Thursday, 26 March 2020

Mr Mari's Girls (1967)

Mr Mari's Girls is a 1967 sexploitation film from New York that just doesn’t quite make it.

This movie is a series of five vignettes with a framing story. All five segments deal with girls who have gone to Mr Mari for assistance and advice. Mr Mari is an eccentric millionaire who helps out young women who get themselves into various kinds of trouble. At first you could be forgiven for thinking he’s some kind of not-too-conventional therapist. We soon figure our that this is far from being the case.

The first case concerns a young housewife with a gambling problem. Now she’s got a fairly nasty hoodlum demanding the money she owes him. Until she can pay the debt she’s going to have to keep the guy sweet with sexual favours. Only Mr Mari can get her out of this mess.

Then we move on to the story of a young deadbeat female junkie. She needs a fix real bad which means she needs money real bad. She usually gets money by turning tricks or posing nude for a somewhat sleazy photographer. She turns up at his studio but he decides she’s just too off her face to do any posing so he kicks her out. But Mr Mari will of course help her.

These first two segments definitely belong to the rough genre - girls forced into sleazy sex, girls getting slapped around, an atmosphere of moral squalor and menace. But not too extreme (the roughie genre could get very extreme). If you like this sort of thing it’s done reasonably well here. And there’s lots of nudity and the girls are rather pretty.

After that we get a startling change of pace - the tale of a young college student who is worried she might fail her English exams. She asks her professor for some private tutoring but she’s really hoping that if she can get friendly with him (real friendly) he’ll make sure she passes. This one is played for comedy and the girl’s attempts to seduce the professor really are quite amusing.

Then there’s the case of the butch lesbian and her blind lesbian artist girlfriend. Luckily she’s a modernist artist so being blind is no disadvantage at all. This segment might be a bit bizarre but somehow it manages to be bizarre in an uninteresting way.

The final case brings us a further change of pace - now we’re in B-movie crime thriller territory with a young gangster planning an ambitious robbery. His gang includes two young women, but whether they’re willing accomplices or not is an open question.

Then there’s the surprise twist ending although I have no idea why it takes anyone by surprise since the groundwork for it has been pretty obviously laid. But it is an outrageous ending at least.

The framing story is the most interesting element in the film. Mr Mari seems at first to be an amazingly generous benefactor to young ladies down on their luck. As the story progresses it becomes clear that he’s actually encouraging the girls in their vices. Rather than a benefactor he’s a master manipulator. He doesn’t lay a finger on any of his girls but it’s clear that he gets his psychological (and presumably sexual) thrills from watching the girls dance like puppets while he pulls their strings. He becomes a more and more sinister character but the dark side or Mr Mari is, cleverly, revealed very gradually. And it’s Mr Mari’s dark side that gives this movie its edginess and could have made it a semi-roughie sexploitation classic.

So what went wrong? Partly it’s the slow pacing. Partly it’s the fact that most of the segments, after some promisingly sleazy buildup, just don’t offer enough of a payoff. Partly it just pulls its punches a bit too much. But it has to be said that the framing story is a good one.

One odd thing about the film is that it gets less sexy as it progresses. The first few segments are jam-packed with naked women, and very attractive ones. The later segments have less nudity and the women are much less attractive, and the sexual tension pretty much dissipates.

The cinematography is pretty good. It all looks fairly slick.

This one comes as part of a triple-header release from Something Weird (along with Two Girls for a Madman and Tortured Females). Not much in the way of extras here but hey, you are getting three movies. They certainly found a good print from which to source the transfer.

This movie is flawed and it’s too slow but it’s not entirely without interest. If you’e going to buy the triple-header disc anyway then it’s worth giving Mr Mari's Girls a spin.

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