George Maxwell (George Carey, RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP) is a staff prosecutor handling the case of biker Larry Mackey (Robert Tessier, DOUBLE EXPOSURE) who abducted and viciously murdered Doris Winkler (Ruth Noonan). Although he is a shoe-in to become the next district attorney, his home life is in shambles. His society-minded wife Edith (Anne Bellamy, THE BORN LOSERS) has cut him off in the bedroom because their last drunken dalliance resulted in an eight-month-old infant, and his mind tends to wander during the endless nights of cocktail parties and bridge. Although he initially barely takes notice of short-skirted babysitter Candy Wilson (Patricia Wymer, THE WITCHMAKER), George finds himself drawn to her hippie-esque outlook and passion for music (and bare thighs) when his wife orders him to drive Candy home. George initially rebuffs Candy’s advances (“It’s a green light: that means you can go”), but soon finds himself falling for her. Meanwhile, Larry’s girlfriend Julie (Kathy Williams, THE MUTHERS) is desperate to get him out of jail. When Larry’s brother Kyle (Ted C. Frank) mentions that his kid sister told him that the Maxwells’ daughter Joan (Sherri Jackson, ALICE IN ACIDLAND) is a lesbian, Julie – also an old school friend of Joan’s – decides to get back into her circle in order to get photographic evidence with which to blackmail George into acquitting Larry. Julie joins Joan and her “friend” Maryjane poolside and has the golden opportunity to photograph them when the two retire to the steam room for a tryst; however, she finds even better blackmail material when George joins Candy for a topless dip in the pool.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the experience of watching THE BABYSITTER. Despite the intercutting of Wymer strolling down a suburban street with a very Independent-International-looking clan of bikers abducting and brutalizing a woman, the black-and-white photography looks very early 1960s sitcom – especially in conjunction with the instrumental version of Robert O’Ragland’s (MANSION OF THE DOOMED) theme song – in the beginning, and the initial teasing between George and Candy is very chaste. When the film cuts to the next day and the subplots take off, Stanton R. Fox’s cinematography gets more expressionistic and suddenly we’re in a Joe Sarno film of hidden passions underlying the façade of suburbia. Some nudity was glimpsed during the party scene, but from the pool party on we’re given loving close-ups of wet, bare, sun-kissed skin (and plenty of tan lines). The film was rated X when it was released, but probably would have qualified for an R just two or three years later. Co-writer/editor/director Henderson also gets experimental with the editing as Candy begins to overwhelm George’s thoughts. George and Edith’s bridge game with another couple is a particularly interesting combination of editing and photography. Every line spoken by the other characters seems to have a double meaning that flashes to some close-up of Candy’s anatomy; and, although George is the one who is distracted, he is shown in normal close-ups while close-ups of his wife and the other couple are all shot at canted angles. After George argues with Edith, the film treats us to a montage of happier times between the couple.
The romantic frolic sequence between George and Candy reveals itself not to be gratuitous padding for the vocal version of the theme song performed by The Food (“Too late when you’ve met her, too late to forget her!”) since the lovers revisit some of the same locations with Candy replacing Edith in very similar compositions and arrangements of shots. Violence is also pretty surprising (outside of the era’s roughies) with an intense (but not particularly graphic) flashback to the murder by the bikers – as recalled by Joan – and later on when Candy proves she’s not as easy-going as she seems. That star Carey also co-wrote and produced the film is the likely reason the end result is never as dark as it could have potentially been. Carey would write, produce and star in WEEKEND WITH THE BABYSITTER – also helmed by Henderson – in which he gets involved with another Candy Wilson (this one played by Susan Romen), and produce Henderson’s better-known THE TOUCH OF SATAN (currently only available in its MSTK3000 form). James E. McLarty – who plays Julie’s mechanic pal Inkie – also penned the screenplay for this and the other two Henderson films.
BCI’s previous release of THE BABYSITTER – in one of their DRIVE-IN CULT CLASSICS multi-film volumes – was derived from a 1980s video master. Code Red reportedly discovered the original uncut 35mm camera negatives, and the black and white cinematography looks exquisite while retaining the film’s abundant grain (lasciviously crawling over every exposed inch of skin). A soft shot at roughly forty minutes of George and Candy in the car should probably be as sharp as the reverse angle, so it may either be a patch-up from an inferior source or a fault of the original cinematography. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio is in fine condition. Besides the theatrical trailer (2:23) – “She’s great with kids, and even better with daddies!” – that focuses almost solely on the affair and does not even start to hint at the other subplots (although it seems to confuse Wymer with Maryjane in a shot of the latter’s lesbian tryst with Joan). A most bewildering extra is “Injustice to THE BABYSITTER” (30:19) which includes excerpts from an unnecessary intermediate step the lab took in creating new audio for the new telecine job (which apparently doubled the Code Red’s lab bill). It’s pretty much just time-coded alternating white and black leader over which we can hear film’s audio.
The disc’s co-feature THE TOPLESS STORY is a mind-numbing suggestion of what 1960s audiences once had to go through to see some skin on the screen. IMDb lists it as a Swiss production under the German title DIE OBEN OHNE STORY – the English title card bears the subtitle MINIKINI STORY – directed by Wolfgang Selnig, but this mix of stock footage and overdubbed MOS dialogue scenes could just as easily be an American production masquerading as something European and exotic. Skuzzy-looking world class designer Nathaniel Pierson takes offense when reporter Jo criticizes his latest fashions as “not uncovered enough.” He throws a fit and jets off to parts unknown. Not to be denied of her exclusive story, Jo – with the aid of Pierson’s French secretary Maya – trails him to Greece, where he is in the midst of discovering topless bathing on the Aegean. Jo and Maya are, of course, already familiar with this brand of exoticism and indulge in it while not spying on Pierson. Pierson jets off again to Thailand but then hangs back from the story so Jo and Maya can visit the European Sunbathing Club (thus, relieving the filmmakers of the necessity to hire Asian extras). Then, it’s off to Tokyo for the three as Maya and Jo arrange to accidentally run into Pierson, who has become inspired by all of the bare flesh on display and is designing more risqué swimming fashions. Pierson flies into a rage when he finds Jo has broken into his hotel room to look at his sketches and disappears again; but, one can be sure of a happy ending (or at least, more stock footage mixed with topless sunbathing).
Although it runs just over an hour, THE TOPLESS STORY is pretty painful stuff. It looks like one of the extras that Something Weird Video would stick on one of their Image DVDs, but I can’t imagine any main feature boring enough to be enlivened by this. Pierson and Jo narrate much of the film and paraphrase much of the dialogue (some dubbing of actual spoken dialogue is less-than-synchronized). Sound quality can be rough but is generally clean enough that I first suspected during the opening that this was actually a modern assemblage of stock footage with new dialogue masquerading as vintage nudie feature. The print bears some scratches but is generally clean. The real problem seems to be sprocket damage that causes the image to waver in and out of focus (in many two-shots, a character on the right side of the screen is in sharp focus while the one on the left is out of focus when they seem to be right next to one another). Once again, it’s the B-feature so these flaws are acceptable (can you see the original negative of this one being recovered, and would anyone bother to retransfer it?). Trailers for FAMILY HONOR, THE LAST CHASE, THE PSYCHO LOVER (by the director of BLOOD MANIA), MARDI-GRAS MASSACRE, THE BRUTE CORPS, HORROR HIGH, WEEKEND PASS, and CUT THROATS NINE close out the package. (Eric Cotenas)
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