Saturday, March 14, 2015


After Hours Cinema

As someone with a perverse fascination with both sleazy exploitation films and the seedy underbelly of society in general, one of my biggest regrets is that I never got to experience Times Square during its lurid heyday of the 1960s to early-1980s, when 42nd Street was lined with sex shops, cheap hotels and grotty grindhouse cinemas showing triple-bills that comprised of all manner of exploitation and sexploitation films, and where the action in the cinema and on the streets outside was just as colourful, exciting and dangerous as what was happening up on the screen.

While Times Square has long since been cleaned-up and homogenised, you can still relive its glory days via books like Josh Friedman’s Tales of Times Square (1986) and Bill Landis’ Sleazoid Express (2002), as well as on DVD releases such as 42nd Street Pete’s series of vintage grindhouse compilations. We ain’t talking art here. We’re talking about the kind of low-rent, grimy skin-flicks from the very early-seventies, in the days just before the softcore hardened, when 8mm & 16mm featurettes (usually running between 45-60 minutes) would screen at tiny storefront theatres – mostly old shops that were gutted, filled with plastic seats, a rickety old  projector and a stained screen (and if a screen wasn’t available, a white wall would suffice). Into these shoebox cinemas would crowd some of New York’s most degenerate perverts, along with brave curiosity seekers, lonely businessmen passing their lunch break, and the odd criminal looking for a place to hide out from the cops.

The three featurettes (all from 1970) included on 42nd Street Pete’s Night of Perverted Pleasures are hardly memorable, either as films or erotica, but they are perfect examples of the kind of dirt cheap productions that would noisily whirr through the teeth of the projector in these (no doubt smoke-filled and cum-stained) storefront cinemas. Our triple feature kicks off with Marriage, American Style, a take-off of the popular American television show Love, American Style. When a newlywed virgin wants to file for divorce, she turns to a law firm run by three demented Marx Brothers impersonators (!), who grin and grope the poor girl and force her husband upon her in order to save the marriage. Aside from the kooky lawyers, the film’s saving grace is an appearance by Russ Meyer star Uschi Digard, who gets her mammoth mammaries out for a lesbian couch session with the confused young bride.

Divorce is once again a theme in Love Me or Leave Me, as various people visit the office of a lawyer and share their sexual escapades with him, which are presented in flashback sequences. Naturally, those female clients who can’t afford the lawyer’s fees are encouraged to pay off their bills in other ways. Real bottom of the barrel production values here, including an audible proclamation of “Action!” that you can hear in the background at one point!

In the final feature, Bull’s Market, a struggling investment company who can’t afford to pay out their dividends decides that paying their clients in hot female flesh will be a suitable alternative. The plan is a success until typical Wall Street greed comes into play, and the sexually frustrated wife of one of the partners of the company decides to seduce the other partner and run off with him just when the dollars are starting to roll in again. Lots of lurid 70s d├ęcor and fashions, along with a stunning platinum blonde beehive on one of the women, provide the highlights in this one.

After Hour's 2009 DVD release of 42nd Street Pete’s Night of Perverted Pleasure comes nicely packaged with a colour booklet and a...ahem...'wadd' of extras, including two vintage short loops (Terry’s Night In and Oh-h-h!! Doctor), a brief clip of Pete presenting one of his screenings at the (now defunct) Pioneer Theatre in New York, and a whole slew of trailers (for compilations such as 42nd Street Pete's Busty Stag Collection and Skin in the Sixties, as well as more recent camcorder-shot scuzz like Breastford Wives, Dracula's Dirty Daughter, and Topless Tapioca Wrestling). There is also a ‘Grind It’ option, which allows you to play all the features with the loops and trailers interspersed between them, so you can recreate the whole 42nd Street grindhouse experience (perverts, foul smells and sticky floors not supplied).


Review Copyright John Harrison 2015
(Note: this review originally appeared on the now-defunct DVD Holocaust website)