Sleaze fiends are usually split down the middle when it comes to Harry Novak's skinflick library (many think the sex is too boring), but most enjoy his zany horror film acquisitions. AXE, THE CHILD, FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS, THE MAD BUTCHER, CAGED VIRGINS, and many other soul shockers emblazoned the giant drive-in screens, courtesy of Box Office International. Paired here are two of his lesser-known horror releases, which aren't as memorable as previous SWV Novak horror discs, but can't be easily dismissed, either.
Edgy photographer Pete returns from a voyage to Italy to stay with his painter-turned-art-teacher friend and his red-haired wife Mona (whose attempts at acting provide unintentional humor). It turns out that Pete is suffering from memories of his travels, namely seeing religious fanatics mutilate themselves and walk the streets bleeding. He disdainfully decides to become a nudie-cutie photographer to make ends meet, but develops a strange psychotic reaction to the color red, whether it be nail polish or a woman's hair!
With a title like BEAUTIFUL, BLOODY AND THE BARE, you'd think this gorgeous color film would be filled wall-to-wall with gorgeous nude girls and blood-dripping gore. Instead, think of this as a Barry Mahon film with someone else's name on it, with a final 10 minutes shot by H.G. Lewis. In other words, B-O-R-I-N-G. At 65 minutes, it's still far too long to be enjoyable and takes 32 minutes alone (!) to reach a plot point! That's right, you have to sit through 32 minutes of women posing endlessly for the artist's canvas and photographer's camera and inane banter and narration before Pete goes cuckoo. Even when the blood starts flowing, it's nothing as fascinating as H.G. Lewis' BLOOD FEAST, shot the previous year. There are still moments of interest to be found in this snoozefest: the opening credits are painted on sidewalks and buildings, Pete's friend is played by familiar character actor Tom Signorelli (ALICE SWEET ALICE, SERPICO), and the final moments of Pete slashing himself to bathe in the color red are unnerving... A New York City relic that's worth adding to your collection if you wish to track the genesis of roughies and bloodshed on-film in the 1960s, THE BEAUTIFUL, THE BLOODY, AND THE BARE is an exploitation film that is, not surprisingly, long on promises and short on delivery. Seek out Johnsen's far superior TEENAGE GANG DEBS (1966)!
On the other half of the double feature is the much better BEHIND LOCKED DOORS, which was shot in 1968 as ANYBODY, ANYWAY and ultimately saw a major release in 1975 under the familiar new title. The film has its hardcore followers, including writer Marshall Crist, who has championed it for a long while, and it's good to see an exploitation film live up to its reputation. Hip young Ann and her lesbian co-worker Terry, attending a go-go dance party in a barn (!), encounter the bespectacled Dr. Bradley (looking like a sweatier variant of Henry Kissinger) when he saves Ann from an unwanted sexual assault. As they get into their rundown convertible, they see they have mysteriously run out of gas and hike into the woods to seek help from Dr. Bradley and his reptilian sister, who reside in a dark Addams Family-look mansion. However, they are forced to stay the night...in a room that locks from the outside...with a closet filled with girls' dresses...guests who have entered the house and never been seen again... It seems Bradley is intent on conducting a series of sexual experiments on any unwilling beautiful girls he can find to find the perfect sexual mate!!
Contrary to popular belief, BEHIND LOCKED DOORS was not made in South Africa. Director Charles Romine hailed from the Cape, but the film was shot in upstate New York, which would explain the appearance of SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED's Ivan Hagar as the creepy handyman (as in that film, he spends much of the time shirtless and in awe of his own hairy muscular body) and familiar library music from Findlay and Wishman flicks. The film is anchored by Joyce Danner and Eve Reeves, the two lovely lead actresses; Danner in particular has a smooth, beautiful speaking voice. Both contribute nudity and are likable enough in their roles to care whether they will escape or not, unlike most NYC-area films which cast models and strippers whose attempts at acting were painful. On the technical side of the camera, it's obvious that this was made by people who knew what they were doing. There are lovely lighting set-ups, including pinhole lighting on the girls' eyes and gorgeous Bava-inspired color gel lighting, atmospheric shots of the Gothic mansion, and sunny outdoor photography in fields and the forest; whatever sleaze is occurring on-screen, it always looks good, which makes a world of difference when the pace grinds to a halt. And what sleaze there is! Female masturbation, several rape scenes (including one where Bradley rubs himself with baby oil before going in for the plunge!), a room full of naked dead girls propped up in lifelike poses, Ivan Hagar sexually molesting a corpse, forced voyeurism, goofy interrogations, whipping, a staged catfight escalating into a no-holds-barred four-person brawl leaving a bedroom completely totaled (this is an incredibly wild scene!), and a fiery finale complete with reanimated corpses and go-go dancing! If that isn't enough, a tongue-in-cheek script helps keep things interesting during the slow sequences. BEHIND LOCKED DOORS isn't a lost masterpiece like, say, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN (directed by Stanley Brosloff, who wrote this one), and it's not a half-successful shocker like THE CHILD or AXE, but it has enough campy moments and sick thrills to keep you watching.
Continuing with the model theme set by BEAUTIFUL, BLOODY AND BARE, the extras include a collection of theatrical short subjects showing even more nude models strutting their stuff and explaining their love of their profession. "Part-Time Pin-Up" is one of the earliest Barry Mahon color shorts, only this time it's narrated and not as good as his later films, with recognizable NYC models and with bold beautiful colors; a secretary bored with her routine becomes a part-time nude model. She looks like Hayley Mills with red hair! "Playgirl Models" is a black-and-white short directed by Manuel Conde, the photographer of 70s classics like THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRL and DEEP JAWS. It's too bad it's not in color, because the cast includes redheaded darling Delores Carlos (THE BEAST THAT KILLED WOMEN) and blonde statuesque Vicki Miles (SCUM OF THE EARTH). The narration tries to sound professional, explaining how photographers choose models, prepare their poses, select backgrounds, ad infinitum; we all know it's all just an excuse to gawk at nude girls, even if this is a well-made documentary-style short. "Sex Workshop" looks to be an excerpt from a grainy black-and-white 42nd Street grindhouse film, with Ann Howe (STRANGE RAMPAGE), a buxom blonde girl in black garters, and a brunette in a see-through negligee teaching a sex workshop for curious women who want to know how to please their men. An old cigarette-smoking comedian cracks lousy jokes and attends the workshop in drag to peek at the sexy shenanigans. I'd like to know which feature this is from, as it's pretty funny and very entertaining; the honkytonky piano score sounds like it's being performed live on-set! "Sexycises" is just what it sounds like: two girls with huge 60s hairdos in nighties performing exercises before losing the clothes and performing the same exercises. It's kinda cute, as the girls keep looking offscreen for direction; thankfully this was shot silent! The blonde girl looks really familiar...I think she was in MUNDO DEPRAVADOS...
Moving on to the trailers, you get some real doozies here! The trailer for THE BEAUTIFUL, THE BLOODY AND THE BARE is actually much better than the feature film itself, and offers all the highlights of the film in a compact 2-minute morsel. BEHIND LOCKED DOORS' preview is classic stuff, with an ominous narrator and many of the atmospheric moments included. TENDER FLESH, aka WELCOME TO ARROW BEACH looks incredible! Character actor Laurence Harvey directs and stars as a mysterious stranger who invites teenage runaway Meg Foster back to his beachside house. She discovers he and his beautiful blonde wife are cannibals! With a suspenseful chase through the house and a nasty blood-spattering meat cleaver murder, this should be on DVD! I don't know where to begin with B.J. LANG PRESENTS... Mickey Rooney is a washed-up movie producer who goes psycho and holds young starlet (Corman favorite Luana Anders) hostage. See Rooney in drag! See Rooney go crazy screaming into the camera! See Rooney wheel Anders around in a wheelchair! Keenan Wynn is Rooney's handyman. Think SUNSET BOULEVARD to the nth degree! COLOR ME BLOOD RED goes where BEAUTIFUL, BLOODY AND THE BARE doesn't. It's the least of H.G. Lewis and David Friedman's Blood Trilogy, but at least has an over-the-top performance by lead actor Don Joseph, and enough moist gory moments to keep you awake. It's also the originator of the "It's only a movie, it's only a movie...." tagline. BLOOD BATH (aka TRACK OF THE VAMPIRE) is the tale of a mad artist who kills his models and dips their bodies in wax, leading to your expected victims-come-back-to-haunt-him ending. Edited together by "directors" Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman, this is a real hatchet job, taking footage of PORTRAIT IN TERROR, a British horror film with Patrick Magee and adding all-new scenes of the artist playing vampire on his victims! It's a confusing story, but the film looks entertaining! If you were wondering what other films you can see to fix your Candice Rialson craving, PETS should feed your sweet teeth. Ms. Rialson is a teenage runaway who runs into a vicious black female thief, a lesbian artist living in a beach (Joan Blackman), and a sadistic misogynist (Ed Bishop). This is the abbreviated version of the trailer, omitting all the nudity and sex seen in other versions of the preview, but you should still own a copy of this one. When is this one gonna come out on DVD? It's perhaps Candice's defining film, other than HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD! THE SINFUL DWARF...how I want Image to put you out on DVD...when will this ever happen? What do I have to do to get you digitally remastered and released for the general public to appreciate? Of the Novak library, this is probably the most requested, most sought-after title that has yet to see a DVD release, and once you see the trailer, you'll be aching to see this one, too! THE CAPTIVE FEMALE is a retitling of SCREAM BLOODY MURDER, the nasty gory horror flick of a boy who kills his father with a tractor, loses his hand in the process, and grows up into a psycho with a hook hand! He kills his mother and her new husband, slaughters an old lady in a wheelchair and her black maid with a meat cleaver, then sets up residence in the vacated house before abducting a lovely young hooker to live with him. VCI is putting this out on DVD in a few months, and I would strongly recommend it!!
out the disc are two Harry Novak galleries: a gallery of posters and pressbooks
(set to songs from Novak films, including the wonderful "Midnight Plowboy"
and the cool love theme from TEENAGE BRIDE), and a gallery of promotional photos
from corn porn epics like COUNTRY CUZZINS, SASSY SUE, and THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER
(with audio tracks from Novak trailers playing over these sexy stills).
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