Though not quite the same as your own personal pocket rocket, Judge Bill Gibron still insists you'll get a kick out of the three sexploitation films found on this latest Something Weird DVD release.
Sexploitation sin and skin mixing sleaze with schlock and stupidity.
Barbara and her big sister Julia have one of those "special" relationships that only Jerry Springer, or the Hilton siblings, would understand. After spending their formative years in incestual bliss, Barb has run off to NYC to become a writer. One day, her oversexed relative shows up, looking for a place to crash—among other, more unnatural things. When Barbara is reluctant to restart their Sappho shenanigans, Julia runs next door, where she discovers mistress Georgia and her den/storeroom of nifty iniquity. There she learns the joys of group sex, as well as the more intimate thrills of the super-sized personal handheld massager (no, really!). When Barbara appears jealous of Julia's latest erotic adventures, big sis invites her over for a little sexual healing. Amazing how the frigidity just melts away when you succumb to some hefty mega-motorized Vibrations.
Elsewhere in the city, someone is reading a sexy novel. Across town, another woman is experiencing the personal pleasures of an orgy handbook. Together they start to fantasize, stream of consciousness style, about some of the suggestions they are ingesting. In between the scenes of basting, boffing and other bewildering bedroom Olympics, a couple of out-of-shape teamsters do kung fu on each other (no, really!). Intertwined among the debaucherous delights and Jujitsu junk is what has to be the world's first recorded phone sex call. Indeed, two unseen people discuss the wonders of whiz and making human mudpies on each other, as more martial arts madness is juxtaposed against the continued reprobate realigning of reproductive gear shafts. Amazing how sanity just melts away when you, as an audience member, are forced to succumb to some incredibly self-indulgent cinematic Fluctuations.
Finally, in a set of swanky uptown digs, icky Vicki and her boy-toy sex fiend husband Barry are plotting against a rich fashion designer named Linda. The couple has been hired on as her house servants, but instead of playing maid, they are plotting to rob her blind—and then kill her dead. Since Ms. V is a little sheepish when it comes to cold-blooded homicide, Barry has devised ways of keeping his cooing co-conspirator under control. Apparently, Vicki gets the vapors whenever she spies toys or candy (no, really!) and her main man uses these symbols of juvenilia to keep them both carnally conjoined. Little does he know, however, that the target of their slaughter scam has a devilish secret all her own. Apparently, this crackpot Coco Chanel really loves the ladies, if you catch the same sex drift. And if Barry's not careful, he may just lead his Baby Ruth-loving sweetheart into the arms of the corpse-to-be. Amazing how reason melts away when rape and other degenerate activities are used to keep your spouse in total Submission.
Something Weird is back, after a minor pause in its release schedule, to bring us another triple feature of gritty New York grindhouse goodness. Our first offering, Vibrations, shows exploitation expatriate Joe Sarno exploring the twisted world of electronic erotica. Anyone who is a Sarno fan knows that he has two modes of operation. In his later years, he has focused almost solely on softcore sex films, usually filmed in—and featuring actors from—his newfound homeland of Sweden. But before the man moved to the Norse country, he was notorious for a kind of sleazy, suburban noir. He created a movie world peppered with perverts, swingers, and sexual predators. From classics like Sin in the Suburbs to the sensational The Swap and How They Made It, Sarno invented a voyeuristic cinematic language, a specialized way of looking at the depraved dominion of his characters through a cracked and corrupt looking glass.
Vibrations is no exception. This is Joe in his pre-ABBA period. The only thing different between this and Sarno's other opuses is that, in this piece of peek-a-boo pseudo-porn, the director spends more time on the sex than he does on the sordidness. Let's face it; any film that features an old-fashioned motorized massager that looks like it could (and quite possibly would) strip the paint off a battleship is not interested in subtle innuendo. Of course, since this is still the late '60s, Sarno is restricted in what he can and cannot show. But this doesn't mean that his actresses can't infer the frig out of their unusual unions.
Sadly, one may never know the name of the actress playing Julia (the film contains no credits), but she has a kind of Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha's evil sister Serena look about her—that and a rack that really ratchets up the tantalizing T&A factors. And man oh man, can she put on the fake fluff. This gal is so helplessly hopped up most of the time that you wonder when or if her privates ever get a break. When she's not sensating herself into cross-eyed delight, she's letting others do it for her, including the gang over at Georgia's and her own alarmingly unattractive sister. In many ways, Vibrations is the film where Sarno finally dumped most of his dramatic intentions to merely pile on the poon. He still wants to tell a story, but only in service of mechanized masturbation.
At least Vibrations still attempts some manner of narrative naturalism. In the world of the completely fudged up Fluctuations, things like story and character are so passé as to be completely ignored. Instead, we are treated to tape loops, arcane overdubbing, lackadaisical New Yorkers engaging in the early stages of phone sex, and lots of ex-beatniks polishing each other's less-than-buoyant bongos. Faux fornication is plentiful in this 70-minute motion picture mystery, layered inside a strange libidinous lasagna that's never as tasty as it thinks it is.
You just know director Leo J. Rhewonal thought he was creating some manner of masterful avant-garde statement, being both clever and artistic when it came to ersatz erotica. However, this is more confusing than carnal, appealing directly to your desire to become easily confused, not sexually aroused. The intermittent shots of crappy karate are a kick—especially when the wounded warrior shouts and screams (which sound suspiciously like someone suffering through reverse peristalsis) are dubbed over the scenes of interpersonal intimacy. Though it may not make a lick of sense (about the only tonguing it doesn't engage in), Fluctuations still functions as a compelling flesh-filled freak out. Just don't expect things to be sensible and you'll be just fine.
Our final entry in this tribute to Times Square squalor is Submission, and it plays like a combination of the other two offerings included here. There is a lot of Sarno's seedy sexuality, considering that our male lead is a rapist-thrill killer who wants to dominate every woman he sees. But since director Allen Savage doesn't quite have a handle on such cinematic concepts as mise-en-scène and storyline sensibility, he tosses a lot of random imagery at the screen ala Fluctuations.
But this is not the only bifurcated bemusement found in the film. Every character, from the sugar-craving Vicki to the painfully unhappy fashion frau Linda, has two totally difference faces—and phases—to their personality. Vicki seems normal, that is, until she gets around some creamy nougat. The same applies to Linda and available vixens (who have their own creamy…oh, never mind). And Barry likes to pass the time by stalking the local woods and sexually assaulting passersby. Though it can occasionally vapor lock deep into its own nonsensical strategies, Submission makes a fine companion piece to Vibrations's depravity and Fluctuations's dementia. Taken together, they are enough to drive your average exploitation fan into a case of the softcore shivers.
As they are known to do, Something Weird steps up to the digital transfer plate and really knock one black and white beauty completely out of the park. All three films are offered in 1.33:1 full screen presentations, and except for some badly faded bits in Fluctuations, the prints are amazingly clean. Minor editing defects and the occasional dirt aside, these are excellent looking monochrome masters, retaining all the sensational starkness and visual immorality that derives from such basic single color cinema.
The Dolby Digital Mono is another issue altogether. Vibrations sounds the best, since Sarno was a stickler when it came to technical specs. But Fluctuations has that horrible "recorded over the phone" dialogue that only goes to show that the US government should have broken up the Ma Bell monopoly decades earlier. Submission also suffers from poorly modulated sonics—the dialogue occasionally resonates like it was recorded from the inside on someone's shoe.
Sadly, there is a real lack of added content here. SWV is usually pretty good about fleshing out their features, but all we get is seven minutes of Submission outtakes (sans sound—and rather boring) and 11 minutes of a slideshow gallery, highlighting images from a proposed exploitation trading card set. Snore.
Still, this tawdry triptych is a celebration to the fascination that is exploitation. While your particular deviation may not find representation in this presentation, there is still plenty of sexual and surreal imagination to overcome the omissions. Vibrations / Fluctuations / Submission require no explanation or justification. Your dedication will be rewarded with both frustration and satisfaction.
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