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DVD_MOCKUP

Film in desperate need of an editor.  You know, one that’s not completely loaded off his ass during working hours?  Apply to: Serge Goncharoff, Grads Corp.

Hell, Doris Wishman was a more coherent editor…

A not unattractive hippie type with long sexy hair but a bit of a hard bitten look about her and saddled with a gratingly whiny voice is getting it on on the beach with some old cop type whose tendons in his neck stick out like he’s having a coronary and whose back is covered in enormous liver spots.

Welcome to the strange world of The Blue Hour.

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A jazzy piano score by Harry Fields is quite prominent during these early scenes, making it feel like an artsy fartsy softcore version of Peanuts.  Paging Vince Guaraldi!  The whole thing feels very Jean Rollin, or perhaps Jesus Franco circa Venus in Furs.

Might as well get it out of the way at the outset: the print looks gorgeous, colors are vibrant and for the most part, the picture is well shot.  This may be some bizarro take on student film, but at least the students in question have been paying attention in class.

“I don’t care about your past.  You’re 27.  You’re beautiful.  And I love you.  Other men have loved you.  And I know you’ve made love.  So what.”

With this bizarre, stilted delivery proclamation, we begin a long series of flashbacks essentially showing Tanya (Ann Chapman) getting abused in incomplete vignettes of variant length.  She turns out to have some rather nice breasts (check her out at the hour and 10 minute mark if you don’t believe me) and a decent enough rear view, but the way she’s dressed and framed throughout most of the film, you’d never know it.

Tanya, dressed like a squaw right out of Harry Novak’s Revenge of the Virgins, is getting harassed by some scrubby guy in flannel riding a horse.  A would be knight in shining armor (who later throwaway dialogue notes as “her high class professor”) chases the perpetrator off, only for his princess to get absconded with by some old bum who bears more than a passing resemblance to Jess Franco.

Apparently she’s one of those old “photo models” that used to be the original massage parlors – dirty old men would come in and pay to do “photo shoots” with girls one on one (generally without film).  Every successive “additional service” that might be requested would increase the cost.

Suddenly Tanya’s “professor” is taking her out on the sort of happy sappy romantic dates you only get in late 60’s through mid 70’s movies, complete with a really cheesy song.  They even get a private Punch & Judy show with cat and dog puppets!

Finally, he takes her to see an uber-hot Spanish Raquel Welch type doing a belly dance.  “I thought you might like this…musical dancing,” he tells her as cluelessly as a guy who thinks his girl really digs his private stash of porn.

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Tanya’s drunken pimp starts slapping her around when he catches her trying to skip out with the aforementioned “professor”.  In he comes to the rescue, only to get cold cocked by a ceramic pot the guy conveniently happened to be stumbling around carrying.

Back to the old boy in blue type.  After she pulls a Scott Gordon and offers him some toast (which begs the question: where’s Looney Skip Rooney through all of this?), he’s yelling at his ex wife over the phone and telling that unseen “former model” to lose weight and get the hell back to work.  Tanya’s back doing photo shoots.  Now she’s dressed like a Bedouin and wandering the desert, getting picked up by that same drunk she hooks for (so I gather we’re jumping back and forth through time as well – as if matters weren’t disjointed enough).

“One of you girls has to show her how to strip for the customers!”
“I’ll show you!” says a Malay cutie, who proceeds to do an energetic if not particularly sexual topless go-go cage style dance, complete with frug.
“That’s how you do it, honey!”.

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Now Tanya’s hiding out in a masonry and statuary storefront in what must be her 15th failed escape attempt.   Back to the world of “photo shoots”, where some old goomba in a terrible rug gets too excited by her exaggerated drag queen grimace and has a heart attack.

Back to the cop playing with his kids, while she lays in the tall grass dressed like a beekeeper, trying her damnedest to get lyme disease.  Then she’s back home in Greece doing the peasant farming thing with a low rent Harry Reems type. There’s some back and forth about whether she wants to sleep with him or not, before she lets him and it turns rough.

Now she’s back with the cop talking GMOs, pesticides, and pollution – it’s pretty forward thinking for the era, but what the hell it has to do with anything else in the film is beyond me.

Holy crap, talk about weird casting – is that Gordon Jump from WKRP, who later wound up as the Maytag repairman?  WTF?

We’re about 40 minutes in, the picture still doesn’t make much sense and now we’re starting to repeat ourselves.  Same scenario as the professor/cow-scrub scene, but now with biker types.

Why is Tanya running around a used car lot drunk or stoned, carrying a cheap ceramic bust?  Why does she let one guy (or girl) after another pick her up and abuse her in succession?  Who the hell wrote this thing?

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In the end, The Blue Hour is likely the most bizarre attempt at a softcore film you’ve ever seen.  Major parts roughie, the film also comes with a dash of arthouse, some T&A and a bit of hippie film school pretzel logic and faux representations and signifiers of meaning that ultimately prove unfounded and shallow (“hey, man…like, her carrying that statue in the car lot and dancing around on the beach to some Pan wannabe is deep, y’know?”)

For the whole second half of the film, it turns into some weird wannabe fairytale or something, and you get more Greek business than your average episode of Kojak.

All of a sudden, the film wants to be Malpertuis or Death Bed: the Bed that Eats if not the weird Victor Buono vehicle Moonchild, but The Blue Hour is nowhere near that level of heady and bears an ultimately meaningless symbolism.  It’s visually interesting and bizarre enough to be quite watchable, but is neither sexy or saying a damn thing about the human condition.

It’s not even grim enough to be a proper roughie – Scum of the Earth it’s not.  At least Doris Wishman’s roughies were freakishly entertaining – this one’s just strange.  Hypnotic to be sure, but strange.

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Next up is Albert T. Viola’s One Naked Night, which treads far more familiar territory: namely, New York sexploitation circa 1965.

Not quite Joe Sarno, Michael and Roberta Findlay, Joseph P. Mawra or “Peter Woodcock”, it does nonetheless bear a number of markers of the Stan Borden / John and Lem Amero school of cinematography.  Post dubbed narration punctuating the street scenes, grim chiarascuro lighting and a sordid storyline that travels from one apartment to the next…it’s all there.  We even get an Audrey (“Olga”) Campbell cameo, as Candy’s upstairs neighbor!

Candy (Barbara Morris) is the daughter of a hooker who killed herself. Shamed by her reputation, she heads off to the big city where she can get a fresh start.  Naturally, the first thing she does is get herself a job in one of the exact same “photo club” rackets Tanya was indentured to in The Blue Hour!  Way to escape the rep, girlfriend!

Before you know it, she’s shacking up with some artist/photographer, letting lesbian Audrey have her way with her and attending swinger parties.  It all comes to a grim ending.

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“Charles said that I was learning fast – that I was one of the best he had ever worked with.  He was sure that very soon, I would be a top ranking model.”

With her bland, somewhat hangdog face and stumpy body, the veracity of that line, not to mention the entire plot of the film, is perhaps just a tad far fetched.  Of course, it’s all just lies to get her to take her clothes off for some photo sets, but even so – you have to wonder whether she’s that damn naive, or the photographer is more blind than Ray Charles.

At least you get some Audrey Campbell…now that’s a looker for you.   I also believe that this is the only time you get to see her fully nude, so Olga fans take note.

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I knew this one was familiar…I’ve had it for years, as a burn from Something Weird.  For those who’ve never seen it before, if you dig early Sarno and the Findlays, this will probably be right up your alley.  For my part, hey, it’s an upgrade to pressed DVD.  I don’t know that it looks all that much better – there’s only so much you can do with no-budget black and white film, after all – but I’m sure it’s missing a few nasty splices and projector running lines.

For a film made on the budget it was, under the conditions it was, it looks quite good – trust me, the guys who made these things never dreamed they’d last more than the week or so it took to screen them (or at best, however long it took the prints to wend their way up and down the Times Square theater district).  The fact that we’re still watching this stuff nigh on a half century later is both wonderful (for fellow connoisseurs of this stuff) and freakishly bizarre.

While I’m never a fan of re-releases of things I’ve already seen or bought, the fact that One Naked Night comes as part and parcel of a 2 disc, 3 film set makes it entirely forgivable – and to those who’ve never seen it, a likely revelation.

Grim, jazzy, quintessentially New York, the sexploiter of this time and place marks the dividing line between the JD film of the late 50’s and the birth of hardcore in the very late 60s and early 70’s, with elements of both while ultimately belonging to neither.

Twist contests, nighttime walks down city streets and nightclub sequences sit side by side with the more expected salacious elements, however bastardized they may prove to be due to the enforced presence of the obligatory “comeuppance” for “wrongdoing” at the conclusion.

If you dig this one, don’t walk, run to check out some Sarno, Findlay and mid-period Doris Wishman films (after the nudies, but before she got really weird in the mid 70’s).  If you like those and discover a latent jones for the sultry Ms. Campbell, then by all means check out the Mawra Olga films, which are a subgenre unto themselves.  And if you like all that but were just dying to see more femme to femme in the same setting, check out the pseudonymous “Peter Woodcock” pictures, two of which conveniently come on the same disc.

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Three in a Towel comes to us “produced by The Saint”, from Miracle Pictures (whose title card reads “remember – if it’s a good picture, it’s a miracle!”)  At the end of the film, we learn this masterwork was in fact directed (if that’s the word for it) by one Marty Rackum.

This is a bizarro psychedelicized softcore that crosses Psyched by the 4D Witch style visuals with mellow guitar jazz, travelogue and a hippie nudie.   Set in San Francisco (which you can tell from the sloped, crowded streets peppered by hippies and a trip across the Golden Gate Bridge), Three in a Towel comes to us entirely in post dub, featuring some amazingly stilted narration clearly being read off cue cards – the guy even stammers and repeats a word or two!

What makes this even stranger is that it’s not your usual descriptive narration – there’s a bunch of weird coffeehouse style “poetry” and pretentious Shakespearean paraphrasing offset by some guy singing in falsetto about tits.  I am not kidding you here…it’s just weird.

Three rather plain hippie chicks (who our narrator identifies as “the cruise crew”, which the author seems to think is both clever and an amusing turn of phrase) and our bushy eyebrowed “hero” head out for a little ride on his houseboat, and they all sit around naked and eat bananas and danish.  I think it was supposed to turn the audience on, I don’t know.

Essentially, the bulk of the first half of the picture is taken up by these three pale, slightly beefy women laying around on deck, occasionally heading below to get it on with the narrator (who looks increasingly like Ron “Horschach” Palillo the more you see him without his sailor hat).  Wait, who the hell’s piloting the boat?  All the while, his post dubbed narration delivers a nonstop stream of not incredibly clever Renaissance Faire patter about how hot they supposedly are and the merits of their respective ladybits.

Even when they get back to shore so he can pick up another trio of thickset, not incredibly attractive types for a menage a quatre in his dumpy second floor apartment, the same stupid narration continues nonstop.  Was society ever this lame, that a guy could convince himself (much less the ladies) that yammering inanities like this was somehow clever (and might in fact get him lucky)?

What amazes me most about all this is how they managed to find so many beefy, quite zaftig young ladies smack dab in the middle of the hippie era.  Weren’t 60’s and 70’s girls all rail thin?

Well.

What is there to say about such an unusual package of films?

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Aesthetically speaking, The Blue Hour is definitely the one to hang your hat on here.  While you have to be stoned out of your mind to actually believe anything is being said here and the editing appears to have been done by an ADD afflicted 6 year old using Fisher Price scissors, it’s got the best looking starlet by far (bar incidental character Audrey Campbell in One Naked Night).  Furthermore, the film certainly looks nice – in fact, as mentioned earlier, the total effect is somewhat hypnotic and therefore quite watchable.

One Naked Night is template New York sexploitation – while hardly in the “big leagues” like the other directors I brought up, it still falls within the same general playing field and is well worth your time if you haven’t already indulged.

Three in a Towel…sigh.  A hippie era smoker with some really bottom end “talent”, entirely post dubbed and stuck with an even more annoying attempt at being “poetic” than Michael Findlay’s Mnaisdika (which was a thousand times more watchable than this celluloid strip of toilet paper).  You know those throwaway shorts they put on the end of Something Weird DVD-Rs (or as occasional extras on the pressed discs)?  Yeah.  Take those, and realize each and every one of them is Oscar bait compared to this picture.

This rather unique triple feature comes to you in the best presentation you’re likely to find, from the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome.

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