As a Something Weird fan, I've discovered something very interesting. For every month, SWV releases a handful of discs, almost always double features, and of varying different subgenres of the exploitation world. At the bare minimum, the company unleashes two discs in one month. In instances like these (last month, February, for example), there will be one disc worth picking up and there will be one disc worth picking up and another to be used as landfill. Last month's BOOBY TRAP/THE TAKERS left me very unimpressed. A few weeks later, GODSON/BELOW THE BELT hit the shelves and satisfied my craving for exploitation madness. Neither film is marvelous, by any stretch, but let's just say there are two things worth seeing in each movie: Uschi Digart.
Marco (future porn star Jason Yukon) is assistant to Mr. Danielli, one of "the city's top pimps. Tired of wallowing in the whoring business, he aims for greener pastures, namely replacing the head honcho in town, his "godfather" (snicker) Leo Rocca. That's the plot in a nutshell, if you can call it that. Harry Novak's pictures are a tad frustrating: while there is potential for good action films or fine comedies, the name of the game is sex (naturally), so just when the movie starts getting really interesting, sex scenes start interrupting. Sure, I guess for hairy-palmed drive-in patrons, it was a lot of fun, but I don't know...maybe I'm just losing my mind, but the only reason why I'd keep this movie is for Uschi. Anyone who knows me must suffer my tirades about my love for all things Uschi, but she really stands out among the starlets in this film. Not even any dialogue is thrown her way, but she does take part in a bubble bath and a lesbian scene! This isn't a sex-n-bullets picture as entertaining as SCREAM IN THE STREETS, but there are some fine sex scenes and an exciting showdown, so I guess Godson is worth a look, even for those who aren't die-hard Uschi-ites. Newcomer Lois Mitchell (dubbed the discovery of 1971?!) looks like she really enjoys having sex on-screen, unlike some of Novak's starlets. Skinflick fanatics will notice Orita de Chadwick as the twitchy blonde hooker (before she turned to hardcore), Maria Arnold as a junkie whore, and most importantly, Die Uschi's co-star in SUPERVIXENS, Deborah McGuire (a former Mrs. Richard Pryor) in the afore-mentioned lesbian scene with Uschi! And I've always been a fan of John Tull, resident Novak stud and a damn good actor, appearing here in an almost mute role as a bodyguard, but he figures into the twist ending quite well.
Mildly better than THE GODSON is BELOW THE BELT, an expose into the seamy underworld of the boxing profession. The co-feature starred a scheming underling working his way to the top, and BELT features the same concept. Fortunately, John Tull is the star, stealing the show as only he can. Jason Yukon was simply unlikable as Marco, but Tull still manages to be scummy, funny, and memorable as Sammy, the manager of childlike boxer Johnny, who's afraid of girls to boot. Sammy's tired of small-time managing gigs, so he aims for the big time by putting out a hit on a mobster pressuring him to train Johnny or else....well, something'll happen!! Why Tull never went on to bigger and better things is beyond me, but apparently he made one hardcore porn film a full decade (BALLING FOR DOLLAR$$) after his previous softcore successes. Wonder how he measured up to his co-stars.
BELT is yet another showcase for the editing and directorial talents of Pete Perry, Novak's resident director who rarely used his real name (borrowing the name of real-life production assistant Bethel Buckalew for nearly all of his country-fried sex films, in addition to this picture). Perry shows his skill during the Uschi Digart sequence, arguably the most memorable sex scene in the whole film (and one of Uschi's very best, she even has dialogue): Tull earns her pity by pretending to be the underappreciated manager, describing how much he cares for his client....a scene intercut with flashbacks to how Sammy mistreats him! Eventually, Tull undresses Uschi and has his way with her in the swimming pool. Scorching scene worthy of repeats. Another fabulous sex siren, Rene Bond, has a small role (pre-boob job) as a put-upon hooker who falls victim to Tull's sexually sadistic desires. Even when being slapped and pawed, she still looks like she's having the time of her life. Character actor George "Buck" Flower turns in yet another memorable performance as mumbling toothless handyman Benny, who used to be a prize fighter himself. Fans of A.C. Stephens' films will recognize bucktoothed Terry Johnson (who surprisingly did hardcore work, too!) in a lesbian scene that goes on far too long. Al Adamson regular Bruce Kimball has a bit part, too.
The transfers for both films are as good as they're gonna get. THE GODSON gets bonus points for at least featuring the complete opening credits, which BELOW THE BELT does not. According to Marshall Crist, the print is the exact same one used for the VHS tape release, so it looks like the first half of the credits are lost to the ages. Colors are strong throughout the presentations, with more speckling and dirt than expected, but SWV has still done a marvelous time presenting them as clean as possible. The mono audio is once again very weak, you'll have to crank up the volume on these.
In what is becoming an entertaining trend, the trailer selection on SWV's discs includes films that deserve to be on DVD just as much, if not more, than some films already released on the format. (Hint, hint) Besides the requisite feature film trailers, it's a girls-n-crime bonanza! BUST OUT is a retitling for CONVICTS WOMEN, starring Candy Samples as a Sunday school teacher (what???!!!!) who takes her girls (Angela Carnon, Lynn Harris, Rene Bond) on a picnic only to be taken hostage by two escaped convicts, one of whom is Ric Lutze (looking studlier than usual). Lots and lots of sex on display here, with all of the women looking incredibly ravishing. However, it's almost hardcore, so a DVD release is doubtful. Too bad, the cast is to die for! FUGITIVE GIRLS has to be seen to be believed! Ed Wood, Jr. wrote and directed this "girls bustin' outta prison" tale starring Rene Bond, Tally Wright, and Maria Arnold, amongst others, as a gang of female convicts fresh outta prison wrecking havoc on a gang of hippies and a Vietnam vet and his wife. Outrageous dialogue, bigger-than-life characters, and hilarious catfights, plus Ed Wood in two roles! Screaming for a DVD release! THE MAFIA GANG and UP YOUR ALLEY are trailers for one movie, also known as THE MELON AFFAIR, one of Haji's few starring roles outside of a Russ Meyer film. The former is a collection of clips from the film (it was recently discovered by Something Weird and it's a hoot!), the latter sells the film better; it's hosted by Haji herself discussing how ridiculous it is that the film received an X rating! All use of the letter "X" is bleeped out....! THE MANHANDLERS features foxy Judy Brown and Rosalind Miles, but I still have no idea what it's about..."the Mob rubbing down on the massage parlor"? PRISON GIRLS is one of few 3-D sexploitation films, and it's directed by former gay porn director Tom DeSimone (who directed the 3-D HEAVY EQUIPMENT under the name 'Lancer Brooks'). The cast is incredible (Uschi Digard, Candy Samples, Ric Lutz), and it apparently has seen a video release in its original 3-D format. SCREAM IN THE STREETS is the marvelous sexy action pic from Harry Novak, that already received a DVD release. The cast is a who's who of 70s sexploitation, a must-see!
The short films deliver even more Uschi for your buck! "I, Uschi" is a solo Uschi short of Uschi displaying her bodacious bod in all-color glory! It has the most explicit close-ups I've ever seen of Die Uschi, and won't disappoint! "Uschi Meets Dracula" is a clip from the amazing Touch of Sweden, another who's who of 70s sexploitation ensemble movie. It should have been paired up with GETTING INTO HEAVEN (coming to DVD next month), but unfortunately Novak's ANGELS took its place... The clip is reminiscent of the film, a hilarious smorgasbord of various sexual escapades of Uschi and her fellow nurses at a hospital, much like a sexy version of "Love, American Style", all narrated by Die Uschi! It was written and directed by Joe Robertson, an Army buddy of Ed Wood's (!) and a prolific pornographer well into the 80s, and who appears here as a bum watching Uschi change her wardrobe inside a phone booth! The two galleries (exploitation art and photos set to soundtrack selections) are rather standard at this point, but are required viewing and always a pleasure. An Easter Egg is rare treat for a film called TITILATED TEX, a film apparently unreleased despite the obvious involvement of Harry Novak (featured here on a commentary for GODSON). Besides Lynn Harris and the repulsive Jack Richesin, Uschi Digard has two almost hardcore sex scenes in the trailer alone! I wonder whatever happened to this movie....?
The least important extra (but still the one that will entice fans) is another audio commentary by Harry Novak on THE GODSON. Despite producing these films, Novak appears to have little to no hands-on involvement with the productions, unlike Dave Friedman, who was at least on the set at all times. His memories of the production are scarce and besides revealing that Uschi Digart was his next-door neighbor for several years, it's the standard "old pervert" routine again. A note to Something Weird: don't allow Harry Novak to record any more commentaries. Keep all microphones and recording devices chained and out of his reach. I feel bad for Nathaniel Thompson to continue having to host these commentaries, he deserves better as a moderator.
All in all, Godson/Below the Belt is definitely worth a purchase. Uschi fans will drool over their icon's constant exposure in the films and extras, and sexploitation fans will find enough bang for their buck on hand here. (Casey Scott)
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