Though it loved to diddle in other dynamics, lesbianism and wanton female sexuality seem to be the two biggest taboos busted by the exploitation industry. After all these concepts were considered the juiciest of all the forbidden fruits. Yet once they got past the initial barriers of nudity and naughtiness, and the right filmmakers were found to realize such ribald fare, an assumption was made that the box office coffers were set for sensational returns. And since the mostly male audience was more than happy to see gals getting off, producers piled on as much Sappho sharking and naughty nympho-mania as they could. Indeed, the raincoat crowd initially responded in droves, driving the distributors to clamor for more and more product. Eventually, the overage of available arousal was so stifling that nuances had to be found in the flesh feasting, less the glutted grindhouse start seeing a decline in boozy businessmen looking for a quick chick fix.
In the first of two offerings from Something Weird Video in February, humor and handguns are applied with relative frequency. In the sensational She Mob, an all girl gang is out to make a big score, and they will use anything at their disposal - pistols, pointy lingerie, AND poon - to get their way. In the loco in the coco comedy Nymphs (Anonymous) a rent-a-stud agency discovers that a spurned husband will stop at nothing to keep his wife from sampling the perverted pleasures of her inner most fantasies. Now, for anyone who's a fan of the SWV label, She Mob should be a well-known entity of tease. The leader of the syndicate, a bad ass broad named Big Shim, is always seen in the opening montage of clips that the company uses to promote its titles. Her slicked back hair and mouth-licking longing are classic Something Weird symbols. On the other hand, the name Manuel S. Conde inspires nothing but groans - or grins, depending on how you view his irregular filmmaking legacy. The man responsible for Deep Jaws, Hand of Pleasure and The Dicktator does deliver here, creating a chaotic comedy that mixes sex, slapstick, and shooting in ways unconsidered in the realm of the wanton.
First we have to work our way through the lunatic lesbians populating the She Mob. Big Shim runs her orgiastic organization from a shack in the woods, and when she's not canoodling with her kept concubine 'Baby', she's strutting around like a dominatrix in need of a diet (One of the real pleasures of this picture is the costume design. Whoever crafted Shim's leather lingerie should sue that wannabe Madonna ASAP. This mob Miss had a tri-cone bra long before Ms. Ciccone made it an unfocused fashion statement). Anyway, when a couple of girls she's recruited demand a man (they are fresh out of prison, after all), Shim calls her best buddy boy toy Tony. When she learns that a rich bitch with cash to burn named Brenda McClain is keeping the lowly lothario, a kidnapping is planned. Shim ties Tony up, calls the wealthy businesswoman and demands money. Bent out of shape that her regular rental tool is now being forcibly subleased, the matron gets on the horn and hires the sultry if stupid private eye Sweetie East. Dressed like a gymnast gone go-go, Ms. East must track down the gigolo in order to reap her reward. But with Shim calling the shots, ex-con compatriots by her side, this should turn out to be one big catfight. Actually, it ends up being a rather anti-climatic foot chase.
A year or so ago, Something Weird finally decided to release one of their Holy Grail titles, a film that fans had been anxious to get their horny hands on for years. Audiences had seen her face a thousand times, laughing maniacally as she tells an inquisitive brunette, "Paula, I may be a bitch, but I'll never be a butch". However, when A Scent of Honey, A Swallow of Brine finally did make its way onto DVD, the movie failed to live up to the clip collection hype. It was a typically tawdry offering about a pompous prick-tease who finally gets her corporeal comeuppance. So naturally, with She Mob being a big number two on the must-see cinematic hit list, similar fears of dashed expectations surrounded this presentation. Honestly, we needn't have worried. She Mob is marvelous, a wild, way out exercise in potboiler perversion that wears its weirdness right out on its stained cinematic sleeve for all to see. Containing one iconic image after another (Big Shim sitting, legs spread, ogling her masturbating gal pal, a freckled face tom boy femme fatale dancing around with a transistor radio), a wealth of delirious dialogue, and characters so mad that they have to be witnessed to be understood (like Sweetie East and her buttcrack-exposing jumpsuits), this is an instant exploitation classic.
The real star of this crime spree charade is actress Marni Castle. Playing the dual role of Shim and the sex-starved businesswoman Brenda, she loses herself in the parts, making the cranky her-hoodlum a true work of wicked art. Shim is indeed one of the great screen heavies, a wisecracking broad of completely craven desires. Shim is all flailing physicality, lumbering around her hideout like a bondage beefalo in heat. More than willing to throw her ample weight around, Castle claims the camera whenever she's on screen. Indeed, when this hotheaded Hellcat is present, all others just need to stand back and watch. The other standout performance is by a hyperactive stick figured named Twig. Obviously based on the British model that was more fashion plate than figure, this skinny siren never shuts up, bouncing around like a puppy in need of neutering. Perhaps the biggest disappointment though is Monique Duval as Sweetie East. Sure, she looks the part, parading around in costumes so bizarre that you'd swear they were designed by someone with a grudge against gals, but she barely registers as a presence. Instead of being a provocative counterpoint to Shim, she's an emotionless mannequin in search of a swinging 60s clothing store to hang out in. Still, with all its other prurient wonders, She Mob truly satisfies. Fans who waited to see what all that lip-licking lust was all about can now rest easy. It turns out this film is a misguided masterpiece.
Believe it or not, but Nymphs (Anonymous) is equally engaging. Our story centers around young newlywed Laura Ellis, who can't get her meat-headed husband to satisfy her omnipresent sexual needs. Of course, Laura requires carnal servicing about every ten minutes, and even massive mega-doses of horse steroids couldn't get her body building beau in the saddle that often. So Laura turns to "The Organization", a place where hard-up housewives and other horny honeys can come and have their tawdry tires rotated. The Madam, Bonnie, who runs this hunk for hire cottage industry takes her job very seriously, and must approve all applications personally. Naturally, Laura is let in and immediately asks for emergency rations. When hubby discovers his wife getting busy with a couple of bought boys, he goes bonkers, and hires a psychiatrist to get to the bottom of his bride's booty obsession. When the shrink strikes out, our cuckolded creep sees no choice. He dons a monster mask, climbs up a high ridge, and starts going Charles Whitman on everyone. Somehow, he ends up in the sex chalet, and is forced into satisfying the fantasies of the clientele. Naturally, Laura shows up for her weekly reaming, and all manner of hilarious hi-jinx ensue.
Though it's obviously the victim of a botched negative - the film's fourth reel plays out of order, leaving a logic gap so large that even a Creationist couldn't argue out of it - Manuel S. Conde created something special when he made Nymphs (Anonymous). Like a nudity-laced sketch from a far more lewd Laugh-In, this crazy sex caper is filled with oddball humor, several silly scenes of corny copulation, and an overall tone that shifts from stupid to sinister at the drop of a hat. When Laura's husband decides to go vice vigilante on everyone, the whole sniper storyline is gratuitously gonzo. One moment we're laughing at some ridiculous round of dialogue, the next we are stunned as bodies start piling up like cordwood. Even when he takes off the fake face and becomes a paid paramour for the Nymphs (Anonymous) clientele, we know this guy is the kind to shoot first and act rationally...never! In an attempt to counteract this criminality, Conde gives us an obese head doctor who is constantly being seduced by his patient. Laura must see something in this human lard bag that others would obviously avoid, since she's on him like gravy on a glutton's mashed potatoes. Along with Bonnie, a 'titular' head that's about the most amateur actress in the history of exploitation (she can't make "Hello" sound authentic) we are faced with one freaked out farce.
Even the sex is strange. The fantasies are all very surreal, with one gal wanting to "teach" while she scores, as another dreams of being demeaned before she's satisfied. A couple comes in, and while the wife gets frisky, the husband (who turns out to be the local District Attorney) sits in front of the TV and feigns heartburn. There is lots of nudity here, much more than in Big Shim's shocking domain. But Conde keeps the focus on the lively Laura, requiring his actress to drop trou and blou more often than a Las Vegas stripper. The scenes with our amorous housewife humping a bill collector and a vacuum cleaner salesman are classic, especially since both men rebuff her obvious advances like she's riddled with ticks. When we arrive at the end, and Laura is lounging on her psychiatrist's considerable "lap", we soon learn why counseling may be in order. There are some unseemly sights in Nymphs (Anonymous), scatological shots of stretch marks and beer bellies that should have found their way onto the cutting room floor. Right up there with Conde's classic Evil Come, Evil Go, this exploration of driven dames with a desire for a little quick quackenbush is an inexcusable entertainment. Now just imagine how it would play if the reels were in the proper order.
In truth, the one-two motion picture punch here is a true naughty knockout. As vicious and vice-ridden as She Mob wants to be, Nymphs (Anonymous) trumps it in campy incompetence. Indeed, these films often play like the polar opposites of each other. Big Shim is cool and confident, leading her gang with a glare and a determined disposition. Bonnie, in charge of the sex for sale scheme, is so wishy washy you'd swear she was a dishtowel. The members of Shim's crew are as cruel and as corporeal as she, hungry for as much man action as they can get. The unknown housewives of The Organization on the other hand, like their regular risqué appointments, and then it's off to the shopping center to price whole body foundations. In the end, Shim is not really undermined by a man. She lets her emotions control her actions, and such a combination is usually deadly, if not near fatal. The Nymphs (Anonymous) gals are actually helped by their criminally-minded male. Sure, he shoots up the available product, but he manages to "fill" their roles rather well. At least both films share something in common (aside from an odd shot of a donkey cigarette dispenser). Between the frenzied Twig and the tireless Laura, we have two of the most high-strung horndogs ever to beg for 'bone'. Thankfully they are free to thrash about in all their harried harpie glory. She Mob and Nymphs (Anonymous) would not be classics without them.
As usual, Something Weird delivers delightful monochrome transfers of these titles, with Nymphs (Anonymous) looking the best. She Mob has some minor damage and scratches, but both black and white images are excellent. There is a tendency for the outdoor sequences to be a tad washed out, but that is obviously an issue with the original filming, not with SWV/Image's digital remastering. On the sound side, these films are a real aural riot. Ersatz cool jazz pours from the Dolby Digital Mono mix with true hep cat kookiness, while gangrenous garage rock retreads give everything a seedy, sinister shimmer. As for bonus features, we are treated to a collection of trailers (with fascinating titles like The Girl from Pussycat and Playpen Girls) and the standard gallery of sexploitation ad art with unique audio accompaniment. In addition, there are a couple of vintage "Peepland" shorts that may be of interest to flabby flesh fans. One is entitled "Tease for Two" and features a couple of ladies lounging around in various states of undress. The next is entitled "Smoke Rings" and involves, again, a couple of gals in less than complete clothing getting comfy on a couch. While it's interesting from a historical perspective, the overall feel is like watching your maiden aunt pose provocatively with your fourth grade teacher.
In truth, it's the main features that matter most here. Instantly taking its place among the classic SWV DVD titles (a rather hefty mantle filled by such amazing offerings as The Blood Trilogy, The Flesh Trilogy and Joe Sarno's early 'Sex in the Suburbs' films), She Mob and Nymphs (Anonymous) proves that comedy and crime do mix with carnality. Individuals interested in why fans flock to randy releases like this should do themselves a favor and pick up this disc. It will prove why exploitation is so addictive, as well as how many of the movies made for the grindhouse provide brand new, far more kitschy pleasures as the decades have passed. Now that we can see Big Shim in action, not just licking her chops like a cur eyeing a kitten, we understand her urges. She represents an era when producers pushed the limits of logic and likeability to create instantly recognizable raunch. Uninhibited honeys always drove the genre. Here, they make quite the cinematic impression.
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