIME SWEET SUSAN (1975), which begins with a prolonged slow-motion outdoor romp between adult film legend Harry Reems (Mark) and the gorgeous Shawn Harris (Susan). As Reems cums, he mumbles the name "Saundra" - much to Susan's horror.
Cut to Susan in a padded cell as Scott Mansfield's soppy title song plays over the credits.
As Mark explores his mental patient's condition further, we gather that Susan is Harris' good-natured persona - Saundra is her raunchier, naughtier side. And within this poor but pretty girl is a struggle to choose which way to go.
Utilising some good handheld POV shots and atmospheric instrumental score, this is an occasionally effective if downbeat exploration of schizophrenia.
In truth though, SUSAN doesn't probe its subject matter as deeply as it aims to. This is most likely due to the fact that the film was originally lensed as a hardcore effort. However, the film was re-released in a soft 75-minute version (the version here) to obtain an R-rating for theatrical viewing. So what we end up with is a rather plodding and talky film with moments of zestful but non-explicit sex thrown in at times.
Sparse sets and flat acting hamper this otherwise intriguing relic from unknown writer-director Fred Donaldson.
Over on disc two, the fun continues with SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS (1974). After the relative bleakness of SUSAN, this brings the party atmosphere of the opening film back into play.
Boasting a snappy script and highly strung performances, this is an agreeable if trite Roger Corman production that - get this - was directed by Barbara Peters (HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP).
The film opens with three pretty young ladies giggling all the way from Iowa to a Hollywood high school where they've landed jobs as substitute teachers for the summer. Naturally, the girls are more concerned with getting laid than making the grade, and all manner of light-hearted scenarios unfold (including a dubious teacher-student liaison...).
Tame but amiable, this is also the most professional-looking film in this set. Perhaps the biggest point of interest though is the inclusion of cult actor Dick Miller as the school's football coach.
Last and least, TEENAGE DIVORCE (1972) opens with a doleful female narration explaining how three young women decided to end their respective marriages and join a love commune to liberate themselves.
It's lighter than it starts out apparently aiming at, with more tame sex scenes and bad music to savour. Some of the philosophies of the narrator are laughable at times ("damn few get divorced when they're getting it good"), and the acting often fails to deliver the well-intended script convincingly.
The biggest surprise was seeing a very young George Takei as one of the jilted husbands, and learning that Tom Holland (director of FRIGHT NIGHT and CHILD'S PLAY) has a small role in the film.
Alas, these two points are more interesting than anything else about the choppy and stumbling TEENAGE DIVORCE.
All four films are presented in full-frame (1.33:1) transfers. Picture quality is reasonable throughout, given the age and scarcity of these films. Although images are a tad soft and grain is evident, colours are strong and only DIVORCE suffers from the usual amount of specks and dirt.
English mono audio is largely okay, with a little hiss and unevenness here and there to report. By and large though there's not too much of a problem with the audio tracks provided. By the end of the fourth film, and by which time the viewer's sat through almost six hours of whimsical pop music ("just let the music play a little longer" suggests one tune in DIVORCE!), that may not be such a good thing!
Each disc opens with static main menu pages.
Although no scene-selection menus are offered, each film can be navigated through by way of the following number of remote chapters: SUMMER (16 chapters); SUSAN (16 chapters); TEACHERS (17 chapters) and DIVORCE (17 chapters). As is commonplace now with these titles, Secret Key also offer the "Grind It" option which allows you to watch the films as double-bills, grindhouse-style.
Disc one also includes a trailer vault as an extra feature, containing the following titles: PUNK ROCK/PLEASURE PALACE, SWINGIN' IN THE 70S, GRINDHOUSE TRASH COLLECTION, SKIN IN THE 50S and SKIN IN THE 60S.
Disc two also has its share of trailers to offer: GRINDHOUSE GIRLS OF THE 1970S, DEEP THROAT COMEDY COLLECTION, ALL THE SINS OF SODOM and THE COLLEGIATES COLLECTION.
The best extra is a 6-page foldout colour booklet with revealing liner notes from the ever-knowledgeable "After Hours Collector". Booklets are an increasingly infrequent addition to DVDs these days, so kudos to Secret Key for keeping up with this trend. It's always appreciated.
SKIN IN THE 70S is a fun if uneven collection of hard-to-come-by films and is another decent release from Secret Key.
Review by Stu Willis
|Released by Secret Key|
|Region 1 - NTSC|
|see main review|