Following the introduction of the Hayes Office and their Production Code in the early 1930s, prohibiting certain elements and types of social behavior from being shown in motion pictures, the pioneers of exploitation, Dan Sonney, Kroger Babb, and other legendary hucksters of the time period, began producing feature films that tapped into those forbidden fruits: sex, drugs, and bad taste. Rather than risk booking the films into regular-run theaters, the "road show" was born, with distributors and producers carting their film prints around the country for brief one-week venues, appearing in cities ranging from backwoods Bible belt shanty towns to bustling metropolises. Their ticket past the censors? The majority of the films were presented as educational presentations; tackling subjects such as premarital sex, venereal disease, childbirth, drug use, and other forms of social deviance, these attractions piled on as much nudity and shock value as they could get away with, and drew in millions at the box office in the process. Digging into their very large library of road show pictures, Something Weird has presented two of their very best "road show" rarities: STREET CORNER and BECAUSE OF EVE, both of which provide enough startling documentary footage and campy theatrics for several evenings' worth of entertainment! Unfortunately these films failed at tackling the seriousness of drug or alcohol addiction. To properly handle addiction there are drug rehab centers in Florida that can care for you. Recovery can be a very difficult road for an addict.
Lois Marsh (Marcia Mae Jones) is a sensitive young teenage girl who is coerced into going all the way with her boyfriend Bob, who proposes to her directly after doing the deed (pretty presumptuous, ain't he?!). When Lois feels her biological clock stop ticking, she seeks help from Bob only for him to die in a car crash on his way to visit her! It is left up to Kitty, a waitress at the local teen hangout, to provide her money for a...(GASP!)...abortion!! Who's to blame for this? Lois' parents, of course, who are admonished by somber Dr. Fenton (Joseph Crehan) for going to costume parties instead of telling their daughter about the birds and the bees! Before the running time's through, we're treated to Dr. Fenton's handy educational footage, including animated reproduction drawings, a jaw-dropping birth AND a Caesarian section, and a short entitled "Human Wreckage," highlighting incredibly gruesome victims of venereal disease amidst warnings of visiting back-alley crackpots. Cringe as you witness genital warts, tongue shankers, penises cracking in two, a gigantic red inflated ballsack, and erupting blisters and bumps all over the body!! Dr. Fenton, who's been hosting the film, is interrupted by his nurse: "Are you talking to yourself?" Looking straight at the camera, Fenton answers, "I hope not! I wonder if I've been talking to myself all my life!" If you haven't learned yet to keep your trouser snake to yourself until you say the vows, enjoy your stay in Hell!
Featuring the typical foreword/introduction scrolled before the feature film, STREET CORNER is a marvelous example of the "childbirth" subgenre of the road show rarities. The storyline of a likable young all-American teenager getting into trouble and turning to a nasty foreign aid is typical of these films, and is aided by two earnest cast members: Marcia Mae Jones and Joseph Crehan. If Marcia Mae Jones' name sounds familiar, you might remember that she was a very well-known child actor in the 30s, appearing in several Shirley Temple films (most notably in HEIDI and THE LITTLE PRINCESS). How she wound up in a low-budget roadshow attraction is beyond me, but she must have hit the skids pretty quickly. Surprisingly, she was still working in Hollywood at the time (1948), and one wonders where she is today? Crehan would show up in BECAUSE OF EVE, the disc's co-feature, and was another popular character actor in smaller Hollywood films.
BECAUSE OF EVE is one of the campiest and most ridiculous road show flicks you're going to see. Opening with another melodramatic foreword, a million "special thanks" credits, and a narrator discussing God's creation of the Earth in seven days, we then are introduced to Bob and Sally, an all-American couple preparing to be married and with a baby on the way. Bob marvels, "Think of it: Me! A real, live father!". Joseph Crehan is back, this time as Dr. West, the couples' doctor. Sally muses, "Remember when you taught us about the facts of life, Doctor?". But the real gutbuster is when Dr. West unveils Bob and Sally's dark secrets during a visit: "Sally, that first baby didn't hurt you a bit. You can have plenty more if you want to. And Bob, you'll be pleased to know that there's no trace of your old VD." Talk about to the point! The two lovers are horrified with one another (Sally: "I'd sooner marry a leper! Now I'm going out into the clean fresh air!"; Bob: "Had yourself a baby out of wedlock and suddenly play holier than thou!"), and almost call the marriage off...until Dr. West sits them down and has them air out their dirty laundry beforehand. Turns out Sally got pregnant by her old boyfriend who died in the War and Bob got VD from a hooker his roommate brought home for him...and both scandals were caused by the same guy! All right, with all that settled, Dr. West decides to gross out...I mean...educate the young couple by showing them more gruesome short subjects, "The Story of VD," "The Story of Reproduction," and "The Story of Birth." "VD" contains more nasty mouth cankers, decayed teeth, blisters all over the body, bleeding open sores, and more disfigured genitals than you'd ever want to see! And seeing deadborn babies is a little much... A cemetery has crosses with venereal diseases written on them, and you get to see cute little animated syphilis and gonorrhea germs, too! "Reproduction" features animated sperm, really surprising full-frontal male and female nude models, and lots of animated diagrams and models. "Birth" features even more nauseating real-life birth footage, both the vaginal and Caesarian sections, complete with plenty of oozing bodily fluids and flowing blood! By the end of the film, you won't want to ever have sex again, but at least you learned something!
Neither film is presented in a stunning transfer, but considering the traveling history of each film, this is to be expected. STREET CORNER suffers from lines, scratches, jumps, dirt, and emulsion holes, but isn't too bad. BECAUSE OF EVE fares better, with a good share of grain but little dirt and few scratches. The mono audio is serviceable for both features.
The unofficial host of the disc is David F. Friedman, "The Mighty Monarch of Exploitation" and the last great living legend of exploitation from this particular time period. For a man of his years, he is still looking healthy, jovial, and is as always a great asset to Something Weird's releases. We first see Friedman providing an introduction to STREET CORNER, giving his personal definition of the term "exploitation film." And if there was ever anyone to be seen as THE authority on the subject, Friedman is it. (Fans of exploitation video releases will find themselves sneaking glances at the incredible video collection of Frank Henenlotter, seen behind Friedman during his introduction). Friedman also provides another sensational audio commentary for STREET CORNER, moderated by Mike Vraney and Henenlotter. His memory is absolutely incredible, recalling all manner of incidents touring the country with these celluloid wonders. He names some films that have been lost to the ages, discusses shady dealings and run-ins with the law and censors, and never runs out of anecdotes and memories to share with the listener, all of them fascinating. For MORE Friedman, enjoy the special book pitches seen in-between each feature film, as he gives on-camera speeches on-camera selling must-have sex hygiene books to curious theatergoers. In addition to the Friedman commentary, STREET CORNER also features two other audio options: an audio interview with the late Dan Sonney, one of the original roadshow pioneers, and an audio interview with late-in-the-game Claude Alexander, who continued road-showing into the 1960s. Sonney's interview is very slow-going, unfortunately, and it isn't enough of a walk down memory lane as Friedman's commentary. He discusses at length his father's infamy in the South as a fighter, how he got into the movie business, and his business dealings with film exhibitors and fellow producers like Adrian Weiss, Kroger Babb, and Dave Friedman. Alexander's is just as slow-going, with a few choice tales but not enough to keep most listeners alert. Still, including three of exploitation's oldest and most important movers and shakers on one disc was a wise move, and is at least historically important even if Friedman's is the only audio feature you'll find yourself revisiting.
The Sex-Ed Trailers include a slew of roadshow previews, including that for STREET CORNER, hosted by a somber radio announcer proclaiming it's "The Most Vital Picture of All Time!" I WANT A BABY and MATED are trailers for the same feature; BABY merely shows stills from the film, with plenty of hyperbole-filled title cards, and MATED features actual footage from the flick. It looks very low-budget, and shows some of the statistics and Supreme Court rulings making the film legal to view! For some reason, a muscleman in a leopardskin speedo flexes in a backyard? You will also see the results of hormones aiding breast development and a marriage falling apart when a woman puts her feet up on the table. MAN AND WIFE isn't really a roadshow picture, but was one of the first pictures to start the sexumentary craze of the 1960s and early 1970s before hardcore pornography became legal. It's meant to serve as a marital aid for couples having trouble in the bedroom, and the trailer says that ONLY COUPLES WILL BE ADMITTED! The feature is in color, but the trailer (which shows no footage) is in black and white. And you get to see Don Anthony, famed "Marriage Expert" speak in person!! MOM AND DAD is the ultimate roadshow picture, and the most successful and recognizable film of the movement. Kroger Babb made a fortune with this film, but the trailer shows no footage from the film (directed by William "One-Shot" Beaudine), just hard-sell title cards. "You See the Birth of Triplets!" TEST TUBE BABIES stars exploitation regular Timothy Farrell without his trademark mustache, aiding a couple who are unable to have children and who must turn to artificial insemination! Some really awful acting here, which means it's a must-see. WE WANT A CHILD was a Danish film (that won an award at the Venice International Film Festival?!) that made a great roadshow flick over here. See another graphic childbirth sequence in "The Greatest Wonder of the World"!
Claude Alexander's short "The Wondrous Story of Birth" is presented in glorious color, and looking quite nice. After thanking "the mothers of the world," the narrator proceeds to lead the viewer through the birth of a child, from reproduction through very graphic childbirth. And here is something not shown in the other features on the disc: CIRCUMCISION!! Argh! This is the most graphic childbirth of the disc, probably, so proceed with caution. Lots of lovely sprightly library music highlight the proceedings. Two galleries grace this platter: first up is a gallery of roadshow pitch books, covering all corners of the roadshow genre. This gallery features "true-life" MOM AND DAD testimonials from satisfied customers. The second gallery is comprised of roadshow exploitation art, including photos of theater marquees, hand-drawn amateur flyers, and some very obscure titles (BLONDE CAPTIVE? CHILD BRIDES OF THE ORIENT?). The audio track features MOM AND DAD radio spots, one of which is supposed to be narrated by Kroger Babb himself! This is one incredible gallery, leaving the viewer craving more roadshow madness!
It's about time Something Weird
revisited their roadshow titles following the incredible THC TRIPLE FEATURE
disc. Thankfully, Vraney hints in the commentary that there are more roadshow
discs in the works, and I say keep 'em comin! As a suggestion, include a reproduction
of a sex hygiene book with the next disc! (Casey
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