Welcome to New York City, boys and girls, and prepare to be filthified! Something Weird Video strikes again with a triple whammy of black-and-white roughie madness, all politically incorrect, all examples of a lost artform, and all leaving cult film fans drooling!
The first film in our triple feature is RENT-A-GIRL, following the sleazy activities of a girl-for-hire business! Hopelessly naive Karen (Barbara Wood, of WATCH THE BIRDIE) foolishly tells her cad of a boyfriend she loves him and doesn't get the correct response, so to cheer herself up, she dumps out all her sugar and knocks on the door of her mysterious neighbors upstairs, Adam and Evelyn Marshall. Evelyn entices Karen to begin modeling for their photography business, and everything seems to be looking up for our dear Karen. Even though they may seem sweet and charming, they are actually the ringleaders of a girl-for-hire business, leasing out girls as escorts, prostitutes, and for all manner of depraved kinky behavior! Their #1 client is Harriet Grant, a rich socialite who invites over her high society friends for sordid parties, with husband-swapping, whipping, lesbianism, and torture, and of course some wild frenzied go-go dancing! Artists paint posing models all over their bodies and a sadist in a top hat photographs nudie cutie favorite Darlene Bennett, then sprays her with seltzer water (!). Karen discovers the dark side of her modeling career when she becomes the guest of honor at one of Ms. Grant's parties...and is branded!!
RENT-A-GIRL is reminiscent of a roadshow expose, from the opening scene of Karen telling her story to a grizzled old detective through the stereotypical villainous dialogue. Where the film excels is the superb soundtrack of familiar New York library music, all recognizable ditties from Findlay, Wishman, and Lewis flicks. The fact that Karen is such a dimbulb really makes the film all the more laughable; she thinks her photo sessions are professional, but she's posing against a brick wall backdrop (!) in a library (!!). Wood is still very good in the lead, considering her contemporaries were usually just required to take their clothes off. In addition to personal favorite Darlene Bennett in her brief topless moment being showered withseltzer water, two of the guests at Ms. Grant's shindig are gorgeous Gigi Darlene (BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL) and adorable June Roberts (MY BROTHER'S WIFE). Roberts appears in one of the highlight sequences of the film, playing a game of strip billiards with Darlene Bennett and friends. All in all, good-natured dirty fun to be had by all when you RENT-A-GIRL.
The assistant director and editor of RENT-A-GIRL, Anton Holden, lashed out on his own by writing and directing undoubtedly one of the best roughies ever made, AROUSED. A misogynistic slasher is loose in New York City, stalking and slaughtering call girls and streetwalkers. His troubles stem from his prostitute mother and her abusive ways during his childhood. A grizzled detective is assigned to the case, and is aided by Ginny, whose lesbian lover was strangled in the shower by the psycho. Sultry black beauty Fleurette Carter (who should have gone on to better movies) is Angela, who is used as bait to no avail. It's up to Ginny and her fellow ladies of the evening to find the murderer and see that he gets what's coming to him...
AROUSED sounds like your standard ghoulie/roughie, naked girls getting bumped off by a madman and filthy looks into the cesspools of New York City. But what differentiates AROUSED from other films of its type is its professional look and accomplished cast. Cinematographer Gideon Zumbach, who I can't believe didn't do anything else, does a marvelous job here; the black-and-white photography in this film is just superb, especially the scenes of Fleurette Carter walking the streets as bait and her demise in the elevator. Zumbach uses the wide-angle lens at perfect maddening moments, turns each murder into a terrifying setpiece, and the final twist ending (which most definitely inspired a similar ending in William Lustig's MANIAC) is made all the more frenzied by his taught close-ups and jagged angles. Effective use of freeze-frames and library music only add to the ace technical credits on this feature. In addition to looking good, AROUSED is exceptionally well-written and acted by the ensemble cast, which will come as a shock to those used to NYC nudies from Barry Mahon and Distribpix. The aforementioned Fleurette Carter only made a few other films, including a great role in THE HOOKERS and a bit part in Bill Grefe's THE NAKED ZOO. Wherever she is now, I wonder if she realizes she has at least one fan (me)? Janine Lenon, as Ginny, is very, very good as the determined vigilante hooker. It wouldn't surprise me if she used a pseudonym in this film and went on to be a SAG actor under her real name. Gritty film noir dialogue and character development help make AROUSED one of the most satisfying roughies to come out of the New York City area. It's not as nasty as the Findlays' films or as ludicrous as Doris Wishman's mindblowers, but works beautifully as an honest-to-goodness FILM, not just windowdressing for beautiful women to have sex and be killed.
Now for the most unbelievable film on the disc: HELP WANTED: FEMALE! Running barely over an hour, and packing enough sick sexy thrills for twice that length, this is one of the true hidden gems in the Something Weird catalog, rarely discussed by exploitation aficionados but very deserving of a larger audience. Opening with an ominous Maryland Board of Censors seal and going by how the infamous group cut John Waters' films, my hopes sank that this would be uncut, but it appears to the full-length version, all 68 minutes of it.
Beautiful Jo-Jo bumps into a businessman and offers him a ride; she takes him to her friend's house, lays him, then plans on robbing him until he awakes from his slumber and catches her in the act. Is she done for? Far from it...she knows KUNG FU! A few karate chops to the head knock him unconscious and JO-JO is on her way. She comes home to her fugly lesbian lover, Luana, grooving to a samba record. This woman looks like a blonde mix between Honey Lauren (Doris Wishman's SATAN WAS A LADY) and Karen Black, which is NOT a good thing. Luana has a chance to make $200 by spending an evening with creepy Gregory (Sebastian Gregory, the unlikeliest skinflick actor in the world; imagine Randy Quaid making sex movies!). He takes an LSD sugar cube while she does a ridiculously unsexy dance on a chair. Before he knows it, he is telling Luana the tale of the time he picked up Tina, a young hitchhiker, with his lady friend Barbara and butchered the two girls for sick kicks. Luana thinks he's hallucinating...until she comes across clues that he might be even more twisted than even she imagined...
I would place HELP WANTED: FEMALE on a par with SHE MOB and Dale Berry's HOT BLOODED WOMAN in terms of sheer unadulterated nudie cutie wackiness. Who the hell made this film? Who did they imagine would go see it? The opening moments of the film are already warped, introducing a kung-fu-fighting hairhopper and then revealing her to a lesbian with bad taste in women, and from then on, nothing about this movie is remotely by the book. The relationship between Gregory and his galpal Barbara is one of a sado-masochistic nature, with Barbara burning him with an ember from the fire to sexually excite herself, then provoking Gregory to slice her skin oh so tenderly with a knife as foreplay. After Tina's cheesecake modeling that will leave you yawning, you're jolted awake by the sudden shock of violence and gore when not only Tina, but Barbara is snuffed out! It's so completely unexpected and disturbing that you never really know where the film's going to go next, and believe me, you simply will not BELIEVE all the twists and turns that occur in just 68 short minutes. One of the most incredible discoveries in Something Weird's well-publicized vault and lab raids, HELP WANTED: FEMALE is required viewing for those who think they've seen everything.
Considering how stellar Something Weird's black-and-white transfer record is, I was surprised to see these prints were not in the best of shape. RENT-A-GIRL looks the worst, with lots of grain and several black and white lines, dirt popping up frequently, and film jumps eliminating dialogue, and the contrast is not as sharp and clear, leading me to believe SWV did not have access to the original negative, as they usually do. Dark scenes are very dark and not as bright as the company's benchmark restorations. AROUSED looks mildly better, and obviously better than their previous VHS edition, but still has a few instances of muddy contrasts and print jumps. Gideon Zumbach's shining moments look great, which is a relief, but as the film takes place almost entirely after dark, some dark scenes aren't clear enough and whites are usually more gray. I suspect this was due to original shooting conditions. HELP WANTED: FEMALE is just as muddy and dark, with print damage affecting the bottom and top middle sections of the frame during the first reel. Still, all things considered, it's great to have all three sordid sickies on disc together in at least presentable transfers from a company that cares!
The extras are extremely limited, but when all three films offer twisted entertainment beyond your wildest dreams, this can be forgiven. The excellent tinted trailer for AROUSED is included, and the only other movie extra is an 8mm silent loop called "Lesson of the Strap." A smiling brunette in her skivvies (looking like Bettie Page) smacks the shit out of a tied-up lingerie-clad blonde, with humorous title cards substituting dialogue like "Hate my boyfriend, will you?!". Another part of this series, with the same two women, appears on another SWV disc. The Gallery of Sick Sixties Sex Stills with Audio Oddities is the exact same gallery that has appeared on numerous other SWV discs, unfortunately, all to the familiar title theme from Harry Novak's BOOBY TRAP. It's still great stuff, but the fact that it's repeated material we've already seen is a bummer.
Total Fulfillment? You betcha!
All three feature films are great unearthed gems from the Golden Age of the
Roughie, with eye-opening visuals and a refreshingly non-PC mindset. You'll
have more fun wallowing in this filth than a pig rolling in shit...but it'll
be just as filthy an experience! (Casey
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