Babette: 1968, 65 minutes, directed by Peter Woodcock. With Linda Boyce, Uta Erickson, Claudia Cheer, Jo Sweet, Maxine, Sue Akers, Dick White, Carla Costa.
Monique, My Love: 1969, 65 minutes, directed by Peter Woodcock. With Linda Boyce, Gerri Miller, Claudia Cheer, Jo Sweet, Maxine, Sue Akers, Dick White, Carla Costa.
Total running time with extras: approximately 3:30.
Two exploitation disposables from the late '60s (and probably not seen since then) are paired up on this single disc from archivists of sleaze Something Weird Video. Falling in the adult cinema continuum somewhere between silent loops and fully fleshed out narrative features, the black-and-white "Babette" and "Monique, My Love," seen today, leave much to be desired as films, but they served their purpose of providing female nudity for male audiences at urban grindhouses in the softcore days before "Deep Throat" blew everything out of the water.
The two films seem to have been shot back to back or even simultaneously; they share several of the same performers and the same lame hardboiled narration spoken by the same actress. There is no direct sound (i.e., we don't hear what the actors are mouthing), only the descriptive narration and indentical soundtrack music (chiefly ripoffs of soon-to-become-iconic hits "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers and Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida").
The nudity is fairly coy, though the later "Monique" provides substantially more full-frontal exposure. The "sex" consists of tentative heterosexual and lesbian groping generally above the waist; the men remain fully clothed or in their tighty whities. The gals tend to suddenly do some groovy fruging and watusi-ing.
To ascribe plots and characterizations to these films is to give them more credence than they deserve. Be that as it may, "Babette" (aka "Babette in Return of the Secret Society") concerns the free-thinking woman of the title, who answers an ad in an underground paper looking for models. The ad, says the seen-it-all Babette-as-narrator, is "obviously a come-on for some sexual fun and games." You think? Cut to Babette showing up at the door of greasy lensman Ramon, who quickly has her posing nude with some other girls, then attending a mini-orgy, an odd gathering where intercourse isn't even simulated – unless you count a woman humping a stuffed donkey. Adds Babette helpfully, "The French coined a lovely word for this: ménage a trois." The French also coined another lovely word for this: merde.
In the slightly less claustrophobic "Monique, My Love," auteur Peter Woodcock (I suspect that's a fake name) actually shoots a bit on the streets of Hell's Kitchen and Times Square as aspiring actress Monique goes looking for a producer for whom she can strip and instantly become a star. Her adventures are narrated by her writer roommate Rita, who gets a vicarious thrill from relating the lively Monique's story. Rita's descriptive powers include such insights as, "She wore sex like other women wore perfume." And hey, there's our old pal Ramon lurking around again!
Both movies have been well transferred to this Region 1 disk and probably look as good as they ever did, which is about as good as early Cassavetes, minus the brilliance. For what it's worth, the packaging claims the flicks have been digitally remastered and are in Dolby Digital mono. They are presented in their original 1.33 aspect ratio.
As with most Something Weird releases, the extras are as good as or even better than the feature. Here we get the original trailers of "Babette" and "Monique," plus coming attractions for such other forgotten sludge as "Fluctuations," "In Hot Blood" (lol), "Nightbirds" and "Submission." There are also some mildly kinky vintage silent shorts: "Paddle Battle"; the circa 1930s "A Roman Holiday"; the color domination treat "Real or Knot"; and "Careers for Girls," a nonsexual public service short advocating secretarial school for unmarried young women (!). Some 1960s TV commercials for bras (when they could only be modeled under -– or over -- a sweater) round out the festivities.
The two features and various shorts on this disc provide a window on a lost, not-quite-innocent age of sexploitation cinema. They are undeniably tame by today's sex-film standards, but nudity is nudity, and there is enough here to justify a gander. Older gents who recall the days when it took some effort to see such fare will be happy to have it all at their fingertips, while younger viewers can enjoy the disc as a history lesson.