Proving that the grindhouse could occasionally go gauche, Judge Bill Gibron says this pair of alternative lifestyle titles from Something Weird set the same-sex movement back several salacious decades.
The People You Are About to Meet May Shock You …
Albert Rose really enjoys his life as a swinging single jet setter. You can tell by the way he rapidly opens and closes his legs while sitting poolside. Upon receiving a nasty note from an anonymous blackmailer, he ends up in a sleazy motel listening to a condemning audiotape. Seems Albert's service in Korea was less than stellar and our unseen host has his cajones in a court-martial over possible charges of desertion. If he agrees to spend one year with the extortionist, who turns out to be a platinum blond biz-nitch named Dominita, he will gain access to the incriminating information. Rose agrees and is taken to his new Mistress's Florida fortress, where he meets up with a sympathetic gal who serves as Dominita's secretary. Apparently, the riding-crop-wielding witch has dozens of denizens at her Sunshine State facility and all of them must go through a "transformation," or endure her puerile punishments. In essence, every girl "becomes" a guy while every gent gets the total drag queen experience. It's not long before Arthur Rose is Rose Arthur, a personal maid who looks more like a halfback during a hazing ritual than a sexy servant. Desperate to escape, Arthur/Rose gets his lesbo lady friend to help him dig up the dirt on Dominita. What he discovers will unmask this mysterious She-Man once and for all.
Next up, things go from perverse to merely potboiler as we follow a tale of murder, motive, and emasculation. It seems that Rachel Waring used to be a well-known nightclub singer. Now she's gone to sloppy, scotch-scented seed. Quite the scandal in her little California burg, she turns up the heat significantly with a tell-all tome that promises to expose the unseemly side of life out of the limelight. Currently paying local rough trade to service her sexual needs, she has, at one time or another, banked most of the men in town. Naturally this makes her already-confused son Jimmy even lighter in the loafers. Smitten with a local kung-fu fella named Bruce, Jim can't quite figure out why this motorcycle-riding macho man stirs his loins so. Yet all that same-sex stuff has to be put aside when Rachel winds up dead, the unfortunate victim of several blows to the brainpan. Everyone's a suspect: Jimmy, his wannabe bed buddy Bruce, even the bare-butted boytoy that Rachel ran around with. It is up to the languid law enforcement skills of a droning detective to uncover the truth about the crime, but he gets to the bottom of more than just murder when he interrogates the suspects concerning their lives, loves, and the Sins of Rachel.
Directed by known name Bob Clark (who would redefine the dirty movie with his 1982's offal opus Porky's), She-Man is like a queer combination of Homicidal and Wigstock. While it offers a clinical quack, eager to pontificate on the psychological "truth" behind the title, what we actually end up with is a turgid twist ending in search of a film to flummox. This is one purposely perplexing motion picture, nothing more than an excuse to see a meat-and-potatoes palooka turned into a grindhouse version of Jim Bailey. One of the more unruly elements of the narrative is the entire blackmail angle. From our post-modern perspective, someone soiling your reputation is often viewed as a smart career move. You get the chance for vindication if they're proven wrong and public humiliation and redemption if your sins are significant enough. Still, every member of Dominita's hit list instantly wets himself or herself the minute she threatens to expose their problems. While actor Leslie Marlowe's transformation reminds one of Ed Asner's interpretation of Shirley Booth, the real star of our saga is the demented Dorian Wayne. Sporting a severe hairdo loaded with sinister sweeps and wicked waves, and modeling clothes from Coco Chanel's new cross-dressing couture line, Wayne walks a fine line between camp and crazy as the villainous vixen. With an ever-present riding crop attached to "her" hand and a collection of commands that sound like bad S&M improv, she's the sole reason to sit through this otherwise unhinged experience.
If you ever wanted to see how the paternalistic part of society responded to the newfound women's movement, Sins of Rachel will stand as your wide-eyed wake-up call. This movie might as well be subtitled Death to All Drunken Domineering Mothers as it paints quite a noxious portrait of a pickled parent well past her prime. Actually, as played by screenwriter Ann Noble, it's hard to imagine Rachel ever having a legitimate star turn. She reminds the viewer of Hermione Baddeley crossed with some moldy Yorkshire Pudding, her animated British accent the auditory equivalent of a plate of bubble and squeak spitting up. At first we think we're witnessing another She-Man moment. Yet when we come to the realization that Rachel is indeed a she—albeit a slovenly, horny, old goat version of femininity—our brains begin to deconstruct the narrative, wondering what all the taboo hubbub is about. In truth, it should be painfully obvious from all the shots of Brett Marriott riding around town sans shirt. The way Rachel's son Jimmy stares at him, you'd swear the two were trading spit. In one of this film's most brazen—and brave—elements, director Dick Fontaine (responsible for such posing strap/posing pouch movies as In the Days of the Greek Gods and Muscles from Outer Space, as well as The Beatles at Shea Stadium???) does everything he can, save actually showing guy-on-guy action, to suggest that Jimmy and Bruce are more than just "buddies." The rest of Sins of Rachel is quite dumb. The wrap-up is routine, yet the unrequited love story is not. It actually saves the film, making the whole experience a great deal of flummoxing fun.
As is the case for the terrific time capsule company, the transfers of She-Man and Sins of Rachel are the best that can be acquired. That means Clark's cavalcade of tacky transvestitism is a monochrome delight. The 1.33:1 full-frame image is alive with pure black-and-white delights. On the other hand, Sins of Rachel has so many emulsion defects that you begin to believe they were part of Fontaine's cinematic aesthetic. There is nary a frame of this 4x3 feature that's not loaded with the little green dots. On the sound side, both movies offer middling Dolby Digital Mono mixes. Rachel even tries to up the ante with a few surreal same-sex power ballads. It almost works, since the songs are strange indeed.
As for added features, SWV can usually be counted on for super supplements and creative complements. She-Man/Sins of Rachel is no different. We are treated to a wealth of self-described "lavender tinged" trailers, including ads for films like Gay Liberation and My Third Wife George, along with an odd come-on for a personal appearance by Ken "Mr. Madame" Marlowe (???). A collection of archival shorts reveals a naked cowboy, some small packaged peon sunbathing at the beach, a chance to see a Jamie Foxx-like Jean La Rue do his/her famous "truffle shuffle" dance routine, and a visit to the private boudoir of professional bodybuilder Warren Frederick. Along with the films themselves, this is another winning installment in SWV's continued calling to preserve the peculiar.
Without their obvious alternative-lifestyle themes, both films would still be antithetical to the entire raincoat crowd dynamic. Men wanted to see gals getting naked, not a confused momma's boy bedding down with a chopper riding judo jock. She-Man and Sins of Rachel argue that there is a great deal of craven kitsch to be found inside these unusual offerings. You just have to push past all the subliminal shame heaped on the cast of characters to find it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
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