It seems incongruous to the parameters of the genre. Exploitation and laughter just don't seem, at first glance, to mix. After all, the purpose behind such films is not to elicit giggles, but satisfy with jiggles (and all that goes with such flesh flouncing). Obviously there are times when faulty filmmaking creates unintentional fun, but does a flesh peddler really want his experiment in erotica to be remembered for its inadvertent humor, or come hither carnality? For many members of the raincoat crowd, skin and sin need to come straight, no comedic chaser. It gets in the way of the main "meat" of the moviemaking.
With the October release of The Girl from S.I.N./ Henry's Night In, we get two more entries into the smut with a smile pantheon. The former is a spy spoof, a kind of Matt Helm that's more hump than hip. The latter focuses on a loveable loser whose massive mommy complex keeps him from satisfying his indirect nudist wife. Both stories revolve around invisibility, and the frisky adventures that can be had when not being seen. Each one also attempts to introduce elements of standard cinematic comedy into its softcore schema. With The Girl from S.I.N., the humor is hampered by a miserable voiceover narration that saps the jokes of all their joviality. But inside Harry's hampered histrionics, there are guffaws aplenty. Indeed, of the two, our impotent putz lays on the laughs better than the lewdness.
The Girl from S.I.N. does have its Doris Wishman-inspired charms, however. This exercise in espionage erotica centers on Agent 0069, code name Poontang Plenty (Ian Fleming is now officially drilling a hole to DaNang with his grave spinning) She works for S.I.N., a strange crime syndicate whose initials are never explained (some possible solutions: Stupid Incoherent Nonsense? Skanks Inciting Nookie?) Along with her leader, Dr. Sexus, an oddly Asian beer barrel who looks like Uncle Fester if he were cast in the road company of Flower Drum Song, she plans on taking over the world, by crook...or by hooker.
Seems Professor Drake, a dopey doctor working in his upper Eastside lab late one night, had his eyes befall a stunning scientific sight. After zapping some junk with a few high frequency bu-fo rays, he's developed an invisibility pill. And S.I.N. wants the unseen formula for their own devilish purposes. As a result, we get seductions, carnal kung-fu, gratuitous nude model photo shoots, and some of the most ludicrous love scenes ever conceived. Poontang may have plenty of "powers" to offer up, but her crime skills are kinda crappy.
Director C. Davis Smith was a direct disciple of the ditzy Doris W., a woman whose exploitation skills were so creative and corrupt that no one - not the great leaders of the French New Wave or the innovators of Independent No Wave Movements - were capable of following them. In fact, he helped pioneer many of the mangled motion picture particulars that make the lady a legend in the realm of Nudie Cutie/ Roughie Toughie celluloid. The Girl from S.I.N. sees several Wishman regulars - Sam Stewart, Bob Oran, Mary O'Hara - doing their arcane acting thing, while Poontang Plenty's Joyana (gotta love those lousy single name attempts at stardom) makes for a pretty fetching front woman. Smith himself even essays the role of Professor Drake, proving that anyone, even a dopey cameraman for a grindhouse goddess, could be unbelievably inept in front of the lens.
Thankfully, Smith was behind the camera for almost all of Doris's oeuvre, and he even picked up a few of Wishman's more memorable habits. He fails to offer any dialogue, so the movie is made with a narrator announcing the plot points. The same sensationally skuzzoid settings are used, with New York turning into a grimy pit of gratuity in which eccentrically decorated alcoves dwell. Sexus lives in what can best be described as Sino-Japo sin joint - i.e. an Orient-inspired hideout that looks like a kind of nightmare you'd have after eating too much sweet and sour duck (thank you, Lucille Ball). Drake's lab, on the other hand, looks like a closet in a one bedroom walkup. The scenes of invisibility are handled with sloppy slapstick aplomb, and when Poontang pops her top and does her version of the third degree, there is barely a sizzle from the porn prepared peanut gallery.
While it is a hoot from a camp or kitsch conception, The Girl from S.I.N. is rather routine exploitation fare. Smith doesn't break new ground here. He simply follows the formulas made memorable by the auteur he served. But he can't contend with Wishman's wackiness. There is just something astray here, a feeling of drabness that makes what should be surreal and sexy seem static and stupid. It might have to do with the lack of logic. We never quite get a handle on what S.I.N. (or its cohort in criminality, M.A.F.I.A.) will do with the secret formula once they have it. How invisibility will serve the underworld is left open to speculation. Do they plan on robbing banks? Listening in on secret meetings? Peeping up old ladies nightclothes? In addition, the promise of the opening sequence (Poontang places an icepick into the back of her paramour's overheated head) is never followed through in the film. The rest of the violence is routine at best, with more punches to the brisket than outright attacks. This makes The Girl from S.I.N. acceptable when it should have been amazing. Smith had a marvelous teacher. Apparently just a few of the lessons took hold.
Henry's Night In is a much better example of buffoonery mixed with the bare bodkin. Indeed, it is safe to say that this oddball offering from individuals unknown (no crew listed, just a couple of the cast members) is a lost classic. Purposefully forged to be funny this crazy conglomeration of mugging and monkeyshines succeeds in a kind of Nutty Professor goes Naughty ideal, with our hero doing his best post-Dean Jerry jerk-off. Add in a lot of untamed tushy, some gal who is absolutely in love with her own chestical area, and a sequence where invisible mice ruin a good old fashioned ladies liquor party (don't ask) and you've got another stellar reason why the grindhouse guarantees a good time, in more than one wanton way.
In our story, Henry is a husband so hen pecked that roosters laugh at him behind his back. He is such a wimp that his wife runs around the house nekkid, knowing full well that her limp wick of a spouse won't be squeezing on her casabas any time soon. Frankly, this full figured gal should put on a potato sack or two - with her pendulous fleshiness it's not hard to see why Henry...is...not. Anyway, our ersatz-stud stumbles upon an auction (it promises MODEL SHIPS, Henry's secret shame) and he ends up bidding on a big trunk. Inside he finds the Invisible Man's diary, complete with a formula for making people imperceptible. Since Henry has just received a prescription of adultery from his doctor (MDs sure were different back in the swinging 60s) to cure his bedroom hang-ups, Henry decides to use the recipe for non-detectability and visit his horny neighbors. All manner of pantomime petting ensues.
Part of the reason for this film's fun and frolic is lead loser Forman Shane. He makes Henry into a likeable louse, the kind of guy you root for even if it's mainly because his wife is a shrew in need of a good taming. Honestly, how this couple ever got hitched, let alone consummated said matrimony, without physically maiming each other is a minor mystery for another movie. Still, Forman sells the sentiment that his homely honey with a temper the size of Tejas is just misunderstood. He wants to please her in bed, and takes to heart his faux physician's advice. After the opening suburban comedy, with Henry getting lanced by his lover left and right, the rest of the film turns into a live action men's magazine. Over the course of this invisible va-va-va-voom, Henry happens upon a group of ladies who all know how to pose to give the guys permanent pause.
Each sequence of seeming self gratification (remember, Henry is there, at least in spirit) is crazier than the next. One woman goes to the door in a see through nightie (with NUTTIN' underneath) and leaves it wide open so our transparent lothario can come in and rummage through her nether regions. Another gal is basically giving it away - advertising to everyone, including Henry's wife - that random sex acts with anyone willing has no real downside. And then there is the Miss who loves to mess with her mounds. In a remarkable bubble bath sequence, a hopped up honey gets so enamored of her own mammaries that she folds, spindles and massages them to within an inch of a wet nurse's life. And thanks to the loving close ups provided by the camera, we can see each jug given its individualized jolly jostle in pristine monochrome amazement.
By the time we arrive at the hen's party, with threatens to turn Sappho at any moment, we sense that Henry's Night In has lost its lunatic fringe. But then our unseen instigator unleashes a squadron of rubbed-out rodents to the shindig, and suddenly, it's the naughtiest nudie watusi this side of a Barry Mahon short. Part of the potency of this amazing little movie is its ability to keep us guessing while constantly outdoing itself with bizarro ideals. Turns out our quack general practitioner is hypnotizing the housewives into having sex with him - both in the office and during some highly inappropriate late night "house calls". Leave it to Henry's wife to tie up all the loose ends, embarrass her husband one final time, and then forgive him before some anger-reducing afternoon delight. Classic.
Had this double feature been all there was, Something Weird's latest release would be one of its best. But the exploitation experts up the ante by giving us one final piece of perplexing peeping called The Naughty Shutter. Shot in Texas, and full of the tart twangs to prove it, this 50 minute featurette is a full blown farce of long horn tranquilizers. It is the sedate story of a New York journalist (though his down home accent would make George W. Bush sound positively preppy) a camera that takes 'opposite' pictures, and a hotel full of idiots.
Seems this newshound is prowling around the Lone Star state looking for a story, and when he stumbles across a retard in the flophouse where he's staying (this reporter likes to prowl WAY off the beaten path) he sees nothing but Pulitzers. The mincing moron has a Kodachrome that records reverse images - i.e., a clothed gal is now naked. Problem is, there is a spy who also wants the camera, as well as a criminal, and a collection of the most homely nudists ever to argue for the health benefits of a life sans clothes (what are they doing in a hotel, you ask? You have to see this psychotic story to understand that bit of brain buster).
Going the voice over route once again, this comedia del farte is filled with insane sequences, drunken homoeroticism and a hostel that looks like the hallway inside someone's shotgun shack. As out lead lumbers around trying to regain the camera, we are treated to terrible acting, microscopic sets, and more hideous skin occlusions than a junior high school locker room (boys OR girls, you choose). The nudity here is just nasty, and after a couple of butt shots, the camera takes a back seat to scenes of the sun worshipers showing off their stretch marks.
This is typical SWV stuff - forgotten and freaky, mired in a mindset that figured on well-oiled raincoat regulars enjoying the any view. In addition to this motel Hell, we get a Chevy sales pitch from 1952 (featuring an invisible buyer, to tie into the overall theme) and the usual trailers and sexploitation gallery. Technically, the disc has defects, as both films are not forged from the most pristine of prints. The full frame transfer of The Girl from S.I.N. is faded but fine, while Henry's 1.33:1 image has some initial missing element issues before finally smoothing out substantially.
More importantly, these titles prove that comedy and crotch shots can coexist without canceling each other out. The tit and the ticklish need not fight for supremacy in the eyes - and other areas - of the exploitation audience. We can laugh and leer at the same time, enjoying ass and antics with equal effortlessness. Sure there will always be dopey drawer dropping and stupefying softcore scrapple, but when something purposefully funny comes along, it needs to be known and nurtured. Something Weird Video has done it again, offering a trio of twisted titles so clever and peculiar that there is no way for the modern moviemaking machine to match them. These oddball offerings are from an era where sex was scandalous, and needed something to dim the glare of gratuity. Thankfully, The Girl from S.I.N./ Henry's Night In used laughter to lessen the...'blow'?
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