Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Career Bed (1969)

Career Bed is a movie about a mother and daughter. It has some claims to being the ultimate Mother From Hell movie. This is a sleazy little 1969 sexploitation flick written and directed by Joel M. Reed.

Mrs Potter and her daughter Susan have over from their small rural town to New York to further Susan’s acting career. Susan doesn’t actually want to be an actress. She wants to marry Bob, a nice young farmer from back home. Mrs Potter is however determined that Susan is going to be a star where she likes it or not. In fact Mrs Potter is prepared to take drastic steps to make sure Susan doesn’t marry Bob. There’s an easy way to do that. All she has to do is to seduce Bob herself. This proves to be even easier than she’d expected. Once Susan gets home and finds Mother and Bob naked in bed together she not surprisingly loses all interest in the idea of marrying her down home farmer boy.

Launching Susan’s career is now the priority. Mrs Potter knows that in Hollywood talent doesn’t count. Susan’s body is the currency that will finance her glittering career, but that currency is not going to be dispersed casually. Susan’s most crucial asset is her virginity. Mrs Potter knows that this is an asset that ought to be worth an important contract. No-one is going to get their hands on Susan’s body without cutting a deal with her other. Of course in the meantime it might be necessary to offer some kind of downpayment. Mrs Potter’s body (and it’s a pretty impressive body) will be the downpayment.

The fact that Susan’s agent Miss Reynolds is already enjoying Susan’s body is no problem. The agent is a lesbian, so Susan’s precious cherry is still safe.

Idealistic playwright Jack Landive (John Cardoza) wants to save Susan from her mother but Mrs Potter knows every trick of emotional manipulation in the book. In fact she’s added some new chapters of her own to that book. She knows how to keep Susan under control.

There’s a very unsavoury photographer with his own plans for Susan. He hopes to sell her virginity to big-time producer Ross Miller, and he hopes to enjoy a few romps in the hay with the aspiring starlet himself. The photographer, who likes to be known as the King, is the type of guy who thrives in Tinsel Town - he’ll do anything at all, absolutely anything, if there’s something in it for him.

There’s a rather pleasing symmetry to the plot (yes there is a plot) and the ending is rather neat and rather satisfying.

There’s quite a bit of T&A but no frontal nudity and the sex scenes manage to be sleazy without showing very much. The emphasis is on moral depravity and this movie has that quality in abundance.

Of course there has to be a lesbian sex scene. The one in this film is unusual in that it’s important in plot terms, and it’s effectively perverse, as Susan is seduced by her predatory lesbian agent. This is Hollywood after all, where the women are just as ambitious and ruthless as the men, and often a good deal more vicious.

There’s some rather juicy hard-boiled dialogue, absolutely dripping with venom, which the stars deliver with enthusiasm (Holly Hunter in particular has fun with some deliciously nasty lines).

Jennifer Welles went on to be one of the more well-known actresses in hardcore films in the mid-70s. She also starred in some of Joe Sarno’s best-known 70s productions including the excellent Abigail Lesley Is Back In Town. She was 35 when she made this film, a trifle old one might think to be playing a teenage ingenue, but she gets away with it. She looks terrific and she gets to do some real acting (and does it quite well).

Honey Hunter plays Mrs Potter. This seems to be her only film credit, which is nothing short of a tragedy. This is a performance of extraordinary malice and calculation.

Future hardcore porn icon Georgina Spelvin is impressively amoral as the lesbian Miss Reynolds.

When it comes to cinematic quality American sexploitation movies of the 60s range from crude and embarrassingly amateurish efforts to surprisingly professional and sophisticated productions. Career Bed is one of the very well made examples. Reed’s directing is lively and imaginative. He’s extremely fond of hand held shots and uses them effectively.

The soundtrack is pretty good too, in a very late 60s way.

Career Bed was released on DVD by Something Weird as part of double-header but that disc is now not so easy to find. Fortunately there’s a Dutch DVD release from ClickDVD in their American Grindhouse series which offers a good transfer (it’s in English with removable Dutch subtitles). The extras include some wonderful trailers, all with the Something Weird watermark on them which suggests that this Dutch DVD might well be the Something Weird release split onto two DVDs sold separately.

This is one gloriously cynical little movie. Since it deals with Hollywood the cynicism is undoubtedly justified. There have been plenty of film exposes of the sleazy underside of Tinsel Town and there have been a couple of other good examples within the sexploitation genre (such as Hollywood Babylon). Career Bed might well be the nastiest of the lot, as well as being one of the finest examples of the evil bitch mother film. Highly recommended.

No comments: