You might call it trash, but Judge Tom Becker considers his giant ball of tinfoil to be a member of the family.
Drop trou and die.
Uta is a 20-year-old hooker. If you forget this, don't worry, she repeats it frequently. She has a nubile body and eyelashes that look like the wingspan of a 747. While waiting for her "Sweet Baby" (who's away on a "selling trip"), Uta has fully clothed sex with a gross-looking guy who doesn't pay her, watches a black-and-white TV with tinfoil rabbit ears, has mostly clothed sex with a guy who looks like Robby from My Three Sons and does pay her, and babbles incessantly like Chatty Cathy on a hot tin roof about what she's going to do when "Sweet Baby" comes home. When SB does arrive, well, tee-hee, the joke's on us!
With her boyfriend Carl out of work, Gerri is helping to make ends meet by being a prostitute. While she is entertaining a man in a hotel (in a room that looks exactly like her and Carl's bedroom), Carl is breaking in Sherry, some new talent. Gerri doesn't know it, but Carl is planning to have a "stable" of five or six girls. It seems Carl has read The Pimp Primer, and he's becoming a real DIY guy. When Gerri comes home, she's distressed to learn that she and Sherry will be doing a little show at a party that night. The party becomes an orgy, with 10 flabby, pasty bodies writhing around, simulating all manner of depraved acts. The party's a hit, and Carl's career is underway!
Marcie and her husband Bill enjoy nudism, so The Lusty Neighbors invite troubled couple Betty and Jim to join them. Since it's a cloudy day, they stay inside and play strip Chutes and Ladders. Betty starts feeling modest and flees to another room. When Jim goes to look for her, Marcie and Bill decide not to waste their nudity and start going at it on the floor. Jim and Betty are invited back later that night for a small party that includes a third couple. When Betty becomes uncomfortable again, Marcie takes her to the bedroom, where they engage in a little girl-on-girl, while Jim and the other husbands are having a three-on-one orgy (complete with strobe light) with the remaining housewife. But then, things take an ugly turn…
The three films in Grindhouse Trash Collection are soft-core porn. The sex acts are simulated, and the male members (featured in two films) are on display, though soft as a summer breeze. Back in the day (in this case, the late 1960s), movies such these had to have some kind of "redeeming social value" in order to be shown publicly. This makes them not unlike the "educational films" of past decades: It was all right to watch naked people cavorting as long as you were learning about reproduction, venereal disease, or drug addiction. The Pimp Primer actually has an opening and closing narration that makes it sound like you're watching a sociological study on prostitution. While the film ends with an extended orgy sequence (including unbilled early appearances from John Holmes and Uschi Digard—see if you can spot 'em), the narrator tells us that Carl the pimp thrived in his profession, but Gerri the prostitute died of a heroin overdose! After two other suicide attempts! See what you learned? When you left the theater, your thoughts weren't on naked bodies as much as decaying flesh. Ugh! All three films actually end with the female protagonists paying the price for their sins. Uta and her honey eat it in a bloodless car wreck, but the most graphic fate is saved for poor suburbanite Betty. Suffice it to say that this is one of the most degrading, demoralizing endings I've ever seen for what should have been a "fun" film. Even the most jaded raincoater must have lost his pup tent after watching this.
Pimp and Neighbors are basically naked people talking and having sex. Uta actually has less sex and nudity and no dialogue, just a running commentary from our titular heroine. These films are short, all under an hour, which means this triple bill could play eight times at a 24-hour theater.
The prints for Pimp and Neighbors look like they've been playing at a 24-hour theater for the past 40 years. Uta, on the other hand, looks great. The transfer was taken from a print owned by the filmmaker, Nick Phillips (a.k.a. Nick Millard). It's too bad they didn't get him to do a commentary or interview. A commentary would have made all the difference in this set.
For extras, we get some background on grindhouse and an introduction to the films by someone named 42nd Street Pete, and trailers for other Secret Key DVDs (the case promises a "retro trailer vault," but how retro are 2007 DTV releases like The Breastford Wives and House on Hooter Hill?). Best of all, there's an eight-page booklet on grindhouse history and the films presented here (which basically makes 42nd Street Pete's presence unnecessary). The booklet focuses on grindhouses as porn theaters, but that's OK. I think it's high time cheap classic smut got its due.
The films are spread over two discs, with Uta, 42nd Street Pete, and the trailers on one, and the other two movies on the other. Like recent releases from Wolfe Video, there are no scene selections for the movies, although they are broken into chapters. There are no set-up options.
Movies like these have value because they are part of our social history. Unfortunately, they don't have all that much value as entertainment. They're too tame to be considered pornography and just not as interesting as the films of Doris Wishman, Joe Sarno, Harry Novak, or the many other old-time drama-cum-flesh peddlers.
Secret Key is let go with a warning. The booklet is a great addition, but we should see more "history" as features on the disc. Next time, bring in some folks who were actually there; also, if you promise retro trailers, give us genuine retro trailers.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Secret Key Motion Pictures
• Grindhouse History with 42nd Street Pete (8:00)
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