Thursday, October 12, 2017

SWV Week Continues with ALL WOMEN ARE BAD!

1969, Something Weird Video
61 minutes, $10 DVD-R, $9.99 download

Larry Crane's mind-boggling ALL WOMEN ARE BAD ("And I ought to know... I'm a man!") - a latter-day release from Stan Borden's prodigiously rough 'n' scuzzy American Film Distributing Corporation - rates as one of the defining titles in the Something Weird Video catalogue. It serves up a little of everything anyone cruising the label could possibly want: it's black-and-white, east coast Adults Only, shot without live sound (the narrator even loops a woman's dialogue), and the storyline - such as it is - is utterly deranged. In roughly ah hour of screen time, it manages to squeeze in something for the voyeur, the S&M freak, the foot fetishist, the ticklers and the tickled, the horror fan, connoisseurs of deliria, and gay gropings on both sides of the gender fence.

Peter Bradford plays our protagonist and narrator John Steele, a Manhattan door-to-door cosmetics salesman who, after a long day of fruitlessly pressing doorbells, takes a walk and somehow finds himself awakening from a nap in the woods. Deciding to return home early for a change, he discovers his wife Leila (Liz Byan, who wears exaggerated, implicitly Satanic eye makeup) in bed with another man. Feeling angry, wounded, and betrayed, but choosing not to make a scene, Steele makes a silent retreat and rents the first cheap furnished room he can find.

While everything up to this moment is acceptable within the bounds of loose storytelling, our narrator/protagonist's entrance into this rooming house catapults the scenario into a long, dark night of the soul in broad daylight, as he begins to slip in and out of time and space, his environs metamorphosing convulsively as if in a dream or a bad trip. He is abruptly transported from his rooming house corridor to a New York ferry, to what appears to be San Francisco's Chinatown where he sees a stripper smoking opium (followed by images of the woman posing under projections of psychedelic graphics), to standing behind a curtain at a hippie orgy, to being a fly on the wall at a gay seduction (grossly overplayed), to being an invisible witness to a monster's attempts to tickle a prostitute with ostrich feathers and a caped madman's indulgence in an act of necrophilia. Everything his greedy eyes observe seems to reinforce his titular philosophy, a fact driven home visually when each of the women - including the defiled corpse and the gay man about to be orally pleasured - assumes the winking likeness of the emasculating temptress, Leila. At the peak of his delirium, Steele's emasculation becomes literal when he fights to free himself from a strait-jacket only to find his torso transformed into that of a female.

There is a sense about this movie that it's something made out of desperation from scraps of unrelated footage; even the musical soundtrack can be heard abruptly shifting from what sounds like a Blues Magoos freak-out jam to equally jarring, schmaltzy strings during the monotonously-shot grope-and-slurp sessions. The aforementioned New York ferry scene, which drags on for several minutes (in a film barely longer than an hour!) as its passengers wait to get off (as we all wait to get off!), is hilariously scored with urgent suspense music, including snippets of familiar Roger Roger cues from the Valentino library like "Spell of the Unknown" and "Toward Discovery." At the same time, there is something perversely ambitious about this runaway mess that begs us to consider that at least some of its spiraling, surrealist achievement was premeditated. Certainly, within the context of other NYC-made adult fare of this period, the approach taken here was at least creative and unusual, yielding more than enough to win it credibility as a gritty, if inescapably silly, horror-fantasy anomaly. As it probes the delicate psyche of its conservative lead character, clearly bombarded by all the varieties of action he's not getting, it shares with other American Film Distributing Corp. titles (like WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN), a conflicting desire to know what is available and a deep-seated, appalled fear of such human diversity.

Credited with special effects on the show is its only familiar name: Jerry Damiano - soon to become world-famous as Gerard Damiano, the director of DEEP THROAT (1972). He also plays the uncredited role of Mr. Squire, whom Steele visits in his executive office building in a Manhattan high rise - where a window is covered by what couldn't more obviously be shower curtains unless they had cartoon fish on them. Director Larry Crane can be glimpsed in the film playing both the bartender and the barnstorming necrophile.

The film is followed - at least on our archival copy - by a series of trailers, beginning with one for ALL WOMEN ARE BAD itself, which is surprisingly more explicit in its erotic commingling (and willingness to show female pubic hair) than the main feature itself.

(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.