Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Double Exposure (1982)

Double Exposure is a low-budget 1982 erotic thriller (with definite slasher movie overtones) released by Crown International.

It starts with a stake-out that goes really badly wrong. The cops are trying to catch a psycho killer who’s been preying on prostitutes but what they end up with is a dead undercover cop.

Then we switch to a psychiatrist’s office where Adrian Wilde (Michael Callan) is trying to work through his problems with women. When he leaves the office he runs into Mindy Jordache (Joanna Pettet) in the lift. He starts coming on to her and he does it in such a creepy way that we can see why he might be having a few problems with the ladies.

Adrian has bad dreams. Really bad dreams. Bad violent dreams. Sometimes he thinks the dreams are real. Obviously the audience is also supposed to be unsure whether the dreams are just dreams.

Despite the ineptness of his approach Mindy agrees to a dinner date with Adrian. Things seem like they’re going fairly well between them.

Adrian’s brother B.J. is a stunt driver. A car accident left him with one arm and one leg, and a bad attitude. But the brothers will do anything to help each other.

Mind you most of the people in this movie have a few problems. Mindy’s a nice person but maybe her judgment isn’t as good as she thinks it is.

Even Adrian’s psychiatrist has a few problems. His biggest problem is that he thinks Adrian is harmless but he’s not sure.

Adrian is a photographer. He photographs women. A lot of his dreams involve photography. Of course the kind of photography he does is kind of on the borderland between dream and fantasy.

There are lots more dreams, and lots more murders. The most promising lead for the two cops working the case, Sergeant Fontain (Pamela Hensley) and Sergeant Buckhold (David Young), is a sleazy bar frequented by a strange assortment of models, hookers and misfits. The main attraction at this bar is mud-wrestling. Fontain and Buckhold aren’t stupid but they make slow progress. They do find one interesting clue, which suggests that somebody was taking photographs near the murder scene. To the audience that obviously points to Adrian as the killer, except for the fact that at least three other characters are either professional or amateur photographers.

There’s some very effective suspense. We know that Mindy is acquainted with all the likely suspects and as the movie progresses it’s more and more obvious that she’s in real danger.

The killings are not just gruesome but cleverly and imaginatively staged and genuinely shocking.

For a low-budget release this film has a more than OK cast. Michael Callan and Joanna Pettet were not exactly A-listers but they were not complete nobodies either. They’re both impressive. In fact the acting overall is a lot better than you’d expect. It’s interesting to see Cleavon Little in a totally straight role as a hardbitten police lieutenant.

What sets this film apart from the average slasher film is that it attempts some real psychological complexity. We’re not just waiting to find out the identity of the killer - we’re even more interested in the motivation, and in the motivation of the other characters as well. Double Exposure can be sen as an attempt to make an intelligent slasher movie and the remarkable thing is that it mostly succeeds.

There are also some genuine surprises. Characters don’t always do what we’re expecting them to do. And the blurring of the line between dream and reality is handled quite well.

Writer-director William Byron Hillman and Michael Callan (who co-produced the movie) had made an earlier movie together, The Photographer, dealing with very similar themes. Double Exposure essentially takes the same basic ideas but apparently deals with them rather differently (I haven’t seen The Photographer so I’m only going on what I’ve heard about it).

Crown International released the movie briefly and then dumped it which was rather unfortunate (and unjust). It has however developed something of a cult following.

This movie is included in the excellent Mill Creek Drive-In Cult Classics 32 Movie Collection. The transfer is anamorphic and reasonably good. That’s the version I watched. It’s also had a Blu-Ray release from Vinegar Syndrome.

Double Exposure is a superior slasher movie and it works as a genuine psychological thriller as well. It’s ambitious and generally well-crafted and well-acted. It’s a movie that arguably deserves more attention than it’s received. Highly recommended.

Thursday, 9 September 2021

Women of Inferno Island (1980)

When I tell you that the movie I’m about to review is called Women of Inferno Island, that it’s a women-in-prison (WiP) movie and that it was written and directed by Erwin C. Dietrich I don’t think I need to break it to you gently that it’s not going to be Citizen Kane. It’s going to be a sleazefest. On the other Erwin C. Dietrich’s sleazefest tend to be fun and they tend to feature rather attractive ladies. In this case one of the lovely ladies is Brigitte Lahaie so that’s a definite bonus.

Also known as Caged Women and Gefangene Frauen, Women of Inferno Island is a Swiss production, made in German and shot in Spain (and set in South America). It was released in 1980.

The movie opens with a beauty contest. It’s the Miss Beautiful Breast pageant, not quite as prestigious as the Miss World pageant perhaps but with a lot more bare flesh. You might be wondering what this has to do with a WiP movie. The answer is, nothing at all. It’s just an excuse to show us nine topless girls while the opening credits roll.

The scene then moves to an unnamed South American country. El Presidente has a problem. The UN is ending a team to investigate reports of girls being forced to work in the capital’s brothels against their will. This is worrying because El Presidente knows that the reports are true, because he runs the brothels. It’s essential that the investigators don’t get to talk to the women. El Presidente’s mistress, Carla (Karine Gambier), comes up with a clever scheme. Why not ship the girls, temporarily, to the old prison on Rat Island? She’s so excited by her idea that she has to immediately masturbate.

This must be a very small country since the huge nation-wide roundup of prostitutes only nets seventeen girls. They’re bewildered and indignant but they’re not frightened. Not yet. But maybe they will be when they get to know the prison warden. The warden is of course Carla. Carla intends to have some fun. She has a shiny leather slightly fetishistic uniform. She has a whole squad of soldiers to enforce her will. And she has seventeen helpless girls at her mercy.

Naturally when they arrive at the prison they’re sent to the showers. What would a WiP movie be without a shower scene? The girls also get subjected a medical examination. It’s supposed to be a complete checkup but the doctor seems to think that a gynaecological examination (which is filmed surprisingly graphically) is all that is required.

The three prettiest girls, Rita (Brigitte Lahaie), Rosi (Nadina Pascal) and Lisa (France Lomay), find themselves sharing a cell. Three women stuck in a bare cell with nothing to do. And they’re surrounded by bored soldiers, cut off from contact with any women apart from the prisoners, with nothing to do. Fortunately the three girls and three of the soldiers hit on a solution. It’s a solution that they all find to be thoroughly enjoyable.

Meanwhile Carla is filling her time having sex with her chief warder and cooking up political schemes.

At first it looks like it’s going to be a straightforward WiP movie that ticks all the usual boxes. But it isn’t. Carla isn’t brutal and sadistic. The most cruel punishment she can think up for the girls is to force them to discard their boring prison dresses and remain naked all the time. The girls think this is terrific. They like being naked.

The soldiers just want to have sex with the women, and the women just want to have sex with the soldiers. The women don’t get raped. In fact they’re almost tearing the trousers off the soldiers in their eagerness to get some lovin’.

Two of the girls do try to escape, and get whipped for their trouble. But that brief whipping scene is the only moment of brutality and the girls don’t seem to be too worried about. They did try to escape after all.

This is a movie that relies on wackiness rather than sadism. Carla and her chief warder indulge in some clay pigeon shooting. They don’t have one of those machines to launch the clay pigeons into the air so they get a couple of nude girls to hurl them into the air. For the two girls it’s basically a bit of outdoor leisure. Carla decides that she and the chief warder will have a shooting competition. The loser will have to take on the strongest prisoner in unarmed combat. The warder loses but he’s not too worried since after all the strongest prisoner on the island is a pretty young woman. The girl proceeds to demonstrate how unarmed combat is done. She beats the daylights out of him. Carla ominously instructs the victorious girl to join her in her quarters later. But instead of some awful punishment, all Carla has in mind is a bedroom romp with the girl (which the girl enjoys).

Rita, Rosi and Lisa do eventually decide to make an escape attempt, but it’s not clear why since they’re actually having a good time on the island. Then we get a few amusing and actually quite clever plot twists (there hasn’t been any actual plot up to this point).

Erwin C. Dietrich understood his market very well. He knows what the movie wants in a softcore movie is some fun and lots and lots of naked women. And the women have to be beautiful. That’s what Dietrich gives them. This is a softcore movie but there’s a truly incredible amount of very explicit female nudity. It’s like Let’s Play Gynaecologist. But the girls are quite pretty and the three girls on whom most of the action focuses are absolutely gorgeous. Miss Lahaie does get one brief clothed scene. She puts on a rather fetching red dress, then discards it ten seconds later. Apart from that she and the other girls are pretty much naked for the entire movie. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a softcore feature from this era with more female frontal nudity. And there’s plenty of very obviously simulated sex. Karine Gambier is also frequently nude.

The acting is OK considering that this movie is pretty undemanding stuff. Karine Gambier gives the standout performance as the sex and power-crazed Carla.

Full Moon’s DVD release offers an excellent anamorphic transfer. The colours are bright and they look right. Only the English dubbed version is offered.

This might sound strange but this is a light-hearted feelgood women-in-prison movie. It’s bright and cheerful. Yes, really. It has a bright cheerful look (gorgeous locations and lots of sunshine) and the content matches the look. This is really a “nude girls having fun in the sun movie” - it’s more like Club Med than a prison. It manages to pack an extraordinary amount of political incorrectness into its 80 minute running time but there’s nothing misogynistic about it. The female prisoners are whores but they’re actually really nice girls. Women of Inferno Island is more of an exercise in goofy fun than a conventional women-in-prison movie. It’s a women-in-prison movie you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying. Highly recommended.

Friday, 3 September 2021

Rent-a-Girl (1965)

Rent-a-Girl is a 1965 American sexploitation movie which belongs to the roughie sub-genre, although it’s very much at the mild end of that sub-genre. It was written and directed by William Rose and shot (in black-and-white) in New York.

So perhaps I should start by explaining what a roughie is. In the early 60s the sexploitation genre was dominated by nudie-cuties. Nudie-cuties contained quite a bit of T&A but it was all done in a light-hearted good-natured wholesome and definitely non-sexual sort of way. Then a number of sexploitation directors and producers got the curious idea into their heads that American audiences would soon grow tired of looking at naked women. They decided they needed a new exploitation genre. Their solution was to add violence and sadism to the mix whilst still keeping the sexual content as innocuous as possible.

Karen Anderson is having boyfriend troubles and she’s lonely and depressed. She hears the sounds of merry-making in the apartment upstairs and decides to cheer herself up by introducing herself to her neighbours. She mets Evelyn Marshall and later Evelyn’s brother Adam. They seem very nice and they even tell her they might be able to get her some modelling work. Karen is the kind of girl whose judgment goes straight out the window when the prospect of a career in modelling is dangled in front of her. 

But it seems to work out really well. At first.

The modelling is just a little bit more risqué than she’d expected. She has to strip down to bra and panties. But she figures that that’s pretty normal even in respectable modelling. That sort of stuff appears even in respectable magazines.

In fact Evelyn and Adam are luring innocent girls into working in their call-girl ring. Their service specialises in kinky stuff. But they introduce their girls to that kinkiness very gradually. Karen still think it’s just regular modelling and she’s enjoying it and feeling really good about herself. So she’s not worried when the suggestion is made that she should do some nude modelling for them. It’s very tasteful and it seems harmless. And Evelyn and her brother are so sweet to her.

Karen has two problems looming of which she’s blissfully unaware. Firstly she’s going to be pushed into prostitution and kinky sex stuff and secondly she’s going to find that when she decides to quit it isn’t so easy. Evelyn and Adam don’t like their girls quitting on them. They don’t like it at all.

Evelyn and Adam provide their girls to wealthy clients with odd sexual tastes. Those clients aren’t always men. One of their best clients is Harriet Grant who is very rich and very kinky. She likes disciplining girls. Harriet, having seen some of her photos, has decided she definitely wants Karen. She’s throwing a big party which will be a kind of orgy and she intends Karen to be the main attraction. Karen knows about the party and of course has no idea of the sorts of things that go on at Harriet’s parties. If she attends she’s going to be in big trouble.

This was 1965 so while there’s a lot of nudity it’s just T&A. There’s only the mildest suggestion of actual sexual activity. The kinky stuff is ridiculously tame and rather amusing, except for one scene at the end which comes out of nowhere.

Rent-a-Girl has plenty of classic roughie ingredients with some of the delightfully weird touches that 60s American sexploitation movies so much fun - there’s some light bondage, a bit of whipping, a noughts-and-crosses game played on a nude girl’s body, girls sprayed with soda siphons, predatory lesbians, strip billiards and crazy Bohemian artists. And since this is 1965 it’s an absolute bonanza for viewers who like seeing girls in stockings and suspender belts. You’ll spot a few bouffant hairdos (which is always a plus). And there’s some very 60s dancing.

The cast includes three of my favourite sexploitation ladies of the 60s - Gigi Darlene, June Roberts and Darlene Bennett. They're always great to see. And Barbara Wood as Karen gives a competent acting performance. And Evelyn and Adam are great sleazy scheming villains. 

Rent-a-Girl is part of a Something Weird triple-feature (teamed with Aroused and the fabulously strange but entrancing Help Wanted: Female). The transfer of Rent-a-Girl is mostly very good although with occasional mild print damage. The black-and-white image is pleasingly sharp with good contrast.

Rent-a-Girl is classic 60s sexploitation, in other words it’s delightfully weird silly fun. Highly recommended.

Sunday, 29 August 2021

The Premature Burial (1962)

The Premature Burial is the third film in Roger Corman’s celebrated Edgar Allan Poe cycle. Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell wrote the screenplay, based on Poe's 1844 short story of the same name. The film was released in 1962.

Vincent Price had starred in the first two Poe films but for complicated contractual reasons involving AIP Corman was unable to secure his services for the third film. Ray Milland played the lead rôle instead.

Guy Carrell (Ray Milland) is obsessed by the fear of being buried alive. He is convinced that that is what happened to his father - that his father suffered from catalepsy and was pronounced dead and sealed in his coffin even though he was still alive. Guy is convinced that, as a boy, he heard his father’s screams of terror. Guy’s fears are intensified by a couple of odd incidents.

Guy feels that as a result of his affliction he cannot go ahead with his projected marriage to Emily Gault (Hazel Court) but Emily persuades him to change his mind. Guy however cannot prevent himself from brooding endlessly about the horrors of premature burial.

Guy comes up with an elaborate plan to deal with his fears. He designs a mausoleum for himself, and a special coffin. Both the mausoleum and the coffin are cunningly designed to allow him to escape should he, by mistake, be buried alive after an attack of catalepsy.

Not surprisingly Guy’s behaviour becomes increasingly worrying to Emily and to his friend Miles (Richard Ney). And to his sister Kate (Heather Angel), although she has always worried about his sanity.

Emily and Miles decide there’s only one way to cure Guy - they must persuade him to destroy his ingenious mausoleum.

Ray Milland does a fine job here but would Vincent Price have done a better job in the lead rôle? Price could certainly have done the part and it’s arguable that in this case Price’s extreme theatricality might have compensated for the thinness of the plot. On the whole though Ray Milland was a very good choice and he delivers the good.

Hazel Court was one of the great scream queens and she’s terrific here.

The movie’s major weakness is that while Poe’s story is excellent it doesn’t provide quite enough plot for a feature film. It’s a story that might have worked better as an episode for the Thriller TV anthology series.

The movie has a very artificial shot-on-a-soundstage look (as do the other early films in Corman’s Poe cycle). I personally think that’s an asset in this case as it adds to the hallucinatory nightmare feel.

Floyd Crosby did the cinematography for this film (and for all the Corman Poe films up to The Haunted Palace) and he and art director (and frequent Corman collaborator) Daniel Haller provide plenty of gothic creepiness. Corman knew how to pick people with whom to work who could do great work on tight budgets and tight schedules which is why his Poe films always look much better than you’d expect on such small budgets.

Because there’s not a great deal of plot and for most of the running time no overt horror this movie has to rely very heavily on atmosphere and even more heavily on creating a mood of uneasiness and uncertainty. Is Guy mad or sane? Are his fears irrational or all too rational? Fortunately the movie manages to do this quite successfully, and Ray Milland manages very successfully to keep us in doubt about Guy’s sanity (and perhaps does a better job of this than Vincent Price would have done).

Kino Lorber’s Region 1 DVD (there’s a Blu-Ray edition as well) provides an excellent anamorphic transfer. Corman’s Poe films rely a great deal on his bold use of colour and the colours look great on this transfer. There are a few worthwhile extras as well including an interview with Corman.

The Premature Burial is usually considered to be one of the lesser films in Corman’s Poe cycle but that’s a bit unfair. It’s actually a very effective horror chiller with its own flavour and it’s very very creepy. Highly recommended.

I’ve also reviewed the first of the Corman Poe films, The Fall of the House of Usher, and one of the later Poe films he did in England, The Masque of the Red Death.

Monday, 23 August 2021

The Lady Kills (1971)

Writer-director Jean-Louis van Belle’s The Lady Kills (Perverse et docile) is a 1971 French psycho-sexual thriller with plenty of exploitation elements and a certain unique style of its own.

As soon as the movie starts we know this is the 1970s. The first scene is a non-graphic but fairly harrowing rape scene, with a young female witness. Then we see a man leaving a bar in Dusseldorf. He takes his girlfriend into an alley for a bit of fun but it turns out to be fatal fun. And there’s the wild opening credits with lots of solarisation and females in costumes that are both scanty and kinky.

In Paris we see Françoise Frémond (Carole Lebel) applying for a job in a girlie bar called Le Sexy. We see those kinky dancers again. Christian Belmont (Christian Duc) is the creative force behind Le Sexy. He tells Françoise he’s going to call her Pervertissima (interestingly enough the following year van Belle made a movie called Pervertissima). He tells her to disrobe. When she leaves, she leaves a gift for him. A kind of parting gift.

This movie doesn’t bother explaining anything but what’s going on is perfectly clear. Françoise witnessed a rape (we later find out it was her sister who was raped) and now she’s going to kill the perpetrators one by one.

She embarks on a voyage of revenge across Europe. She’s a strangely calm detached killer. She doesn’t seem especially angry. She’s just doing what she has to do.

The voyage aspect makes the film quite entertaining. It’s a journey by car, train, plane and boat, leaving a trail of corpses.

That’s it for the plot. Which sounds like the sort of thing an Italian film-maker of that era would relish. But this is a French movie. It’s stylish in its own way but it lacks the flamboyance of, let’s say, a contemporary Italian giallo. It’s stylish in a cool sophisticated French way.

It also lacks the gore. The violence is very very restrained and much of it happens partially or completely off-camera.

There’s an enormous amount of nudity but that’s also very restrained - there’s no frontal nudity at all. There’s no graphic sex. The rape scene is tame by 1970s standards. The only scene with the potential to shock is the one in which Françoise volunteers to be whipped as part of the process of getting close to one of the rapists, a sleazy photographer. But it’s one of the mildest whipping scenes you’ll see in any movie of that period. What makes it kinky is that the sleazy photographer isn’t excited by watching Françoise being whipped - it’s the sound of the whipping, and more particularly Françoise’s whimpers of pain, that gets him off. He likes to record such sounds so he can enjoy them again later. It makes the scene both tame and at the same time very perverse.

Compared to early 70s Italian exploitation cinema this is a very very tame movie.

What I’ve said so far will probably have convinced most hardened eurosleaze fans to give this one a miss but don’t be too quick to do this. This movie does have some major assets. The explicit content might be mild but there’s plenty of implied kinkiness.

The groovy 70s psych-rock soundtrack is pretty good.

The settings are terrific. The highlight is the underground rock grotto photographic studio owned by one of Françoise’s victim, a studio which comes complete with an underwater tank. Which is of course filled with naked women. There are naked women littered about all over the studio, most of them sporting psychedelic body-painting. The decadence level in these scenes is off the scale. There’s plenty of decadence in the sex club (Le Sexy) as well. There’s no shortage of interesting perversity.

Carole Lebel is rather luscious and her acting is reasonably solid - she’s supposed to be playing a woman who has seriously lost the plot and she achieves this with commendable subtlety.

Mondo Macabro’s Blu-Ray offers a good anamorphic transfer and it’s a double-header - we get a second Jean-Louis van Belle feature as well, Pervertissima. There are some reasonably worthwhile extras as well (as there always are in a Mondo Macabro release).

The Lady Kills is an intriguing exercise in subtle perversity. Recommended.

This movie belongs in the rape revenge sub-genre, which was very big in the early 70s. Other notable entries in this sub-genre include Thriller: A Cruel Picture (They Call Her One Eye, 1974) and the excellent Hannie Caulder (1971).

Sunday, 22 August 2021

Day of the Arrow/Eye of the Devil

I reviewed the excellent and underrated 1966 British horror flick Eye of the Devil here recently. If you're a fan of that film you might be interested in my review of the novel on which it was based, Philip Loraine's Day of the Arrow. The basic story is pretty much the same in both novel and film, but with a few interesting differences.

I think the movie is better than the book but the book is still worth checking out.

My review of the novel can be found here.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Éducation Anglaise (1983)

Éducation Anglaise was written and directed by Jean-Claude Roy and released in 1983. It’s not quite a sex comedy but it has some vague affinities with that genre. It’s a kinky period sex melodrama and a truly weird slice of softcore eurosleaze.

Despite its title the film takes place entirely in a girls’ boarding school in France, in 1935. The school in question is very strict, with discipline on the English system. The French were of course convinced that English boarding schools were hotbeds of oppression, flagellation and sexual depravity.

Sylvie Dumarcay (Obaya Roberts) has lost both her parents. Her mother was having an affair. Her father shot her, her lover and himself. Now Sylvie is an orphan. She is the ward of Monsieur Pieron and he’s anxious to keep Sylvie out of his hair while helping himself to her considerable inheritance. He therefore packs her off to a boarding school. The school seems perfect from his point of view. They don’t even allow the girls to come home for holidays, and the headmistress assures him that discipline is very very strict.

With Sylvie out of the way Monsieur Pieron can concentrate on what he’s really interested in, which is engaging in sexual hijinks with the two young, beautiful female members of his household staff (one of whom is played by the gorgeous Brigitte Lahaie).

The headmistress of the school is a blonde, pretty and very feminine young woman with a very pronounced sadistic streak.

Sylvie certainly gets an education at this boarding school, an education with surprising results. She is introduced to the delights of sapphic love, which she enjoys very much indeed. She is also introduced to the reality of the English system of school discipline, which she doesn’t enjoy so much. At first. Later she will come to appreciate that it has certain merits for a young lady with the right inclinations.

The school has a new teacher, Madame Georgina, a very formidable dragon of a lady. She and the headmistress seem to be very fond of one another. The main thrust of the plot concerns that new teacher. The major plot twist isn’t going to come as any real surprise, which is a pity.

The other major plot strand concerns Sylvie’s voyage of self-discovery as she discovers that she has a number of tastes that are perhaps unusual in a well brought up young lady.

Now it must be obvious by now that this is a movie that is much concerned with spanking and lesbianism but it has other much more interesting forms of depravity to offer. The chariot race is a definite highlight. It’s Madame Georgina’s idea. She has obtained two chariots and she has two girls to drive the chariots. But there are no horses. Fortunately it turns out that you don’t need horses to pull a chariot if you have some strong healthy girls on hand. There’s plenty of kinkiness here but it’s clever kinkiness.

This is strictly softcore but there’s quite a lot of frontal nudity. And no sex. The depravity is too odd to be offensive and it’s done in a manner that suggests that we’re not supposed to take it too seriously. It’s sleazy, but it’s good-natured sleaze.

Sylvie is interesting. The surprising development of her sexual kinks does actually make sense. The girls are put in a situation in which they either break or they adapt. Some of the girls do break, but some adapt. Sylvie definitely adapts.

The period setting works quite well. Apart from making the film look more interesting it distances things a bit and helps to make the kinky stuff seem less confronting - it makes things that could have been disturbing seem somehow quaint and picturesque. We can tell ourselves that this is all happening in a kind of fantasy world.

It’s interesting to compare Éducation Anglaise with other movies of around that time dealing with sado-masochism. Sado-masochism was the in thing in the world of erotic films and while Radley Metzger’s The Image and Just Jaecklin’s The Story of O are better films Éducation Anglaise is not entirely to be despised as an attempt to deal with the subject with a bit of nuance.

Jean-Claude Roy made some intriguingly offbeat erotic movies in the 70s and 80s. Scandalous Photos benefits from having Brigitte Lahaie as its star while Justine’s Hot Nights (1976) is totally loopy but fun.

Nucleus Films released this one on DVD on their Naughty label a few years back and it’s still in print. The anamorphic transfer is pretty good. The only extras are an image gallery and a couple of trailer including one for another French 1980s Nucleus Films release, Dressage (which is quite a good little movie).

Éducation Anglaise is offbeat, kinky, strange and naughty. If you like those things it’s recommended. If you really really like those things then it’s highly recommended.