Enter the bizarre world of the Psycho Sexual!
With her love life—also known as lunkhead boyfriend Ken—going nowhere, young cosmopolitan Karen Anderson does what any early '60s female urbanite would do when hitting a 42nd Street skid—she gets a job as a cheesecake model for a creepy brother/sister combo who just so happens to run an "agency" upstairs from her closet-sized apartment. At first, the Marshalls seem like perfectly normal bosses: considerate, complimentary, and open to employee promotion. Unfortunately, their idea of job advancement has something to do with selling your skivvies to rich Manhattan perverts. You see, the Marshalls hire out their female fashion plates to local sickos who paint, paddle, prod, and even hose them down, all in the name of scuzzy sensual pleasure. And after attending rich witch Harriet North's wild sexual social tea, complete with nude pool playing and personal branding, Karen runs to the law. Seems our traumatized tenant is tired of the lewd lease and seedy security deposit she has to put down to be a Rent-a-Girl.
Like that song that gets stuck in your brain and never seems to end, that age-old quatrain about prostitutes getting killed by a mommy-mangled psychopath plays out along the same old seedy bars and squalid squats of a grimy Gotham. Our homicidal hooker-hater wants to rid the world of all whores akin to his filthy, disgusting $5 mammy. Stalking the streets, our damaged dude works out his deep seeded sexual inadequacies by spying on professional gals and gauging his peter preferences. Thanks to his sociopathic penile dysfunction, whenever one of these ladies of the evening stirs his swizzle stick, our groin-engorged walking guilt complex kills the available VD factory and then makes sweet, sweet necrophiliac love to her. The local B-girl population gets a good weeding through, one bimbo at a time, before a cop with his own in-the-sack syndrome tracks down the skank eliminator. But not before the harlots get a gelding-style revenge on this maniac who can find nothing better to do with himself than commit murder when Aroused.
Jo-Jo and her horse-faced lover Luana (with a name like that, you just know she's pug fugly) are the most pathetic hookers ever to live in complete squalor. Jo likes to pick up salesmen at the airport and "ride" them, bareback. Then she robs them, bringing the pathetic lucre home to help her "front" business…teaching kung fu! Luana regularly strips for a goofy, deeply tanned bon vivant playboy who wears ascots and drops LSD sugar cubes like he's hypoglycemic. As the unsightly streetwalker does a freakish ass-tusi, "Mr. Gregory" tells a trippy tale about how he and former lover Barbara killed a hitchhiker, and chopped her up in the bathtub, just to put a little zing in their zippers. But one is not enough for Barb, so Gregsie strangles her. After a fun-filled day at the beach, he brings the corpse home and carves her up. The harsh featured Luana believes none of this baloney…until she finds a trunk full of bones in the kitchen. So it's back to Jo-Jo for a little same-sex protection. Leave it to the homely Lu to demand Help Wanted, Female.
Rent-a-Girl is the strange case of an exploitation movie that wants to add unknowns, like plot and personality, to all the whippings and paddlings. For every scene of silent meditation by a character, there is a sequence where a sleazoid squirts water all over a model, inventing the wet t-shirt contest for future generations of frat boys to fawn over. Filled with gratuitous boob and butt shots and the kind of loopy, illogical narration and overdubbing that Doris Wishman made famous, this is the kind of film that makes Manhattan a gritty cityscape of dirty detail and monochrome misery. It's a town filled with twisted couples who paint their hired models bodkins before doing the bed boogie, and where rich women hire masochistic maids who don't mind a little corporeal commanding. But Rent-a-Girl also wants to add atypical artifacts like characterization, moral standards, and even a happy ending to the wanton world of vice. It wants to make Karen Anderson less of a wandering rack looking for a camera and more like a sad, lonely career girl whose financial precariousness makes her a highly suggestible young lady who will clearly do almost anything for a sawbuck. But as she drops bra and exposes her pomegranates, she proselytizes about why she is doing it, finding all manner of voiceover vindication for compensated nudity. Then there's the Marshalls, who get several scenes of story stopping articulation as they discuss the pros and cons of flesh peddling. The movie tries so hard to make them perverse white slavers that they become eccentric, not demonic. Between Harriet Grant's grand dame of debauchery and the clueless, codpiece called Ken, Rent-a-Girl is a strange, yet satisfying, look into women who shake and sell their moneymakers.
On the other hand, Aroused is a leap back into those comfortable carnal shoes with the added odiferous idea of mixing a psychological subtext into the skin and sin. Indeed, one could confuse Aroused for any number of gals-go-birthday-suit before they are man handled and slaughtered cinema outings. But there is a nifty twist to these tainted proceedings, an added attraction that will, at first, make you think your DVD player has layer changed itself into a black hole. The image on the screen freeze-frames and the sound drops out. It stays motionless and quiet for a moment and then a female voice from Hades chimes in, saying appallingly inappropriate things like "shut up you bastard" and "that kid's a piece of crap." That's right—Mom is calling from the lesser beyond, using her unique parenting skills (mostly revolving around abandonment, abuse, and torture) as a mental calling card for our star slayer turning tricks into cadavers. This stop motion mania happens a few times in Aroused and it transforms this otherwise mundane monkeys-in-heat motion picture into a sick little flick, as does the final few moments. After what seems like hours of middle act exposition—we want more butchery and knockers, not human life stories—the targeted tramps leap into action and decide to pay the murderer a little vivisection visit. Trapped in his apartment that appears to have been decorated by a limbless Salvador Dali, our death dealer is surrounded by every inexpensive mattress artist in the skid row vicinity who proceed to lick, pinch, and then castrate him (talk about leaping from foreplay into coitus). Aroused reminds us that the grindhouse, the slaughterhouse, and the nuthouse were occasionally so close together as to be the same squalidly satisfying place.
But the coup de grace in this crazy triple feature is the way-out weirdness entitled Help Wanted, Female. This marvelous, messed-up masterpiece is about as far away from normal as a trashy nude roughie can get. The plotline involves prostitution, casual sex, kung fu, vodka gimlets, acid trips, weird wigs, outlandish ball gowns, the striptease, World War II reenactments, murder, suffocation, getting beaten up by women, a Weekend at Bernie's romp with a dead girl on the beach, and one of the ugliest, most unappealing actresses ever to facial tick her way into a leading role. This blond boulder dome attempts all manner of emotive phases with her heinous façade and they all look like she's eaten a package of expired suet. She has the seductive power of a pole sitter and the sensual magnetism of a disemboweled piglet. The fact that she acts as unattractive bookends to this weird flashback/dream sequence/fantasy land of murder and bad mascara means that what's in between better be choice. But instead, Help Wanted, Female gives us prime ham and his name is Sebastian Gregory. Here is a woolly mammoth of a man who flips his wrist a lot when he wants to act stoned, and shimmies like he's doing an interpretative dance of the Teamsters Pension Plan. Mr. Gregory apparently has so many skeletons in his closet that he has to keep some in a trunk by his refrigerator. Between turning his bed into a D-Day date pup tent and wandering the shoreline with his dead lady in his arms, this bully beefalo is the nutty center to corny, crackpot confection that's part burlesque, part two-bagger, and all body brochette. Help Wanted, Female proves that the more unprofessional or over the top the participants, the better the bawdiness will be.
As usual with Something Weird's triple features, there is limited space for bonus material here. We are treated to a couple of career gals overdressed in orthopedic lingerie, the brunette giving the blond a hinder hittin' in the archival short Lesson of the Strap (which, oddly, does not feature either). The trailer for Aroused follows the film's fetching black hooker around as she saunters her funky onion down skid row, and the gallery of exploitation art is all new and improved, so it becomes refreshing and fun all over again. As for the movies themselves, the monochrome images have all seen better days. Help Wanted, Female looks the best since it's the most consistently unblemished. Rent-a-Girl is faded with scratches and jumpy edits. Aroused also looks a little weather beaten. Still, considering the rarity of these releases and their unconventional exploitation takes, the fact that they exist at all is amazing.
Each of these films proves that, as long as you have a little bit of imagination, some 16mm black and white film, and a directory of available barmaids, anyone can make a movie. So hire yourself some skirt, give Harriet Grant and her gang a call, and strap in for a triple dose of loving, fiscal style.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
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