Billed as a “lost” film, this previously unreleased sexploitation film gets its long overdue premiere on DVD, accompanied by a highly informative and amusing commentary track with the film's co-cinematographer, C. “Chuck” Davis Smith, who photographed a few of the episodes in this unashamed excuse for presenting very fit women in moments of undress, boobie-posing, and in one case, belly-dancing.
Precisely moderated by historian Michel Bowen and Retro Seduction technical director Jim Hollenbagh, two keen fans armed with an even measure of questions and curiosity, this disc forms a great intro into the pioneers of American erotica who pretty much learned what worked as they cranked out one film after another.
Smith, a longtime editor who maintained a day job as en editor for CBS' sports programs during the sixties, offers plenty of production anecdotes glimpses into how these films were conjured into being, cast, filmed, and distributed using a fine network specializing in T&A fodder for theatrical venues.
The Sexploiters is exceptionally crude, and feels like a long-form variation of the Irving Klaw fetish and erotica loops and vignettes. Klaw doesn't actually pop up by name, but the filmmakers clearly knew the format of standard erotic loops and concocted a threadbare narrative for their film that follows an average housewife (the demure “Lynn”) as she goes through her average day, posing and sometimes engaging in oddball fantasies for male clients. Whether it's whipping an over-anxious masochist or climbing into a coffin for a client with a necrophilia fetish, it's all very, very silly, and occasionally a narrator offers a few quasi-journalistic factoids and observations to give the film a documentary feel.
Of course, everything was staged – the film's cameramen appear in sequences, as does the film's director, Al Ruban – although the central scenes involving an amateur camera club were based on a true scheme that had men paying to see women undress while they snapped actual pictures, thereby providing a cover in case the police raided the premises.
See, it's all just part of being an amateur shutterbug. (Ahem.)
Most of the footage is divided into two camps: competently filmed undress using clean film stock, and rank amateur footage using grainy stock, and cameramen often chopping off the tips of people's heads. Any dialogue was mostly recorded wild (and very poorly), and the soundtrack mostly consists of snappy small jazz combo music by Steve Karmen that evokes a burlesque feel than actually evoking any dramatic sensibilities.
(The main and end title music is particularly cheesy, although one could argue it does set the film's lighthearted tone: there's no nasty material, women aren't put in peril, and the film's main emphasis is boobies, of which there are plenty.)
Smith's commentary is also helpful in stringing together his longtime association with fellow sexploitation pioneers Doris Wishman and Joe Sarno, and he gives some helpful background material on some of the actresses who made careers posing for artists, stills photographers, and popping up in occasional films.
Probably the most famous among the cast is Gigi Darlene, aka The German Bombshell, who appears in most competent episode of a model undressing to her birthday suit for a photographer (co-cinematographer/producer Jerry Denby). It's arguably the most erotic of the multiple episodes, and uses dramatic lighting to capture the model's extraordinary physique.
TheSexploiters' short running time keeps the pacing pretty steady, although non-connoisseurs will undoubtedly find the film a bit deadly in spots, given the film simply ends with our token average American housewife returning to her blissfully ignorant hubbie (also played by one-time director Ruban, a bit actor and occasional cameraman who later photographed and produced some of John Cassavetes' films, including Killing of a Chinese Bookie).
The transfer was made from what's likely a rare surviving print with some very rough edits, splices, and occasional breaks, but mono track is fairly clean, and plus some new credits (amusingly separating the cast between “Buyers” and “Sellers”) created by the DVD label.
Also of note are several trailers (some newly created by the label with exclamatory slogans) for some very silly gems, including Hideout in the Sun that has gangsters laying low in a nudist camp; all trailers sport boobs, and snappy jazz scores composed & performed by musicians with, uhm, open minds.
Retro-Seduction's DVD has been produced not just for genre fans, but as a reference work for the early sexploitation films that challenged the level of frank sexual content allowable in American films during the sixties, and there's no doubt some of the films, actresses, models, and filmmakers name-dropped in Smith's commentary track will have newbies and fans seeking out more guilty pleasures currently enjoying a resurgence on DVD.
© 2007 Mark R. Hasan