Roadshow flicks from the 1930s through the early 1960s were an easy way to both deliver the nudity and bad taste prohibited by the Production Code and attempt to educate the general public on the matters of childbirth, drug use, venereal disease, and social deviancy. Well, 20 years later, America STILL hadn't learnt to play safe
Meet Jim and Judy, the All-American teenage couple, enjoying life in high school and planning to marry right after graduation. But Jim's best friend, Monk, has a new girlfriend, the voluptuous Kathy (Dolores Faith), who has her eyes set on stealing Jim away from Judy. Amidst the Peyton Place shenanigans of heavy petting and love triangles, Jim accidentally contracts VD from a hooker on a night on the town. Will Judy still love him, even with that "sore that won't heal?"
Produced by the king of classroom scare films, Sid Davis, DAMAGED GOODS is "Beverly Hills 90210" meets MOM AND DAD. In fact, the exploitation elements of the film only crop up in the last 15 minutes of the movie, leaving the audience to groan at Judy's silly JFK-era nuclear family, numerous lovey-dubbey dialogue scenes, and more suggestive goo-goo eyes than you'll see at an orgy, not to mention less-than-exciting track meets and complete 180-degree character developments. You would think that with Sid Davis attached, there would be disaster approaching at every corner. Maybe Jim would get into a car accident and leave a bloody child in his wake, or Judy would hitch a ride with a stranger and disappear for a reel? But no, DAMAGED GOODS (the original title, VD, wouldn't have worked, either) is 60 minutes of teenage soap opera and 15 minutes of "protect your wiener" propaganda, with an out-of-place happy ending tacked on. The flick might have worked well with teenage audiences of the time, who could identify with the situations of the hero and heroine, but it certainly hasn't aged well, not even with camp value. Worth checking out for the pretty great Ventures theme song (!) and to see charming brunette Dolores Faith looking lovely in every frame, and the VD reel Jim watches at the doctor's office is pretty nasty stuff, with oozing pus and bodies broken out in sores, but there is not much else here to hold one's interest. Those in love with Ms. Faith should seek out her other work as well, most of which is also offered by Something Weird on video (SHELL SHOCK, THE HUMAN DUPLICATORS, PHANTOM PLANET). She was even in a featured role on "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." in an episode which was subsequently edited into the feature film collage ONE OF OUR SPIES IS MISSING!
Now, where DAMAGED doesn't deliver its GOODS, THE HARD ROAD does...in spades! This one whacks you over the head with a bold exploitation plot twist every 10 minutes! THIS is the film Sid Davis SHOULD have made, albeit nine years later. Filmed in 1970, pretty late in the game for a teenage propaganda film, Al Adamson cinematographer (and future pornographer) Gary Graver took his trademark wide-angle lens and shot his own exploitation film, which is more jaw-dropping and scuzzy than anything Adamson directed. Pretty young Connie Nelson (who was co-star Gary Kent's girlfriend on the beach in DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN; a real-life couple?) is Pam, a teenage pregnoid who is first seen being driven by her indifferent parents (Liz Renay of DESPERATE LIVING and Ray Merritt) to the doctor's to put her unborn child up for adoption. Cut to a doctor explaining the "miracle of reproduction and childbirth," via use of animated diagrams and footage of lil' Pam doing a bad job of displaying pain on the operating table. And that should give you some idea of the sheer insanity of THE HARD ROAD, one of the wildest exploitation films I've ever seen!! Pam gets a job with her father's booking agent friend, Gary Kent (Al Adamson regular and exploitation stud extraordinaire), who has a two-way mirror in his office to see Pam undressing at the end of her shift! She becomes involved with one of Kent's rock star clients, who introduces her to the beauty of grass, leading to more unsafe sex and climbing up a highway billboard in a drugged haze. Never letting up for one moment, the exploitation thrills are piled on even further when our trusty narrator describes Pam's graduating to gulping barbiturates for further kicks and hanging out with wasted Hollywood hippies who frequently proclaim "Man, I'm so stoned." She's soon rubbing shoulders with William Bonner (SATAN'S SADISTS) as a cocaine dealer who lives in a groovy candy-colored pad. Bonner gets high and runs through a traffic tunnel, screaming at the top of his lungs! He's then picked up by a friend of his (the tattooed bartender from DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN) and beats the shit out of an innocent businessman who won't give them any money! Pam shacks up with blonde beauty Jeannie and her junkie boyfriend Jimmy (STARLET co-stars Catherine Howard and John Alderman; John was in a number of Friedman flicks) when bombshell Renay kicks her out of the house for contracting VD from her rockin' evening with the rock star. Cue another doctor to discuss the dangers of VD, complete with a highlight reel of some nasty cases (rotted-off nose, moldy testicles, etc.)! That road just keeps getting harder when... I won't give away any further surprises from THE HARD ROAD, but to say it's unlike anything you've ever seen is an understatement. With plenty of drug trips, shocking violence, recognizable library music, an aura of delicious bad taste, bizarre narration, appearances by resident drive-in fat man Bruce Kimball (DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN, MIGHTY GORGA) and that lovable boom mike, an incredible withdrawal sequence complete with vomit, blood, and screaming, and a typically dreary "this could be you!" ending, this is quite possibly the ULTIMATE exploitation film, best seen with plenty of greasy popcorn, an overflowing barbecue sandwich, a cooler of beer, and good friends. See it now!
Neither transfer is as immaculate as other SWV titles, but they are both pretty gosh darn gorgeous in their own right. DAMAGED GOODS is the lesser of the two, with some sequences suffering from slightly greenish tones and murky dark photography that can't be corrected. But behind the scratches and dirt, the colors are bold and garish, as they should be in some sequences, and Dolores Faith's lovely tanned face has probably never looked better in any of her other home video appearances. THE HARD ROAD has a number of white and green emulsion lines and slight print jumps, and a few murky scenes as in DAMAGED, but the colors are still for the most part so beautifully rendered you will be shocked that something so cheap and tawdry could look so good...behind so much print damage! Not perfect transfers, but given the age of the films and the high entertainment value of HARD ROAD, all can be forgiven for any imperfections. And both prints are upgrades from SWV's previous masters, so if you find problems with these presentations, imagine what they COULD have looked like.
Come on, don't be shy, come into The Clinic, where all the extra features reside. Don't worry, those red sores don't transmit through kissing! DAMAGED GOODS' trailer reflects the way the film used to look, with much uglier soft colors. Dolores Faith is the highlight of the trailer, with an "Introducing" credit. THE HARD ROAD also much darker and murkier, with muted colors, in some spots than the film appears on the disc, but for the most part the trailer's a lot cleaner than the film. I'd sacrifice dirt for color, though. "Television won't show it and magazines can't, but THIS PICTURE DOES! THE HARD ROAD is NOT a pretty picture!" Ain't that the truth! SLIGHTLY DAMAGED has no IMDB entry, for some reason, but there's a wealth of promotional material available for it (radio spots and ad photos have appeared on countless SWV discs). The preview opens with idyllic nature photographer as a narrator quotes the Bible, discussing the creation of Man (?). Title cards with groovy library music flesh out the trailer, describing the plot amidst much ballyhoo. Patsy grew up in the "Fast Moving Age" and hasn't learnt the facts of life. Tragedy ensues. No footage from the film is ever shown. TEENAGE MOTHER looks like one of Jerry Gross' best presentations, and the trailer has always interested me in tracking down the film. It opens with a bespectacled guy (Gross himself?) pointing to the camera asking "How much do YOU know about SEX?" "TEENAGE MOTHER means 9 months of trouble!" It stars Arlene Farber, the female love interest in I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, as a sexually provocative teenager with big hair and a hot bod who comes between two brothers. There's groovy dancing in a club, Arlene suggestively eating fried chicken (?!), and seducing all manner of men before getting knocked up to teach her a lesson. The problem: she was gang banged by a gang of hot rodders...so who's the father? Then we're treated to sex ed lectures (by Julie Ange of GIRL ON A CHAIN GANG, another Gross picture) and actual footage of childbirth. Pretty funny that in 1968, there were still roadshow pictures like this making the rounds. TEENAGE SEX REPORT is a German cash-in on the Schulmadchen Report flicks. Something Weird used to offer this on VHS until they discontinued almost all of their sex titles that had the word "teenage" in the title. Too bad...this looks pretty fun! You've got bikers, outdoor sex, Russ Meyer-style editing, nude lovers frolicking in a lake, an outdoor gangbang, and in the spirit of the disc, worries about venereal disease, all in this tale of a gynecologist's office and his experiences with the girls who come to him for help (the original release title was GIRLS AT THE GYNECOLOGIST, which you still hear the narrator say). All the German frauleins are lovely to look at, and all are supposed to be underage but look in their 20s. THE RUNAWAY is another phony "edited for this audience" trailer, which was a great way to tease the audience. This is another foreign film, with a lovely blonde runaway girl being raped by a nasty guy who picks her up hitchhiking, becoming a lesbian with a brunette stranger (one scene has the two of them running on the beach covered in seaweed?!), and falling in with a cokehead. It looks very dark, and I can't find anymore info about this must-see film. TEENAGE TRAMP, besides having an awesome exploitation title, features another lovely blonde thing being used by a number of scuzzy men, including a pedophilic truck driver and a hunky biker, and takes time out to attend hippie parties and get beaten up by more men. I wonder where this flick ended up? "Yesterday it was Johnny, Frankie, and Eddie; tomorrow it may be YOU!"
For more VD madness, check into the shorts included on the disc. "The Innocent Party" is an educational short shot in Kansas by Centron, with two good-looking all-American boys picking up two cheaply-dressed floozies for a night of dirty sex instead of going to the movies with their friends. Nah, none of it's shown, but you know it was dirty when Don contracts VD!!! Sweetie-pie steady girlfriend Betty turns into a blubbering mess when Don gives it to her, too. By the end of the short, you'll WANT his penis to shrivel up and fall off! And yours might, too, at the sight of some of the nasty sores, shankers, and all-around devastating effects of venereal disease on display in "VD," the second short. Did you know you can't detect gonorrhea by blood tests? You'll learn that and everything else you ever wanted (or never needed) to know about the varieties of VD. Plenty of animated diagrams aided by a surprisingly upbeat narrator precede the real gutpunching footage. Rashes and spots, shankers oozing pus, bleeding sores, blood testing, nasty oversized nipples, horrifying syphilis babies, and rotting noses! YECH! Two galleries provide even more historical preservation of the history of the VD film: one gallery consists of roadshow pitch books, ranging from childbirth to sexual reproduction to venereal disease, played to the tune of a "facts of life" drive-in intermission lecture, and the second gallery provides plenty of roadshow posters, pressbooks, publicity photos, and hand-drawn local ads, featuring a bizarre radio interview with E. J. Schaefer, a sex hygienist/roadshow pioneer responsible for the popular SLIGHTLY DAMAGED/MONDO double-feature traveling show. This latter gallery has completely different art from the gallery on STREET CORNER, and even more features that seem to have disappeared (MAIN STREET GIRL, PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE, HUMAN WRECKAGE, plenty more!). An Easter Egg on the Extras menu provides a trailer for the double feature of THE SECRET MIRACLE OF BIRTH and THE WAGES OF SIN, which opens with a graphic baby birth sequence! The narrator of the trailer is Donn Davison, that recognizable Southern heavyweight speaker, who appeared in several book pitch spots and other trailers. He recommends you "come out to ensure that you have speaker room."
Much like the previous STREET
CORNER disc, this is a latter-day "spirit of the roadshow" disc with
plenty of entertainment for your hard-earned dollar! While DAMAGED GOODS is
nothing special, every other feature on the disc (including the incredible HARD
ROAD) is an essential addition to the DVD shelf of any cult film fan. (Casey
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