Move over Sappho…it's the men's turn to tango!
When he was a little boy, J.C. was taught two very important lessons, life strategies that he would carry throughout his adulthood: (1) all men are filthy, vile swine and (2) if you promise them sex, they will pay you good money for it. Thanks to this tutorial in the whore's life from Mom (whose harloting skills have seen better, more bodily clean days), J.C. grows up to enjoy the sleazy sex act for cash. And his mostly manly demeanor allows him ample opportunities to cruise the local strip malls for available man meat. But as time goes by and the "wiener for wallets" trade grows sordid, J.C. decides to make the jump into beaver and boulders. He hooks up with an asexual sweetheart that he saved from a sleazy porn photographer. Suddenly, everything is straight, moral, and missionary between the two until, again, more major adult schooling situations rear their visible beard: (1) don't live next door to drag queens who will force you to ramrod on camera, and (2) inviting a well-hung leatherman in for an orgy while the little woman is out shopping may cause some interpersonal strife. J.C. needs to remember these tips, or it's back to The Meatrack for the jerky Joe Buck.
Peter is a young, attractive but incredible fey Englishman who just can't keep his roaming Romeo of a boyfriend, Buddy (honestly, what gay man worth his Village People in Vaseline would enjoy being called "Buddy"?), at home in bed with him. So he lashes out in finely clipped sentences meant to convince the cad that the arse grass is greener with this UK lay. But before they can right their haute-hate relationship, they have to throw a party for several "friends" up from the city to celebrate the nation's birth with fireworks and mutual sodomy. As this cast of characters shares their deepest innermost thoughts (like how they killed puppies, sleep on rubber sheets, and have their penis pierced), we see the saga of Bud and his Peter simmer and shimmer. Like a post-Stonewall Real World, Sticks and Stones is just the semi-nude story of several visiting glory holers who stop being polite and start getting real…drunk. Then it's lesbian lap dances for everyone! When the last of the eyeliner has passed, B & P are at a crossroads. They decide to end the long night of non-action by wrestling, semi-clothed and hung over, on the soiled living room floor. Ah, love.
Here's a warning for all you horny hetero he-men out there in the exploitation audience. If your innate homophobia is gear shifted into high by the sight of men enjoying the "company" (not to mention the caboose and crotch area) of other men, then steer clear of this Third Sex Sinema Double Feature from Something Weird and take a walk on a far less wild side. Both The Meatrack and Sticks and Stones mean to explore the homosexual experience from the sex act up, and there is enough dong and drag queens to make even the most open-minded minion of the fetish film flinch. This is not to say that these films are pornographic or depict hardcore acts of guy-on-guy grooving, but they also aren't toothless attempts at emasculating lovers of alternative lifestyles. Indeed, if you take out the beef and two veg from each of these films and substituted undulating mammaries and defrocked cocktail waitresses, you'd have any number of the standard Sappho sisters cinematic skin-fests. The brisk issue here will be with the just plain unusual sight of men preferring the touch of each other's hairy danglers, in direct contravention to the so-called customary bedroom gymnastics to be found in most gangly grindhouse fair—not that whippings, nipple electrocutions, and forcible food rape are all that mainstream. So if you're open-minded, just a tad bi-curious, and are willing to watch horny hunks hump their harried stereotypes, The Meatrack / Sticks and Stone will uncurl your rainbow nicely.
Not that The Meatrack is all lisping liquor. Indeed, J.C. is one unhappy jock junkie. Even though he seems to relish the thrill of the pickle, there is a decided agony over being a pay-as-you-go ass bandit. Even as he hustles he hangs his head in heavy self-hating. Apparently, he loves the pole, just not the vaulting. Maybe it has something to do with the creepy flashbacks he has to a drunken, possessive mother and an absent, but decidedly perverted pappy. Or maybe he's in self-denial, like everyone in 1970. In either case, J.C. decides to work out his issues by spending the majority of his time in the bathhouse nuthouse. All of which make this movie a strange journey into the non-joys of simulated gay sex. This movie has an eccentric way of expressing its sentiments. There is an entire montage of men in motion set to an anti-guy rant by the near incoherent spirit of J.C.'s mother. Other issues in the film seem to skip along like twinks on the way to Muscle Beach. But the best part of The Meatrack is the insane menagerie of raging effeminate clichés that come calling for J.C.'s special brand of manly muskrat love. From the aging member of the raincoat crowd who wants a little "hands on" attention in the local Bijou balcony, to the overweight fat fem in the overtight black corset, this movie could be the source material for an entire season of GLAAD grandstanding. But wait, there's even more ice flaming to be found here. Perhaps the single most surreal scene you will see in an exploitation film occurs when J.C. and his fish dish get caught in bed by a couple of break-in drag hags who force the couple to conjoin while they perform a comedy act. That's right, while our hung hero and his waif babe pretend to be afraid, these two Vogue vixens threaten the couple to get it on while tossing out tired jokes like Totie Fields at the Friars Club. Nothing defines The Meatrack better than this transvestite talent show.
When is a homosexual house party on Fire Island over Fourth of July weekend like visiting miserable monks who forgot to take their vow of silence? When it's the chatty catty Cathy experiment in endless exposition called Stick and Stones. Get ready to watch your laser short circuit under the weight of the hefty hairy-bottomed intentions of this look at gay life through a conglomeration of its most tedious archetypes. We've got the aging leather queen who expands his hide hankering to include vinyl and vulcanized undergarments. There's the cosmopolitan out to pasture artist and the unsure virginal Theseus about to face the man-on-man Minotaur in the lavender labyrinth for the first time. Add an out of touch with reality space case flower peter power child, the drunken jackrabbit writer, his continental queer boy toy, and a barrage of bikers, chubby chasers—even a couple of lesbians—and you have a regulation agenda guest list. And what do these people do when they have a chance to let their pants down and have a good time—talk! Talk and talk and talk and talk. Now, most men mavens are known for delighting in using their mouths, but when it's in service of semi-retarded psychobabble about issues that stopped being polarizing and political about the time Uncle Arthur said "ouch" on Bewitched, it's a long night's journey into gays for everyone involved. This bombastic Boys in the Band wants to say something about swishers being just like everyone else, but it does so in a college graduate theater experiment fashion that needed a re-write, and a visit from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
You really have to give Something Weird Video credit for being brave enough to toss this testicle fest out for the usually less "experimental" shock cinema lovers to experience. It certainly is an eye opener, even if the prints of both The Meatrack and Stick and Stones have seen better days. Each full screen transfer is filled with scratches, dirt, and defects. The prints also exhibit the low budget standards under which they were created, especially Sticks. It has an occasional bad religious television film flat color quality to it. As for the standard bonus features, SWV uncorks a butt-load of archival gay themed shorts that illuminate an interesting dichotomy between gay and straight titillation. In most of the soft-core mini-movies Something Weird uncovers, there is an obvious heterosexual intent to stimulate. Your average loop knows that Joe Businessman is in the booth to "get something accomplished" and so the camera cuts right to the chase. But within the gay scene, just having someone naked playing a guitar, or shooting pool (gives "two in the side pocket" a different meaning, that's for sure) was apparently more than enough. The shorts here are like antique Colt Studio catalogs come to life. Only when John Holmes drops trou and jaws simultaneously do we see anything meant to foster unclean thoughts (as well as sad personal genital self-esteem issues).
So if you're someone who thinks Will and Grace "pushes the envelope" and are glad that the sexuality challenged fad of boy bands is all but a forgotten pre-pubescent practice, then steer clear of The Meatrack / Sticks and Stones. But if you're an adventurous top looking for a little unabashed bottom to bask in, this DVD will answer your orange hanky with a nice hunter's green bandana and a proud pink triangle.
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