Though he's never actually had to pay for love, Judge Bill Gibron found this diddling-for-dollars double-feature to be a true tawdry treat.
All the lovin' money can buy!
When Callie Sue arrived in the big city, all she wanted to do was forget her past as a persecuted "colored girl" in a racially repugnant South. For Julia, the lure of potential acting jobs brought her to the flash and fantasy of Manhattan. And harried suburban housewife Barbara just likes to play the ponies now and then. Eventually, all three ladies learn that the paternalistic parts of the '60s won't let them be. Callie Sue will always be a ready-to-rape minority novelty, even to the most dumpy and derelict of her co-workers. Julia will jump at the chance to audition for a powerful producer—that is, until she learns that the only interest he has in her is her performance—in the boudoir. And Barbara? She's more than happy to turn a trick or two if it will keep her brawny mobster bookie from breaking her varicose-veined legs. Indeed, all three put-upon babes will soon accept being loved, especially when they have to sell it wholesale to the local riff-raff. Make no doubt about it, you can try to fancy up their current career change, but they will always be known as The Hookers.
When Madam Sue learns that a diabolic mobster named Carny Bill has decided to muscle in on her territory, and in turn, her girls, she decides to stand her ground. After all, how dare a guy who goes goofy over the Tilt-a-Whirl intimidate her? Before she knows it, carcasses are piling up like corporeal kindling. The mad Mafioso with a penchant for amusement parks (thus the name) sends his hitmen out on an all-out whore-killing spree. It takes Sue a few scenes to realize that her potential concubines are being eliminated, thus significantly minimizing their money-making potential. As if by instinct, she and the remaining gals decide to create their own lethal babe brigade. They take up arms and start garroting the hired goons before they have a chance to permanently punch their own lewd dance card. It's a regular risqué rumble as slatterns take on slayers in an all-out war for control of the sex-for-sawbucks trade. Thankfully, these tarts have formed their own P.P.S. (Prostitutes Protective Society). Otherwise, they'd all be just so many dead coquettes.
Though the title The Hookers suggests a rip-roaring ho-down of carnally craven call girls, a better title for this movie might be Prelude to Hooking or maybe a more confessional How I Came to Hook. After all, for most of the narrative, there is nary a trick turned. Oh, sure, Callie Sue finally sells herself to the porcine sales rep who seems pretty used to doling out the dosh for some sugar, but Julie just resigns herself to her fate while Barbara basks in the afterglow of a job well…considered? Director Jalo Miklos Horthy (???) tries to enhance his otherwise tawdry tale with healthy doses of saggy social commentary. During the excruciatingly racist Callie Sue sequence, we are forced to listen to a couple of rebel yell rejects rationalizing their reasons for rape. It's rather repugnant. Then during this uncomfortable confrontation, Horthy films a chase scene through a cornfield, trying to fancy up what is more or less a miscarriage of human justice. The Hookers delivers a lot of its depraved delights in this manner. It readily refuses to jump on the standard sexploitation bandwagon. Very little nudity is offered, the most being a quick glimpse of breast or a momentary peek at posterior. Far more time is taken up with prickly conversations, mindless manhandling, and the single strangest scene in any grindhouse gala.
The best moments in the movie occur when Julie goes to "entertain" a famed producer, he turns out to be a whacked-out weirdo who likes everything "slow" and "neat." As our whore-in-training turns on her inner Frug, we get goofy close-ups of the impresario mentally soiling himself over the dish doing the Watusi in front of him. Whenever she screws up though, he shrieks like a woman and berates her in the most menacing of fashions. As he pitches his horrifying hissy, he growls "NO! …slowly…and NEATLY!" Considering that the actor hired to play the part looks like a corpse about to slump over and puddle into a pool of putrescence, there is an uneasy aura to the entire narrative. Something similar occurs when Barbara's maid makes a play for the miserable man of the house. Looking like a character out of John Kricfalusi's most fevered '50s dream, our henpecked hubby is mauled by our overripe servant, fat folds vibrating in unrequited passion. Naturally he rejects her advances. Apparently this means she, too, will soon be selling her goodies on the loading docks around town.
As for P.P.S., all one can say is, "Jeez—some young thang must have really messed up Barry Mahon when he was a hormonally raging adolescent." His obvious misogyny, minor as it may actually appear, is written all over his oeuvre. From the perfectly titled The Beast that Killed Women to the psychologically insightful Sex Killer, Mahon believes that the best way to sell skin is with a little slaughter thrown in on top. Or in the case of P.P.S., a LOT of slaughter. Purposefully premised like a mock documentary, with the heavily accented Madame Sue telling us her sad slice-and-dice story, Mahon makes with slasher-style horror movie strategies. We get stabbings, shootings, hangings, strangulations, and drownings. In addition to the occasional flashes of flesh, Mahon also takes us to an amusement park to watch Carny get his kicks, gives us a glimpse of the less-than-stellar rumpshaking at the local hooker bar and offers enough amateur acting to make today's independent moviemaker feel right at home. As a matter of fact, Prostitutes Protective Society can really be seen as a kind of faux-feminist manifesto. Mahon makes it clear, in a very Sin City sort of way, that if left to their own devilish devices, whores and hookers are more than capable of taking care of themselves. It is only when oily, unctuous men show up, dark suits hiding a heart as greasy as their slicked-down hair, that things begin to go haywire. With nary a mention of that other "P" word (playas know it as "pimp"), Mahon's misguided morality play is a seedy yet singular delight.
Then there's Meeting on 69th Street. SWV adds this tainted tale of three Florida femmes opening a cathouse in Long Island to bolster the DVD's overall skin quotient. There is more ersatz erotica here than in both main movies combined. Once we get past the set-up and a group of sailors arrive, it's mattress mambo time for all involved. And talk about the PRICES?!? One lady named Lana promises to give her seafaring bedmate a $1,000 special for free. In the corporeal context of the narrative, it's hard to tell which is more outrageous—the cost or the fact that someone once paid this ditzy dullard a grand to "shoot the works." Part sad-sack stupidity (one of our brawny brave seamen is actually intimidated by girls—awwww!), part squirming excuse for traditional smut, Meeting is monotonous and meandering, turning its sex into something as exciting as an earache. While it does give exploitation fans the flesh they've been craving all along, the subliminal costs may be a little to dear for some to take.
As with most of their monochrome offerings, Something Weird Video delivers a delightful set of black-and-white transfers. When they stay inside for their arousal action, both The Hookers and P.P.S. have a clear, crisp set of light and dark contrasts. You can almost feel the silky lingerie worn by this collection of craven coquettes. When each film ventures out into the existing cityscape however, the lack of lighting and the inability to control other external elements really damages the image. The Hookers starts with an interesting shot of the Pan Am Building, but it's wobbly, faded, and almost always out of focus. When Madame Sue walks down 42nd Street, the mind-numbing neon is all we really see. Still, for incredibly rare movies from an era gone by, these 1.33:1 full-frame movies look really good. Meeting on 69th Street is another issue all together. It's dirty, fully of scratches, and looks like it was rarely, if ever, well cared for. Along with a collection of highly enjoyable trailers (including titles like the tantalizing All My Men and the totally ridiculous House of Cats) and the standard SWV gallery of sexploitation ad art with exploitation audio, this is a near triple-feature of stupefying and strange sex for sale.
Though many of them fail to have that mythical heart of gold, the slags and skanks featured in The Hookers and P.P.S. (Prostitutes Protective Society) prove that as grindhouse icons, the lady of the evening represented more than just an easy lay for your average beery businessman. Indeed, in the world of exploitation, prostitution was just a jumping-off point for horny gals to earn something for scratching that most taboo of itches.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Mini-Feature: 1969's Meeting on 69th Street
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