Tag Archives: Sex

Private Parts (1972)

private parts 3

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He likes to watch.

Cheryl (Ayn Ruymen) is a teen who cannot get along with her sister and boyfriend and decides to move out of their apartment and into a seedy hotel run by Martha (Lucille Benson) a very strange old lady. Here she lives next to voyeuristic photographer George (John Ventantonio) who has a big sex doll fetish. Cheryl secretly spies on George having sex with his doll and starts to get off on it. George becomes aware of Cheryl spying on him and likes it, which causes them to form an odd relationship and that is when things really get weird.

The film’s intrigue comes from the way it see-saws between being a perverted character study, horror film, and dark comedy. Director Paul Bartel makes great use of lighting, setting, and camera angles. There is also one truly odd and memorable sequence involving Ventantonio filling up his sex doll with water and then pumping it full of his own blood. The story is subtle enough to keep you involved and guessing and may even take a couple of viewings before you truly ‘get it’.

Much like with his later and better known film Eating Raoul Bartel examines the psychological complexities that make up people’s sexual nature and how perversions and fetishes are a normal part of it. The mindset is that everyone probably has a weird fetish of some kind and the open minded approach is what ultimately makes it refreshing and intriguing.

Although the film teases you with some sex and violence it never really goes all out. By dancing the line between being a horror film and a sex flick it fails to make a lasting impression despite a few good moments.

This is an interesting curio for sure and for its time was really pushing the envelope, but suffers from a low budget and isn’t scary or gory enough. However, George’s sex doll is unforgettable and watching it fill up with his blood is one of the damnedest looking sights ever put on film.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 17, 1972

Runtime: 1Hour 27Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Bartel

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Gotta love Sophia Loren.

This is a delightful comedy that won the Academy Award in 1964 for best foreign film. It consists of 3 vignettes all starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni and directed by the legendary Vittorio De Sica.

The first segment is entitled ‘Adelina’ and is a story about Adelina (Loren) who lives in poverty and sells cigarettes for a living. She is arrested for selling contraband products, but is released when it is found that she is expecting with the condition that six months after she delivers the baby she will be forced to serve her sentence. However, Adelina and her husband Carmine (Mastroianni) decide that the best way to avoid the sentence altogether is by keeping her continuously pregnant. Once she delivers one child she immediately gets pregnant with another, which creates overcrowding as well as an exhausted Carmine.

This segment is original and amusing throughout. Watching them trying to handle and maintain a household with such a large brood has its share of funny moments including one scene where Adelina tries to give one of her petulant children his medication. This setting vividly shows the poor side of Italian society, but unlike De Sica’s neo-realist films of the 40’s this one has a very engaging and even upbeat quality to it. The impoverished townsfolk become like a third character and their resiliency and support of one another proves to be a major plus to the story. Loren is fantastic in every scene she is in and makes this one special. Mastroianni is interesting playing against type as he is usually debonair and sophisticated, but here is simple and dominated.

The second story entitled ‘Anna’ deals with characters on the completely opposite end of the economic spectrum. Anna (Loren) is a spoiled rich woman who in an effort to alleviate her boredom with her husband who spends too much time working she has an affair with Renzo (Mastroianni). Renzo though fears that he is being used and that Anna has no intention of ever leaving her luxurious lifestyle to be with him.

All of the action takes place in a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III convertible as the two characters discuss their relationship while driving through the streets of Rome. This story is not as lively as the first and the characters aren’t as likable. However, the part where Renzo has an accident with the car and Anna’s reaction to it is quite funny.

The third and final act is entitled ‘Mara’ and deals with a prostitute named Mara (Loren) who becomes interested in Umberto (Gianni Ridolfi) a young man living next door with his Grandmother (Tina Pica) and studying to become a priest. The grandmother does not approve of Mara’s ‘profession’ and openly shuns her causing a major discord between the two, but when Umberto decide to drop out of the seminary the two work together to try and bring him back to his senses.

This story, like the first, has many amusing moments. Loren shows impeccable comic ability. I loved how the character goes from sexy seductress to a woman pleading with Umberto to go back to seminary and escape this ‘wicked world’. The shift between having Mara and the grandmother hating each other to becoming friends is equally funny. Mastroianni doesn’t have as much to do here, but still makes the most of it playing one of Mara’s customers who is just looking for a little sex, but is reluctantly thrown into the middle of the controversy.

This segment became famous at the time for a striptease that Loren does for Mastroianni. However, by today’s standards it is not much and hardly even seemed worth mentioning. I actually thought the part where Loren walks outside wearing nothing more than a towel and provocatively singing a flirtatious song to the young Umberto, who has a face that looks like it had not reached puberty, was much steamier.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: December 19, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Vittorio De Sica

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video

The Telephone Book (1971)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: She likes obscene calls.

            Due to the recent death of writer/director Nelson Lyon on July 17th I felt it was time to dig up my old copy of this bizarre underground cult flick and give it another view. I stated in another review I made about this film that I considered it The Gone with the Wind of underground moviemaking and I still stand behind it. The film is hampered by its low budget and black and white photography, but I was impressed with it creative camera angles, editing, set design and music. Lyon showed a genuine vision and made the most out of what little resources he had. Even the content, which could be seen as pornographic by some, is presented in such a quick paced and diverting style that it becomes engaging and amusing.

The basic premise deals with Alice (Sarah Kennedy) an over-sexed young blonde living alone in an apartment with walls lined with wall paper that has hundreds of pictures of people in various sex acts. One day she gets a call from an obscene phone caller and she falls in love with him because it was the ‘most sweetest and most beautiful dirty call’ she had ever received and although she had received other obscene calls in her life this one ‘had class’. She becomes obsessed with meeting the man. He tells her that his name is John Smith and that he is ‘in the book’.  She goes through the telephone book to call him up, but because she lives in New York City she realizes there are a lot of John Smiths. The rest of the film deals with her encounters of all the various John Smiths that she meets as well as her climatic meeting with the real John Smith and the very weird conversation that she has with him.

The film’s structure is basically made up of a lot of vignettes all dealing with various forms of perversity. Some famous character actors appear in cameos and some of which prove to be quite outrageous and funny. Barry Morse best known for playing Lieutenant Gerard in the 1960’s TV-series ‘The Fugitive’ has one of the film’s best moments playing Har Poon ‘the greatest stag movie actor of all-time’. He has a scene where 10 naked ladies, at least that is how many I was able to count, all jump on top of him and begin sucking on his various body parts. There is Roger C. Carmel as a psychiatrist who enjoys exposing himself to ladies on a subway train, but when Alice decides to do the same thing in return he becomes shocked and repulsed. Character actress Lucy Lee Flippan makes her film debut here as a ‘reformed’ obscene phone caller who describes how when her husband was away at work and her kids where at school she would call up men at their jobs and talk dirty to them while masturbating  with a banana. There is also William Hickey playing a man suffering from a permanent and incurable erection.

The best appearance though comes from Norman Rose famous for narrating many films. Here he appears wearing a mask of a pig and playing the actual obscene phone caller. He describes how he calls 4 different women a night every week of the year except for two when he goes on vacation to ‘get out of the grind’. He also explains how he has perfected his obscene phone skills to the point that he could seduce the president of the United States if he wanted to, but doesn’t because he has ‘no political ambitions’. The conversation gets weirder including telling Alice about his foray into becoming an astronaut while he seductively washes her hair, but Lyon’s use of imagery during this segment keeps it interesting and even memorable. My only complaint would be that I wished he had taken off the mask so we could have seen what he really looked like.

The film ends with an eye popping animation segment dealing with a giant headless naked woman who squats down and has sex with a sky scrapper that needs to be seen to be believed. This is also the only part of the film that is in color.

Despite the fact that it was all done on a shoestring budget and with no character development I had few complaints although I didn’t understand how the obscene caller was always able to call up Alice and get a hold of her even when she was not at home and at someone else’s place. This was of course before cellphones, but I suppose demanding logic from a film that otherwise revels in the absurd would prove futile. The film did not do well on its initial run, but was rereleased in 2011 to much more positive reviews both here and in Europe. Through word of mouth it is expected to gain the cult following it deserves and maybe eventually a DVD or Blu-ray release.

Kennedy is delightful in the lead, but her appeal may depend on one’s personal tolerance. She looks and acts almost exactly like Goldie Hawn and was her replacement on the ‘Laugh-In’ show when Hawn left to concentrate on her movie career. I enjoyed Kennedy’s giddiness and child-like enthusiasm to all the perversions around her, but her voice sounds like she has sucked in helium and could prove annoying to some.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: October 3, 1971

Runtime: 1Hour 24Minutes

Rated X

Director: Nelson Lyon

Studio: Rosebud Films

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray 

Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (1976)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: One is not enough.

This is an oddly structured Brazilian film that became a world-wide hit due to its explicit, edgy storyline.  It details the account of a woman named Dona Flor (Sonia Braga) whose first husband Valdomiro (Jose Wilker), was a bit on the wild side. After gambling away all of their money he dies. She becomes determined not to make the same mistake twice, so she remarries another man who is a doctor (Mauro Mendonca) and a much more responsible mate, but also stiff and boring. Problems ensue when the first husband, who she misses because he was more erotic and exciting in bed, comes back in the form of a ghost who only she can see.

The movie on a whole is well made. The characters are all likable and the theme music, which is played throughout the film, is appealing. The on location shooting is also quite distinctive. It really gives you a genuine, rare flavor of a small Brazil village and the people who inhabit them.

My main complaint with the film is that it takes the entire first hour just too illustrate her marriage with her first husband and the second hour to show her mourning and eventual remarriage. It’s not until the FINAL FIFTEEN MINUTES that the scenario the whole film is based on actually happens. When it does it is lively and funny, but the majority of the movie is surprisingly low key and melodramatic. The highly touted sex scenes are overrated. They are too brief and spread out very thinly.

Braga does well in her star making vehicle. She is able to convey both a simple, sweet nature as well as a sultry, sensual one. She has a pretty face and really does look great naked.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: November 22, 1976

Runtime: 1Hour 50Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bruno Barreto

Studio: Embrafilme

Available: VHS, DVD (Director’s Cut)

Body Double (1984)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Sex through a telescope.

During the 70’s and 80’s director Brian DePalma, a fan of Alfred Hitchcock, made a lot of stylized thrillers using many of Hitchcock’s trademark devices.  He even storyboarded every shot that he did just like Hitch. Unfortunately a lot of these films had rather flimsy plots and characters and were over-directed, drowning out what little story there was. DePalma tried so hard to imitate Hitch that he ended up showing no original vision himself and made the viewer crave even more at seeing a genuine Hitchcock film.  This film, which I first saw when it was released 26 years ago, I felt was the best of DePalma’s Hitchcock imitations. Upon viewing it a second time many years later I found a lot more holes despite one clever twist and some good camerawork.

The story is about Jack Scully (Craig Wasson) who is a struggling out of work actor who is offered a place to stay by a man named Sam (Gregg Henry). The house is a very modernistic place looking almost like the Space Needle in Seattle.  Jack is offered the home on condition that he takes care of the place while Sam is away on business.  During his stay Jack becomes obsessed with the attractive neighbor lady named Gloria Revelle (Deborah Shelton) who he watches through a telescope.  She does an erotic dance in her bedroom each night at the same time while wearing a revealing negligee. The dance itself is not real exciting and would probably bore most people after a minute or two, but Jack becomes hooked on it and watches it endlessly night after night.  Eventually he starts following the woman around during the daytime and even tries to start up a relationship with her. He also begins to notice another man, who is very creepy looking, is also following her and eventually he witnesses him murdering her, but Jack becomes convinced there is more to it.  With the help of a porn star named Holly Body (Melanie Griffith), who he meets along the way, the two set out to try and solve the mystery.

Wasson makes for an incredibly weak male lead. This helps somewhat because the character is very weak, but it is hard for the viewer to relate or care about him.  His best scenes come during his endless auditions and rather thankless treatment he receives from directors, producers, and acting coaches.  These are one of the few scenes that the film gets right as it hits the nail right on the head showing just how degrading working as a low paid, nameless actor can be in Hollywood. The porn star character is also weak as she is too cliched and predictable making her more annoying than anything despite the fact that Griffith plays the part pretty well.  The character was based on real-life porn star Annette Haven who gets listed in the credits as a ‘technical advisor’. I did like Gregg Henry though who makes for a great sleazy villain as well as Dennis Franz in a small, comic relief type role as a brash, stressed-out B-movie director.

The film also has a lot of rather implausible elements that prevents the viewer from getting as involved in it as they should. One of the biggest ones is when Jack sees Holly Body performing in a adult video that he has rented and becomes convinced that she may be connected to the case when he sees her do the same type of dance that the neighbor lady did, so in order to meet up with her he auditions as the male lead in her next X-rated production. Now I’m not completely sure how casting in these productions work, but having some guy with no experience starring and having sex with the industry’s biggest female star at the time seems to be a bit of a stretch. I would also think that a guy who was not used to having sex in front of the camera and with everyone staring at him might get nervous and be unable to ‘perform’ especially in what was still the pre-Viagra age.

The porn scenes themselves aren’t too interesting, or exciting.  This industry is no longer quite as underground, or taboo as it once was, so the shock factor is gone.  The characters and situations are handled in such a placid way that the viewer is given no real insight into the business, or the people who work in it.  The industry has evolved a lot in the past twenty-five years, so the scenes here become irrelevant.

There were a few things that I did like.  The scenes where Jack follows Gloria around in the shopping mall are pretty well handled despite the fact that I think they could have had a little more action here and there also needed to be more customers in the background.  However, the bird’s eye view, which is another patented Hitchcock type shot, showing Jack following Gloria around who is also being followed by the killer is good.  This part also features the one definitive moment from the film that I remembered after all these years.  It involves Gloria throwing away her old panties when she buys some new ones and then having Jack fish through the garbage, retrieve the panties, and put them in his pocket as a sort of ‘souvenir’.

Some of the shots during the actual murder are also really innovative especially the way the camera captures the giant drill, which is the killer’s weapon.  Probably the best shot of the entire film occurs when the killer drives the drill into the victim, which then goes through her body as well as the floorboards and then pops out of the ceiling from the floor below.  Yes, it is rather gory, but I still thought it was a really cool shot anyways.  I also thought the innovative design to the house that Jack stays in had potential, but I wished they had shown a little more of the place from different angles and given us more of a feel of the inside instead of having all the action occur in just one room.

Overall the film is slick, but very shallow and superficial.  The neighbor lady especially seems like a male fantasy.  DePalma gets too hyper with the camera.  I really don’t like his ‘spinning camera’ shots.  He spun it around Jack and Gloria as they kissed and it was tacky and cliched.  Once, in the film Blow Out, he spun the camera around so much in one scene that it started to actually make me feel dizzy and nauseous. The film has a scene during the closing credits showing how a body double is used during a film production, which is amusing and interesting, but a bit out of place for a thriller.  You walk away from the movie wondering how much more entertaining it could have been had Hitchcock himself been able to direct it.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: October 26, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 54Minutes

Rated R

Director: Brian De Palma

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD (Special Widescreen Edition), Amazon Instant Video

Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 9 out of 10

4-Word Review: Married to a jerk.

Director Frank Perry may not be a name one throws out when mentioning some of the top directors, but a lot of his early work that he did with his screenwriter wife Eleanor were definite forerunners of the independent film movement and ahead of their time. David and Lisa was their first and it dealt with the budding romance between two patients at a mental hospital. Ladybug Ladybug was their follow-up and it was the true story of what happens when an errant nuclear warning siren goes off and the staff and students of a small rural school think it is for real. There was also the critically acclaimed film Last Summer dealing with the brutal gang rape of a teen girl by her so called ‘friends’.  They also did the revisionist western Doc starring Stacy Keach as well as the brilliantly quirky Rancho Deluxe.  However, it is Diary of a Mad Housewife that I find to be their very best.

It is the story based on the best-selling novel by Sue Kaufman dealing with the character of Tina Balser.  On the outside she seems to be living the American dream. She is married to a up and coming lawyer, living in a swank Manhattan apartment, and the mother of two beautiful girls.  Unfortunately the husband is an obnoxious bore, the girls are spoiled and mouthy, and she feels lonely and depressed.  She decides to have an affair with a novelist, but he ends up treating her just as poorly and when she tells her troubles to a support group, they end up doing the same.

I have seen this film many times over the past twenty years and am always impressed at the fluid way it goes between satire and drama as well as the fact that it doesn’t seem dated at all. The scenes with Richard Benjamin as the jerk husband are hilariously over-the-top.  Yet the scenes involving Frank Langella as the lover who is bitter about his lagging writing career and repressed homosexuality and takes these frustrations out on Tina, are just as interesting, but in a much more subtle way.  In fact these scenes feature some great dialogue and character development and I find them more intriguing with each viewing.  Langella, in his film debut, makes a lasting impression.

The cinematography, editing, and color schemes are also first-rate. Perry does a great job in infusing the counter-culture movement of the time with the old values of marriage and family. The mod party that they go to is well staged with scantily clad mannequins in a provocative poses placed throughout.  The pretentious attitudes of the party goers is nicely captured.  This scene also features the Alice Cooper Band as well as giant pillow fight.

Carrie Snodgrass performance is what really makes this work.  She was nominated for the Academy Award and she should have won it. Her ability to display her characters feelings through such subtle methods as facial expressions, body gestures, and reactions is impressive.  The viewer can easily relate to the character and feel her pain.  Rock singer Neil Young was so impressed with her that he wrote her a fan letter and the two ended up getting into a relationship. Unfortunately because of this she dropped out of Hollywood and didn’t do another movie until almost nine years later.  When she returned all the top roles were no longer accessible and she was relegated to ‘B’ movies and small supporting roles until finally succumbing to cancer in 2004. This was a real shame because her talents were never fully utilized, but at least this was a perfect vehicle for her and one that movie fans today can really appreciate.

In the end though what makes this film so very good is that it makes a great statement on the fact that isolation is a part of modern day living and at some point everyone will have to deal with.  Getting married, having kids, even having a lover or a support group will not necessarily be an effective buffer and may actually only exacerbate it. The whole film kind of reminded me of a statement made by a character on the old ‘Ally McBeal’ TV-show “My loneliest times in life are when someone is lying in bed next to me.”

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Released: August 10, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes (Theater Version) 1Hour 35Minutes (TV Version)

Rated R

Director: Frank Perry

Studio: Universal

Available: VHS

Who’s Been Sleeping in My Bed? (1963)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Carol Burnett does striptease.

Every time I get annoyed by many of today’s Hollywood comedies that seem to be nothing more than a stretched out idea for an episode of a sitcom, one only has to go back into time to find that the comedies of yesteryear weren’t always much better. Of course there were some classics, but a lot of vapid ones in the mix as well. In fact this one is so trite that it becomes almost agonizing to sit through. It was considered in its time to be a ‘sex farce’, but fails to deliver on either.

The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, but who you know’ has never been truer in this instance. I have attended many screenwriting classes and seminars and can verify there is a lot of good stuff out there that hasn’t been read unfortunately because the authors don’t have the right connections. In this case the screenplay was written by Jack Rose who had previous writing success with such films as My Favorite Brunette, Houseboat, and The Road to Rio. Judging from its lack of creativity Rose probably wrote this real quickly to make some fast cash and the studio heads gave it the green light simply based on his past success without ever looking at it critically.

The plot, if you can call it that, has to do with TV-star Jason Steel (Dean Martin) who plays the part of a popular Dr. on a TV-series.  His TV character matches all the ideal qualities that women want in a man and thus he always has women chasing after him in real-life. He even has the wives of his friends coming on to him. With so many married women telling him how unhappy they are in their marriages he begins to fear that marriage may not be a good idea and thus calls off his impending engagement to beautiful Melisa Morris (Elizabeth Montgomery).  Melisa is devastated by this, so her goofy roommate Stella Irving (Carol Burnett, in her film debut) hatches up a kooky scheme in order to get him to reconsider.

This film gets tiring right from the beginning.  Jason goes out with his buddies every Thursday night to play poker, but then during the game he always gets a call from one of his buddy’s wives telling him they have to see him.  He leaves the game and meets them at his place and then fights off their advances. This silly scenario gets repeated four different times with all four of his friend’s wives and it’s like being told the same dumb joke over and over. This triviality ends up taking up the whole first hour before it moves into the scheme portion, which really doesn’t even measure up to a weak episode of ‘I Love Lucy’.

Out of the whole ninety minutes there are only two scenes that are mildly amusing.  One is when Jason pushes everyone into a pool and they fall in like dominoes and the other is when Stella goes to a strip club and is forced to go onstage and do a striptease when she can’t pay for her drinks, which makes great use of Burnett’s ad-libbing abilities.

Burnett and Montgomery make an interesting pair. Montgomery is a good straight-man to Burnett’s zaniness and with a better script this could’ve been ideal casting. Montgomery did this film just before she started her long running series ‘Bewitched’. She looks gorgeous and gives the film’s best performance.

There is a long list of excellent male character actors here including: Martin Balsam, Jack Soo, Richard Conte, Louis Nye, and Johnny Silver. All of them are wasted with very little to do. Except for the money I don’t know why any of them took their parts.

The satirical jabs at TV-dramas are too gentle and not even good for a chuckle.  If one is considering getting married then I would definitely not suggest it as the script takes so many potshots at the institution that it is liable to give anyone second thoughts.

Although this was made as a vehicle for Martin I feel even fans of Dino will be disappointed. It really doesn’t take advantage of his persona and he seems as bored with the material as the viewer and just going through the paces. Despite the interesting cast this is an all-around disappointment.

My Rating: 3 out of 10.

Released: December 25, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 43Minutes

Rated NR (Not Rated)

Director: Delber Mann

Studio: Paramount

Available: Netflix Streaming

Eating Raoul (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Get rid of perverts.

Paul and Mary Bland (Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov) are a very conservative couple that do not approve of open sexuality. They live in an apartment that is filled with swingers and spend most of the time trying to avoid them while abhorring their behavior.  Their dream is to purchase a large house in the countryside and convert it into a restaurant.  The problem is they have bad credit and are unable to secure any type of loan, so they decide to run an ad in the newspaper promising to fulfill and play-out people’s sexual fantasies. They insist everyone must pay in cash and then lure them to their apartment where Paul hits them over the head with a frying pan and kills them. That way they are able to collect the money they need while ridding the world of all the ‘perverts’.  However, a local con-man by the name of Raoul finds out about their act.  He is a young, good looking, self-described ‘hot-blooded Chicano’ who has the hots for Mary.  He allows them to continue with their scheme as long as he can have the dead bodies afterwards, which he then sells to a company who uses them to make dog food. Things go well for a while, but then complications ensue and that’s when it really starts to get crazy.

Paul Bartel’s hilarious script was initially rejected by all the studios and he spent six futile years trying to get it financed. It was only after his parent’s sold their house and gave him the money that he was able to get the film produced. It definitely has a very low budget look with a grainy film stock that gives it almost a home movie feel. However, this is a perfect example where a creative script can help overcome the film’s other shortcomings.  There are some genuinely funny moments the best is probably the swinger’s party and the infamous hot tub scene. This is the one thing that I remember most vividly about the film when I first saw it decades ago. I knew it was coming and still found myself laughing out loud when it did.  The swingers themselves are an obnoxious riot and you actually find yourself looking forward to seeing them get killed.

Writer, director, and star Bartel continues with his theme that perversion is a normal part of the human makeup.  Everyone has their own private sexual fetishes and fantasies that is unique only to them and may not be understood by others. He started this philosophy with his short film Naughty Nurse in 1969 where an otherwise respectable doctor and nurse would spend their lunch hour playing weird sex games. He continued it with his initial feature film Private Parts in 1972 that had a handsome young man who enjoyed having sex with a doll that he could fill up with water over real women and the weird relationship that transpired with the teen girl who lived next door and got-off watching him do it.  Here it continues with the sexual fantasies of Paul and Mary’s customers that become increasingly more outrageous (and hilarious) as they go on. Even the very strait-laced Paul and Mary have their own perversions. They dislike the actual act of sex and never do it. Instead they sleep in separate beds and cuddle with stuffed animals instead of each other, which is just as funny in the other way.

When I initially saw the film I thought Bartel was having a major ego trip by casting himself as being married to a very attractive lady like Woronov. He was a pudgy and bald man who in real-life would most likely not be able to attain such a woman. Upon second viewing I ended up liking the odd casting and felt it helped make the film stronger.  Usually beautiful women are shown as simmering with sexuality and even sex symbols, so I appreciated the way it went against type. It also helped to define how Paul and Mary had a very special understanding with each other that did not conform to conventional wisdom, which sometimes happens. I also enjoyed the way Mary stays true to Paul even when she ends up being severely tested.

I admired Woronov’s performance the second time around as well. She was majoring in sculpting in 1963 at Cambridge University when her class decided to take a field to the Andy Warhol factory. She became so impressed with the place that she stayed while the rest of the students went back.  She starred in some of his experimental films and now 80 independent/underground films later she has become a major cult icon.  I was only 18 when I first viewed this and at the time my hormones where more fixated on her sleek body as she does have a few good, but brief nude scenes. Her acting though indeed helps carry the film.

Successful Latino actor Robert Beltran is good in his part as Raoul, which also marked his film debut. I enjoyed the contrast of his aggressive, streetwise character against the stifled Blands. There is also shades from Roman Polanski’s classic Cul-de-sac where a coarse stranger disrupts the unique chemistry of an otherwise isolated couple.

Susan Saiger is fun as Doris the Dominatrix. I felt it was nice how the film starts out with her as a kinky woman with a whip at a party, but then turns around with a scene showing her as an everyday housewife and raising a kid during her off hours. I liked how Paul and her managed to get past their differences and form an interesting friendship.

Famous character actors pop-up in amusing cameos. Ed Begley Jr. is an over-the-top hippie sex freak. Edie Mclurg appears near the end of the film as one of the swingers. Famous dwarf actor Billy Curtis is one of the customers and has a pet Doberman that is bigger than he is! The best cameo goes to Buck Henry who plays an amorous bank manager who makes advances towards Mary and then the funny way he tries to back-track when he gets caught.

This film has acquired a major cult-following that seems to grow by the year.  Yes, there are some flaws. The beginning is a bit cheesy and awkward and it took me about 20 minutes before I could get into it. I also wondered, with so many people being killed, why the suspicions of the police, or anyone else, was never aroused. There is also the fact that not everyone would get killed by being hit over the head with a frying pan, some might just get knocked unconscious. Still, I found myself laughing at a lot of places. I think people who are fans of black humor will enjoy this especially since it doesn’t sell itself out and stays true to form the whole way.

Sadly Paul Bartel died in 2000 from cancer and I felt his full potential was never fully realized. This became is most popular work and although he did several films afterward, none of them were as good.  Mary Woronov continues to be quite busy even at the age of 68. A documentary about her life and career is set to be released later this year and I look forward to seeing it.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: March 24, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 30Minutes

Rated R

Director: Paul Bartel

Studio: Films Incorporated

Available: VHS, DVD

Two Moon Junction (1988)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Voyuers will like it.

            A young woman named April (Sherilynn Fenn) who is from a well-to-do Southern family and engaged to be married meets a rugged hunk named Perry (Richard Tyson) who works as a laborer at a travelling carnival and the two immediately share a strong sexual attraction.  She considers getting out of her engagement, but her controlling grandmother Belle (Louise Fletcher) puts the crooked town sheriff (Burl Ives) on Perry’s tale in order to ‘rid them of the problem’.

Normally ‘hot and steamy’ love triangles that take place in the south seem over-done, redundant, and cliché filled, but for some reason this one works to an extent. For one thing the sex scenes, especially the one at the end that takes place at the Two Moon Junction locale, is quite explicit with an abundance of nudity by actress Fenn who is pleasing in the buff. And for the lady viewers there is even a scene featuring naked male bodies, both front and back, near the beginning of the film. If that isn’t enough there is also actor Tyson who is seen ninety-eight percent of the time without his shirt.

For sex it fares pretty well and rises just enough above the tired 80’s clichés to make it seem fresh. However, the story is rather placid and fails to dig deeper than its basic storyline.  The stylish atmosphere is nice, but there needed to be more tension and action.  I wanted the Fletcher and Ives characters to be meaner. Adding some tongue and cheek humor to a genre that even back then was becoming tired would have really helped.  There are times when it seems to want to go there but then it pulls back.  Having veteran character actors like Fletcher, Ives, Herve Villechaize, and Dabbs Greer was a real nice touch, but they needed to be given more to do. In Ives case, whose last film this was, I felt he was wasted and in that regard I came away from this thing disappointed.

Tyson works surprisingly well in the male lead.  He resembles a Fabio wannabe and I would normally have found him annoying, but he displays just the right level of cockiness to stay interesting. The fact that he also shows some negative traits helps keep the character real. However, the part where he breaks into April’s parent’s large estate and then promptly starts to take a shower seemed absurd and ridiculous. And just where did he find that bathrobe that fit him so well? Or did he bring one along with him? I suppose the plumbing might not be so good at the ragtag traveling carnival he worked at, but still.

Fenn is surprisingly strong as the female lead. This was definitely a three-dimensional character and the internal struggle that she had at being attracted to a man that she knew she shouldn’t be was nicely realized. The parts where she would breakdown into bouts of sobbing after her sexual liaisons with Perry were effective and heartfelt.

Kristy McNichol was a nice sight as a bi-sexual cowgirl named Patti Jean and she looked even better when she went topless. The fact that she revealed some latent lesbian tendencies towards April seemed to me to create interesting dramatic variables, but the film fails to go with it and the character disappears, which was another disappointment.  However, Patti and April’s dance together on the barroom dance floor created some nice provocative imagery.

It also during the opening of this barroom scene that you can spot the movie’s most revealing mistake; as the camera pans across the floor you can clearly see the shadow of the camera as well as the cameraman reflecting along the shiny wooden floorboards. It is always surprising to me the fact that if I the viewer can see a mistake like that right away how come an entire production crew misses it? Or do they see it, but are too lazy to reshoot, so they hope that it will just ‘pass-by’ the viewer? Either way it is the sign of sloppy filmmaking.

This also marks the acting debut of Milla Jovovich who plays April’s younger sister Samantha.  She was only thirteen at the time, but she already had a stunning face and it is easy to see why she caught the attention of producers and photographers as a model. However, her acting ability here seemed limited and her facial expressions where undisciplined.  She also shows little awareness of the camera, or how to play to it.

The film is superficial and lacking in many ways and it fails to have the necessary edginess that would have given it cult potential, but I still found it to be passably entertaining. Voyeurs who watch it for the sex may find it a little bit better.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: April 29, 1988

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated R

Director: Zalman King

Studio: Lorimar

Available: VHS, DVD

Deep End (1970)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He will have her.

This is a moody drama detailing the story of a 15 year old boy named Mike (John Moulder-Brown) who goes to work at a public bath in London.  There he meets an alluring red-headed woman named Sue (Jane Asher).  She begins flirting with him, which causes him to become infatuated with her.  He starts following her around and even tries to scare off her two boyfriends as she is seeing both a man her own age as well as an older, married one.  Sue, who seems to enjoy manipulating all the men in her life, treats it all like it’s a silly game that ultimately ends with tragic results.

One of the things that really helps this film stand-out is the believability of the Mike character.  It was fascinating seeing all the different sides to his personality and I felt each one rang true for a boy his age.  There are times when he seems streetwise and even savvy and then there are other moments when he is immature, irresponsible, and emotionally out-of-control.  Although his obsession with Sue borders on being frightening I did like how he comes up with clever ways to help her like the ingenious way he finds her diamond that fell from her ring and into the snow.  I also liked how he becomes shocked at seeing a semi-nude poster of Sue outside a club, as she works as a stripper part-time, and how he steals it away in order to ‘protect her honor’.

Sue on the other hand seems almost all bad with very little good traits, but still equally believable.  She is mean and catty with everyone, abuses animals, and comes up emotionally hollow at every turn.  However, I could see how a young man of his age could become trapped by her seductive ways and perceived ‘maturity’, which makes the obsession itself as intriguing as their personalities.

Acclaimed writer/director Jerzy Skolimowski seems very much in control here and what buttons to press and when to do it.  I liked the color schemes especially his use of the color red. Having Cat Stevens do the music score gives the soundtrack and nice distinction.  I also liked how he foreshadows the film’s final shot several times during the movie.

I did end up having a few qualms with the film.  I wanted Mike’s initial interactions with Sue to be a little more extended than just the brief flirting that is shown.  The film takes place in buildings that are all old, rundown, and murky, which in some ways is good because it helps reflect the murky personalities of the characters.  Yet I wasn’t sure if this was all intentional or just the result of working on a low budget.  I would have liked a few scenes done against a more appealing background just to allow for  more visual variety.

The ending, especially the final shot, is very provocative and perverse.  It reminded me in a way of Nicholas Roeg’s excellent film Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession (1980). Everything gets played out in such an odd way that it keeps you guessing until the final second as to what happens, which ends up staying with you long after the film is over.

Diana Dors, who was a popular British actress during the 50’s and 60’s and even considered a sex symbol for a time, gets a great cameo bit here that has to be seen to really be appreciated.  She plays a sexually frustrated middle-aged woman who rents a room at the public bath and then tricks Mike into coming into the room with her. She grabs his hair and shakes his head while describing a sexual fantasy that she has going on in her head.  When she is done she throws him back to the floor and says “You can go now, I don’t need you anymore.”

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 1, 1970

Runtime: 1Hour 33Minutes

Rated R (Sexual Situations, Adult Theme, Brief Nudity)

Director: Jerzy Skolimowski

Studio: Paramount

Available: DVD, Blu-ray (Import)