Director: Nick Phillips
Secret Key Motion Pictures

Carrying on the grand tradition of rescuing obscure sexploitation relics, Secret Key Motion Pictures dives back into the vaults to unearth three long-lost films from the California skinflick industry of the late 1960s. At this point fans of the genre may begin to wonder if all the worthwhile films have already been found and released on DVD, and the trio of flicks here are surely near the bottom of the barrel, but devotees like me should still find this 2-disc release quite welcome, as all three films have noteworthy moments worth renting to check out.

“I need bread, right? And since I’ve got this young body that people are willing to pay to look at, I see no reason to take life easy.” That’s the summation of Nick Phillips’ UTA in the words of the title character herself (or rather, the words of her voiceover narration). As she accurately describes herself, Uta is a good-looking gal with an enviable physique who is introduced soaking in a bubble bath before toweling off, painting her nipples with nail polish, and basically getting a load of herself. Uta also can’t seem to get enough of listening to herself, as she coyly talks about working as a lady of the evening (“A tart? Hooker? Swinger? Anyway, I do my thing at night. They prefer to use me when it’s dark”). We see her go to a club on the Strip with one of her tricks, where a hippie girl in a felt hat does a masturbatory stage routine, before jumping his bones in a living room; lounge around boozing it up, watching TV, reading a magazine, painting her nails, talking on the phone (!!); let another guy paw her in her leather boots and miniskirt on his living room floor; parading in front of a mirror in black lingerie (“Boy, what a turn-on I was! 20-year-old chicks are pretty groovy stuff, and Uta is the grooviest!” Yes, Uta starts talking in the third person!), and indulges in lesbian delights with her “baby” (who looks very uninterested in the girl-girl action). And of course while all this is going on, we get to hear Uta’s inner monologues, which don’t amount to a hill of beans. The film does perk up for a startling finale, with Uta being found dead in a car accident, tinted red for fuller effect. The scene is highlighted with the soundtrack being played backwards, as Uta’s voice plays in ghostly reverse with a haunting musical score in the background.

While Nick Phillips’ films are no great shakes in color, they’re doubly snooze-inducing in black-and-white (try sitting through SAPPHO 68!). UTA, however, is actually kind of interesting from an aesthetic viewpoint. Phillips’ lighting and photography is gorgeous, especially as his camera shoots a love scene through a curtain of beads. You also get to hear that popular free-form jazz music soundtrack heard over most of Phillips’ films. Storytelling-wise, however, it’s the usual Phillips-on-autopilot, with so much filler that the film is ultimately unsuccessful. At least the leading lady is quite a looker, sort of a prettier Lynn Harris (a future Phillips regular). Some viewers could go out on a limb and call UTA an existential masterpiece…but let’s be honest, it’s a movie about a hooker who is either doing nothing or having sex. The very effective finale seems to support the old adage of Hollywood moviemaking that not only must sexual women pay for their sins, but they are warranted a certified death sentence if they’re homosexual as well.

Nick Phillips apparently kept his film materials in excellent condition, as UTA looks pretty darn good in a 1.78:1 anamorphically enhanced transfer. Black and white contrasts are decent, with some fuzziness apparent in some scenes. There are major pixellating and video noise problems in darker scenes, however; this could be heavy grain from the age of the materials, but it looks a little more severe than that.

Disc 1 also includes a cheesy fun introduction by 42nd Street Pete that gives some background info on grindhouse theaters, and features great time capsule footage of a camera roaming the streets of Hollywood, peeking at marquees and adult store windows. Note to Pete: it’s Uschi DIG-ART, not Uschi DY-GART. And I personally can’t wait for the next installments of his excellent 8MM MADNESS series, BIG BUSTY STAG COLLECTION and EXTREME SLEAZE SHOWCASE! A trailer vault contains previews for contemporary Secret Key releases and a sneak peek at the SKIN IN THE SIXTIES collection, which is at least worth renting to see Nick Phillips’ surprisingly good L’AMOUR DE FEMME.

Disc 2 continues the collection with THE PIMP PRIMER, an incredibly obscure sexploitation relic once again starring my favorite doughy brunette, Colleen Murphy! Here, she plays Terry, the girlfriend of Carl, a pimp with a bad attitude who is seen boffing her senseless in the opening scene. She turns tricks to pay Carl’s rent, but he figures that with one girl paying his bills, why not two? He recruits Sherrie, a lovely waitress with the voice of a trucker in need of some extra cash (“Do you have any idea how much money you’d make with that educated thing you’ve got? All you do is take the money and fall. That’s all!”), and makes sure to take her for a test drive. Meanwhile, Terry pleases a traveling salesman in his sleazy motel before coming home to introduce Sherrie to lesbo lovin’ as practice for a swingers’ party that evening. When Terry shows resistance, Carl transforms into an even bigger bastard, smacking her around and ripping her clothes off. The girls finally get it on before and at the party, inducing their audience to partake in a full-fledged orgy, with cameos by a very young John Holmes and Uschi Digart in a hideous red wig!

For a barely feature-length sexploitation flick, THE PIMP PRIMER is pretty generic. Frankly, there’s very little going on here, with threadbare production values and a clothesline plot nudging shoulders with abundant sex (thank heaven for the fast-forward button), but this oddity has an MVP in the form of Colleen Murphy. Colleen wasn’t a top-tier sexploitation starlet, but she’s certainly one of the toughest, no-nonsense broads you’ll see in films of this type! With a full-figured physique, a whiskey-and-cigarettes voice, and a pouty baby face, Colleen is also a fine actress, ripe for rediscovery and deserving of a cult all her own. For more Colleen, be sure to check out ALICE IN ACIDLAND (terrible, but she’s in every scene) and PRIVATE ARRANGEMENT (with the added bonuses of Uschi and Malta!). With plenty of beaver and pickle shots, this is a great example of the type of storefront theater film popping up on the cusp between softcore and hardcore. It also feels like a “white coater”, with a moralistic narrator explaining the importance of the story and addressing “a problem that has been with us since the first prostitute sold her body”. He also makes sure to discuss exactly what a pimp is (“Pimps range from the businessman type to the casual type, who do nothing more than live off the earnings of his girls”), for those of us who are clueless in that department. With a library music score that would sound more at home in a Greer Garson melodrama, cheap sets, and hard-boiled dialogue and characters, PIMP PRIMER is a decent weekend wonder worth 60 minutes of your time if only to see Colleen Murphy in one of her few surviving films.

The final film on this triple bill, LUSTY NEIGHBORS, is another entry in the popular “swinging couples” subgenre, with a square couple with marital problems deciding to risk it and start swinging with their happening neighbors. That’s the plot in a nutshell, as very little happens here. However, some of the photography is just gorgeous, showing a professional flair as the camera follows Betty, the lithe brunette heroine, as she walks down the street, pondering her neighbor’s proposition, and gazes at her in the shower afterwards. She examines and pleasures herself in front of a mirror in a scene reminiscent of the later ALL-AMERICAN GIRL, also beautifully captured in surprisingly slick photography! From there on, it’s your standard swinging sex romp, with the swingers playing a strip board game, have passionate, hairy-ass-thumping sex in the living room, and invite more sexual adventurers over for an orgy. Things liven up for one memorable sequence featuring a woman stripping and dancing, split-beavered, while standing over the camera, leading to a strobe light dance-and-sex sequence that is nothing less than groovy! The moralistic finale is really something, too, with Betty, our poor girl-next-door, being assaulted with a pool cue and her husband Jim being beaten to a pulp by the other male swingers! Such sexual excess can only lead to tragedy! The grass isn’t always greener, kids!

The only recognizable cast member in this bizarre opus is Phyllis Stengel, a cute blonde familiar from GETTING INTO HEAVEN and HENRY’S NIGHT IN, who, as Marcy the swinger, writhes orgasmically in the nude in front of Betty in the opening scene. The no-name actress playing Betty is actually a pretty good little actress, whoever she was. You should recognize some of the library music from BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL and THE DIARY OF KNOCKERS MCCALLA! LUSTY NEIGHBORS is well worth viewing for its moments of style and psychedelic splendor, as well as its outrageous ending! If it had been a bit more fleshed out to feature length, it could have been a minor classic in California sexploitation.

Of the two transfers on this disc, THE PIMP PRIMER is the lesser, with non-stop white lines and a few jarring print jumps. This is likely the only remaining print anywhere, so there’s really no room for complaints. Same goes for LUSTY NEIGHBORS, which is transferred from another long-lost print, but has a more solid image and fewer jumps and lines. Though neither film is that great, it’s a miracle that they’re able to be seen all these years later! The 1.78:1 transfer of PIMP PRIMER doesn’t lose too much information on the top and bottom of the image, though LUSTY NEIGHBORS looks very tight and probably should have been shown full-frame. The package also includes an excellent booklet of historical liner notes by Ed Grant, who looks to be the best-kept secret in sexploitation and adult film journalism! His discussion of the three films is intelligent and well-done, and he really knows his stuff! (Casey Scott)