Sunday, August 30, 2009

SOMETHING WEIRD REVIEW INDEX: A

Thought I would start posting an archive of all the reviews I have contributed to Mike Vraney's groundbreaking Something Weird Video company over the years. Used in their catalogues, on their website and on their VHS and DVD sleeves, I will be posting these reviews alphabetically over the coming weeks. I have decided to post the reviews as originally submitted, even though many of them I would probably write a little differently today (bear in mind too that these reviews were written specifically for the company to help promote it's releases).

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ADVENTURES OF BUSTY BROWN
1964/USA/B&W/Directed by Barry Mahon

Another two-day wonder from the mind of producer-director Barry Mahon, The Adventures of Busty Brown is a sleazy slice of sex noir starring the lovely Laurie Dane as the titular character, a svelte private eye hired by an Asian importer to locate his young daughter, Lotus Lee, who’s been kidnapped by feared local gangster Limey, and forced to dance topless at his seamy nightclub in an attempt to blackmail the rich old man into handing over half of his business operations.

Fronting up at Limey’s club, it doesn’t take long for Miss Busty to land a dancing gig at $150 per week, and she’s soon wowing the patrons with her wild go-go routines (which she performs in white boots and to the accompaniment of a bad guitar pop band). Meanwhile, Lotus Lee is being held at a nearby seaside motel -- where Limey puts his girls “who can’t dance” to other kinds of work -- and is threatened by both Limey’s henchmen (“I just want to find out if what they say about Chinese girls is true!”) and the head honcho himself. (“They don’t even have enough guts to rape me,” Lotus spits out to Limey about his kidnapper thugs.)

Ensconced at the same motel, Busty creeps into Lotus’ room and explains that she has been hired by her daddy to rescue her. “I’ll do anything you say,” Lotus meekly replies as Mahon throws in a little mild lesbianism by having the two girls sleep together. Meanwhile, some goons from a rival underworld gang raid the motel and try to make off with some of Limey’s working girls, but are quickly overpowered and held captive in the room while Limey’s gals cavort and indulge in various acts of erotic shenanigans.

At dawn the next day, Busty and Lotus sense the opportunity to escape, and take off on two horses conveniently left standing around outside the motel. With Limey in hot pursuit, the exciting chase comes to an abrupt conclusion at the edge of a cliff where Busty gains the upper hand by spraying Limey in the face with a gas-shooting pen gun....

With a soundtrack full of cool nightclub lounge tracks and clich├ęd oriental gongs, The Adventures of Busty Brown showcases Mahon’s economical creativity at its grimiest, while exhibiting all the hokiness of a typical Get Smart episode. Except, of course, that this comes complete with bare tits.

AFTER THE BALL WAS OVER
1969/USA/B&W/Produced by Distribpix

This bizarre sixties shocker utilizes a storyline which frequently popped up in those classic 1950’s EC crime comics such as Crime SuspenStories and Shock SuspenStories: namely, the greedy husband who tries to drive his wife insane to get his mits on her fortune. Of course, the big difference here is that the EC comics never displayed this much hot, naked female flesh.

Pretty Evelyn Lloyd (Suzzane Landau of The Three Sexateers and Four on the Floor) is a well-off wife whose husband, Richard (Neal Taylor) has been acting very strange of late. He invites young couple over to their pad and openly invites them to have their way with his confused wife. At one such get-together, a strange stag flick is screened. As Richard’s buddy, Kenneth, paws at Evelyn, she finds herself getting turned on despite her disgust: “I did hate it, but I didn’t want him to stop!”

From here on, things get weird. Her chauffeur (who looks a lot like legendary – and shamed - music producer Phil Spector) appears out of nowhere to snap lewd pictures of her, and a visit to a phony shrink results in her being given hallucinogenic sleeping pills. Of course, all this is part of Robert’s plot to drive Evelyn into an asylum so he can take over the family business.

After a couple of drug-soaked sexcapades, a stoned Evelyn is chased around the apartment by goons wearing a variety of rubber monster masks (photographed by lots of great, twisted camera angles and distorted lenses). She races into the bathroom only to see a body rise from the bathtub and reach out for her (in a scene reminiscent of the French classic Diabolique). This is too much for Evelyn who promptly collapses. But just when Robert thinks he’s done with his wife, she turns the tables with a rude surprise for him...

After the Ball Was Over is definitely a strange brew. Produced by New York’s Distribpix (with no director credited), it reminds one of Doris Wishman’s black & white roughies, particularly since it seems to have been shot without sound or dialogue. The only talking we hear is a voice-over conversation between Evelyn and her lawyer. Some of the dialogue reads like a tacky old adult paperback (“His hands and tongue were never still!”), and the great musical track is quite experimental at times.

With his black rimmed glasses and thinning hair combed unruly to one side, Neal Taylor, who plays Robert, looks like a beefed up Woody Allen. I just can’t help wondering why he went to so much complex trouble to get a hold of Evelyn’s money. Whatever happened to the good old days of 1940’s film noir when the gold-digging husband simply shot the wife dead?

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ALL AROUND SERVICE
1974/Germany/Colour/Directed by Jonnig Wyder

A German sex comedy in a similar vein to the popular English Confessions of... series of films, All Around Service sets out to amply demonstrate that whatever the British can do, the Germans can do a whole lot dirtier!

Frank is one-half of "Frank & Fred’s All Around Service," a two-man maintenance company who take care of the needs of a large apartment complex. Naturally, they also take care of the needs of the frustrated housewives who dwell within that complex. Of late, however, Frank has become more of a one-man band since Fred has spent the past year in the company of a rich socialite named Vicki... who obviously likes her men lanky, draped in bad leisure suits, and sporting very dodgy beards.

"Normal people screw at night," Frank’s girlfriend Nana tells him after an early morning romp in his caravan. Thoroughly shagged out (literally) from his job, Frank is relieved when Fred finally returns to the fold after Vicki gives him the boot on their first anniversary! A young gay kid whom Frank had to hire to help out gladly takes a hike to make way for Fred’s return - the kid’s sexual proclivities provide the source of much juvenile amusement between the two - and it isn’t long before Frank and Fred are back on the job. Without a place to stay, however, Fred ends up sharing the caravan bed with Frank! (And they were the ones making fun of Frank’s gay assistant?!!) What follows is a string of sexual misadventures within the apartment complex, highlighted by a scene in which a woman feels-up and straddles her hubby who’s sitting on a sofa focused intently at a televised soccer match.

In a strange turn of events which the screenplay never really explains, Vicki (Fred’s ex) teams up with Nana (Frank’s current) in an attempt to put an end to Frank and Fred’s swingin’ ways. They type up a letter detailing the pair’s daytime adventures and distribute it to all the husbands in the complex. Vicki then arranges for the guys to get a maintenance job at another complex, one supposedly inhabited only by old people and single men but - oops! - turns out to be yet another breeding ground for tender young flesh!

The boys’ troubles haven’t stopped however, as a group of angry husbands from their former complex hatch a plan to pounce on the couple and teach them a lesson. More specifically, they intend to teach their overactive private porn a lesson. Luckily for the two studs, one of the housewives - a large woman who could easily pass for Divine’s stunt double - gets wind of the plan, manages to thwart the attack, and ends up wrestling her big bald husband outside Frank’s caravan....

Filled with a typically funky soundtrack, the sex scenes in All Around Service are somewhat raunchier and more explicit than those found in similar Euro softcore features of the day. It also demonstrates once again that the term ‘German comedy’ is indeed something of an oxymoron.

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ANATOMY OF A PSYCHO
1961/USA/B&W/Directed by Brooke L Peters

This compact, no-budget teen crime flick is an interesting curio as it represents one of the last JD films to retain that classic fifties feel before the ideals, fashions, and music of the sixties changed everything.

After an alleyway bottle fight leaves him with a scar down the side of his face, Chet (Darrell Howe), a brooding, troubled young man whose older brother, Duke has just hours to live on death row, sets out to exact revenge on those who sent him to the gas chamber. Unfortunately, Chet's sister Patty (The Tingler's lovely Pamela Lincoln) is dating clean-cut Mickey (Ronnie Burns, son of George and Gracie), whose father was the prime witness at Duke's trial.

Embarking on a campaign of terror, Chet and his gang don Elephant Man-style hoods and savagely beat up the son of the local D.A. After next giving his trampy girlfriend a little goodbye 'action' when she tries to give him the heave-ho, Chet then burns down the house of Judge Brennan during a rather posh party. Understandably worried that her brother is rapidly losing it, Patty sends Mickey to Chet's shack to talk some sense into him. The resultant confrontation quickly turns violent with Mickey self defensively stabbing one of Chet's cohorts in the stomach. Rather than helping his wounded friend, Chet pushes the knife in deeper (a surprisingly galvanizing scene) in order to frame Mickey for murder...

Starkly filmed in glorious black & white, Anatomy of a Psycho's opening scenes are quite foreboding, and convey the pulpy sensibilities that made all those great Confidential-style magazines so easily digestible. Director Brooke L Peters (who also helmed the Ed Wood-scripted Shotgun Wedding in 1963 under his real name, Boris Petroff) manages to bring a few nice creative touches, such as a close-up of Chet's somber face superimposed over footage of his brother being led to the gas chamber. An a nice little buildup of tension is created when two boys start bouncing a ball against the side of a car inside of which hides Chet, waiting for his victim to approach.

As Chet's doomed friend Moe, co-screenwriter Larry Lee gives himself the grooviest lines of dialogue ("I don't like the heat waltzing into my pad!"), and sharp eared viewers may recognize the same stock music from Plan 9 from Outer Space which is played over the early alleyway fight scenes!

Anatomy of a Psycho is an essential JD purchase.

ANN AND EVE
1970/Sweden/Colour/Directed by Anne Mattson


A delightfully lurid piece of Euro art/trash, Ann and Eve is one of those films which helped convince any hormone-crazed teenage boy that Sweden was a country completely overrun by insatiable sex addicts.

"No man has ever satisfied me," middle-aged Ann (Gio Petre, resembling at times a more hardened Honor Blackman) announces to her younger and far more naive friend Eve (Marie Liljedahl, star of Grimm's Fairy Tales for Adults and Jess Franco's incredible Eugenie). Moments after a surreal opening sequence in which Ann fantasizes that she guns down a man in a tent...or, perhaps, really does kill the poor bastard. Faced with making a choice between nymphomania and lesbianism, Ann seems to have decided on a bit--or, rather, a lot -- of both, becoming along the way "Sweden's most hated journalist!"

With Eve's marriage just around the corner, Ann decides to take her friend on a holiday to Yugoslavia, all the while encouraging Eve to "experience something unusual," and subjecting her (and the audience) to a number of tirades on the ugliness and futility of matrimony, love, and happiness. Initially scornful of Ann's views, Eve is eventually worn down and, after a brief fling with a married sailor, embarks on a series of torrid one-niters which trigger doubts about her previously rock-solid belief that her soon-to-be-husband Peter is her one true love: "Now that I've done it, I want to do it again!"

At this point, Ann and Eve begins a headlong descent into truly bizarre David Lynch-style territory, as Eve is seduced by a chubby female opera singer, is placed on an altar and fondled by several women at once while a midget accompanies the action on piano(!). and is gang raped by a bunch of gritty labourers on the back of a dirty flatbed truck--after the men play a game of cards to see who gets her first! There is also a strange little interlude where Ann attends a film premiere with the entire sequence played as a film-within-a-film (complete with credits).

Finally, after sharing a brooding handyman with Ann, Eve realizes how disgusted she has become with herself and her debauched behaviour ("You're vile!" she scowls to her reflection), and the film ends on a rather sudden and perplexing note as Ann receives a telegram revealing some startling and grim news about her former lover ("The best I ever had")...

From the vaults of Harry Novak, and filled to the brim with sixties Euro fashions, sports cars, and futuristic architecture -- as well as highlighting the combined talents of the female leads from Inga (Miss Liljedahl) and I, A Woman Part II (Miss Petre) -- Ann and Eve ends up being the cinematic equivalent of all those naughty magazines we all used to keep safely hidden under the mattress as a kid...

Reviews Copyright John Harrison