Directors: Stanley H. Brasloff, William K. Hennigar, Arch Hudson
Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment

In-between its higher-profile disc releases, Something Weird Video has dug into its vaults to astound followers of the obscure with regional rarities aplenty. Treasures like HELP WANTED: FEMALE, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN!, SATAN'S CHILDREN and AROUSED prove that there are strokes of exploitation genius all over the United States. Collected here are three little-known black-and-white roughies, two originating from New York City and a third coming from God knows where. Unfortunately, only one of them is well worth seeing for the curious.

First up on the triple feature is TWO GIRLS FOR A MADMAN, directed by the mastermind behind the underviewed classic TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN!, Stanley Brasloff. As great as CHILDREN is, MADMAN never really manages to take off from its promising and disorienting opening. The film tells the story of pretty young Toni and her best friend Sonya. The two girls, who meet every week in a New York City ballerina class, couldn't be more different: Toni is an abrasive party girl and Sonya is a withdrawn smalltown wallflower. In order to land a big part in a TV commercial, Toni agrees to spend a night on the town with a married producer, only to end up at an outta-sight drug orgy in the Village. To make matters worse, Toni is raped by a psychotic nutcase named Frank, who was recently told by his shrink to be admitted to a mental hospital! Frank develops a sick fixation on his victim, and stalks her through the city to her ballet school...where he becomes even more taken with Sonya....

One thing can be said for TWO GIRLS FOR A MADMAN: it is technically well-made. Shot with live sound and with a script focusing on character development, there are instances of inventive camerawork and a frantic electronic musical score which adds tension to otherwise pedestrian suspense sequences, all in crisp black-and-white. However, with such a threadbare plot and few exploitation elements to keep the audience awake during the 80-minute running time, the film ends up being a vast disappointment, especially considering writer-director Brasloff would go on to make one of the most amazing films Harry Novak ever distributed, TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN! (Something Weird offers this on DVD paired with THE TOY BOX, a recommended purchase). Lead actress "Toni France" should look familiar to regular followers of Jerry Gross productions; it's Gross' wife, Arlene Farber, aka Arlene Tiger, star of TEENAGE MOTHER, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD and THE FEMALE ANIMAL! She's given a juicy role here, as a vivacious fame-hungry ballerina willing to throw her friends to the side to make herself a household name. Fans of this big-haired go-go boots-clad vixen will not be disappointed.

Sequenced like a book of short stories from pulp magazines, MISTER MARI'S GIRLS has a title that provokes ideas of a pimp ruling over his prostitutes with an iron fist. Actually, this is a very slow-moving almost-roughie which has been praised to high heaven in Something Weird's catalog, but fails to live up to expectations. The titular Mari is a reclusive millionaire, who is introduced while gawking at a nude cutie writhing on his couch. He has a number of female visitors, all with their own individual problems: one broke housewife is in debt due to her addiction to gambling on horse races; a twitchy heroin addict needs a fix and doesn't feel like the usual posing nude or being raped by a dealer to get it; a super-butch lesbian who wants to marry her blind artist girlfriend; and a college student who gets pregnant by her goofy piano-playing professor. Thrown into the mix is a strange subplot about a young criminal whose moll has second thoughts about being involved with a jewel heist.

MARI'S GIRLS has the look of a Barry Mahon film, with crisp black-and-white photography and live on-set sound, but features none of Mahon's trademark beauties or many other recognizable New York City faces, for that matter. Doris Wishman fanatics will no doubt enjoy seeing Sharon Kent (INDECENT DESIRES) as the love-starved nude housewife lounging on the couch during the opening titles and Sam Stewart (BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL, MY BROTHER'S WIFE, a slew of others) as a nasty bookie who takes out a housewife's debts in trade. One lovely nameless actress makes an impression as a gangster's moll who tries to skip town before a big robbery job, and shows surprising acting ability! A double twist ending comes out of left field and is a pleasant surprise, but MARI'S GIRLS is too uneventful to be worthy of revisiting.

Imagine Dale Berry's THE GIRL AND THE GEEK (1964) with more nudity, a sleazier premise, and a helpful female voiceover to explain the insanity. The end result would be TORTURED FEMALES, a bottom-of-the-barrel roughie shot for $1.50 with a busty blonde heroine straight out of a Russ Meyer epic (God rest his soul). This is a 61-minute oddity sure to please fans of the inane. The fun begins with an opening scroll read by a deathly-serious male narrator, condemning young women who don't heed the warnings of the "Little Red Riding Hood" fairy tale (?!). "Helen Doe" is a dizzy big-breasted blonde who, despite the recent rash of murders by the Hillside Strangler (who is seen prowling outside her apartment door), leaves her front door unlocked and waltzes in her living room topless with a giant plush bunny rabbit (!). On her way to visit her aunt's house, her car runs out of gas and she decides to do a little skinny-dipping en route to find gas. The dimbulb is finally picked up by a hick truck driver who chases her into the woods, belts her on the chin, and drags her pack to his ranch, where he and his boss, Mr. Big, have a stable of naked women tied in chains for their personal pleasure. The gals are whipped, beaten and forced to perform raunchy strip shows for Mr. Big before "Helen" dares to escape.

TORTURED FEMALES is one of few surviving films distributed by super-cheap Mitam Productions, which was essentially like a west coast version of New York City's Distribpix. It's also the most entertaining feature on this disc. While there are a few too many striptease acts substituted for torture (shades of Steve Apostolof's ORGY OF THE DEAD), this is a fantastically kooky unearthed treasure. In the style of Dale Berry's films, dialogue is spoken while the actors don't move their mouths, there is lots of rugged outdoor photography, and a dimly lit house is made up to look like an unconvincing dungeon. In the most demented plot point, the naked bloody girls are tended to by (swear to God) a mutated Mongolian hunchback who speaks in sped-up Chipmunk-sound chattering! He feeds the girls like dogs, relishes being whipped by Mr. Big and has to bury the dead captives in shallow graves when they croak from too much torture. Despite the film appearing to be cut (a lesbian rape seems to be missing), this is a perverse journey well worth taking.

Extras on a disc filled with three feature films can't be too exhaustive. Included are the trailers to MR. MARI'S GIRLS and TWO GIRLS FOR A MADMAN, which do a good job selling the films to 42nd Street audiences, but understandably, no trailer for the tres obscure TORTURED FEMALES has turned up. In addition to the feature trailers, the trailer for THE MOLESTERS is a wild one! Any film which tackles the touchy subject of pedophilia in the politically incorrect 60s has got to leave a bad taste in the mouth, but this one looks downright foul, with a man impregnating his stepdaughter after bathing her, a little boy who identifies a birthmark on a pervert's inner thigh and plenty of other nasty situations, told in a Mondo-style report. Another roughie trailer, for WATCH THE BIRDIE, looks like a winner. It features Barbara Wood (RENT-A-GIRL) and features the twist music from THE WILD, WILD WORLD OF JAYNE MANSFIELD, a Satanic ritual and comic dialogue, as well as possibly the first drowning-in-a-toilet-bowl murder scene in cinema. Capping off the disc is a superb brand spanking new Sick Sixties Sex Stills Gallery, including many photos from films which have since gone missing (THE BUSHWHACKER, HOUSEWIVES ON CALL, LET'S PLAY DOCTOR!, LITTLE GIRLS, STRANGER IN MY BED, OVER 18 AND READY, MARKED FOR LOVE, MY DEEP HUNGER with Christopher Geoffries and Mickey Hargitay (!), LOVE + FEAR = TORMENT, THE PEEPING PHANTOM, MONDO WEIRDO, MALE SERVICE, THE SMUT PEDDLER, SMOKE OF EVIL, MONDO SEXO, A MAN - 8 GIRLS, LUSH OF LUST with the late George "Buck" Flower, THE RAVAGER, SWEET BIPPY BLUE, JULIE IS NO ANGEL, THE SATANIST, LOVE IS A FOUR LETTER WORD, RAW LOVE, THREE-WAY SPLIT, BODY OF A FEMALE, SUBURBAN GIRLS CLUB, RUINED and a number of Mitam releases) and a number of flyers advertising a Something Weird video series which must have never materialized. This series included titles which SWV never offered on VHS and which are assumed lost, so the story behind this advertising would be fascinating. Radio spots playing over the images include JUST THE TWO OF US, MACHISMO, LITTLE MISS INNOCENCE, LEGEND OF SPIDER FOREST, STANLEY, and FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. (Casey Scott)