Had forgotten what a strange piece of surreal sexploitation Ron Garcia’s The Toy Box (1971) is. It’s one of the most (deliberately) mind-bending films to emerge from the skin flick genre at the time, with it’s mix of classic Old Dark House horror elements with late-sixties psychedelia, a couple of wacky sci-fi angles that seem to just jump up out of nowhere, and the aesthetic of a really creative underground student film. The movie is genuinely unnerving in a couple of spots (including one hallucinatory sequence that hints at necrophilia), and the sex scenes don’t drag on endlessly like they do in many softcore films from this era (although for a softcore film The Toy Box certainly pushes the limit into very hard R-rated territory).
The plot, coming on like an adults-only episode of The Twilight Zone, has a young couple heading to a swingers’ orgy at the large home of a mysterious figure they call ‘Uncle’, who appears to be dead and rewards his visitors with items from his magic toy box whenever they share their erotic fantasies with him. Some of the women who arrive to pay their respects to Uncle include Russ Meyer fave Uschi Digart (who gets seduced by her own bedsheets) and Marsha Jordan (a buxom blonde with great hair and a full but curvy figure who was slightly older than most of her contemporaries, which often saw her cast in the role of the bored and frustrated housewife).
Writer/director Ron Garcia later went on to have a prolific career as a cinematographer, mostly in television and highlighted by his work as the photographer of the Twin Peaks pilot movie from 1990, as well as the 1992 cinematic offshoot Fire Walk With Me. Interestingly, The Toy Box is the sort of film you could imagine Twin Peaks creator David Lynch making, had he been cutting his cinematic teeth in the sexploitation genre at the time.
One of the best movies that was ever picked up for distribution by low-budget movie mogul Harry Novak and his Boxoffice International company, The Toy Box was released on VHS in the 1990s by Something Weird Video, and on DVD in 2006 (where it was paired with another Novak acquisition, the bleak 1973 Freudian exploitation thriller Toys Are Not for Children).