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Director: Joel M. Reed
Something Weird/Image Entertainment

Before assaulting the world with the ultimate exercise in bad taste, BLOODSUCKING FREAKS (or the more accurate moniker THE INCREDIBLE TORTURE SHOW), director Joel M. Reed dabbled in the sexploitation genre in the best city in the world, New York. Resembling the best efforts of Distribpix but with a vicious aura all Reed’s own, CAREER BED and SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT are a perfect double feature to celebrate not only the beginnings of one of the most perverse directors of the cult film world, but the low-budget film industry of the Big Apple during the cusp between softcore and hardcore.

With her husband dead and her inheritance dwindling, bitchy widow Emily Potter drags her beautiful daughter Susan to the big city, intent on making her a big movie star. However, she discovers that it’s not all Lana-Turner-in-Schwab’s-drug-store tales of stardom, so she begins to train Susan in the ways of using her budding sexuality to make deals and get parts. Susan becomes disgusted with this new side of her mother, and seeks an escape with an honest casting agent, but when Mom tries slitting her wrists with a broken bottle, she is sucked back into the sordid show biz game. Mom steps up the bizarre level by essentially auctioning off her daughter’s virginity! After subjecting herself to nude photos by a pervert photographer and marrying a dirty old man producer, Susan finally gets a big-time screen test…only a twist ending could leave Mother out in the cold.

Wow, CAREER BED is one of the nastiest movies in existence! It’s not packed with the kind of violent sexuality as films by Michael Findlay or Lou Campa, but there is so much hate in the dialogue and every character is so damn vile that the entire production will leave a bitter taste in your mouth. If scenes of a mother coaxing her daughter to disrobe and tongue-kiss lecherous movie people float your boat, this will be sheer heaven for you. The trailer for the film (included on the disc) tries to sell it as a show biz expose with lots of sex and nudity, but Reed’s film works because his script is so great! It’s as if he took the best of Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, and added his own twisted brand of dialogue to create one of the funniest, yet hateful films of the 60s. Move over, Milligan! Reed seems to have had similar feelings about his mother, saving some of the most biting dialogue aimed at Emily. When she threatens suicide, Susan yells back, “Go ahead! You wouldn’t have the nerve!” Of course she proves she’s one sick woman when she actually does smash a bottle over her wrists, ensuring Susan will continue to do whatever she says, beginning with a night on the town with a bespectacled pervert producer. “Give him a kiss! We can do much better than that! With your mouth open! Now you’re acting like a nice girl.” Ugh….to make the scene even more nauseating, as the producer feels up Susan’s womanly figure, Mama decides to start feeling herself! Good God!! In a meeting with a nice-guy producer trying to save Susan, Emily accuses him of trying to “suck the youthfulness out of her”, and shouts, “Love? Stop inventing words! If you say you love her, I’ll vomit! You want her body! And you can have it if you make the right deal with me! She’s used every part of her body for business…every inch. You can enjoy her, too, if you start to act like a businessman and not some romantic fool. Her mother’s a whore and she is, too!” In an amusing twist ending, though Susan gets the starlet treatment she was geared for and manages to escape from Mama’s filthy clutches, the nasty bitch continues creating starlets after her daughter ditches her, ensuring the ruination of even more lives.

The sordid aura of the film never lets up. Just when you think Susan has encountered the ultimate creep, out pops another one to paw her with slimy hands and ogle her with leering eyes. Some of the sex scenes are reminiscent of a Sarno film, focusing on the facial expressions of the participants, but almost all are of a comic nature; of note is a scene of Emily bedding down Susan’s country boy fiancé Bob. She is so nonchalant about the whole thing that she merely lies there and lights a cigarette. In an eerie echo of this scene, during the surprise finale, Susan does the same thing while allowing a producer to plow her field in order to get a part. In addition to creating interesting characters and a compelling storyline that gets filthier by the minute, Reed throws in lots of incredible time capsule footage of New York City by night, as Susan goes out on the town with her dates or goes to appointments on the subway or walking down 42nd Street. The only sour notes in the entire film are the whiny theme song sung by Vic Spina and its accompanying bargain-basement “rock” soundtrack, mainly consisting of a threadbare drum kit getting an exercise. Everything else works in Joel Reed’s first major motion picture, and the one that shows he could have easily broken out of the exploitation racket. Unfortunately it all seems to only have gone downhill from there, with BLOODSUCKING FREAKS remaining his only interesting film of the next decade.

CAREER BED is also an interesting film because it provides early efforts from future adult film stars Jennifer Welles and Georgina Spelvin! Welles, as Liza Duran (her real name), was a regular in softcore New York grindhouse epics like SUBMISSION and THIS SPORTING HOUSE, with a brunette coiffe opposed to her blonde locks she adorned in her hardcore titles and was afforded more opportunity to act here than she would get in her XXX titles. Spelvin looks like a newborn compared to her 1973 major hardcore debut in DEVIL IN MISS JONES, portraying the predatory lesbian talent agent who takes Welles to bed with her. Strangely, neither lady would cross paths again on the hardcore screen, though they broke onto the scene of porno chic around the same time. Welles would retire in 1977 after directing her own “This Is Your Sex Life” biopic INSIDE JENNIFER WELLES (co-directed by prolific Joe Sarno) and disappeared from sight, while Spelvin would migrate to California, continue her film career in adult and mainstream Hollywood, and is still giving interviews today. Behind-the-scenes, cinematographer and editor Ron Dorfman (who does an excellent job here, especially editing montages and creating match-shots throughout) would make a number of hardcore films as Art Ben, and is still active in the California porno racket today. Of further note is Honey Hunter, playing the completely immoral stage mother to the hilt, and seeming to wrap her lips around every razor-sharp line she spills forth from her mouth. She’s not a particularly good actress, but she tries her best and gets an A for effort!

Where CAREER BED is an incredibly entertaining low-budget drama, SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT is a fascinating Times Square time capsule sure to please lovers of New York City sleaze. Like Joseph P. Mawra and the Amero Brothers before him, Reed compiles random footage into a fake sexumentary with its fair share of humorous moments. According to an urban legend begun by Reed, Joe Sarno was apparently supposed to direct this thing, but Reed was given the assignment instead after Sarno bailed. But this doesn’t gel with the “written & directed by” credit attributed to Reed on this film; he’s also credited for editing. It appears that the entire production sprung from the mind of an enterprising filmmaker anxious to get started in the business, and there was no better way in this period to do that than to create a plot-free succession of sex expose sequences.

Sit back and relax for a guided tour through the seedy world of greasy perverts advertising for all kinds of behind-closed-doors activity. Georgina Spelvin returns as our host, Dr. Joanne Richfield, a professional psychologist-type reading from cue cards. With a coy smile on her face or a stern look of disapproval and surrounded by shelves overflowing with books, Spelvin seems to be enjoying herself in this quick paycheck day’s-worth of work. After heartwarming footage of vintage 42nd Street and garbage-strewn alleyways, we examine public message boards and decipher coded advertisements for kinky shenanigans: “babysitter for difficult children” means a dominatrix needed to whip hairy, bald greaseballs with belts and shock their nipples; a gay man with a towel on his head paws a hairy muscleman (resembling future 70s porn star Dave Ruby!); two musclemen in clingy white underwear rassle with two topless girls in what’s claimed to be an “orgy”; a porno exchange club projects 8mm stag reels while one viewer masturbates under his newspaper; a “bird-watching society” peeks on girls with binoculars (including Warhol starlet Geri Miller, seen in silhouette sticking her tongue out at her male lover before caressing him). Moving on from the message boards, we are taught about the Lonelyhearts Clubs, who bilk unsuspecting men and women out of money (think HONEYMOON KILLERS without the murder). As Spelvin puts it, “The marriage broker deals in misery.” Employment ads seeking models and “would-be starlets” serve as covers for prostitution rings! Harry Hogar is spotlighted as a particularly guilty party, a scowling bastard who buys used scripts to make him look important and sends girls out on dates with “producers” and “directors” who are actually just horny johns. Hogar takes 10% off the top of their pay! His assistant prowls Port Authority Bus Terminal (cue more great location footage) for innocent gals fresh off the buses before mobsters beat Hogar to a vegetable. In a completely unrelated scenario, a girl taking a bath is mauled by a very tan male intruder and to ensure her silence, he stresses how embarrassing it will be to report it to the police and forces her to become a subservient slave, caressing his feet while serving him drinks! White slavery rings are set up to lure international beauties (for example, a Portuguese girl from a fishing village, once again played by Geri Miller) into the city, drugging and raping them, filming the act for blackmail purposes, then shipping them to the highest bidder. Jennifer Welles appears as a gum cracking, National Geographic-reading hooker (in what looks to be her best appearance as a blonde, in a wig and go-go boots) who tries to entice a comatose-looking elderly client before he settles for painting her beautiful breasts. “Action painters” hurl globs of paint at a topless model!

A stag filmmaker is interviewed as he photographs an unenthusiastic pairing of Cherie Winters and a hairy guy, as is Malcolm, a young computer programmer whose specialty is creating torture instruments for S&M fetishists. One of his clients is played by director Reed (!), beating a nude girl tied to a tree in broad daylight in Central Park!! Reed appears again as the ringleader of a secret sex sect, holding their meetings in a soundproof loft and wearing strange masks throughout. A man leads crawling topless women along on leashes, another is tied to the rafters and beaten, dogs bark incessantly, some of the ladies expose their hairy armpits, and Malcolm is asked to join the cult himself! This entire sequence seems to be setting the stage for Reed’s BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, and if it weren’t for the goofy dubbing and narration, it would be pretty horrific! Continuing this crazed excursion into the underbelly of society is a glance at a cross-dressing homosexual (the same one seem pawing the possible Dave Ruby earlier), and yes ladies and gentlemen, it’s Joel Reed again in make-up, speaking like Oscar Wilde meets Truman Capote, and waxing poetic about his love for beautiful men. Another case study finds a mustachioed closet case tiring of women and cruising public bathrooms for quick trysts, only to find himself arrested by an undercover cop! As he puts it, “I’m no fag! I just like dirty things!” Hand-held camera shots of 8th Avenue Subway entrances and entering Manhattan apartment buildings, parking garages, and public bathrooms bring a tear to the eye. You can even see the cameraman reflected in one of the glass doors!

Compared to its co-feature, SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT is a very different animal, but is a lot of fun and you can tell that Reed obviously wasn’t taking this material seriously. The tongue-in-cheek approach to the tell-all nature of the production puts it in the same league as the Amero Brothers’ LUSTING HOURS, another film mixing sex with laughs for the grindhouse crowd. Strangely, there is no musical score in the film save an opening titles theme ripped from a library music LP, but this crazy meandering mess of a movie is still quite entertaining. It’s no CAREER BED but is an interesting beginning to one of the most nonsensical careers of any exploitation filmmaker.

Neither of the transfers for these black-and-white rarities looks as pristine as previous Something Weird offerings, but get the job done quite well. A few print jumps occur during CAREER BED, and the image is usually grainy and fuzzy, but it’s generally clear, with some good contrasts, and the mono audio is delivered nicely. SEX BY ADVERTISEMENT looks slightly better, with a sharper image and is much brighter. However, the mono audio is more muffled than the co-feature, probably due to the inexperience of all involved with the making of the film.

It’s a real shame that Joel Reed wasn’t asked to do audio commentaries for both films; it’s doubtful that he’ll discuss them on his commentary for the DVD of BLOOD BATH, but one can only hope. In place of Reed commentaries, all the special features commemorate the sleazy atmosphere of New York City in the dying days of softcore sexploitation. The trailer for CAREER BED attempts to paint it as a sexier film than it really is, and of course plays up the “my mother sold me” angle. FLUCTUATIONS is one of the most frustrating, and ultimately boring, films of the genre. Joel Landwehr made this and IN HOT BLOOD, both thoroughly inept grindhouse epics. The preview for FLUCTUATIONS attempts to display a plot or storyline, but the film itself is made up of random sex sequences, naked ladies gyrating, and strange narration, music, and dubbed dialogue. It’s out on DVD combined with the much-superior VIBRATIONS and SUBMISSION. Some of the earliest instances of full-frontal nudity appears in this 1970 film, and watch for Findlay favorites Alice Noland/Susann Landau and Kim Lewid among the naked ladies. HOT EROTIC DREAMS is another dream-like succession of sex scenes mixed with jazzy library music; a young girl buys a dirty book in a Greenwich Village porno shop and has, yes, erotic dreams after reading it before bedtime. Watch for a giant vibrator like the ones used in Sarno’s VIBRATIONS and THE LAYOUT and lots of very unenthusiastic sex scenes; pick it up from Something Weird. THE MOLESTERS is a thoroughly foul little vehicle, and another fake documentary focusing on pedophiles and perverts in Europe. Middle-aged men flash young girls, watch adolescent girls take bathes, dry them off, and put them to bed, and one man is identified in court by a mole on his inner thigh exposed to a young boy! Something Weird offers this one, too. Gigi Darlene appears in NYC-shot inserts, tied up and hung from her wrists to be beaten. THE SMUT PEDDLER has recently been unearthed in Denmark, along with several other nudie cuties from the Big Apple, so hopefully it will hit DVD soon. Until then, the very long trailer (hosted by TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN’s O.J. Nosrag, starring as a character who never appears in the actual film) will continue to tease smut fans worldwide. The film itself couldn’t possibly live up to this preview, with nasty men smothering women with kisses, naked girls being photographed and mauled, and of course nasty scenes of oyster-eating, all scored with familiar library music. One woman has her face forced into an oven by another black-lingerie-clad she demon! 1970’s TAKE ALL YOU CAN GET appears to be lost, and it’s most interesting because it stars two future adult film stars, Roger Caine (TAKING OF CHRISTINA, the Dan McCord series, billed here as Fred Dennis) and Kim Pope, as two romantic leads caught up in a plot of murder and crime. Of course there’s sex, all shot in black-and-white, with some surprising male nudity and a visually well-done fistfight in a junkyard. THE ULTIMATE DEGENERATE needs no introduction; my personal favorite Michael Findlay film, and one of the best star vehicles for blonde beauty Uta Erickson, this one has enough lesbianism, whipped cream, violence, and crazy dialogue to make it an instant classic. If you don’t already own the DVD (including THE LUSTING HOURS and IN HOT BLOOD), you need to buy it pronto.

A featurette, “The Filth Shop”, is actually a 26-minute excerpt from the 63-minute feature film of the same name. We are first treated to an incredible tour of Times Square, with historically valuable shots of the King of Pizza restaurant, marquees advertising THE BIG GUNDOWN and MURDERERS’ ROW (FILTH SHOP is attributed to 1970, but these films opened in 1966-1967), and Playland, a real-life 42nd Street porno store. Our hero is seem perusing this store, gazing at the graphic books and magazines, whole Lola Lust, a heavy-breathing, diabolically-laughing female narrator, giggles, “It looks like you’re up to no good…thanks to me!” He imagines an unsexy, completely under-the-covers scenario with Kim Lewid (“Baby” in A THOUSAND PLEASURES) and a Warren Beatty look-alike, while the narrator never shuts up, laughing and describing the action (for some reason she describes the woman dancing, which isn’t the case with the on-screen action). After browsing through more mags, two girls in a bathroom undress and jump into the bathtub, with the narrator continually laughing and making comments throughout. Marie Brent, aka Janet Banzet, the tragic actress from many Barry Mahon, Michael Findlay, and other NYC sexploiteers’ films, appears with the returning Kim Lewid to smoke from a hookah and lesbo it up. The store’s customer finally ponies up 25 cents to watch a stag reel, which opens with a dance party frequented by a variety of boys and girls (including a black girl in a flowerprint dress and a black guy with a gay white lover in his boxers, a rarity in films of this era). Soon everyone is making out or dancing, yaddah-yaddah… Some have speculated the film was shot by one or both of the Findlays, but it has none of their earmarks and doesn’t have the aesthetic presence or texture of one of their works, considering it’s merely a series of sex scenes connected by a thread. Whoever Looney Bear was/is, he created this and two more whacked-out features, MEET THE SEX and THE KING, none of which are very good. The only noteworthy moments of this flick is the excellent Times Square footage and the completely improvised narration, apparently recorded in one sitting as the film ran before the vocal artists. At one point near the end, Lola Lust answers an imaginary phone while talking with “Satan” and screams with joy, “We’ve got the President, Satan, we’ve got the President! We’ve conquered all!” Huh?! Finishing off the disc is Something Weird’s trusty Gallery of Sick Sixties Sex Stills, including promotional art for the company’s early Sick Sex Films of the 60s collection, promoting several films which the company doesn’t even offer anymore or never offered in the first place (THE BUSHWHACKER, CONFESSIONS OF A BAD GIRL, LITTLE GIRLS, LOVE+FEAR=TORMENT, LOVE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD, OLGA’S GIRLS, ORGY OF THE GOLDEN NUDES, SATAN’S MISTRESS, THE SECRET SOCIETY, THE WORST CRIME OF ALL).

Little is known about Reed’s sexploitation days, but this fascinating interview with Reed provides some insight into other notorious cult filmmakers of the New York area: (CLICK HERE). (Casey Scott)