Monday, 15 August 2022

Fear No Evil (1969)

Fear No Evil belongs to the much-despised category of TV movies. So why would a company like Kino Lorber decide that an obscure long-forgotten 1969 TV movie is worth a Blu-Ray release, with an accompanying audio commentary? Have the folks at Kino Lorber taken leave of their senses or is Fear No Evil actually worthy of such treatment? We shall see.

It certainly starts promisingly, with a man fleeing in terror in a darkened building, with some Dutch angles to make it that little bit more disorienting. This opening scene is definitely more striking and more atmospheric in a subtly weird way than we would normally expect in a TV movie.

Then we see a man, obviously confused and afraid (and we assume it’s the same man), hammering on the door of an antiques store in the middle of the night. When the proprietor reluctantly lets him in the man buys an ornate full-length mirror. He can see something in that mirror that no-one else can see. Instead of his reflection he can see a man, a rather suave dark-haired man. He sees himself, and yet it’s not himself.

The frightened man is physicist Paul Varney (Bradford Dillman). It’s possible of course that Varney is seeing things because he’s drunk, or because he’s been doing drugs, or because he’s crazy. But he has to buy that mirror.

When the mirror is delivered the next day his girlfriend Barbara (Lynda Day) is not overly impressed.

Paul works with Myles Donovan (Carroll O’Connor) and Myles is taking Paul and Barbara to what he hopes will be an amusing party.

The host is Dr David Sorell (Louis Jourdan), a psychiatrist with an interest in the occult. He developed his interest in the occult as a result of a case a few years earlier, a case he refuses to talk about.

Dr Sorell has fun playing games with his party guests, demonstrating just how superstitious people really are, even people who consider themselves to be totally rational.

Then Paul is killed in an automobile accident. Barbara is devastated. She goes to live with Paul’s mother. Neither woman wants to be alone. Paul’s belongings have been sent to his mother’s house. Including that mirror.

Barbara starts to have some rather disturbing experiences. She sees Paul in the mirror. More than that, she can enter the mirror and touch him.

She decides it might be wise to consult Dr Sorell. She fears she is going mad.

As Dr Sorell soon realises, the problem is that she enjoys these experiences. Whether they are hallucinations, or ghostly manifestations, or paranormal phenomena, or vivid wish-fulfilment fantasies Barbara does not want them to stop. The truth is that experiences are not just emotionally comforting but also erotically gratifying.

Barbara is aware that she may be in some danger, at least as far as her sanity is concerned. But she cannot give up her times with Paul in the mirror.

You expect vampire stories to have an erotic undercurrent but you don’t necessarily expect that in a ghost story. And you don’t expect a 1969 American TV movie to be diving into the world of erotic horror. But this is indeed an erotic horror movie. It’s subtle and low-key, there’s no actual sex and no nudity, but the erotic undercurrent is very obvious and very overt. Dr Sorell even suggests to Barbara that she is merely having very vivid (and somewhat perverse) sexual fantasies.

Of course you could ask if this is actually a ghost story. At first it seems like it might be a ghost story but it soon becomes apparent that it’s not exactly ghosts we’re dealing with. It’s something terrifying and inexplicable.

Of course what we have is a woman who is having strange experiences, and a psychiatrist who believes that the woman is being as honest as she can be about what she experiences but he also feels that it’s possible that she may not have any understanding of what is happening to her. Dr Sorell has no evidence whatsoever that he is dealing with anything other than a delusional woman. So this is one of those horror movies that for most of its running time leaves us uncertain whether we are dealing with the supernatural, or the world of dreams and delusion, or possibly even a sinister plot to send a woman mad.

Eventually the movie will have to commit itself one way or the other but I’m not going to tell you whether the events really are supernatural or not.

We certainly are dealing with people who believe in the occult. At least some of the characters are definite believers. Others are on the fence. Dr David Sorell comes across as a guy who would probably prefer not to believe, but he’s neither a dogmatic believer not a dogmatic non-believer.

Louis Jourdan surprisingly enough did quite a bit of horror work on TV, most notably in the 1977 BBC-TV Count Dracula (in which he was absolutely superb). He’s very good in Fear No Evil, playing a sympathetic character. Carroll O’Connor is solid as Paul’s friend Myles. Lynda Day is extremely good as Barbara - she’s so sweet and innocent and yet at the same time she convinces us that Barbara is a woman of very strong passions, both emotional and sexual. Her passionate nature makes her reluctant to give up her love for Paul, even if he is dead. Wilfred Hyde-White is fun as David's friend and occult expert Harry Snowden.

The special effects are simple but effective and the mirror scenes are particularly well done and spooky.

Director Paul Wendkos worked mostly in television and made countless TV movies. He was clearly more than a hack. In this movie he shows plenty of flair and style. A rather flat lighting style was characteristic of TV (and TV movies) in this period but Wendkos manages some very effective atmosphere. He’s always trying to keep things interesting, and he’s always trying to keep things moving along.

Richard Alan Simmons wrote the screenplay from a story by Guy Endore and it’s a story that has just enough ambiguity to keep us interested without leaving us feeling that we’ve been cheated.

There were plans to produce a series of TV movies, with the working title of Bedevilled, with Dr David Sorell dealing with psychiatric cases involving hints of the occult, the supernatural or the paranormal. In fact a second movie, Ritual of Evil, was made and the Kino Lorber release includes both Fear No Evil and Ritual of Evil. Bedevilled could have been extremely interesting since Fear No Evil makes it clear that the intention was to avoid monsters and concentrate on psychological and existential horror.

The audio commentary is by Gary Gerani (who always does lively commentaries).

So I can now answer the question I posed at the beginning. No, the folks at Kino Lorber haven’t gone nuts. Fear No Evil really is good enough to justify a fancy Blu-Ray release. It’s a very cool low-key horror gem and it’s highly recommended.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

'B' Girl Rhapsody (1952)

'B' Girl Rhapsody is a 1952 burlesque movie. The burlesque movie was an odd phenomenon which blossomed briefly from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s. Most were actual burlesque shows that were filmed in actual burlesque theatres, without a live audience.

'B' Girl Rhapsody was shot at the New Follies Theatre in Los Angeles.

Burlesque itself was dying by this time, strangled by increasingly restrictive legislation pushed by society’s self-appointed moral watchdogs. So even in 1952 burlesque movies relied largely on nostalgia.

The burlesque movies do however offer an opportunity to get a taste of what burlesque was like, and they demonstrate both its appeal and its weaknesses. A burlesque performance certainly included strip-tease but it also included songs, variety acts and interminable painfully lame comic routines. It’s this that makes watching a burlesque movie a chore unless you’re wise enough to skip through the comic routines. The comedy is often crude but it’s embarrassingly unfunny.

Even without the efforts of moralising legislators burlesque would have died a natural death. By the beginning of the 1960s you could see a lot more nudity in girlie magazines and in sexploitation movies. The release of Russ Meyer’s The Immoral Mr Teas, the first nudie-cutie sexploitation feature in 1959, was another nail in burlesque’s coffin (which is slightly ironic given that Meyer’s first movie was in fact a burlesque movie.

One of the problems burlesque faced was that the girls were not able to show very much. It varied from city to city. In some towns as soon as the girl got down to bra and panties she’d be arrested. In other places the girls could take everything off. Mostly they only stripped down to pasties and a G-string, which by the mid 1950s was too tame to attract audiences.

The distributors of burlesque movies were also conscious of the danger of being arrested in a moral climate which considered the female body to be dangerous and wicked. As a result the burlesque movies tended to err on the safe side although they varied. In some you might catch a glimpse of a nipple, but it’s a case of blink and you’ll miss it.

The most interesting thing is seeing the girls’ dance routines which range from rather chaste to very risqué and can in some cases be remarkably energetic. And these girls can do some pretty impressive things with certain portions of their anatomies. You may have thought you seen these portions of the female anatomy jiggling but the tassel-twirling some of the girls can do is mind-boggling.

Since these movies were filmed in real burlesque houses the acton is confined to fairly small stages without spectacular stage settings. Most movies about burlesque give it the Hollywood treatment with the strippers performing on impossibly large stages with impossibly lavish props and backgrounds. Hollywood also tended to glamourise burlesque. In the burlesque movies there’s more of an atmosphere of seedy glamour with a touch of sleaze (not that there’s anything wrong with a touch of sleaze).

These movies were made on low budgets. This was the exploitation movie business with profitability depending on keeping those budgets to an absolute minimum. So these movies never did look like lush Hollywood productions.

The Something Weird DVD boxed set Strip Strip Hooray includes no less than six burlesque movies. Around seven hours of bumping and grinding. The transfers are generally pretty reasonable.

Burlesque movies are definitely a curiosity. They would even get a PG rating these days, containing in most cases no actual nudity. But burlesque was a fascinating cultural phenomenon which makes them worth a look. And burlesque does have a type of glamour that no longer exists. It’s worth seeing at least one of these movies, and 'B' Girl Rhapsody is a fairly typical example.

Tuesday, 9 August 2022

Project X (1968)

William Castle had a brief run from the late 50s to the mid 60s as the king of the B-movies. His horror and thriller movies were modestly budgeted and not exactly masterpieces but they were highly entertaining schlock. Castle approached selling movies the way a carnival huckster sold carnival attractions. Salesmanship was everything. And Castle was famous for his gimmicks. Things started to go wrong for Castle with his 1964 movie The Night Walker. It’s a very good movie but it failed to set the box office alight. He bounced back the following year with the excellent I Saw What You Did but after that Castle’s career was clearly waning.

Project X, released in 1968, was a desperate attempt to revive his fortune with a change of subject matter and style. Castle’s earlier hits were in black-and-white but this one was shot in colour. And it’s a science fiction movie.

The basic idea is clever, if far-fetched. If you stop to think about it you’ll notice that the plot has more holes than a Swiss cheese. The secret to Castle’s success had always been to make sure the audience was kept so entertained that they didn’t spend time analysing the coherence of the plots.

It’s the 22nd century and the world is divided into two hostile blocs, the Sinoese and the West. The Western spy agencies have come up with an ingenious idea to protect the secrets locked inside the minds of their spies. Their spies are injected with a brain wiping serum. If they’re captured by the enemy the serum is triggered and their memories are entirely erased. Even under torture they can’t reveal secrets if they have no memories.

In the case of secret agent Hagan Arnold (Christopher George) the plan has backfired. He was captured and the serum was activated. Then the Americans got him back but their problem is that they need the information he has obtained on his last mission. But they can’t get it because Hagan Arnold has forgotten it. He’s forgotten everything.

There’s just one chance. Cryo-biologist Dr Crowther (Henry Jones) may have a plan. He’s been working on techniques for giving people whole new personalities. It’s just possible that Arnold’s vital memories are still there, buried deep within his subconscious. A sudden shock might bring those memories back to his conscious mind. Fear might do it. If Arnold can be convinced that he’s a criminal on the run then he might be sufficiently afraid to trigger that kind of shock.

A minor problem is that in the 22nd century crime no longer exists. This problem could be solved by making Hagan Arnold believe he’s a criminal, a bank robber, from the 1960s.

A remote one-horse town from that distant past is recreated and Hagan Arnold is led to believe that it’s the 1960s, he’s robbed a bank and he’s taken refuge in an isolated farmhouse.

Dr Crowther and his team have only ten days to get the secret out of Arnold, because in ten days time the fiendish bad guys (referred to as the Sinoese) will destroy the West. The Sinoese have discovered the secret of producing nothing but male babies. This will allow them to achieve world domination. Apparently it never occurred to them or to scriptwriter Edmund Morris that maybe a society with no females might run into problems. This was a time when science fiction writers were becoming obsessed with overpopulation. Maybe this aspect was explained more clearly in Leslie P. Davies’ novel.

The central idea is at least ingenious, and in 1968 mind control and erasing memories and giving people other people’s memories was also becoming a hot topic. It’s an idea that could have been the basis for an exceptionally interesting science fiction movie.

One of the major problems is that this movie looks very very cheap. It has a made-for-TV movie look. The idea of having a movie set in the distant future but taking place in a recreation of the 1960s must have appealed to the studio as a money-saving device but it reinforces the overwhelming impression of cheapness.

Dr Crowther has a gizmo that allows him to see inside Hagan Arnold’s mind. This is handled by some psychedelic sequences (done by animation studio Hanna-Barbara). Again they’re cheap. They’re not quite as terrible as you may have heard. They are too cartoonish at times and some modern viewers will be inclined to snicker. The really big problem was that the psychedelia stuff was possibly something that was not going to appeal to a mainstream audience. Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 came out in the same year and initially had the same problem. It took a while for audiences to get used to such effects which up to that time had only been used in movies aimed at drive-in audiences (such as Roger Corman’s The Trip) and the drug connotations may have alienated audiences.

And Project X was simply not the kind of tongue-in-cheek fun that would have made it a success with a teen audience. It just comes across as a bit slow and a bit stodgy.

But it’s by no means a complete loss. There are some good ideas here even if the script doesn’t develop them fully. We do get the wonderful Henry Jones and for once he gets more than a supporting role. His Dr Crowther is in fact the central character in the movie. Jones plays him in a slyly ambiguous way, something he was rather good at.

The most interesting thing about this movie is that on the surface it’s a good guys vs bad guys movie with the Sinoese naturally being the bad guys. But if you stop thinking of this as a cheesy William Castle movie that can be dismissed with contempt and actually watch the movie you’ll find that it’s not that simple. The West (the good guys) is actually a very dystopian society. The West’s intelligence agencies trample all over people’s legal rights. It’s a sterile soulless authoritarian society, strictly regimented. It’s social engineering totally out of control. There’s material prosperity of a sort, but clearly there’s no freedom at all. The pretty blonde girl from the future whom Arnold meets by accident takes it for granted that she will have two children when she gets married, because that’s the number of children the government has authorised her to have. She works in a food production facility that is reminiscent of a labour camp. The employees sleep in a sterile dormitory.

The West’s government wipes people’s minds clean and then gives them new personalities. That’s pretty darned dystopian.

What’s clever is that our attention is never drawn to the dystopian elements. We’re left to notice them on our own and it’s amazing how many critics have missed this aspect of the movie.

In its own way it’s a more interesting movie than you might expect. Recommended.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

The Devil’s Wedding Night (1973)

The Devil’s Wedding Night (released in the U.S. under the much drearier title The Devil’s Crypt and originally known as Il plenilunio delle vergini) begins the way a vampire movie should begin, with a girl in her nightie fleeing through a forest being pursued by something evil and horrible.

This is in fact yet another screen retelling of the tale of the notorious Elizabeth Báthory, reputed to be the most prolific female serial killer in history and in movie versions often referred to (for no good reason) as Countess Dracula. She was the subject of the underrated Hammer horror film Countess Dracula.

Luigi Batzella is the credited director although apparently Joe d’Amato also had a hand in directing this film.

Schiller (Mark Damon) is a scholar who believes that the Ring of the Nibelungs really exists and that it possesses supernatural powers. He intends to find it. He appears to be a little bit mad.

Naturally his first port of call is Transylvania.

Schiller isn’t totally reckless. He has found a magical amulet which offers protection against supernatural forces.

He arrives at the castle of the Countess Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri) and it just so happens that the castle is the Castle Dracula (this is a movie that is determined not to miss out on any gothic horror elements). The countess explains that evil reputation associated with Dracula allowed her to pick up the castle at a bargain price.

The countess is beautiful and mysterious and Schiller falls for her straight away. She tells him that she is attracted to him, but not quite in the way his other women have been. Pretty soon they’re in bed together.

Schiller was a little disturbed by the Countess’s maidservant Lara. He sees Lara lying quite dead but shortly afterwards she is up and about again. The Countess tells him that people make the assumption that Lara is a zombie (yes, we’re going to get zombies as well).

Now we get our first plot twist. There are two Schillers. Twin brothers (both played by Mark Damon). The one who slept with the Countess was Franz. She seems to have plans to turn him into a vampire.

Unfortunately Franz has managed to lose the amulet. Carl is going to try to rescue his brother but without the amulet that’s going to be dangerous.

This movie muddles together every sort of supernatural theme imaginable. It really has almost nothing to do with Elizabeth Báthory, who for all her reputation for evil was never actually accused of vampirism. The movie just throws vampires, witchcraft, a spooky castle, a sexy evil countess and zombies into the mix and hopes that some sort of coherent plot will emerge. In practice there is no trace of plot coherence at all. We know that the Countess is a very bad lady and that she has wicked plans for Franz and that’s about it for a plot.

We do find out that she has a band of female disciples. Whether they’re vampires or zombies is a bit unclear.

The climax of the movie is the Countess’s plan for some kind of wedding to Franz combined with a black magic ritual.

A lot of European exploitation movies of this era are actually pretty good movies. When you’re dealing with guys like Mario Bava, Jess Franco, Dario Argento, Jean Rollin, Massimo Dallamano and Sergio Martino you’re not dealing with mere hacks. These were twisted visionaries who were able to make movies that combined commercial exploitation elements with interesting thematic explorations and genuine visual inspiration. While their movies have often been dismissed by the mainstream as trash they were a good deal more than that.

But it has to be admitted that European exploitation cinema had its share of directors who really were hacks and Luigi Bartzella would seem to belong in that category. His approach to directing is to add lots of thunder and lightning to just about every scene. And some of the euro-exploitation movies of the 60s and 70s really were mere trash, and I think it’s fair to put The Devil’s Wedding Night into that category.

Slightly oddly for a 1973 eurohorror movie this one has the look of a Hammer horror film (or a Roger Corman Poe film). We’re somewhere in central Europe and it appears to be the late 19th century (Poe gets a mention so it must be mid to late 19th century).

I think it’s very unlikely that anyone ever hoped that this movie would be taken seriously but if they did then any such hopes would be dashed by the outrageously melodramatic music.

By 1973 European exploitation standards this movie is a bit on the tame side. The sex scenes are very tame and the nudity is limited to boobs and bums. Of course it has to be remembered that most of these movies existed in multiple versions, with very toned-down versions for some markets and much racier cuts for other markets. Other cuts of this movie undoubtedly existed. The Code Red Blu-Ray release offers the U.S. cut and it’s likely that the versions for some of the European markets were raunchier.

There’s a lot of print damage and it’s quite distracting at times. This is a barebones release.

If you’re in the mood for silly vampiric fun then the movie is reasonably enjoyable. It does pick up towards the end and it is fun. Recommended if you’re a eurohorror completist. The print damage might be off-putting if you’re fussy about such things.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Women in Cellblock 9 (1978)

Women in Cellblock 9 (Frauen für Zellenblock 9) is a 1978 Jess Franco women-in-prison movie so you pretty much know what to expect. Franco made a ton of these movies. He could churn them out very quickly more or less on autopilot and there was a ready market for them. This one follows the established formula fairly closely. It was made by Elite Films and produced by Erwin C. Dietrich, a name very familiar indeed to fans of eurocult cinema.

Rebels are trying to smuggle six women into an unnamed South American country. The women are hidden in a truck but they encounter a military check point and the women are discovered. Three of the women, identified as guilt of subversive acts, end up in the prison (in Cellblock 9) run by Loba (Dora Doll). Loba’s assistant and torturer-in-chief is Dr Milton Costa (Howard Vernon). Loba and Dr Costa are apparently lovers although Loba has a liking for women.

The three women are joined by a fourth woman, Maria. They are tortured. Karin (Karine Gambier) breaks under the torture. It’s a particularly fiendish torture which would make any woman break. The women plan an escape. Their plan relies on a ruse which always works in women-in-prison movies. The four of them are chained up naked but they pretend to be pleasuring each other which drives their guard wild with lust. When he tries to join in their game they overcome him.

This happens fairly on so the bulk of the movie is actually a pursuit through the jungle movie, with four naked women being hunted by soldiers led by Loba and Dr Costa.

The torture scenes aren’t as graphic as you’d expect. It’s the idea of what is happening to the girls that is shocking rather than what’s actually shown. It still got banned in Britain and is still banned.

There’s a stupendous amount of female frontal nudity. The lead actresses keep their clothes on for the first five minutes. After that they’re totally nude for the rest of the film. If seeing naked women running through the jungle is your thing you’ll have fun with this one.

Oddly enough there’s very little sex. Mostly the girls just run about without their clothes on.

Karine Gambier gave a memorable performance as the sexy but corrupt warden in Erwin C. Dietrich’s Women of Inferno Island (one of the more interesting and clever 70s women-in-prison movies). This time she’s the heroine. Apart from being a striking beauty she was a competent actress, certainly more than good enough to handle a role such as this.

Howard Vernon resists the temptation to chew the scenery. He plays Dr Costa as a man who is evil and insane but in a disturbingly quiet manner, with the madness constantly bubbling away beneath the surface. He’s seriously creepy. Dora Doll as Loba the sadistic lesbian warden (yes of course there’s a sadistic lesbian warden) adopts a similar approach. She’s quietly chilling. It’s a very effective performance. The other actresses are adequate enough and since the actresses playing the prisoners are in their birthday suits for the whole movie I imagine that audiences wouldn’t have been concentrating on their acting skills.

Franco keeps it simple stylistically. He’s not trying to be surreal or to capture a dream-like atmosphere as he would be doing in his more personal projects. Mostly he just relies on the locations (and the nude women) to keep the viewer interested and the location shooting (it was filmed in Portugal) really is quite impressive. There are no zooms. It’s shot in a surprisingly straightforward manner.

The women confined in Cellblock 9 are political prisoners so you might think this is going to be a political film but it isn’t. The ruling regime which Loba and Dr Costa serve is clearly nasty but we are never told if it’s a left-wing or a right-wing regime. We never find out if the rebels are left-wing or right-wing. There are no political speeches. Karin is actually involved with the rebels but she never utters a word about politics. Franco intensely disliked political films. To the extent that there is anything vaguely political in this movie it simply has (like Franco) an anti-authoritarian tone.

Franco disliked gore and there’s none in this movie. There’s virtually no blood. Apart from a couple of scenes of torture that are pretty horrifying it’s a movie that relies on remorseless building an atmosphere of cruelty and despair.

Full Moon’s DVD release looks sensational. I very much doubt whether this movie would look any better on Blu-Ray, that’s how good the DVD is. Extras include a lengthy audio interview with Franco, apparently dating from the late 70s. Franco doesn’t mention Women in Cellblock 9 at all, he talks about horror movie and offers some strong opinions on horror cinema. He expresses his distaste for Paul Naschy’s films, his strong dislike of Hammer films (he admits that Terence Fisher was a skilled technician but finds him cold). He also expresses his extreme admiration for Roger Corman and especially for Corman’s Poe films.

Women in Cellblock 9 is not a great movie of its type. Unless you’re a dedicated Francophile and you’ve seen all his notable movies or you’re totally obsessed with women-in-prison movies there’s probably no pressing reason to see this one. It’s very definitely a lesser Franco film.

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Delinquent Schoolgirls (1975)

Delinquent Schoolgirls (AKA The Sizzlers AKA Carnal Madness) is a delirious slice of drive-in movie madness.

Three sex offenders escape from a hospital for the criminally insane. One is a gay theatrical type. Then there’s Big Dick Peters (Bob Minor), a flasher and rapist. The leader of the trio is Carl (Michael Pataki), another show business type. He’s a failed impressionist. He apparently just likes scaring people.

The first stop after breaking out is a farmhouse. Earl’s wife Ellie is very sexually frustrated so she’s delighted when Big Dick rapes her. This is a very politically incorrect movie. Earl doesn’t really mind. He’s quite happy that someone else is satisfying Ellie’s sexual urges.

Their next stop will be a girls’ school, but it’s a kind of reform school. These are all bad girls. We know they’re bad girls because they talk about sex a lot and wear very short skirts. They read dirty books and giggle. This being a girls’ school there is of course some lesbian activity among the girls, but nowhere near as much as you might expect in a 70s movie of this type.

Before the lunatics get there an incident takes place which gives us a hint of the flavour of this bizarre movie. One of the girls is hopelessly in love with a middle-aged biology teacher. He asks her to help carry some books home. It might have ended there had she not bent over and given him a fantasising glimpse of her panties. So he drugs her, hypnotises her and removes her clothing, not realising that she would have enthusiastically consented.

The movie is a succession of incidents in which the lunatics become involved. These incidents range in tone from disturbing to weird to goofy slapstick to just plain incomprehensible.

Some of the episodes just go nowhere. A girl from the school, after undergoing a harrowing experience at the hands of the escaped lunatics, flags down a passing van. In the van are two very sleazy hippie types who seem much more interested in her naked breasts than in helping her. We feel that something bad or disturbing is going to happen here. And what actually happens? We have no idea. It’s as if the director simply forgot about that subplot.

Some episodes achieve true inspired weirdness. The creepy middle-aged biology teacher drugs and hypnotises a girl who has a crush on him. He strips her down to her bra and panties. He has her completely under his power. Now you can well imagine what is going to happen next, but that’s not what happens at all. Presumably he is unable to, er, consummate his lust for the girl. So he gets his pet snake to do it for him. At the moment that this scenario is interrupted by the arrival of the loonies the snake is heading for the girl’s, well I’m sure you can guess what part of her anatomy it’s heading for.

Other episodes leave you wondering whether the director was indulging in some mind-altering substances and just had no idea what he was doing, and just lost interest in some scenes or came up with the kinds of silly ideas that one does come up with under the influence of mind-altering drugs. There’s a scene in which the lunatics tie up one of the female teachers. It seems like it’s a setup for a kinky bondage scene. And what do the lunatics do to her? Nothing. They just forget all about her.

At one point the lunatics are holding ten schoolgirls hostage in the gym. They then force the girls to engage in a degrading and humiliating experience. The girls are forced to perform a chorus line number from a Busby Berkeley musical.

At another point they have two girls at their mercy. You just know what dangerous escaped sex offenders will do in such a situation. Instead of which the girls are forced to do some mud-wrestling. With each other.

This is a movie that veers between being a thriller, a teen sex comedy and a slapstick comedy. It’s problem as a thriller is that the three escaped asylum inmates are obviously not very dangerous. They’re pretty non-violent. We never really think the schoolgirls are in much danger. In fact when two of the lunatics had ten of the girls lined up in the gym I felt a bit sorry for the lunatics. The girls had been doing their karate class. It seemed pretty obvious that ten girls with martial arts training would have no trouble dealing with two unarmed guys. And this is a reform school. These are tough aggressive girls. I figured that as soon as the girls got seriously annoyed they would beat the two guys to a pulp. Which is what happened.

This is really a drive-in movie rather than a sexploitation movie. The sex scenes are very very tame and there’s only a modest amount of nudity. There are however lots and lots of panty shots and lots of bouncing boobies (these naughty delinquent girls express their rebelliousness by refusing to wear bras).

Sexploitation fans will recognise Sharon Kelly, star of such sexploitation classics as The Dirty Mind of Young Sally and Teenage Bride (a movie which features not a single teenager nor a single bride).

This movie is included in the six-movie Psychotronica boxed set from Kit Parker Films and VCI Entertainment. It’s a varied and interesting set, with the best film being John Lamb’s Mermaids of Tiburon, a strange dream-like slightly arty underwater erotic fantasy about, you guessed it, mermaids. Lamb was one of the great underwater cinematographers. Mondo Keyhole is a very politically incorrect sexploitation flick from John Lamb and cult movie legend Jack Hill.

As a comedy Delinquent Schoolgirls is a total wash-out. The humour is infantile and obvious and excruciating. As a sex film it’s pretty tame, although there are quite a few naked breasts. As a bizarre cinematic oddity it has a certain appeal.

Wednesday, 27 July 2022

Bacchanales Sexuelles (1974)

Bacchanales Sexuelles (original title Tout le monde il en a deux, released in the US in a savagely cut version as Fly Me the French Way) is one of Jean Rollin’s mid-70s softcore sex films that is usually contemptuously dismissed even by his ardent fans. That’s perhaps just a bit unfair as we will see.

It was made not long after Rollin made another softcore feature, Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (a movie that apparently features no schoolgirls and no hitchhikers and was originally titled Jeunes filles impudiques).

Valérie (Joëlle Coeur) is housesitting a luxury apartment for her cousin. She’s bored and lonely so she rings up her friend Sophie (Marie-France Morel). They get drunk and have sex and then collapse into bed. During the night Sophie is kidnapped.

Before being grabbed Sophie managed to phone her boyfriend Paul. When he arrives at the apartment Valérie finally notices that Sophie is missing. She and Paul should start searching for her immediately but they decide to have sex first. You have to get your priorities right.

We find out that Sophie has been kidnapped by Malvina (Brigitte Borghese), the high priestess of a secret society. The trouble is that they meant to snatch Valérie. Malvina thinks Valérie can tell her the identity of a traitor in her secret society. After her underlings have given Sophie a good flogging Malvina figures out she’s got the wrong girl.

It seems that Valérie’s cousin is an investigative reporter digging up dirt on Malvina’s group and maybe indulging in a little blackmail. There’s certainly blackmail involved somewhere.

Malvina needs to get someone inside Valérie’s apartment so she sends one of her underlings, Jenny (Agnès Lemercier), posing as a maid. Jenny is a rather disconcerting maid. She is wearing the shortest skirt that could possibly be imagined and when she bends over to pick up the breakfast things it’s evident that she forgot to wear underwear today.

This is unapologetically a softcore porn movie but it was made during that brief window of time when softcore porn movies were well-made and often extremely interesting for other reasons than the abundant female flesh on display. The great thing about 70s sex movies is that usually the distributors didn’t give a damn what the director did as long as there was the required quantity of nudity and simulated sex. If the director happened to be Jean Rolin then what he was going to do was to throw in some of the surreal touches that he loved so much. He was going to make a softcore sex movie but it was going to be somewhat Rollinesque.

The kidnapping, carried out by two cute girls wearing catsuits and elaborate masks, is handled in a very surreal manner. Malvina’s secret society seems to be some kind of sex cult. There’s another very surreal scene involving Malvina, a gun and some store mannequins.

And to add an even more Rollinesque touch there’s his favourite trope - twinned or doubled girls. And they’re played by the Castel twins, yes the twins from Lips of Blood and The Nude Vampire.

The sex at times has a definite kinky edge to it. Malvina has a slave girl who likes sucking her mistresses’s toes. Valérie likes to smear jam all over her nipples, and other even more intimate parts of her anatomy, so that Paul can lick it off. There’s bondage and whipping.

This is a softcore feature but it pushes the edge of the envelope at times. The sex is as graphic as it is possible to be whilst still remaining technically softcore.

Overall this is a bit like a typical Jean Rollin movie but with lots and lots of sex.

It’s usually assumed that Rollin didn’t care about this movie and was just doing it for the pay cheque. I suspect that’s only partly true. He was in this case working as a director for hire but he’s gone to so much trouble to add so many of his personal touches that I can’t believe he was totally uninterested. The man loved making movies and I think he just made the best of the situation and tried to make it as much of a Rollin film as he could. And sex and surrealism can be a potent combination.

Synapse’s DVD release offers a reasonably good transfer. The important thing is that the film is uncut.

If you’ve never sampled Jean Rollin’s movies then you definitely do not want to start with this one as it will give you entirely the wrong idea about his movies. If however you’re a seasoned Rollin fan and you’ve avoided this movie and Schoolgirl Hitchhikers on the assumption that they’re trash then you might want to reconsider. If you don’t mind lots of sex and lots of extremely hot naked women then there is a genuine Jean Rollin film hidden in here trying to get out. With just a bit more screen time devoted to the surrealist elements and a bit less devoted to sex scenes it might even have been a pretty decent Rollin movie. It’s still quite interesting in its way. Bacchanales Sexuelles is a softcore surreal slightly occult thriller. For Rollin fans it’s worth a look.