Sinful Mermaid // 1976 // 66 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // May 22nd, 2012
Guaranteed to get you back in the water.
There is no doubt that when people saw Jaws for the first time, they were instantly clamoring for a sex parody. Thankfully, Robert J. Kaplan (whose only other credit appears to be the awesomely-titled Scarecrow in a Garden of Cucumbers) fulfilled all their wishes with Gums. This retro obscurity is way, way worse than its descendants being produced today, but a whole lot more unhinged...and a whole lot more worth watching.
The people at this beach are having a much different problem than those of Amity Island. Instead of a shark turning the oceans red with blood, there's a mermaid (Terri Hall) turning the sea...wait, I'm not going down that road...Needless to say, this mermaid is an oral pleasure torpedo, sinking and killing any man who dares swim in her waters. She loves what she does, but there's a Richard Dreyfuss lookalike named Dr. Sy Smegma (Robert Kerman, Eaten Alive!) who aims to stop her dirty deadly deeds.
I don't know why this mermaid is so driven to pleasure all these men to death and it isn't worth figuring out, but that doesn't make Gums a total loss. There are, indeed, some things in the movie that I didn't know that I had never seen until it made me see them. Among other things, we have a pair of outrageously horny marionette puppets and a threeway with two men and a blow-up doll but, lest you think that's pedestrian, one of the guys is in scuba gear. Plus, if you think that movies are incomplete without the director zooming in nice and tight, over and over again, onto swimming men's junk, then Gums has that going for it, as well.
Otherwise, Gums is completely awful in every way, in spite of its moments of wacky terribleness and short running time. It's a half step above an amateur production and populated with marginal actors and porn stars. There's a bunch of sex, but nobody is particularly attractive and it prevents the audience from actually seeing anything too naughty by placing supposedly humorous placards over the relevant bits. Not very sexy, not very funny, and only barely a movie, Gums is only worth watching if you're the kind of person who revels in the worst cinema has to offer.
The DVD from Sinful Mermaid (which seems likely started explicitly for this movie) is on the cheaper end of the spectrum, but they've done a pretty good job of restoring something nobody was wishing to see. The image is pretty soft most of the time, but that only enhances the sleazy feel and, to be honest, I'm glad I didn't have to see some of these people naked in sharper clarity. The sound does leave a lot to be desired though. The movie is pretty poorly recorded in the first place, but it's still a thin stereo mix with too much noise. The extras are three nudie shorts from the '50s. The only reason I can see them being included is that Kaplan directed them, but there's no way to confirm that, and they aren't terribly sexy.
I'm glad I saw Gums, just to say I've seen some of this stuff go down in a movie, but it's undeniably terrible on every level. If Mystery Science Theater 3000 did sex movies, this would have been a perfect match and likely a whole lot more enjoyable than having to sit through the original dialog. Those few crazy moments are definitely worth it for the more discerning fan of ridiculous movies, but everybody else is better off skipping it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Sinful Mermaid
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 66 Minutes
Release Year: 1976
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Films