If you were to ask the average film fan what Troma is most famous for, you'd definitely get more responses pointing in the direction of the monster/horror genre than the sex/flesh format. Granted, the company made its name on the irradiated back of the Toxic Avenger and the surreal Sgt. Kabukiman, NYPD. But the iconic Indie entity has also championed some of the more memorable skin flicks in the carnal category's history. An overview of their catalog reveals several scintillating titles – Sugar Cookies, When Nature Calls, Foreplay, Eve's Beach Fantasy, Stuck on You! and the famed First Turn On. Now they can add Video Vixens to the list. A randy retort of the mid-70s sexual mindset, this awards show spoof meshed with Network-like critiques of the media is a clever combination of commentary and cleavage. Sure, there are ample examples of nubile naughtiness here, but the more amazing aspect of this film is not its flesh. There is actually a pretty acute message about pandering present, with accusatory fingers pointing at all aspects of the entertainment industry.
At the center of the story are three amazing performances. On the one hand there is Norman Fields, taking on the role of Gordon Bradley. An exploitation fixture with roles in Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song, A Scream in the Streets and Black Alley Cats, Fields gives new meaning to the concept of the slow burn. With a bad comb over and even more appalling attitude, his twisted TV exec (who believes a conspiracy of conservatives is using a certain drug to destroy America's sex drive) just seethes with unresolved, repressed issues. His onscreen speeches are testaments to smart scripting, and though their delivery can at times seem sloppy and a little too loose, his character provides the solid center for the rest of the ridiculousness going on. Equally good is Harrison Phillips as the goody two shoes film critic Gordon Gordon. Using a voice several octaves higher than his normal speaking range, Phillips delivers a truly memorable turn as the fey film expert. His anti-sleaze tirades are the perfect antithesis to Bradley's bawdy bombast. When he is chosen to host these adult Oscars, his uncomfortable shock is sensational. Even when he takes the stage and stumbles his way through the show, his urge to object is written all over his prickly persona. His last act transformation – libido fueled by fame – is marvelous, as is the montage of moments where he and his wife "get it on".
But this movie's main selling point, aside from the skin, is the laid back cornpone perversion of the late, great George "Buck" Flowers. A staple of skin and schlock cinema, many may know this unforgettable letch from his work in John Carpenter's They Live or from one of his numerous appearances in direct to cable carnality like Taking It All Off or hack horror efforts such as Berserker or Skeeter. Here, Flowers is free to indulge in his most depraved desires, as he plays the walking wedge of wantonness known as stag film director Rex Boorski. With one hand always scratching an armpit or digging in his nose, Flowers finds the consistent comic gold in his raunchy, rude character and generates a nice level of lewdness with his blue language bravado. Whenever he appears onscreen, our anticipation of amusement peaks, since we know he's good for a goofy line reading or two. His sex scene (sorry ladies, Buck remains mostly clothed throughout) is hilarious, as is his awkward audition of a less than willing actress. Flowers perfectly illustrates the flesh peddler clichés that the film wants to challenge, and with the foxy, fetching Robyn Hilton as his ever-present assistant (yes gents, the babe from Blazing Saddles does expose those tantalizing ta-tas of hers), he makes the most of Boorski's comfortable coarseness.
As for the rest of the film, the vignette style approach is fairly hit or miss. Pachard does however knock many of his attempts at humor right out of the park. The fake commercials for several strange sex products are spot on, delivering some scatological laughs in the process. The stag film scenes are another story. The first, involving an obese milkman, a horny housewife, and various whipping devices, is absolutely hilarious. The next sequence, featuring a horny psychiatrist and his unwilling patient is rather predictable. Buck Flowers' solo outing is resplendently ridiculous, and a Dragnet-esque take off on a serial rapist case is wonderfully weird. Certainly there are subplots that go nowhere (Gordon Gordon has a son who pointlessly preaches a Puritanical view of pleasure) and there's a last minute press conference that allows Flowers to freestyle some awkward, anarchic, ad libs. Such slights aside, Video Vixens is a great deal of fun. It recalls an era when any mention of gratuity was greeted with simultaneous calls of censure and/or celebration. Nudity was just leaving the exploitation arena and taking up shop in the movie mainstream. Thanks to the efforts of Gross and Pachard, this skin flick ends up being a smart, sunny spoof of the growing morass between the different medias. It's not perfect, but it sure beats the pants off similar adult-oriented offerings.