Director: Pete Perry
Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment

Given the prevalent all-American morality of sin equaling an eternity in Hell, it was only natural that sexploitation films decided to take advantage of such a predicament and have some fun with the concept. In other words, if you’re going to hell for watching a skinflick, why not at least see how much fun it can be down there after paying your ticket price? Paired here are two films from very different periods of the late Pete Perry’s directorial career, with the theme of a sexually depraved Hell appealing to earthly mortals. In case you didn’t know, sex is much hotter in Hades!

Petulant vixen Jezebel, lounging in the red glow of Hell as Lucifer bangs a moaning brunette next to her, is still seething over being ripped apart by wild dogs at the orders of her lover Joshua. She vows her revenge, but how to return to Earth? Lucifer strikes a deal with Jezebel that she may remain on Earth if she delivers to him the virgin soul of Rachel, a blonde dim bulb betrothed to lummox Jeremiah. The switcheroo proves easier than imagined, as the two ladies switch bodies, with Jezebel remaining on Earth in the breasty perfection of Rachel’s body, and Rachel hiding from Lucifer in the shape of Jezebel. The now insatiable “Rachel” destroys her virginal reputation by jumping the bones of Jeremiah (Warning! 400-lb. fat guy nudity!), as well as aiding her sister Ruth in a blackmail scheme by posing as a male ward and enjoying a nighttime romp with Joshua. Meanwhile, in Hell, Lucifer prowls for a hidden “Jezebel” and runs into Biblical characters such as King Solomon (a bug-eyed lecher), Goliath (the giant whips a tied girl before being banished to the Pit of Nymphs, where he is essentially fucked to death by a gang of ravenous nude women!), and Eve (the nude first woman on earth yells at Lucifer for ruining her stay in Eden before enjoying sex with Solomon).

From the beginning of the film, JOYS OF JEZEBEL immediately resembles a Harry Novak production. Considering that the film is directed by Novak’s business partner and frequent director Pete Perry and features two of his favorite leads, Johnny Rocco and Dixie Donovan, one can be forgiven for thinking this is a Box Office International release on looks alone. But in actuality, this is one of the Mighty Monarch of Exploitation David F. Friedman’s token lavish costume sex pictures, and one that seems to have been overshadowed by the better-known LUSTFUL TURK and NOTORIOUS DAUGHTER OF FANNY HILL. JEZEBEL suffers from a far too complicated plot involving Biblical power plays and for a film with so few characters, one would imagine it would be easier to follow. However, the film ably succeeds as a visual stunner; Perry’s use of gel lighting in the Hell sequences, with glowing red and green lights adding an eerie psychedelic luster to the proceedings, aids in giving the film a much more professional quality. A lesbian scene is bathed in robin’s egg blue for perfect atmosphere. Costumes and set design are top-notch, typical of both Friedman and Novak’s costume epics of the time, and then there are, of course, the ladies. Red-headed lovely Christine Murray proved herself a superb comedienne in TRADER HORNEE, and would appear frequently throughout sexploitation of the early 1970s, including noteworthy roles in MATINEE WIVES and THE TALE OF THE DEAN’S WIFE; she is easily the best thespian in JEZEBEL, and should have graduated to bigger and better things in mainstream film and television. Bleached blonde Dixie Donovan, perhaps the ultimate California beach bunny recruited by flesh merchants of the film industry, is just as adorable as in her other films, such as TOBACCO ROODY and MISS NYMPHET’S ZAP-IN. Her line delivery is a bit dodgy, but that’s part of Dixie’s charm. And try to ignore that the carpet doesn’t match the drapes! You may also recognize future early porn starlet Casey Lorrain as one of the denizens of Hell!

Technical credits include some familiar names, including directors William Rotsler and Dwayne Avery as the stills photographer and cinematographer, respectively; producer Maurice Smith writing the strange script; and exploitation composer Vic Lance contributes the score. Are we sure this isn’t a Novak release? JEZEBEL isn’t a great film, but completists of the last days of softcore and Something Weird in general should find a number of enjoyable elements here.

Flash backward to 1964, six years before JOYS OF JEZEBEL, when director Pete Perry, already established in the world of sexploitation, took his first dip into Hell with MY TALE IS HOT. This 58-minute nudie cutie is actually pretty funny, as far as these films go. Little Jack Little stars as Ben-Hur Ova (ha ha), recently chosen by Ladies Home Companion as the “World’s Most Faithful Husband”. Reading the magazine in Hell, Lucifer U. Devil (ha ha) makes a deal with his wife (resembling Mink Stole near the end of DESPERATE LIVING) that he can coax Ben-Hur into turning over his soul by cheating on his wife, Omiassis Ova. How, you ask? The Devil produces a number of beautiful naked ladies to tempt our hero in a series of comic vignettes, including a TV set called Sin-A-Vision, hot dogs with “girlie “relish”, and hallucinations involving a nude milkmaid seen in a glass of milk and a voluptuous brunette jailed for “indecent exposure”.

Obviously shot in the space of a day in a warehouse, using the same backdrops and limited space in almost every scene, MY TALE IS HOT is your basic economical “dirty movie”, produced by the famous Dan Sonney, one of the original exploitation merchants (the credits say “Money…By Sonney”). Segments of the film have appeared on several previous Something Weird discs, but it’s nice to have the complete film available here. Jack Little produces a few good one-liners, the set design is cheesy (watch for the great scene where Lucifer emerges from Omiassis Ova’s garden!), and the premise is an enjoyable vehicle to latch numerous naked ladies onto. Additionally, the film features a rare feature film appearance from the notorious Candy Barr, whose career included working for bar owner and future Oswald assassin Jack Ruby, appearing in the famous early hardcore loop “Smart Alec”, writing a book in poetry while serving time in jail for marijuana possession, and choreographing Joan Collins’ dance moves in SEVEN THIEVES! No one has written a book about this incredible woman?! All in all, this is a painless way to spend 58 minutes of your life, and one of the better nudie cuties in a genre filled with excruciatingly bad entries. Plus: you gotta love the credits, filled with pseudonyms like “Seymour Toukas”, “Lotta Partz”, “Carry Meoff”, and “Manny Goodtimes” (aka Max Gardens, who starred in KISS ME QUICK, also from director Perry).

JOYS OF JEZEBEL is transferred from the original negative, resulting in a gorgeous color palette of bold reds, sparkling greens, and deep blacks. MY TALE IS HOT, on the other hand, is taken from perhaps the sole existing print, and while the color is generally very good (considering this looks to have been shot in Eastmancolor, a film stock known for turning red over the years), with accurate skintones and attractive greens, the print is still in rough shape, with print jumps aplenty, green emulsion scratches and damaged spots, and color flashing. Unfortunately, both transfers suffer from video noise during scenes with excessive use of the color red, indicating that they could be sourced from video or tape masters.

Keeping with the Satanic theme of the disc, the trailers include a number of witchcraft and devil worship films. THE TOUCH OF SATAN is well-known from a particularly funny episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, but it has a great regional feel to it that has helped it gain a re-evaluation over the years. Directed by Tom Laughlin (taking a break from his BILLY JACK films), this story of a cursed family involving a young hitchhiker in a series of bizarre murders is a nicely atmospheric gem, with decent acting and an intriguing premise. If you can find a non-MST3K version, go for it! THE NAKED WITCH, available on DVD from Something Weird, was Larry Buchanan’s first film, and it shows! An amateurish tale of a college student resurrecting a witch in a small German Texas village is shoddily made and poorly acted, but still has a certain charm to it. It’s quite short, and the trailer includes the brief nudity shown in the feature. OLGA’S DANCE HALL GIRLS is definitely the weakest in the series (by this time plowing on without Audrey Campbell, the originator of the title role), but features an interesting subplot of having Olga’s cult of girls practice human sacrifices!! Appearances by Linda Boyce and Uta Erickson, as well as regular Doris Wishman leading man Larry Hunter, help the film’s cool factor, too. SOUL LOVER is a very obscure latter-day softcore feature, with plenty of split-beaver close-ups and a strange scene of a woman having sex with a ghost (it’s as whacky as it sounds!). This weekend wonder features piss-poor acting, cheap production values, and some borderline hardcore sex scenes. Before he became synonymous with smut and the JOHNNY WADD films, Bob Chinn worked on a number of fascinating softcore films, including the Sandy Carey star vehicle THE DEVIL’S GARDEN. As a tourist seduced into the world of voodoo while in the Caribbean, Carey is a lovely presence, as usual, and the film is filled with visually interesting sequences, including Russ Meyer starlet (and ex-Mrs. Richard Pryor) Deborah McGuire as a top-heavy native girl possessed during a ritual. Plus see Carey in a lesbian scene with Donna Young, before she went semi-legit in drive-in exploitation under the name “Donna Desmond” (possibly inspired as an anagram by her then-boyfriend Don Edmonds). UP IN SMOKE is a strange one to include here: it’s a Bowery Boys film! God help me, I love the Bowery Boys! Something about a bunch of 30-to-40-year-olds acting like teenagers and getting into bumbling scrapes over the course of dozens of films keeps me watching them! In this one, they encounter the suave Satan himself who buys Huntz Hall’s soul in exchange for winning horse numbers at the tracks. Lots of physical comedy and goofy one-liners make this ridiculous fun, even though it is one of the last contractually-obligated Bowery Boys offerings.

The really surprising supplement is an entire feature film, the 54-minute all-black cast GO DOWN DEATH! Something Weird offers a number of these poverty row historical relics on VHS, and with the company dabbling in just about every other genre, it’s about time they got around to this neglected one. Directed by Spencer Williams, who was the first black actor-director in the film industry, the film follows the sleazy bar owner Big Jimmy Bottoms (played by Williams), irate that his nightclub business is being affected by a local preacher’s powerful sermons pulling his regular customers into church on Sunday. Bottoms aims to destroy the preacher’s reputation by getting him drunk and taking compromising photos of him with some of his bar girls, but the plan backfires when Big Jim’s religious mother discovers the plan and tries to persuade Jim to give it up, with disastrous results. All-black cast films of this period are usually technically primitive and poorly acted, but are incredibly valuable to re-evaluate all these years later. They offered the opportunity for black filmmakers and actors to express themselves in the medium of film, and also reflected social and moral values of the black community of the time. If you like GO DOWN DEATH, a previous Spencer Williams film with a similar theme, BLOOD OF JESUS, comes strongly recommended as well, and there is a fine bio of him written in the excellent book “Bright Boulevards, Broken Dreams”! The opening credits mention the film’s distributor, Sack Amusement Enterprises, a Texas-based company that specialized in all-black films of the 1930s and 1940s that eventually went the sexploitation route in the 1960s, distributing such wild films as SHE MOB and several Zoltan Spencer epics (SISTERS IN LEATHER, SCREENTEST GIRLS). Two shorts, the bizarre animated “Satan in Church” and a Candy Barr strip loop “Boudoir Belle”, are also included, as well as the regular mouthwatering David F. Friedman Gallery of Exploitation Art!

Neither film on this Infernal Double Feature is great, but both are worth at least a rent to check out the extra-sinful side of Golden Age sexploitation! (Casey Scott)