Seduction Cinema // 1965 // 62 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker // October 12th, 2007
Perverted Passions! Twisted Pleasures! Immoral Women!
Lynn is a suburban housewife. She and her husband have a nice home, she has a nice car, and as the narrator tells us, "She likes nice things." To get those nice things, Lynn goes into the city every day to work as a model. Well, "model" isn't quite the word for Lynn's work. There are many names for what attractive young women like Lynn do, but for the purposes here, let's call them The Sexploiters. If that word is too sibilant, hooker will do just fine.
Lynn and her fellow ladies of the afternoon pass the time with a variety of gentlemen who have a variety of tastes. Many of these guys go to the "modeling agency" to act out fantasies involving a girl and a camera. You have to have a camera to get some face time with a girl on premises; if you don't have a camera, the agency will be happy to rent one to you, plus film. Off premises, the bar is raised (or lowered, depending how you look at it), and our Sexploiters dabble in a little whipping, a little faux-necrophilia, the occasional frat party, and of course, the guy who brings his clients around for a little extra TLC.
As a matter of fact, that guy is so pleased, he's going to bring two clients in next week, so they'll need a third Sexploiter. The girl mentions she knows a hottie named Lynn, who would be a great addition. How funny, says the guy. His wife is named Lynn. Could it be?
Well, yes, it could, and in fact, it is, and that the filmmakers expect that you're paying enough attention to the story to pick up on this wee bit of irony -- we don't see next week's meeting -- is part of the charm of The Sexploiters.
The film itself is really nothing to write home about. It's a "nudie cutie" that is far more suggestive than explicit. The women go topless, but they never go full-frontal, and the men pretty much remain clad at all times. There are suggestions of sex, but we barely get simulations. A monotonous male voice drones narration, but this guy sounds like Olivier compared to the dreadful "performances" we find in the echoey sync-sound sections. The visual quality changes from shot to shot, and the editor shouldn't have been allowed to cut vegetables, much less film.
And yet, this is a terrific disc. The folks at Retro-Seduction Cinema position this not so much as a sex film, but as a heretofore lost New York indie from the early '60s, aligned more with Cassavetes than with the grindhouse.
Let's start with the packaging. There's a red cardboard slip cover with a pulpy-looking illustration by artist Daniel R. Horne with the tag line, "A picture that goes beyond your IMAGINATION!" On the back are stills and what appears to be an advertising mock-up. The case, however, features a shadowy erotic photo, a different tag line, and different copy and ad mock-up on the back. Most DVDs I've seen have the same graphics and information on both the slip cover and the case; it's nice to have a slip cover worth keeping.
Inside, there is a five-page foldout with an essay by exploitation historian Michael J. Bowen, which gives background on the film as well as its creators (all male): Jerry Denby, Sande Johnsen, C. Davis "Chuck" Smith, and Al Ruban, all of whom appear in The Sexploiters. These would-be auteurs started out at Barry Mahon's Cinema Syndicate, which seems to have been to exploitation films what the Brill building was to East Coast pop music. Ruban, who is credited with directing the film, went on to a notable post-exploitation career, teaming up and working closely with John Cassavetes on a number of his films.
Bowen sits down for a commentary track with Chuck Smith, who gives a wonderful first-person account of what it was like making these films at that time. What comes across strongest -- and what is sometimes lost when viewing these flesh-flashing antiques -- is that there actually was a resourceful creative community putting out these crappy little films. Everyone knew everyone else, and everyone's paths crossed at one time or another. While there seem to have been few pretensions about great artistic statements, there is an integrity to the filmmaking that was lost a decade or so later with the proliferation of multi-X porn and then home video.
For exploitation fans, The Sexploiters offers more spot-the-star opportunities than a very-special-topless episode of The Love Boat. Why, who's that getting funky with an ice cream on a stick? It's Gigi Darlene (Bad Girls Go to Hell)! There's June Roberts (Heat of Madness) doing some "modeling"! And there's Marlene Starr (Flesh and Lace) with June Roberts' shoe in her mouth! And that's Jackie Miller, from Olga's House of Shame! Smith shares stories and mildly leering observations about all these ladies, and speaks fondly of his long collaboration with the occasionally terrifying Doris Wishman, with whom he provided the over-the-top commentary track for A Night to Dismember.
Rounding out the set is a retro trailer vault that actually contains retro trailers, as well as a set of trailers for Retro-Seduction Cinema DVD offerings.
The Sexploiters was a "lost" film, which means it probably sat in someone's garage for decades. Shot on the lowest of budgets to begin with, it looks and sounds pretty bad, but I believe Retro-Seduction did what they could to clean it up. One thing I do wish Retro-Seduction had done is subtitled the film. Since the commentary is so informative and entertaining, it would be nice to be able to listen to it while reading the smatterings of dialogue and narration that move the slight story along.
Retro-Seduction could have just put this out as a bare bones release and left it at that; instead, they've given us history and context, treating The Sexploiters and its creators with a very cool, and deserved, dignity.
Review content copyright © 2007 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Seduction Cinema
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 62 Minutes
Release Year: 1965
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary with Michael J. Bowen and C. Davis Smith
* Retro Trailer Vault
* Essay by Michael J. Bowen
* Official Site
* The Art of Daniel R. Horne