Prurient grindhouse fare from the director of that gratuitous geek show Bloodsucking Freaks? Judge Bill Gibron says it's time to give Joel Reed's exploitation entries a look.
Flesh Freaks and Gratuitous Geeks!
You've got to hand it to Emily Potter. Through drive, determination, and a healthy dose of delusion, she's got her daughter's acting career cranked up to superstar mode. The funny thing is, the diva wannabe Susan has yet to do a significant amount of performing—or any, for that matter. In fact, all she's managed so far is a portfolio of glamour shots and several dates with a collection of "grope and grab" geezers. While she is constantly propositioned, her manipulative mammy won't allow her to do the Shakespeare shimmy under the sheets. Before Mom "sells" her child's choice virtue, the potential bidder must offer a contractual guarantee of fame, fortune, and a little maternal finder's fee on the side. When a psycho photographer who specializes in taking pictures of inflatable bunnies lays his eyes on Susan, he starts to palpitate. Not only will she satisfy his sexual needs, but the fey film producer who "loves 'em young" will pay handsomely for such a honey. Of course, the minute movie man Ross Miller looks at the untouched and untamed youth, he's ready to ride, wicked writ of celebrity in hand. Momma accepts the deal, and it's not long before Susan is corrupted by the confusing confines of her Career Bed.
Dr. Jo Ann Richfield, a supposed scholar on the world of fornication via publication, sits before the camera to preach and teach. She is willing to confide in us her most secret, scandalous findings—in complete violation of all that is professionally ethical. Apparently, in the late '60s world of smut, people found that using the Fourth Estate elevated their ability to practice their perversions. When the classifieds became too tenuous, however, they resorted to coded bulletin board messages, exclusive secret societies, and the most malevolent manner of all, the perverted postcard offering an opportunity for some "bird" watching. Through interviews with those who dwell within such a lewd lunatic fringe, we discover that, unlike most people on the planet, these Eros eccentrics only enjoy the most shameful of sensual pleasures. How else would you describe the desires of a man who cruises toilets looking for the most unattractive and filthy (literally) partners he can uncover? Or the servants who succumb to their employers' raging lust? It's all a matter of Sex by Advertisement for these consenting adults, and oddly enough, Dr. Richfield is not really all that outraged.
Containing one of the most aggressive, aggravating characters in the history of the exploitation genre (and that's quite a feat) and loaded with the kind of dialogue that drag queens covet, Career Bed is one malicious movie. Emily Potter is a completely corrupt monster, using her child-like chattel in a game of vicarious validation. As this stark-raving relative, actress Honey Hunter is not afraid to be unlikeable…or unclothed. She drops her dreary late '60s fashion faux pas so often you fear there's some unwritten law against modest mothers in Manhattan. Add to that her absolutely dreadful personality, one pickled in a constant flow of highballs and an overwhelming hatred for the human race, and you've got a sick, subversive icon to all that is rotten and repugnant in the business of show. Hunter literally walks away with this film, making it her own from the first moments we see her onscreen. Even with the well-endowed Jennifer Welles exposing her siliconed skin sacks every few minutes, the aura of awfulness created by Hunter both helps and hurts this hyper-stylized bit of balderdash. Indeed as a narrative, Career Bed is downright ridiculous. All the men are portrayed as either oversexed serial rapists who can't wait to violate the nearest available action or intelligent if inert idiots who can't climb past Mother Potter to save her brainwashed bimbo daughter. As Bloodsucking Freaks director Joel Reed's first attempt at exploitation fare, it's an amazingly mean movie. As a matter of fact, Emily is so heinous that we want her to pay for being such a shiftless shrew. Sadly her comeuppance is casual, not the foul, fatal flip-off we've been praying for.
There is no such bad-ass bitch at the center of Sex by Advertisement, but that doesn't mean the movie is any less aggravating. Nothing about its narrative is "fact." Reed's purpose here is pretty obvious—discuss the ways in which the world gets wanton, then illustrate these evils in a readily recognizable "Mondo" style. Using future XXX star Georgina Spelvin as his expert in editorial erotica and cobbling together footage from all facets of the fetish world, Reed wants to shock as much as expose. There are several sequences here that test the tightrope of tastefulness. A homosexual who hungers for his half-nude boy-toy is so fey and foppish that Quentin Crisp should sue for copyright infringement. Similarly, a man who gets his jollies by cruising the Port Authority and peeping into stalls defends his right to play voyeur by arguing that he actually enjoys "dirty" things. Where Sex by Advertisement really loses its moorings, however, is during the climactic tale of a leather artist, his chance meeting with a masher in Central Park, and an eventual invitation to a sordid S&M swingers party. Reminiscent of a similar sequence in the mind-boggling 50,000 B.C. (Before Clothing), what we get is a non-stop showcase of grinding Greenwich Villagers, all decked out in cheap-ass Halloween masks (and nothing else), bumping booties while a non-stop loop of sex sounds play in the background. Kind of like a bad techno take on porn, these grunts and groans start to develop their own independent patterns after a while. With Reed himself on hand as the leader of this lash-loving bunch, there really is no chance that the scene will be downplayed. Instead, it becomes the signature sequence by which the rest of this film can be judged. Unfortunately, the verdict is uneven at best.
Both of these films are rarities in Joel Reed's limited oeuvre, and Something Weird Video treats them with corrupt kid gloves. On the image side, the monochrome transfers are adequate, if far from perfect. The 1.33:1 full-frame prints are problematic, with lots of editing issues, scratches, and age defects. Of the two, Advertisement is the messiest, which makes sense, since it is the least known. Career Bed has its blemishes, but looks less fuzzy and faded overall. Anyone hoping for an arousing aural experience will be less than satisfied. The Dolby Digital Mono delivers occasionally overmodulated music and the ever-present peskiness of that sonic demon, distortion.
Where this package really shines is in the added content department. Offered up as part of the extras are trailers (including such winning previews as The Smut Peddler and The Molesters), the typical gallery of sex stills, and a sincerely whacked out delight: a flabbergasting featurette entitled "The Filth Shop." While a voice over vixen drones on and on about being a messenger from Satan, we watch a poorly-dressed dope paw through some magazines in a 42nd Street adult arcade. Our narrator calls herself Lola Lust and claims to be visiting our hero—whose name is Osmo???—to lure him into a life of sin, and via libido logic, a date with the Devil. With its simultaneously irritating/intriguing monologue meandering around (old Scratch even shows up to add his amoral motivational missive toward the end) and the concentration on grade-Z action, this is an appropriately titled short. If you're looking for something filthy, this sordid shop has it in soiled spades.
Watching Career Bed and Sex by Advertisement, you get the impression that Reed was just passing through the skin-flick genre, stopping off long enough to leave a minor impression before heading off to more macabre offerings. Indeed, the rest of his canon consists of his gross-out epic, a failed Amicus anthology, another bunch of horror hooey, and a weirdo action adventure. As part of his filmmaking path, they're intriguing. As an element of the exploitation genre, they're unique, if ultimately unsatisfying, rarities.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Foul Featurette: "The Filth Shop!"
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