Directors: Arthur John and Harry Kerwin
Something Weird Video/Image Entertainment

Looking back at all the wife-swapping, infidelity-strewn sexploitation films of the 1960s, it makes perfect sense why the genre would tackle the age-old theme of marriage. The nuclear family mold of the 1950s was transforming and falling apart, sexuality was slowly becoming more permissive and open, and of course a great percentage of the folks frequenting the box office for these films were married men. While most films of this genre would feature a moral ending where sinners were punished for their sexually promiscuous behavior, it’s interesting to note that both films paired on this Kinky Couples Double Feature from Something Weird Video don’t have any such message for their audience! An inventive New York expose on wife-swapping and a whacky Florida sex comedy collide to create perhaps the best SWV double-feature disc of the year! Hoorah!

Our first feature peeks into the common practice of UNHOLY MATRIMONY, or in other words, married couples swapping wives for kicks! In a completely unrelated opening sequence, a married couple undresses and tumbles in the sheets while a narrator explains how marriage’s binding contract is being threatened by . Switching gears quickly, a shadowy hallway is the setting for a noir-like brutal attack on a magazine editor planning to print a story on the practice of wife-swapping. Threatens by the culprit just make the editor more determined than ever to expose a ring of blackmailers preying on couples simply looking for fun by advertising in underground newspapers. He calls upon his top reporter, Al, and his gal pal Janice to go undercover for the story of a lifetime, and with a cash bonus of $5000 as a reward! After taking provocative snapshots for their ad in a pin-up studio (where model and INDECENT DESIRES star Sharon Kent indulges in some cheesecake posing), the pair attend their first wife-swap meeting with a charming couple who replies to their ad. Al may have a good time with wife Monica Davis (no stranger to swinging herself, as she was in THE SWAP AND HOW THEY MADE IT the same year), but Janice freaks out when she is pawed by the husband in the other room! She threatens to give up on the entire assignment, but when she learns of the cash reward and Al’s plan to marry her after the pay-out, she jumps back in with open arms. They encounter a couple who likes to make love while listening to other couples make love through a hidden microphone (the wife is Sarno muse Lorraine Claire in a black wig, or perhaps her real hair?!); a group of people at a key party who take off their clothes and take a dip in an indoor pool (watch for ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER MAN’s Barbi Kemp, and a Hollywood character actor whose name I can’t remember!); and a big blustery guy named Tex and his wife Sugar (Uta Erickson alert! Plus she’s in a cowgirl outfit!), who spike the couples’ drinks with LSD, resulting in a wild trip. With each new meeting, the undercover swingers get closer to the blackmailing racket, but when they uncover the culprit, will they live to reveal the information to the public?

Unlike the swinging-couples films of Joseph Sarno around the same time, director Arthur John’s film argues that as long as married people agree on an open relationship and keep their swinging behind closed doors, who are they hurting? It’s the intrusion of criminals and ill intent that ruins the fun (in this case, blackmailers, representing the moral majority). This progressive thinking is part of what makes UNHOLY MATRIMONY such a unique film. Not only is it beautifully shot in stark black-and-white, with live sound, but it also features a number of visually intriguing sequences that illustrate some of the talent working in this industry at the time. The post-credits sequence of the magazine editor being beaten up, with shadows and punches landing blows, is straight out of KISS OF DEATH or countless other film noir classics; Janice suffers a nightmare after being attacked during her first swingers’ meeting, a nightmare filled with claustrophobic cinematography, optical effects, and heightening the character’s terror by making the attack seem worse than it really was; but the best of all is the LSD trip, with lots of Vaseline lens, Al tied up and lassoed by cowgirl Uta Erickson, a hysterically laughing Tex, and a sinister Janice. There are also a number of nifty animated scene transitions, unusual for a low-budget film like this.

John’s script also features a delightful sense of humor. Look no further than the well-done hidden microphone scene, where Al and Janice pretend to be making love and indulge in some cheesy swooning dialogue for their voyeuristic audience. I wish more was known about who made this wonderful film, but the production company credited is the same one that made THE LOVE CULT shortly thereafter (I believe Barry Mahon was involved with both, or perhaps was the man behind distributor Chancellor Films; the warehouse at the finale looks like the same one in SEX KILLER). All of the actors afforded dialogues, especially the two leads (Allan Delay later became a Hollywood character actor), are excellent, the script is witty and interesting, and visually, the film is quite compelling. Garage rock fans will also love seeing obscure New York band The Warmest Spring perform their Camden-Parkway single “Suddenly, You Find Love” (or rather, lip-synch it live on-stage); you should also recognize some of the groovy library music from films like CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT! Simply put, UNHOLY MATRIMONY is one of the best New York City sexploitation films ever unearthed by SWV, and works on every level!! A must-see for the genre connoisseur!

Trek down South to Florida to meet MY THIRD WIFE GEORGE, a black-and-white sex comedy from the latter days of sexploitation, and the real 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN! Meet Ralph Higbee, a bumbling mama’s boy who peeps on his exotic maid undressing and feeling herself up before Mom drags him back into his room with her cane! Flash forward several years: after tongue kissing a French prostitute at a bar near closing time, he pushes her aside and begins to tell the bartender and a patron named ‘Doc Holliday’ (BLOOD FREAK director Brad Grinter acting as “Duke Moberly”) about his troubles with women and why he’s got no use for them. After his mother died, he has a meet-cute with hippie Bunny Ware (whose cute Brooklyn accent isn’t heard here or in STRANGE RAMPAGE, but can be appreciated in MUNDO DEPRAVADOS). She drags him back to her apartment, where she introduces him to pot and jumps his bones! The fun continues when her two equally horny roommates come home and Bunny slips him an LSD sugar cube! Having finally lost his virginity through this ordeal, Ralph marries Josephine, a beautiful Florida blonde bombshell who has trouble staying faithful to her husband. First she cavorts with her swimming instructor, who is chased by Ralph, our hero dressed in fencing gear and wielding a sword! Then she adopts a “gorilla”, in reality GRUESOME TWOSOME and SCREAM BLOODY MURDER star Chris Martell in an ape suit! It’s two strikes you’re out for Ralph, who asphyxiates the pair as they sit in a garage!! Wow! His second wife, Amanda, suspects he’s cheating, so she hires a private detective, who follows Ralph home and forces him at gunpoint to pose in lurid nude shots with his innocent bespectacled secretary so he can collect Amanda’s payment! After Amanda divorces him, for some reason Ralph decides to remarry, but his third wife is decidedly much more different than the previous women in his life…!

Considering this late date in the sexploitation game, one would imagine there would be pickles and beaver to see in MY THIRD WIFE GEORGE. However, budding director Harry Kerwin keeps it tame, with plenty of topless shots and some surprising male rear shots (though he makes sure older brother William stays in his boxers!). The tongue kissing with Gigi is certainly 1968 material! But what makes GEORGE such an enjoyable romp is William Kerwin, aka ‘Thomas Wood’ of several Herschell Gordon Lewis films. After his H.G. Lewis leading roles, Kerwin became a regular in Florida exploitation, working with such diverse personalities as Thomas Casey, William Grefe, and Wayne Crawford. But this here is the ultimate Bill Kerwin star vehicle. He’s obviously enjoying himself, mugging for the camera, excelling at physical comedy and double takes. A few of his more memorable moments find him accidentally urinating on a man at a urinal, making goo-goo eyes at the parade of naked girls rolling through his sex life, reacting to the gorilla making his life miserable, and cavalierly attacking his wife’s lover with sword drawn and face twisted with passion! While Kerwin also had an alter ego as a successful TV supporting player, MY THIRD WIFE GEORGE is the best testament to his talent as a comic actor. Please ignore the IMDB: Not only was Kerwin not married to his BLOOD FEAST and 2000 MANIACS co-star Connie Mason, but neither she, Harry Kerwin or the Kerwins’ sister Betty are in the film’s credits or the film itself. Watch for a theater marquee advertising Joseph Sarno’s THE LOVE MERCHANT (as this was shot in 1968, this means Sarno’s film was still making theatrical rounds 3 years after it was originally made)! Like UNHOLY MATRIMONY, this one also features some unique animated scene transitions. A great twist ending involving a drag queen, driving home the fact that Ralph has had it with women (hint hint), concludes what is surely one of the best, if not the best Florida sexploitation film ever made!

Transferred from the original negatives, UNHOLY MATRIMONY and MY THIRD WIFE GEORGE look amazing! Of the two, MATRIMONY looks best, with sharp black-and-white contrasts and a simply stunning, clear image, helping to accent the noir look and visual panache of the film. GEORGE has some debris and grainy moments throughout the film, but it is still bright and clear, and completely watchable. As with most films shot around this time, the live-sound dialogue on both films suffers from under-recording, so you need to crank the volume to hear the actors speak, but sound effects and music are considerably louder, so keep the remote handy.

“See Behind Bedroom Doors!” and peek at the extras on the platter, beginning with a healthy trailer selection. The UNHOLY MATRIMONY trailer proclaims “Your neighbors could be doing it, your relatives, and you’d never know until the blackmailers caught up with them!”, and the MY THIRD WIFE GEORGE trailer includes several alternate takes and deleted scenes! THE CASE OF THE STRIPPING WIVES is presented in gorgeous color! The trailer is narrated by New York personality Joel Holt, but the film looks to have been shot in L.A., as it stars KISS ME QUICK star and popular Hollywood stripper Natasha (“The Girl with More Bounce with Every Ounce”). The film may be lost, but clips of a Natasha strip routine in a living room have appeared on other Something Weird discs, so perhaps it only exists today in an incomplete version. COMMON LAW WIFE is an excellent and thoroughly entertaining Texas sexploitation film starring S.F. Brownrigg and Larry Buchanan regular Annabelle Weenick as the common law wife of Shugfoot Rainey who competes with his niece Baby Doll for the man’s inheritance. The trailer shows no footage of the film itself, but the SWV DVD pairing this with JENNIE: WIFE/CHILD is a must-own! GROUP MARRIAGE is possibly Stephanie Rothman’s most political, and least effective, drive-in masterwork, but she is enthusiastically proud of it today. It’s a progressive-thinking 70s mindset film of a quintet of young people entering a group marriage and living together in a large beachside house. The problem with the film is that so many of the characters are unlikable, and even with a cast including Claudia Jennings, Jayne Kennedy (who is completely wasted), and Victoria Vetri, GROUP MARRIAGE just doesn’t click. Rothman was always great about providing equal opportunity nudity in her films, meaning there’s plentiful male and female nudity in the trailer alone. HOUSEWIVES AND BARTENDERS is another unfortunately lost Mitam production, coming out of California and featuring underrated starlet Capri. Mitam’s films were incredibly cheap and tawdry, but any company that puts out unbelievable junk like TORTURED FEMALES has my attention! MAN AND WIFE is notable as one of the earliest legally-shown hardcore films, a White Coater acting as a documentary demonstrating love positions and how to improve your marriage. Director Matt Cimber, previously famous for stealing Jayne Mansfield away from Mickey Hargitay, was responsible for this one and its followups, HE AND SHE, BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, and SEX AND ASTROLOGY. MARSHA THE EROTIC HOUSEWIFE is one of many Marsha Jordan star vehicles the buxom blonde sexpot made for director Don Davis, and this is one of her best! She stars as a married woman who jumps headfirst into the swinging scene, and looks as youthful and sexy as she ever would. MATED is a hodge-podge of footage compromising another documentary-like roadshow attraction aiming to help married couples. A woman puts her feet up on the breakfast table and drives her disgusted husband away!! MY BROTHER’S WIFE is one of Doris Wishman’s most fascinating films, starring Wishman regulars Sam Stewart, Bob Oran, and June Roberts as two brothers and the woman who tore them apart, respectively. It’s just as odd as Wishman’s other films, but with C. Davis Smith’s always unique cinematography, the somnambulistic performance of porcelain doll beauty June Roberts, Darlene Bennett looking more gorgeous than ever, and the film noir inspired storyline (can we say POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE?), even those who haven’t warmed up to Doris’ oeuvre should enjoy this one. If you don’t already own the INDECENT DESIRES/MY BROTHER’S WIFE double-feature DVD, pick it up pronto! It’s one of Something Weird’s best platters!

Who doesn’t love mental hygiene films?? Something Weird collects together three classics here: “Engagement: Romance and Reality”, “Are You Ready for Marriage?”, and “Marriage and Divorce”. Presented by McGraw-Hill, “Engagement” opens with a young couple confronting two parents who are vehemently against the kids getting engaged! Dad grills the boyfriend about his daughter’s personality! The narrator basically says the couple is hopeless, they’ll “continue seeing each other through rose-colored glasses”, and never become serious about engagement. It’s great watching the two get on each other’s nerves: Jim calls Judy “sweetie pie”, Judy shows up late for a dinner date. Isn’t it better they decided to wait before getting engaged?? “Are You Ready for Marriage?” is one of many very entertaining Coronet educational films (this and “Is This Love?” were lampooned in classic MST3K episodes): two complete dimbulbs want to get married, but their parents don’t improve. They go to an “expert” who shows them diagrams and throws goofy lingo their way to demonstrate how little they know about each other. The girl in this one provides one of the funniest performances in any classroom film ever! “Marriage and Divorce” is a “March of Time” short presented by “the editors of TIME, LIFE and Fortune” (did anyone know then they would all be part of one conglomerate in 2007?). This short is less interesting than its two predecessors, as it’s basically a narrator speaking over scenes of people getting married, fighting, and approaching a court to get divorced.

If those three weren’t enough, a fascinating short, “Florida Film Factory”, in bold, beautiful color, features great-looking women go-go dancing in a studio, wearing outrageous costumes and awesome boots! Cut to a sound stage, where a scene is being shot with a gorgeous redhead and a gun-wielding hero. An on-screen host discusses the films being shot in Miami, including commercials and educational films. Clips of Jackie Gleason and other TV shows and movies shot in the Sunshine State are shown, and spotlights are put on the crew members who are “the heart of this industry” before the Governor of Florida proclaims a “Motion Picture week” in the glorious state. The whole thing looks to be produced by the Florida Motion Picture & Television Production Association in an effort to entice more filmmakers and technicians to enter the state’s workforce. A “nude home movie” short, “Nudist Wedding”, is pretty much self-explanatory. Interestingly, this doesn’t look to be a professionally-produced short, but an actual home movie of someone’s nudist wedding in Florida! The always great Gallery of Sexploitation Art with Exploitation Audio finishes off what is surely the best disc Something Weird has released this year. The entire package is perfect: both feature films are excellent, the trailers and shorts are top-notch, and it’s simply one of the most entertaining ways to spend 3 ½ hours of your life. MUST-BUY 2007! (Casey Scott)