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Deep Jaws/ The Dicktator
When Deep Throat crossed over, making porn more or less acceptable to mainstream audiences, it was literally the death knell for exploitation. For a long time, the grindhouse or the drive-in was all the prurient minded had. And, in general, it was a genre based on titillation and the imagination. Showing actual sex on screen was the last taboo, and arguably what the first flesh-peddling producers were always aiming towards. But it wasn't until said oral sex themed smut came along and made hardcore chic that the raincoat crowd finally got their long anticipated money shot. Once that barrier was broken, it was only a matter of time before the softcore extravaganza was dead and buried. After all, how are you going to keep them down on the R rated farm, after they've sampled the raw real deal?
The answer, of course, was that it was impossible. While the fetish floodgates didn't actually open up, the audiences for penetration-less motion pictures dried up faster than a spinster's passions. A few of the old timers - David F. Friedman, for one - simply gave up on the sensual side and dove right into the X-rated mix. But a few held out hope for a risqué rebound, believing that films filled with actual action were just a fad. One such sleaze sage was Manuel S. Conde. The befuddled brain behind such surreal sex films as Terror at Orgy Castle, Sex Psycho, and the absolutely amazing Evil Come, Evil Go, Conde believed in the power of suggestion, and hoped he could keep his audiences happy by giving his films more plot and less porn. Sure, there was lots of softcore shenanigans to be had, but they were usually buffered by joke-filled conversations and situations.
Take the two films offered by Something Weird as part of their January release schedule. Deep Jaws, made in 1976 was an attempt at Hollywood humor, discussing the impact that porno was having on the legitimate industry. The Dicktator, on the other hand, was a stab at topical humor, mixing a sci-fi like storyline with lots of vice-filled vignettes. The result was sleazy surreality, movies that played like ultra-lewd versions of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In starring Steve Rossi and Marty Allen. Conde's films could be counted on to offer up some sensational skin sights - Uschi Digart, Rene Bond, Candy Samples and Roxanne Brewer all steam up the screen with their various talents. But there is something slightly off-kilter about his canon, an aspect of his cinematic style that's capable of circumventing even the most mindless sex farce, rendering it ridiculous and routine.
Indeed, after 30 minutes of Deep Jaws, one starts to wonder if there will be any point to this pandering at all. What could have been a potent satire on Hollywood's reaction to the rising porn industry, instead turns into a bad sex farce ala Can I Do It 'Til I Need Glasses? Uranus Studios (see, you're laughing already, right?) is running out of money. Their high-end arthouse fare is flopping at the box office, replaced by film's featuring 'heady' gals eager to please. The big wig boss, desperate to stay solvent, concocts a strange scheme the minute some space race federal funding comes his way. He will siphon off a few bucks, make a quickie smut film, and use the perverted profits to save his business. Hoping to cash in on the recent blockbuster status of a certain killer fish, a story of nympho mermaids in heat becomes the basis for their movie. While a ragtag team of lowlifes tries to figure out the required NASA project, the scripts get confused and, suddenly, there's skin flick on the government negative, and visa versa. It will take a miracle to keep this crap from drowning under the weight of its own wantonness. Sadly, it sinks like a stone.
Indeed, part of the problem with Deep Jaws - aside from the incredibly awkward title which really isn't that funny - is the pay off never fully materializes. Writer Walt Davis spends inordinately large amounts of time preparing the premise. We have the reluctant, adulterous studio chief whose too busy balling starlets to care about his company. There's the executive who's so stressed out that he has his own form of "relief" nearby - a couple of naked nurses who flex their chests at him while one sticks a rectal thermometer where the box office dare not breech. Mrs. Studio Chief is a matronly old battleaxe who just so happens to bed the Secretary of State (here renamed Dr. PISSinger), while their stupid son is desperate to become an actor - straight or hardcore, it doesn't matter. Add in the lothario who is cruising the European continent looking for the next Garbo (and consuming mass quantities of Spanish Fly) and a collection of quasi-comely lasses and you have the potential for a fantastically funny - and quite sexy - satire. If only director Perry Dell knew what to do with it all. Sadly, what we get is a collection of crude, sometimes infantile jokes, lots of fake friggin', and more double, triple and quadruple entendres than on the entire run of Three's Company.
Certainly, some of the scenes work. When the studio head's spouse is visiting her Presidential paramour, she exposes her rather ample and amiable bosom. And since the role is essayed by none other than Ms. Mounds herself Candy Samples, there is a lot of tit to tally. Every time our overworked executive pounds on his desk, his horny hospice helpers arrive, boobs blazing and bouncing. In an attempt to push the limits of lewdness, Dell piles on the oral sex - mostly male to female - and has a couple of inventive scenes, including one where the recipient of said man mouth manipulation is standing on her head. But, sadly, once the three hobo stooges show up, a trio of toxic anti-comedians who are supposed to make the legitimate movie, the entire film stops dead. Buck Flowers, a famous face in the business (he starred in The Dirty Mind of Young Sally, among other classics) stands around and picks his nose, adding nothing but his own noxious odor to the proceedings. The attempts at slapstick are stupid and the sex turns from erotic to erratic. In the end, the entire film falls apart, as visuals don't match dialogue, entire plot points are dropped, and a set piece stunt finale fails to impress. Had it tried to stay as focused as it began, this would be one of the better examples of the gratuitous goof genre. As it is, Deep Jaws is all foreplay in service of a pathetic climax - literally and figuratively.
At least The Dicktator tries to maintain its level of lunacy throughout the entire movie. The story here is even more surreal - the United States, in an effort to stem world overpopulation, has developed a super birth-control pill for men. Unfortunately, it works far too well, rendering the entire planet's male population sterile. With the UN and several friendly (and not so nice) nations breathing down his sweaty neck, our Commander in Chief devises a plan. He will send a CIA agent out to locate any males who were not privy to the impotency potion. Sure enough, five guys are found - a fat-fudge Japanese samurai, a rude Russkie writer, a South American shepherd who 'loves' his flock, a drag queen straight out of the Castro, and an African American anthropology student. Giving each one the cool code name "The Dicktator" (and a little dick and balls pendant to wear), these packing putzes are combined with some eager beavers and the regeneration of the human race is begun. Part political satire with some strange racially insensitive shtick thrown in for good measure, this movie does a decent job of combining sex with silliness...that is, until the last 10 minutes.
Up until the flawed finish, The Dicktator is a horribly odd hoot, the kind of movie that inspires uncomfortable, freaked out laughter. Not really a subtle film, this is the kind of non-PC product that has an African member of the Security Council scarfing down fried chicken, the President describing his allies with all manner of unrelenting epithets (lots of slurs and slang here) and makes women nothing more than specialized sperm receptacles. Still, it tries to be a Hellsapoppin' humpfest with the impregnating scenes the highlight - and in some cases - lowlight of the entire narrative. Granted, when your Japanese lover is a man of such massive girth that he can stand naked and still pass a PG rating, there's not a lot of arousal to be found. Even the filmmakers recognize this fact, and decide to grease down the obese ogre to make him even more repugnant. During the sheep dip sequence, Rene Bond tries her best, pouring on the Spanish accent and even emulating an ewe for our reluctant reproducer. The gay guy scene moves at a sexual snail's pace, as if the director (Perry Dell again) demanded that his actors attempt to imitate slow motion without the help of camera tricks or post-production optical tweaking. Thankfully, the imminently jumpable Uschi Digart shows up to double-breastedly save the Russian scene. Frankly, Ms. U's Double Ds could save a snuff film.
Sadly, it all goes astray when our African American baby maker arrives. Given the task of getting it on with a sultry black babe, we wait for the steaming ebony lovin' to start. But our Nubian goddess wants nothing to do with her talented tribesman, and before you know it, we are no longer looking at a standard sex scene but another unnecessary rape fantasy. It is made even worse by the non-stop stream of racial slurs cast by the victim. What was, up until this time, a crazy comic (and occasionally cringe inducing) spoof that never took itself or its softcore seriously suddenly shifts over into a ridiculous social commentary. After our supposed primitive has done his duty, we learn he's a well educated American. We then discover that the woman's issue regarding his color comes from the fact that she just lost her white husband a few months before, and wanted a Caucasian child as a kind of immortality memento. As the stud stands up to leave, he argues that a hot shower will "scrub the stink of me off you" and then we go directly to an even more bizarre postscript. As not to spoil the pseudo-surprise, lets just say the highest ranking elected official in the US may not be who he says he is - or even human, for that matter. The Dicktator was doing just fine until it flipped out and went weird on us. The last sequences almost completely scuttle the entire film.
While Conde can be blamed for some of this, clearly the vast majority of the muck-up comes from Walt Davis and Perry Dell. Davis's scripts are like political comedians on peyote, tossing in everything but the Cold War kitchen sink to make its overblown point about society's ills and individual hang-ups. All throughout Deep Jaws, we see ineffectual men being lead by their penis, while the woman work their skirts for all they can get. The Dicktator is an equally emasculating experience, as each of our fertile finds ends up being some kind of corporeal crackpot. Our homosexual seems one in name only (though he does have sex in his best vamp outfit) while the shepherd would rather mount the mutton than make it with Ms. Bond. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of these otherwise fluffy films is how mean-spirited they get at times. The sexual assault that ends The Dicktator is totally unwarranted (as is a scene where a woman does practically the same to a salesman) and seems to spit in the eye of the audience, making them feel foolish for sitting through the previous 80 minutes. Equally disrespectful is Deep Jaws's last act. There is nothing quite so disconcerting as seeing Buck Flowers flounder around without anything to do. This usually reliable buffoon is reduced to incoherent idiot, reflecting the amount of caring that went into Deep Jaws' conclusion. Both movies are worth witnessing for their terrific time capsule qualities, but they are by no means the best examples of this carnal category of comedy.
Something Weird doesn't dress up this DVD with lots of bonus features either. Aside from a set of trailers for other Conde films, and the company's standard Gallery of Sexploitation Ad Art with Exploitation Audio, the extras are the weakest aspect of the technical presentation. On the plus side, the sound and image are excellent. The 1.33:1 full screen transfers are colorful, almost defect free and quite professional. There are times in Deep Jaws where it looks like new footage has been inserted (or perhaps, it's a lesser quality original negative being used for the remastered print) while the big differences in The Dicktators look can be chalked up to studio vs. location shooting (studio = bright and colorful, location = a little washed out). Overall, the presentation is peachy and with the usual unaffecting Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack (just ignore the awful title songs, as well as the occasional love laments and the paean to fake Hispanic aphrodisiacs) you've got a decent, if not definitive package.
If you just remember that this was the latest exploitation strategy, a chance to give the ever decreasing demographic something new to see instead of nonstop copulation, you might actually get into the groove of these middling movies. They are worth a look, but it's hard to imagine that they will become instant classics of the Something Weird catalog. They are definitely idiosyncratic enough, and offer some astounding examples of bawdy bad taste, but both Deep Jaws and The Dicktator are just not as funny as they themselves think they are. Buried beneath the Jokes for the John style jibes and less than effective Eros, there is a truly twisted spirit that borders on the hateful, not the humorous. Obviously angry that hardcore was stealing their thunder - and their money - movies like this perverted pair seem blatantly pissed off, and are not afraid to let that ire screw up their flesh farces. Over three decades ago, this was the last gasp of the grindhouse, its final attempt at winning back its already waning audience. Sadly, these uneven entertainments probably drove more fans away than they ever convinced to stay.
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