The name "Harry Novak" provokes mixed emotions from Something Weird fans. His vaults contain a variety of drive-in favorites, from low-budget horrors (AXE, THE CHILD) to almost hardcore sexploitation fare (THE DIRTY MIND OF YOUNG SALLY, THE GODSON) to some truly unsung gems (TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN, THE TOY BOX). And then there's the real hard-to-defend trash like the Southern-fried sex flicks which really split fans down the middle. Labeled "corn porn" by the infamous Johnny Legend, these hillbilly humping epics featured beautiful gals being schtupped by some really ugly guys and despite some witty scripts and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, they were often too bogged down by the almost non-stop sex which became a little tiring. Paired here are two of his less-celebrated "corn porn" outings which are actually frequently more enjoyable than some of the more familiar ones (COUNTRY CUZZINS, SASSY SUE). That's not say they're actually GOOD films, but the fact that spread between the two of 'em are four of the decade's most incredible starlets makes them well worth seeing.
Meet Georgia, an insatiable vixen with gigantic piled-up hair and a voluptuous figure who is introduced in the opening credits caressing her buxom bodice while her stepdaughter Virginia gets kinky and rides her favorite horse complete nude through the desert!! While Georgia's husband Big T is off drinking, she tries to cool herself off with some water from the kitchen tap, but like any reliable bitch in heat, wanders into her brother-in-law's room, awakens him from a nap and demands, "Just shut up and lay me!.” Virginia returns home and caresses her horse before being smashed around the kitchen by her heavy-drinking pappy. She finds a heroine in Georgia, who introduces her to the popular sport of rugmunching when she isn't shagging every greasy cowpoke who crosses her path! However, all this infidelity must end badly...and in typically grisly fashion when a horse gone haywire results in an accidental death which escalates into a full-fledged bloodbath!!
SWEET GEORGIA was conceived as a star vehicle for Marsha Jordan, the middle-aged blonde bombshell who had been quite a box office draw in the mid-to-late 60s. Working almost exclusively for directors Stephen Apostolof and Don Davis, by the time SWEET GEORGIA came into production, she was already wary of the sexploitation industry as the move to hardcore became inevitable. But like fellow big-breast superstar Uschi Digart, she held her own until the mid-70s when Marsha finally married well and fled to Las Vegas, where she has lived for the past 30 years. This is definitely not one of her better films for one major reason: the real treasure of the film is long-haired brunette Barbara Caron (Mills), a familiar face in 70s sexploitation and one of few starlets of the period who never graduated from softcore to hardcore. A sure sign of class! Barbara, a college student with an art major, appeared in over a dozen skinflicks between classes and in an interesting revelation, is still married to the same man who supported her during her acting career! She is an independent painter in the Venice art scene today and still looks gorgeous. In SWEET GEORGIA, she opens the film with a nude horse-riding scene and with that kind of an introduction, she easily steals the rest of the film from veteran Marsha Jordan. Hopefully her two very best films, MATINEE WIVES and THE LOVE GARDEN, will appear on DVD sometime soon.
Perhaps what makes SWEET GEORGIA (and COUNTRY HOOKER, for that matter) such a unique entry in the "corn porn" subgenre is the fact that it wasn't directed by Pete Perry or Bethel Buckalew, the two men behind the majority of these films. It falls somewhere in-between Pete's technically accomplished work and Bethel's half-assed deliveries, with enough unique moments to keep drive-in audiences interested while fooling around in the backseat. The most unfortunate technical snafu is the fact that whoever recorded the live sound somehow captured it several decibels too low, so when Barbara Caron is introduced with her first dialogue scene, she sounds like a drag queen! There are some unique towering low-angle shots which seem influenced by Russ Meyer's cinematography and another superb country-western score which was a trademark of the corn porn genre, but it's the leading ladies who make this one an A+ sexploitation gem.
Up next on the double feature is the tale of a COUNTRY HOOKER...or rather a pair of 'em. Best friends Jen and Sue are hitchhiking in the middle of a desert when they're picked up by RV-driving musicians Dave and Billy, who coincidentally are scheduled to play at the same bar where the girls pick up tricks for their sleazy pimp Mike. Of course they stop for some sex on blankets, with Sue pairing off with Dave and Jen climbing on board Billy. When they arrive at the desert dive, the boys discover that Mike is also the bar owner and he doesn't take too kindly to the idea of them leaving the whore business to run off into the sunset with their new beaus. He sets Jen up with a rough client who rapes and kills her, leading Billy, Dave and Sue to see that Mike gets what's coming to him.
Oh dear, we have a Rene Bond film here, which means it's time for 'nother history lesson! She began her career as a flat-chested tease in softcore (COUNTRY CUZZINS) and hardcore (GIRL IN A BASKET) before being blessed with an early boobjob courtesy of producer Harry Novak. After this miracle of medical surgery, Rene couldn't stop working and is rivaled only by all-real DD tit queen Uschi Digart in number of screen appearances. This full-cheeked, ruby-lipped cutie-pie was an immensely popular attraction at drive-ins and storefront theaters alike and even made a bid for mainstream popularity through REALLY bit parts in INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (barely on-screen) and the 1974 TV movie BETRAYED (I've seen it, don't bother, she has no lines as a flirty waitress in one scene). But her hardcore films kept her from making the ultimate crossover to legitimate film and television, even though she had the beauty and the acting talent to make it. She's simply exquisite as "Sue" in COUNTRY HOOKER, with beautiful auburn hair, doe eyes (with lots of blue eyeshadow) and her trusty hour-glass figure, and is as usual, no slouch in the acting department. Overshadowed by Ms. Rene is Sandy Dempsey, who is considered an equally impressive legend of adult films by those who really know their vintage pornography. She of the overbite and butterfly tattoo followed a similar career arch as Rene, appearing in softcore and hardcore at the same time before graduating to full-time XXX status. According to co-star Candy Samples (her lesbo partner in CANDY'S CAT HOUSE), Sandy perished in a boating accident in 1975...which makes no sense considering several of her films were shot in the latter part of the decade. The true story will remain a mystery until someone digs deeper into her whereabouts, but until then, she left behind a series of consistently humorous screen appearances and showed her flair for comedy in all her films! The ultimate Sandy Dempsey films would probably be SKIN FLICK MADNESS and THE BLACK ALLEYCATS, but she's just fine here, unfortunately saddled with a pretty ugly red wig. Ric Lutz (billed as Rick Loots) plays Dave, the struggling musician who has a giggling most probably hardcore sex scene with his delectable real-life girlfriend Rene Bond, and John Paul Jones is his sidekick Billy in another likely unsimulated sex scene. And another fine lady of 70s sexploitation, Maria Arnold, makes an appearance as a billiards-playing hooker with an attitude. The more films I see of Maria, I realize she never really got a chance to shine in many of them. Her best films, TANYA and COUNTRY LOVE, would make a wonderful double feature and spotlight her superb comic talents as well as her beauty.
Is there any other reason to see the film if you're not a fan of the triumvirate of 70s lovelies? Not really. The story is pretty standard, with a refreshingly un-PC rape scene to spice things up. Unlike the co-feature, the musical score on display here is just painful country crooning, with smarmy Ric taking lead (the Milli Vanilli way) for a couple musical numbers in the seedy joint where the gals work, but there is some nice cinematography and the outdoor sex scenes are your standard Novak borderline hardcore setpieces. If bad dialogue's your bag, there are some great ditties to be found here ("His problem's in his head...both of 'em!") and a number of flubbed lines, many within the same take! One round table scene with Maria Arnold, Rene Bond and Ric Lutz is interesting because the three co-starred in Ed Wood's NECROMANIA around the same time!! The film looks gorgeous, as the transfer is taken from the original robustly colorful negative. The verdict: an enjoyable star vehicle for Rene and Sandy doing what they do best, but their best work was ahead of them and this isn't the best introduction to their worldly charms.
Marsha Marsha Marsha!! The extras primarily focus around Marsha Jordan, with a nice collection of Marsha trailers proving that she was a true original among the usual pretty girls in 60s sexploitation. It's no wonder she's considered the first true Star of Sexploitation Sinema. In addition to the Novak trailers for SWEET GEORGIA and COUNTRY HOOKER (both packed with alternate and deleted takes), you get a great sampling of why Marsha paved the way for middle-aged women to make sex films. There wouldn't be an Aunt Peg or a Kay Parker if it wasn't for Marsha Jordan. DR. CARSTAIR'S 1869 LOVE-ROOT ELIXIR is probably the rarest film here, with Marsha indulging in a three-way after taking a gulp of a mystery drink created by a traveling salesman in the Old West. The film has never been released to video and is assumed lost. Brunette sweetie Kathy Hilton also appears in another Marsha Jordan three-way. I believe our Marsha plays a whorehouse madam in this film. MARSHA THE EROTIC HOUSEWIFE was one of five films made with director Don Davis, whose films remain the ultimate Marsha-worshipping vehicles. Here, she plays a newlywed wife horrified by neighbors interrupting the bride and groom on their wedding night but even more disturbed by her husband's infidelity! She decides to teach him a lesson...except she can't get enough of other men herself. THE DAISY CHAIN, another Don Davis film, exists only in trailer and promotional material form, another film presumed lost. This looks to be another entry in the swinger subgenre, with a pair of stewardesses who begin a club of sex partners who are identified by a sunflower pin they wear!! Look fast for Sanford Mitchell, the villain of THE CORPSE GRINDERS and Dustin Hoffman's cousin (!), as one of the airline passengers, and Stephen Apostolof regular Foreman Shane as one of the pilots!! Stephen Apostolof's COLLEGE GIRLS was Marsha's first film for him, and features Ms. Marsha in black-and-white as a student (!) who sleeps with a professor to improve her grade. If Marsha's a college student, I'm a preschooler! Some surprising male nudity in a shower and hilarious dialogue makes this an intriguing feature. THE HEAD MISTRESS has been released on DVD paired with THE NOTORIOUS DAUGHTER OF FANNY HILL, and is one of Marsha's only features with Col. Dave Friedman's involvement (the only other one is THE RAMRODDER). As typical with Friedman films, there's lesbianism, whipping, bondage, hetero bumpin' and grindin' and even necrophilia (!). The narrator calls Marsha (as the title character) "somewhat queer"....! Steve Apostolof's THE DIVORCEE is possibly Marsha's defining film, shot in bold gorgeous color. Recently divorced, Marsha finds herself conflicted over her sexual desire and where her life is headed. She talks to herself in the mirror while fondling her breasts and cries to her dolly when her emotions get the best of her! Get this onto DVD pronto! Both OFFICE LOVE-IN and LADY GODIVA RIDES were directed by Apostolof. The black-and-white LOVE-IN also stars her RAMRODDER co-star Kathy Williams, one of the truly unsung sweeties of sexploitation, as an uptight secretary who gets warmed up by her boss and indulges in a steamy shower scene before dyking it up with Marsha. A gay guy is sent a girl to convert him! LADY GODIVA is also known as LADY GODIVA MEETS TOM JONES; Marsha plays Godiva and Foreman Shane (again) plays Tom. See Marsha in a mud wrestling scene, her first and last!! Watch for Liz Renay in yet another bit part, a lesbian scene (with early implants!), a shower scene, nude dancing, and lots of hyperbole about how daring this film is! I don't know about daring, but it looks incredibly entertaining!
Unfortunately the extra I was most excited about, an excerpt of Rene Bond singing "Frankie and Johnnie Were Lovers" from the 1975 film of the same name (and one of her three or four best films!), has been dropped from the disc for unknown reasons. It would have been a hoot for a wider audience to see this rare footage of Rene singing this folk tune, live, not dubbed, on-stage before a live audience, but here's hoping it was not included because that feature is coming to DVD soon with another of her finest features, like maybe THE TEASER or FUGITIVE GIRLS!! Instead find two more Marsha Jordan tidbits. "Marsha Jordan's Swinger Party" co-stars beautiful redhead Vincene Wallace (VIXEN!, A SWEET SICKNESS) and is an excerpt from I WANT MORE (1970). However, it's in black-and-white so both beauties don't look as ravishing as they do in blazing color! Marsha holds a swinging party with topless girls in their underwear dancing and being lifted around the room by horny guys and Marsha throwing herself into a three-way with a white-haired guy and a black girl...before daughter Vincene comes home early! "Candid Nudistviews No. 3: An Afternoon with Marlene" is a silent 8mm mail-order loop. Marsha plays a rich society matron who goes about her daily routine (shopping mostly) before coming home, changing from her street clothes to a new bikini in broad daylight, then going for a dip in her luxurious pool. She decides to go commando when she realizes she won't tan evenly...or something... The requisite pair of Harry Novak galleries (one of pressbooks, one of still photos) cap off the disc.
If you're not a fan of the five sexploitation stars spotlighted on the disc, you will probably consider passing over what looks like just another Novak sex-packed double feature. But if you're willing to take a chance, you just may find five lovely reasons to remind you why Something Weird Video is such a valuable company for cult film fans. (Casey Scott)
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