Director: Stephen Gibson

Whoever thought that a series of 70s 3-D sex films directed by a no-talent hack could be released on college campuses and become midnight movie hits 20-30 years after they were first released? Apparently no one, but Gibson's M 3-D THE MOVIE, BLONDE EMMANUELLE, and BLACK LOLITA (aka WILDCAT WOMEN) all toured the country from the mid-90s to the early 00's, visiting university theaters and leaving audiences floored by their stupidity and awful 3-D gags. The fact that none of them had received a home video release made them all the more enticing to cult film aficionados, and caused many to salivate when Pathfinder announced they were releasing the films to DVD. Unfortunately, it's a mixed blessing, as this disappointing disc reveals.

I'm still trying to comprehend what exactly M 3-D is all about. Opening the film is a sequence of three Roman gladiators emerging from the ocean to startle a couple making out on the beach. From there, it's a jumble of various incomprehensible subplots, "Laugh-In"-style blackout comic bits, and awkwardly edited hardcore-turned-softcore sex scenes. The primary storyline revolves around a candy company whose chief inventor has produced a special lollipop that serves as an aphrodisiac. Porno star Ty Horne (the bumbling U.S. president in ULTRA FLESH) and his female partner plan on turning the company into a pesticide business. Somehow, random people receive lollipops in the mail and indulge in 3-D sex. One of the Roman gladiators dresses up in a pink bunny suit and wanders all over California looking for the gates of Troy; two goofy astrologers, a guy in an ape suit, the inventory and his busty assistant, are all thrown into stupid comic situations, like a piefight and numerous dialogue-driven comedy sketches, none of which really use the 3-D to good effect. The cast is made up of porno regulars (none of whom I could identify by name, I shamefully admit), whose "talents" are pretty much put to waste in a softcore flick. The one scene of note is John Holmes and a Lina Romay look-alike (is it Lynn Harris?) in a brief red-drenched softcore scene that probably plays better hardcore. Contrary to popular belief, Uschi Digart is NOT in this film!

Moving on to the second bonus film featured on the disc, THE PLAYMATES is another plotless excursion into three-dimensional flesh exploration, with Becky Sharpe (THE TEASER) as a sexologist providing narration over various "case studies" of people having sex, almost having sex, and covering all manner of dating procedures and sexual kinks, including her own search for true love. None of it occurs in sequence or with any rhyme or reason, it's just various bits thrown together in a mish-mash like M 3-D, but a good deal more entertaining than that film. At least most of the humor here is actually funny, like a microphone-wielding Becky Sharpe cruising through a suburban neighborhood, walking past thieves on the run, searching for a peeping tom in action, a TV panel with a porn actress, an old lady race car driver, a Black Panther, and a five-star general, a candlelight breakfast with "an orgasm in every spoonful" of Swingers cereal, and Ms. Sharpe is a constant source of amusement as the uptight psychologist. There are some great sex scenes, like a porno stud who picks up a hitchhiker and they screw in a garage, Sharpe having graphic sex with her love interest in a fantasy setting of a brass bed in a grassy field, and to add more kooky thrills, Sharpe has an off-the-wall dream sequence with a pointing screaming topless woman with garish lipstick, a ride up a rollercoaster, and a guy pushing a broom into the 3-D camera. Look fast for Con Covert (A SCREAM IN THE STREETS), a regular comic relief and transvestite support player, both in and out of drag! THE PLAYMATES is not always successful, but most of the running time is an enjoyable 70s romp, and unlike M 3-D, it's never boring despite the irregular structure of the film.

THE PLAYMATES isn't a classic, but an obscure curio worth seeing for the performances of three of 70s sexploitation's best actresses: Becky Sharpe, Rene Bond, and Sandy Dempsey. Bond is the sparkling jewel of the trio, but all three represented a particular type: the classy rich girl who was almost unattainable (Sharpe), the goofy party chick (Dempsey), and of course the girl-next-door, head cheerleader and the girl you'd bring home to Mom all rolled into one (Bond). Sharpe is the core of the film, as a psychiatrist (named Jane Kinsey!) studying the sexual mores of modern society. She introduces the various silly vignettes and even becomes one of her own case studies when she's asked out on a date by a television announcer she meets in a parking lot promoting a new cereal called "Blue Balls" (hardy-har!). Sharpe is not your typical skinflick actress; she looks like your best friend's sister, or a young girl at a debutante ball. Her biggest role was the title character in THE TEASER (also co-starring Ms. Bond), as a high school girl who is raped and taken in by a swinging couple who sell her to a pimp (!), and she never really broke big from there. She remains a hidden treasure of the drive-in. Sandy Dempsey was the wild child of sexploitation, complete with butterfly tattoo on her right thigh and a toothy endearing grin. And she had no problem floating from softcore to hardcore, and performing enthusiastically in both. Her sex scenes were usually of the comic nature, to take advantage of her winning personality, and as a princess who consents to having sex with a plumber (the long-haired scuzzbag who played a gladiator in M 3-D) during the Renaissance (!), she is one of the highlights in THE PLAYMATES. Rene Bond needs no introduction: beginning her career as a flat-chested spitfire in Harry Novak films, she had breast implants paid for by Novak and ballooned (no pun intended) into sexploitation's most popular leading lady. Frequently costarring with her scuzzy boyfriend Ric Lutze, Bond always looked like she was having the time of her life in all of her films and even before her implants, was an unparalleled on-screen personality. Not to mention she was a very good actress who should have broke into mainstream films (the closest she came was the 1974 TV movie BETRAYAL). She is now considered one of adult cinema's best performers of the golden age, but I prefer her softcore performances, as they usually cast her as fun characters (as in FRANKIE AND JOHNNIE WERE LOVERS and FUGITIVE GIRLS) and tested her abilities more. I don't doubt her one scene in THE PLAYMATES (as a Playboy Bunny-esque waitress who takes a customer home) exists in a hardcore version, but she seems more carefree and radiant in the softcore edit. Her cheeky smile should be put on a collector's plate for smut fans to hang proudly on their walls!

This disc collects the softcore general release versions of these 3-D monstrosities, but look closely enough during certain scenes (the beach bum and the blonde girl in THE PLAYMATES) and you'll see some definite hardcore penetration. One wonders if the inclusion of actual hardcore footage with Rene Bond, John Holmes, and Ty Horne would make these more entertaining. My answer: yes. There are a number of scenes that are so brief they barely qualify as sex scenes at all, but there are also sequences that push the R rating as far as it would go in the 70s and even today. And Rene Bond's insatiable attitude towards sex on-screen was rarely paralleled in her day, let alone in modern pornography. For now, the hardcore versions of all of Pathfinder's discs are incredibly hard to find, if they were ever released on adult video labels in the first place. These softies will have to suffice for now.

Another choice that might irritate some viewers is the inclusion of the 3-D versions of the flicks. Both feature really cheesy effects (none very effective), which could have been enjoyable, but their presentation is sorely lacking. 3-D can be reproduced on digital video and disc correctly, but NOT when viewed through those plastic dime-store red and blue glasses, two of which are included with each Pathfinder DVD. If you watch the movies without the glasses (which I would strongly recommend), you will experience double-image halos around various objects and characters. But WITH the glasses, you still experience the double-image halos, which is NOT supposed to happen with true 3-D. Most of the films are a permanent shade of green and/or red with or without the glasses, which is kinda irritating. I get the impression director Stephen Gibson had no idea how to shoot in 3-D, but didn't let it stop him from bilking thousands of drive-in patrons out of their hard-earned bread. Aaah, the wonders of exploitation. M 3-D is actually presented 2.35:1 widescreen, while PLAYMATES is full frame.

The bizarre slate of extras kicks off with an off-the-wall audio commentary by Luke Y. Thompson during M 3-D. He notes all the spots where hardcore sex would actually appear (making people crave that probably much more interesting variant), and while he readily admits he knows very little trivia about the making of the film, he still manages to keep talking about something, whether it be complaints about theater owners not giving refunds or giving play-by-play narration of the on-screen events. Amusingly, he also points out where the 3-D is supposed to work by loudly exclaiming, "Oh! His elbow's sticking right out at me!" and "Hey! A girl's hair is flying in my face!". Thompson sounds like "Daily Show" correspondent Mo Rocco, but 99% of his jokes fall flat and plenty of profanity spills out (no disclaimer on this commentary!), so in the end, this is like a sexploitation version of the ex-cheerleader commentary on REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS. If you didn't like that one, you'll abhor this one. A William Margold bio is included, as he appears briefly as one of the Roman warriors in M 3-D, but his career in pornography is far more interesting than his supporting role in that atrocious film. A stills gallery is made up of various production stills, including sexy shots of the film's porno variant (no penetration shown), and a number of cool posters with the various titles under which the film was distributed.

As noted above, I can only recommend this disc for the diehard completist. The fun factor of THE PLAYMATES, including the great Rene Bond and Sandy Dempsey scenes, can justify the purchase, but it's still for only those who are already experienced in 70s sexploitation. Otherwise, it's a poor introduction to the genre. Let's hope the remaining Pathfinder 3-D discs (WILDCAT WOMEN and BLONDE EMANUELLE) are monumentally more entertaining, stay tuned for reviews of both. (Casey Scott)