First up is Weed, which kicks off with footage from the Nixon-era Presidential Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse before “taking it to the streets”, where DeRenzy himself heads south of the border into Mexico, all the way up north to Canada, even joining some military regiments in Saigon, Cambodia and Nepal for footage.
Essentially, the film consists of DeRenzy himself coming on camera to interview local cops, customs officers, lawyers, bail bondsmen, narcs, dealers, stoners (and stoned DJs), Buddhist monks and law school professors on the subject of just how “scary” the wacky weed actually is.
Seriously…the fact that this is still an issue in 2016 is just fucking embarrassing.
People of a certain era grew up on this sort of thing, mostly concentrated on Sunn Classics-style explorations of In Search Of style “mysteries” such as Bigfoot, Atlantis, Van Daniken-esque UFO things and suchlike.
As such, this one was quite comfortable and competent enough. Hell, you may even learn a factoid or two along the way…either way, it’s relaxing, filled with decent cinematography and if you have any affection for this sort of thing, DeRenzy does not disappoint here. I certainly liked this one a lot.
Next up is Innoce(nce) Abroad, where De Renzy hires a more Mondo-style comic voiceover man to get all snarky over footage of European red light districts and Times Square analogues. What makes this different from your usual mondo epic (beyond the fact that it doesn’t hail from Italy) is that DeRenzy takes things full on hardcore, heading into live sex shows and letting the camera roll without clever editing or cutting away.
I’m good with a mondo, so other than the deliberately poor, red gel lighting inside these places, this one was comparable enough (if hardly on the level of something more polished and “mainstream” like Weed). Think of it as much akin to those late 60’s/early 70’s British slap & tickle “mondo” jobs – a fairly dour toned, sex focused affair, with mocking commentary over the top.
Finally, it’s time for a visit to a Sexual Encounter Group. Apparently some of the original soundtrack went missing over the years, so while this is what appears to be a complete print restoration, be aware that there are some SWV loop-style overdubs during certain portions that would otherwise have run silent.
It’s a pretty damn big group, considering – must be a good 25+ hippies and swinger types on hand for the weekend event. These sort of get togethers and explorations of self and interrelations with likeminded others were pretty damn de rigeur for the 70’s – even the Catholics got in on it (sorta) with their “Marriage Encounter” weekends (which no doubt were a hell of a lot more staid and tame than the sort filmed herein!). It was just a thing, man…
There are much better looking girls here than there were in the European clubs, so that’s a plus, but the “action”, such as it is, is much stiffer and more “straight”, so it’s all something of a tradeoff in the end.
Essentially, think of these two as the “bonus features” or extras on a DVD set you’re buying for Weed. And that’s a pretty nice bonus, if you look at things that way.