In 1964, two of America's most established sexploitation men, Dan Sonney and David F. Friedman, became partners in a new corporate venture, and renewed their commitments to cinematically tease the average male (because someone had to). During the Seventies, when hardcore films such as “Deep Throat” changed the rules by starting each movie with “the third Act,” the legacies of Friedman and Sonny pretty much disappeared from theatrical venues, and the producers all but retired from filmmaking.
Over the past fifteen years, three things arguably contributed to a new appreciation of the sexploitation/grindhouse genre: a cult following for specific films (in particular “Blood Feast,” which Friedman produced, and is largely credited as the first true gore film); a reappraisal of the genre by the media (like a two-issue spread on Friedman & Co. by Film Comment) plus Friedman's own brilliant exploitation chronicle/autobiography (“A Youth In Babylon”); and the maniacally devoted determination of Something Weird Video founder and archivist Mike Vraney, who has painstakingly sought out surviving negatives and prints for a new exploitation run on video, and of late on DVD.
Written by two journalists and fans of Friedman & Sonney, “Mau Mau Sex Sex” sprung as a natural extension of co-writer Eddie Muller's research for the non-fiction work “Grindhouse: The Forbidden World of Adults Only Cinema,” and director/co-writer Ted Bonnitt's obvious affection for these elder statements of Naughty Cinema.
That's essentially where the DVD's two commentary tracks come in: a lively mix of history, heady fun, and the unstated but obvious claim that the sexploitation films were very much indicative of the bizarre fetishes, hang-ups, daydreams, and amusement of their creators. Director Frank Henenlotter (himself maker of the loony “Basketcase,” “Brain Damage” and “Frankenhooker”) ably bridges the gap for novice viewers, often applying his own hysterical yet sobering summations to sexploitation's journey from nudie-cuties (jiggling, naked volley-ball films) to the roughies (a rather striking and disturbing mix of nudity with sadism), and softcore adventures that marked the end of the genre (evidenced in the DVD's trailer gallery). Friedman himself admits to producing four hardcore films, but those efforts seemed to convince the aging filmmaker that what now lay ahead offended his earnest principles as a showman of tease.
Densely illustrated with film clips, stills, and home movies, Bonnitt also conjures some modest shock value, mixing clips from more notorious creations like “Blood Feast” and “The Defilers” with episodes of the aging filmmakers at home. Filmed in 2001, Dan Sonney was 84, father of four daughters, and married to his wife of 60+ years; and though childless, 76-year old David Friedman remained true to his wife of 40+ years. Having worked with models, strippers, con-men, and dealt with the police and state censors, the family lives of Sonney and Friedman are practically normal – something Muller and Bonnitt admit with an even amount of surprise, and respect.
Touted as the first DV (digital video) film to be commercially distributed & projected in theatres on DVD, “Mau Mau Sex Sex” on disc is available at the official film site (see links below) & standard retailers, and is mandatory viewing for fans of the inimitable sexploitation genre.
© 2003 Mark R. Hasan