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Saturn Drive-In: Velvet Trap & Hot Summer on the Campus

Other // Unrated // October 13, 2009
List Price: $19.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Bill Gibron | posted December 2, 2009 | E-mail the Author
The Product:
There's a fine line between nice and sleazy and inexcusably seedy. There's an even finer delineation between exploitation and outright abuse. For decades, the purveyors of grindhouse cinema, those glorious producers and directors who took film into places only the post-modern movement would recognize as revisionist, treaded softly between placating the raincoat crowd and giving it to their frequent fetishes. While all of this pseudo-smut was perverted, some pushed the boundaries of the genre to create truly disturbing and disgusting exercises in filth. Such is the case with this cruel, craven double feature - The Velvet Trap and Hot Nights on the Campus. Both are misogynist as Hell. Each offers an unholy view of male/female gender politics. And each are about as sexy as a bad case of rectal bleeding. Yet if your only exposure to the world of skin and sin are the somewhat subdued Something Weird Video DVDs, here's a friendly caveat - those titles are titillation child's play compared to these sinister, sick puppies.

The Plot:
The Velvet Trap (***1/2)
Julie (Jamie Karson) is the kind of poor, put-upon truck stop waitress that her employer sexually harasses and every road jockey wants to long haul. Of course, she takes it in stride, accepting that this is what being a woman is all about. When her boss stops with the double entendre and makes with the rape, Julie runs off with a "photographer" who wants to marry her and give her a legitimate life. One quickie ceremony in Vegas and our heroine is conned into posing for some "cheesecake" pictures. New hubby then surreptitiously films her taking a shower, steals all her money, and leaves her stranded. Looking for some quick cash, she is pawed during a job interview. Wanting a ride back to LA, she ends up being kidnapped and sold into white slavery. Yep - Julie goes from slinging hash to selling ass, all because she trusted the men in her life, and they did her wrong...VERY wrong.

Hot Nights on the Campus (**1/2)
Small town bumpkin Sally (genre stalwart Gigi Darlene) gets a family friend to arrange for her admission to a big time New York college. She thanks him by sleeping with him. Feeling strange and left out, she asks her roommates for some advice. In between all the nudie negligee modeling and faux lesbian frolicking, they suggest she go to a "typical" campus party. There's she meets a young "athletics" major and they immediately hit it off. Sally shows her approval by sleeping with him. Soon she is torn between two lovers. Then, she's preggers. Finding it impossible to deal with the impending baby, she goes to the grimiest backroom abortionist in all of pre-Roe vs. Wade USA. Of course, she can't go through with it. Instead, she finds another sucker...I mean, university student - to make her an honest woman...whatever that is.

The DVD:
Yikes! Get ready to hit the hottest of showers - and don't forget to bring along that bottle of extra strength industrial body scrub with you. In this critic's long history of exploitation fandom, a love affair with lewdness that began way back when SWV was packaging its product in huge, oversized VHS boxes (the better to draw the potential renter/buyer's attention, naturally), he has never seen something as downright nasty as The Velvet Trap. While Hot Nights on the Campus provides its own vatful of vileness to deal with, Ken Kennedy's indescribable cautionary tale is like watching a snuff film where personal degradation takes the place of murder. Jamie Karson's anti-acting authenticity, coupled with the 69 layers of Hell she has to pass through, will give even the heartiest sleaze fan a good case of the body funk blues. This is a movie that actually reeks of debauchery, that gives off a sullied aroma of prurient paternalism and 'dames as doormats' brutality. Sure, we can chalk it all up to fiction, assured that Julie/Jamie didn't actually have these horrific events occur to her. But the most unsettling thing about The Velvet Trap is that someone thought it would be well-received by the dirty old man demo. That they were probably right is the most nauseating aspect of the whole miscreant motion picture.

Luckily, Hot Nights on the Campus is around to filter off some of the foulness. Oh, don't be mistaken - this movie is just about as rotten in its "bad girls deserve to be punished" paradigm, but at least director Tony Orlando's debt to Doris Wishman keeps the viewer at arm's length. The lack of dialogue (or sync sound, for that matter) matched with Darlene's voice-over narration takes some of the edge off. The Velvet Trap, on the other hand, is so urgent and in your face that it's almost interactive (EW!). Even if he swears his approach is original, exploitation fans would notice a Wishman tribute a mile away. The bad editing. The awkward angles. The use of Ms. Gigi as well as other noted talents like Darlene Bennett. All you need is the swarthy, gypsy like gentlemen with really hairy arms as the potential paramours and you've got the genius behind Bad Girls Go to Hell and Nude on the Moon. Orlando does do a bit of Harry Novaking here, allowing his softcore sex scenes to substitute for actual exposition, and when our heroine heads over to the backroom fetus frightener, it's as if the movie suddenly turns into the Texas Chainsaw Womb Massacre. Still, as a classic example of early '60s Manhattan misery, Hot Nights on the Campus is claptrap classic.

Still, the question has to be asked - who will find this depressing, deplorable content entertaining? Are there really film fans out there, beyond those of us with a rapid devotion to the cinematic subgenre, who are clamoring for anti-female, anti-humanity skin flicks? One has to imagine that an exploitation novice dropping this particular DVD into the player will take one look at Julie being ogled by every soiled Teamster from here to Hope Village and suddenly question his or her own amoral curiosity. He or she will witness horrific humiliation after humiliation and wonder out loud if all pseudo-smut aficionados are really potential (or worse, acting) serial killers in disguise. They will contemplate where all the fun is, the supposed joy in seeing the earliest stages of cinema's liberation lighting up the screen with its no holds barred/all body parts bared ideal. But most of all, if they stick with it, they will find themselves transfixed by a movies that challenge your sense of moral, psychological, and social propriety. The Velvet Trap is like the slow bleed out after a botched suicide attempt. Hot Nights on the Campus is a near-deadly combination of sleeping pills and sloe gin. You survive, but you don't feel very good about either circumstance.

The Video:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If the company responsible for distributing this double feature does send a final product version to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Audio:
As per this critic's policy, Screener copies of DVDs are not awarded points for video or audio. If the company responsible for distributing this double feature does send a final product version to the site, this paragraph will be updated accordingly.

The Extras:
None. Might be the fact that this is a Screener. Might be that nothing was available or will be offered. Who knows. Only final product clears up such questions.

Final Thoughts:
Does it say something unsavory about this critic's character that he was more than mildly amused by both of these films? Does it mean he should be placed in some manner of repugnance rehab until he gets all movies like The Velvet Trap and Hot Nights on the Campus out of his system? Whatever the case, this DVD definitely presents a quandary. Had it been standard SWV style fare - racy but still within the farthest reaches of reason - it would earn an easy Highly Recommended. Others, however, not wholly versed in the Friedman/Novak/Sarno universe would probably be best served by a Rent It. Since there is so much more sleaze than tease here, and because only true completist for all things exploitation will foam over this double feature, a caveat-inspired compromise will be offered. This proposed DVD is definitely not for everyone, but for those who might "get" it, it is clearly Recommended. Just don't go in expecting the same kind of lewd light entertainment that most of these movies offer and you will be all right. The Velvet Trap and Hot Nights on the Campus are clearly way beyond the bounds of "normal". More like noxious.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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