Vinegar Syndrome's latest "Drive-in Collection" double bill may be scraping the bottom of the barrel with this seedy pair of police potboilers: JUDY and THE NIGHT HUSTLERS.
When his precious daughter Regina (Lee Sherry) is attacked in the woods, wealthy Fairchild (Jay Rannie) hires hardboiled ex-cop Gunner Sloan (Dave Haller) to find her attacker. Sloan has a hunch that Regina's attacker is a serial attacker who has recently graduated to murder. As he trawls the city's seedy underbelly, Sloan runs afoul of the officers (Gary Foxxe and Garry Achzieger) investigating the case and resentful of his involvement. In fact, when Sloan's own cigarette girl lover Velvet (Sandy O'Hara, THE STRANGE FETISHES) is attacked, the police suggest that the culprit is more likely someone with a beef against him trying to make the attack look like one of those by the killer. Sloan's doctor friend Morgan (co-writer George Mead), however, has found another connection between the victims, all of them "overt manpleasers" but for a lesbian who was also his patient and may have confided a connection to the killer to his secretary Judy (Judith Lowe) who has some secrets of her own.
Neither interesting as a thriller or a sexploitation film, JUDY seems like an almost nonsensical retitling seemingly chosen because Judy was the only other named female character and it is a retitling since the card is stuck in after a tacked-on interminable eight minute sex scene with two women who do not figure into the rest of the film (and several minutes more before the presentation card and the rest of the credits with a jump in place of the original title card. Judy contributes nothing of value to the narrative (other than affirming the film's stance of lesbianism as a shameful vice) and is never abducted or seduced as the poster art indicates; in fact, with just a minute or so of running time left, Sloan literally stumbles into the killer (whose identity is not obvious, if only because he is one of the many characters who barely warrants a close-up or even any dialogue that might indicate he's anything more than a background character). What little atmosphere the film possess comes from the few presumably non-permit, MOS shots following victims around the chilly city. Director David W. Hanson (THE NIGHT OF THE BLOODY TRANSPLANT) is not so much unable to build suspense; he just doesn't bother, introducing a victim in the same shot in which she is attacked. The sex scenes are all rather dully shot – although one rape scene shot from behind the clothed killer squeezing his knees together and sort of lolling from side to side atop his victim to a record on the victim's turntable looks almost like he's doing the twist on top of her – with only a couple brief laughable interjections of style (the frenetic zooming of the victims' POVs during the attacks, and the pan from a dead victim on the floor to her turntable timed to end as the needle lifts up at the end of the song).
Looking for inspiration, playboy/writer Dubois (the so-called "Marcel De Lange", MAFIA GIRLS) – with a French accent that sounds like Charles Boyer filtered through Pepe Le Pew (presumably, he also sang the awful theme song) – invites a pair of vice cops (James Neal and Miami jazz DJ China Valles) to share some of their real-life adventures with the "scum of the Earth" they call THE NIGHT HUSTLERS. They regale him and his secretary Patty (Carol Baillie) with stories of raiding pot-parties, smoking rooms that swap stag films for live shows, and a bar that serves as a front for prostitution where the owner not only takes a cut of the action but rolls the drunk patrons. In between stories, Dubois takes calls from various honeys trying to lure him out while the night is still young, but Patty must let her hair down to keep him home.
While JUDY was rather limp, the Miami-lensed THE NIGHT HUSTLERS is downright obnoxious with its horrid acting, static photography, and threadbare sets. There's more nudity than sex, with a bunch of topless burlesque showgirls unconvincingly playing socialite wives who cannot do without Dubois' scuzzy attentions for a night. During the bar scene, Joe Varo (as himself) eats up six minutes of the fifty-seven minute running time crooning a sappy love song, and then accompanying go-go dancers with a rock number (there's also a horrid theme song, presumably sung by De Lange himself). What's worse about this sequence is that Neal's vice cop prefaced it by saying he would have been a dead man if not for his partner's actions, but the story itself is interrupted by another phone call from one of Dubois' daffy dames before anything remotely like action occurs. THE NIGHT HUSTLERS had previously been available from Vinegar Syndrome's website as an HD download; and presumably, most Vinegar Syndrome regulars have downloaded this film already and have no need to upgrade (I'd argue that a good SD DVD of an HD master is probably better than an HD optimized for quick downloading and mobile streaming), and JUDY hardly makes it worth the upgrade.
Mastered in 2K from the original 16mm A/B rolls, JUDY – presented in a fullscreen 1.33:1 transfer – sports a crisp image with garish colors (mostly in the costumes and set decoration), milking all it can out of the elements which are generally clean apart from the scratchy opening and occasional specs and intermittent scratches. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is hissy throughout the dialogue and music is discernible throughout. Scanned in 2K from a 35mm blow-up negative, the anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1) transfer of THE NIGHT HUSTLERS naturally looks softer than JUDY, but the photography also seems to be rarely in sharp enough focus for what detail there is to be admired. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track has some hiss, but is generally cleaner and louder. There are no extras for either film. (Eric Cotenas)
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