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Something Weird Video presents
"Kicks, Jamie, kicks....what do we do for kicks?"
DVD ReviewWhen it came to 1960s schlocky drive-in exploitation fare, there was no more prolific purveyor than producer David F. Friedman. This new Something Weird disc marries two of his seminal 'roughies' on DVD, together with some very amusing extras. The roughie was intended as the next step beyond the "nudie cutie", which was shot in color and might, if you were lucky, show some female breast. The activity was decidedly nonsexual most of the time. The roughie not only went to a grittier black and white presentation, but because of relaxing standards, was able to present more frank nudity and sexual contact than was possible in the nudie cutie, as well as presenting a more violent and exploitative read on sexuality. Done on an ultra-cheap basis, the results are often highly unpleasant to today's viewer. Yet they do have some appeal as historical artifacts and examples of exploitation at its nastiest.
The Defilers is probably the height of the roughie genre. With plenty of nudity and gratuitous bubble baths, it tends to be a much more professional piece of work than its disappointing companion feature. The title characters are a pair of well-to-do Hollywood youngsters, Carl Walker Jr. (Byron Mabe) and Jameison Marsh (Jerome Eden) who live just for kicks. Even though they have a regular entourage of willing, busty young women, this doesn't suffice. When they meet a young girl from Minnesota, Jane Collins (Mai Jansson, who I believe had been a Playboy playmate), Carl hits on the Leopold and Loeb idea of the perfect crime: the kidnapping of a stranger without motive or desire for ransom. They intend to just make her their sexual plaything in the basement of an old warehouse owned by Carl's family.
In this picture, sexuality is closely wedded to extreme violence. Indeed, Carl seems unable to be sexually aroused without being abusive (biting one girlfriend, forcibly raping and spanking another and beating Jane into unconsciousness). Jameison is more along for the ride, but is still a willing participant in the atrocities that Carl cooks up in the name of "kicks." Director Frost does manage to create a little suspense, although there are a number of setups that never pay off, such as the rat that darts under Jane's mattress but is never seen again.
Scum of the Earth (credited as being the first roughie) is more mild in its presentation, but the misogynist streak evident in The Defilers is nonetheless clearly present from the beginning. High school student Kim Sherwood (Alison Louise Downe, under the name Vickie Miles) has been working as a cheesecake model for photographer Harmon (William Kerwin, under the name Thomas Sweetwood). Unbeknownst to her, Harmon is part of a pornography ring led by Mr. Lang (Lawrence Wood). When Kim needs money for college tuition, Harmon suggests some topless shots. After initial reluctance, Kim gives in, then finds herself blackmailed by these photos into posing for ever more revealing photographs. At the same time, juvenile delinquent Larry (Mal Arnold, who in the same year would be Fuad Ramses in Lewis' infamous Blood Feast...which was written by Downe!) is selling the photos to high school students and ruining Kim's reputation, and brutal thug Ajax (Craig Maudslay, Jr.) starts to insist on having his way with her.
Anyone looking for nudity in this feature is going to be sadly disappointed (though the IMDB states that the film is rated R, they seem to have confused it with the completely unrelated 1974 film of the same title). Nothing is revealed onscreen at all; the abuse here is also more psychological than physical. The one classic shot is the ever-cut-closer view of Lang's mouth as he tells Kim what he thinks of her: "Down inside, you're dirty. Do you hear me? Dirty!" This quote forms the climax of Something Weird's interminable forced intro to all of its discs, and it's nice to see it in context. Otherwise, however, Lewis' camera work is completely inept. Unable to keep his camera in focus, shots wobble between clear and blurred. The script is silly and the performances completely wooden all the way around. Even for a Herschell Gordon Lewis picture, this one is pretty bad. The grade is a blend between the two features; Defilers would rate a C+ for style and C for content; Scum would garner a D and a D+ respectively. But like an Ed Wood film, you're not likely to be watching these pictures for their cerebral content.
Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-
Image Transfer Review: The nonanamorphic image on the two films is surprisingly good. Blacks are rich and shadow detail is quite good. A wide range of greys is present. The source material is in pretty decent shape, except for extensive scratching around the reel changes. Compression artifacts and edge enhancement are hardly visible. This is probably a better-looking picture than these films deserve. The presentation is aided by using a separate layer for each feature, allowing a video bitrate that averages around 8 Mbps.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The original mono audio is presented through DD 1.0. The Defilers suffers from what sounds like sprocket noise throughout much of its duration. Both features have hiss, tinny-sounding music and extraneous noise galore, but considering their budgets this is hardly surprising. The diner sequence in Scum of the Earth uses the live-recorded sound, and hardly any of the dialogue is intelligible at all. This is one instance where looping would have been welcomed, especially in light of the lack of subtitles.
Audio Transfer Grade: D
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
9 Other Trailer(s) featuring All Women are Bad, Aroused!, Banned, Confessions of a Psycho Cat, The Curse of Her Flesh, The Pick-Up, Sex Killer, Sock it to me Baby and The Ultimate Degenerate
1 Feature/Episode commentary by producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird president Mike Vraney
The whole program can be played as a nonstop drive-in-style exhibition running about three hours, which really puts one into the proper mood for seeing these trashy movies. Funniest of all, we open up with Julie Andrews discussing the MPAA and the "fact" that it means the theater and the films are of good moral quality! Julie obviously didn't spend much time at the drive-in. Countless ads for the snack bar, a raft of trailers (one of which, Confessions of a Psycho Cat, sounds like Intrigo's life story), including two for The Defilers, and two color nudie short subjects are included as well. Thankfully, Something Weird appears to have listened to our criticisms from other discs: the SWV logo is nowhere to be seen in these shorts, increasing the viewing pleasure significantly. I hope it stays off. The two shorts are good examples of the genre, both dealing with photographers and thus tying nicely into the theme of Scum of the Earth. Naked Fury consists primarily of the Bennett twins getting into revealing costumes and then wrassling for all they're worth while the narrator takes photo after photo. Intimate Diary of Artists' Models features several of the actors from Scum, in a first-person exploitation look at nude and semi-nude photographer models. Short on plot, they have a certain crude innocence and charm that the roughie features definitely lack; as such these shorts make a nice palate-cleanser in between the main events.
This drive-in presentation is much superior to the version tried by Elite Entertainment on their Screaming Skull/Giant Leeches disc, in no small part due to the attention paid to the main features. It really helps make what are otherwise thoroughly nasty and frankly embarrassing pictures into a amusing exploitation extravaganza. Well done, indeed.
Wrapping up the package is a gallery of exploitation art, mostly related to nudies and roughies, set to the sound of a drive-in intermission pitch for a "sex-hygiene manual" that promises copious illustrations. For the convenience and privacy of the viewers, ushers with the books will come to the cars of anyone who puts on their parking lights. One wonders just how many sets of parking lights this endless rant illuminated. It's quite humorous, unintentionally.
Extras Grade: A+
Final CommentsA pair of quite nasty, rough sexploitation pictures, presented in a very amusing drive-in style with attractive video transfers. This is probably as good as these cheapies will ever look.
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