Appellate Judge Tom Becker can't wait for the sequel, VD Clinic on 59th Street.
What has four legs and flies?
Well, lots of legs, actually, most of them akimbo. And if the flies aren't there, they're missing a good bet.
Yep, it's time for another DVD wallow in that toxic wading pool that was once 42nd Street, from a time when "family friendly" meant your lice colony was related to my lice colony and "Disney" was a wino's way of saying that the sidewalk was spinning. So let's follow the urine-stained road and find out who's been having Sex on 42nd Street.
Once upon a time, people did not have computers and email. If they had faraway friends, they wrote letters and became Pen Pals. When a group of epistolarians visit New York City to finally meet, they discover that no pen is mightier than their host's sword.
In keeping with the stamps-and-envelopes theme, our next tale concerns a female letter carrier whose dedication to delivering Certified Mail is not daunted by rain, snow, gloom of night, or a nasty rape that occurs right at the start of the film. Dusting herself off after this sticky situation, she delivers to a naked martial arts studio and later performs a public service for oversexed matron who has just finished tipping a delivery boy.
Our final story concerns two buddies who are looking for bosom. They hit upon what must be the most brilliantly simple idea in all of slackerdom: They will advertise for a female housekeeper, and once hired, inform her that her duties include having sex with them and being filmed so the boys can make money as pornographers! When they get their Love-in Maid, she turns out to be a perfect fit.
Back when I was a starry-eyed novice at DVD Verdict, I reviewed a little gem called Grindhouse Trash Collection, which was put out by the same people responsible for this set. That first set featured films from the late '60s, while these films are from the early '70s. What a difference a couple of years make! The soft-core stylings from Grindhouse Trash look like an episode of Barney and Friends compared to the triple-X horrors on display here.
This is New York City smut, distinguishable from California smut in that it has a grittier look—and that includes the actors. No tan, taut, blonde bunnies here; this is porn of the pasty. These folks look they ain't seen the sun shine since, I don't know when.
But even the most pulchritudinous players would have a hard time representing pretty with the filmmaking techniques here. In Certified Mail and, especially, Love-in Maid, all the "intimate" scenes are shot in extreme close-up. And I mean extreme. It's not erotic; it's gruesome. With an audio track that includes over-modulated "yummy" sounds, you might as well be watching a flesh-eating zombie movie.
And yet, these films are not without their charms and have moments where they resemble early John Waters or the Paul Morrissey Warhol movies. A sequence in Certified Mail gives us an actress known as Ultramax (apparently, someone in the Screen Actors Guild already had dibs on "Standard Max," and Sony had Betamax, so what's a gal to do?). Ultramax starts out slobbering over some naked muscle-man magazines (barking up the wrong tree, Ma'am), gives the delivery boy several pounds of flesh in lieu of a tip, has a surreal argument with the mail lady over a sex toy, then goes postal with the mail lady while the delivery boy naps. When they wake him to join in, he looks at the two women and says, "No fag scenes for me." Yes, nearly a decade before Richard Gere made a similar pronouncement in American Gigolo, some unknown guy who probably couldn't spell STD spits it out for no apparent reason but still brings down the house with it.
If you're familiar with these kinds of films, you might recognize some of the names here: Shaun Costello, who directed Pen Pals, the best of the three films, also the least gross; C. Davis Smith (The Sexploiters), who did some tech work on Certified Mail; Marc "10½" Stevens, who plays a karate kid in Certified Mail; and grindhouse regular Bobby Astyr, who's curiously engaging as one of the roommates in Love-in Maid and has a funny scene with a pretentious hippie chick he picks up in Washington Square Park. East Coast grinders Mary Stuart, Lynn Stevens, and Sandy Foxx are among the featured females.
Spread out over two discs, the films look and sound like hell, but After Hours Cinema did what it could with digital restoration. Without some kind of work, they would have been unwatchable. There's a nice eight-page booklet that gives some background on the films and the filmmakers. The only extras on the disc are trailers for similar compilations from After Hours Cinema.
Perhaps it's the fact that they were shot on film, rather than video. Perhaps it's because hard-core porn was new and a dicier proposition in the early '70s. Perhaps it's the occasional exterior shot of New York City in the '70s and a 42nd Street that no longer exists. Perhaps it's the fact that when they're not showing us things we really don't want to see, they are funny and quirky. Rough as they are, these films have an appeal and a personality that the blandly airbrushed contemporary smut lacks.
Plus, unlike the soft-core programmers, nobody suffers for their pleasures here—at least not in any way a little penicillin won't clear up.
So, grab your raincoat, invite over a few guilt-stricken friends, and have yourself an old-fashioned smoker. Just don't serve onion dip.
No moral judgments for me. Case dismissed.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: After Hours Cinema
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