After Hours Cinema // 1968 // 240 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // August 29th, 2008
"You fake it. This is the American version."
-- Director to actor in How to Make a Dirty Movie
When Brad goes to borrow a cup of sugar, he gets more than he bargained for -- he learns How to Make a Dirty Movie. Lesson One, evidently, is "dupe your clueless neighbors into taking off their clothes," and once duped, Brad becomes a clumsy porn star. Then his wife, Millie, shows up and catches the eye of director Jimmy. With all the couplings and triplings, there should be enough footage for a whole vault of dirty movies -- but will these broke and fledgling artistes have anything worth showing?
While Book struggles to sell a screenplay, his girlfriend, Chess (or Katie, or Jess, depending on which unnamed actor is talking to her) sells herself to pay the rent. She sleeps with a skeevy guy who smacks her around when she tries to rob him and with a whole bunch of people at a porn shoot set up by Book. She's The Alleycat, a hard-livin', hard-lovin' gal who knows it's getting to be time to quit but just can't tear herself away from this spurting life. Book finally (finally!) sells his script and wants to make an honest woman of her. But is this kitten ready to retire her whip?
Meanwhile, in another part of Hollywood, faded screen siren Gaye Ramon lives a life of solitary decadence. Out of the spotlight, but never out of the hearts of her adoring public, this old-time Star is just itching...to make a comeback. But first, a little satisfaction. Gaye puts an ad in the Hollywood Reporter offering her services as an acting teacher, but what she's really looking for is a young stud to do a little acting on her. When a couple of starstruck ladies show up, Gaye turns them over to an acquaintance, the formerly great director Rodney LaCoque -- who is now working as her gardener! What a debauched and twisted town is Hollywood.
Stepping away from the glitz and glamour of the film industry, we meet young marrieds Byron and Paula, who decide to test the waters of Lake Swinger. Byron turns to his friend, Bill (John Holmes, the sole "name" on this set), for some guidance, so big John invites himself and the wife over to Byron's place for an old-fashioned swappin' party. A party the next week brings new friends into the circle, but these nights when the neighbors Go Down for Double cannot last. A narrator tells us that Byron and Paula's marriage could not withstand the strain of swinging and they broke up.
Count me as surprised as the next person, but with Grindhouse Trash 3: How to Make a Dirty Movie, After Hours Cinema actually comes up with four movies that are worth watching. These are sleazy and funny "one-day wonders," cheap-o indie sex films banged together in an afternoon, with most of the dialogue improvised. In all these films, attention is paid to those areas that are usually lacking in sort- and hardcore porn, things like plot and characterization. In How to Make a Dirty Movie and Star, the sex is actually secondary to the bizarre storytelling.
The best of the bunch is Star, a loopy little take off on Sunset Blvd. and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with an outrageous and courageous performance by the blowsy unknown actress playing "Gaye Ramon." She's a has-been Hollywood grotesquerie, with smeared makeup, god-awful wigs, and a braying voice, sashaying about a cluttered apartment that's trying to be passed off as a movie-star mansion. Even the softcore sex scenes have a camp appeal, particularly the one that closes the film with "Gaye" and her director friend.
With its over-the-top leading lady, authentically skuzzy setting, and wickedly funny improvised dialogue, Star could easily be mistaken for an early Andy Warhol effort. Actually, except for Go Down for Double, all these films are more akin in spirit to Paul Morrissey's "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" Joe Dallesandro trilogy (Flesh, Trash, and Heat) than with the average pornos of the day.
How to Make a Dirty Movie is a lot of fun, thanks mainly to the performance of the guy playing the director of the no-budget porno within a no-budget porno. He's obviously having a good time here and improvising his dialogue, which is pretty funny for the most part. This whole movie has a silly, but kind of charming, "student film" feel to it.
Unlike Star and Dirty Movie, The Alleycat is a pretty serious affair, at least as far as these things go. You know that this is going to be a morality tale when our heroine, Chess, stares protractedly into a mirror and murmurs, "Lady, what are you doing to yourself?" after describing her night of smacking with the skeevy guy. This one is played for melodrama, straight through to the "tragic" ending.
The John Holmes starrer, Go Down for Double (whatever that means) is here as a bonus. This one's got one of those droning voiceovers that makes the film relevant and adds a little redeeming social value -- it's a study of changing mores, you see, wife swapping, swinging, all that. Plus, it has a sad ending, so shenanigans are punished, just not with loss of life and limb. Of the four films on this set, this one is probably the least interesting, but it's not bad for what it is.
All these films are softcore, made in the late '60s or early '70s. The films in the original Grindhouse Trash Collection were also softcore and made around the same time, but were less fun than these. Also, the films in the first set had no trouble showing the male members, just not at work or at attention. In this set, there seems to be some confusion on that score. Both The Alleycat and Star have a weird mosaic effect covering up the guy parts; The Alleycat also has some (apparently) hardcore scenes disguised by the mosaic. I don't know where After Hours got these prints, but there's something a little pointless about a self-censoring porn film, soft- or hardcore.
Besides the mosaic, the prints are, naturally, wretched, streaked and speckled, and the audio is not great. Of course, that these no budget films have survived the last 35 or 40 years is something of a miracle, so you kind of take what you can get here.
For extras, we get trailers for other Alternative Cinema releases and a booklet that talks about the films. Usually, the booklets that accompany these releases are more informative and delve into the films' histories, but since virtually nothing is known about these, we get plot descriptions.
Had the actors been speaking French, or if a famous name (like Warhol) was attached, these films would likely be considered rediscovered underground gems. Kudos to the folks at Alternative Cinema for bringing them to light.
Review content copyright © 2008 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: After Hours Cinema
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 240 Minutes
Release Year: 1968
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Trailer Vault
* DVD Verdict Review - Grindhouse Trash Collection
* DVD Verdict Review - Flesh/Trash/Heat
* Alternative Cinema