Tuesday, January 1, 2008

THE SEXPLOITERS (1965) d. Al Ruban

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

Exploitation Cinema was just what the name implies. It was a vehicle to use some theme like sex, violence, race relations or taboos to lure patrons into theaters and get them to spend money on the promise of a “thrill”. By the video age of the 1980s, exploitation titles of the 1960s saw a revival as they were brought to vhs. Lurid box covers and licentious tag lines made these films even more enticing to the unwary or uncaring. Retro-Seduction Cinema has been restoring a boatload of exploitation titles of the past like HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, THE SEXPERTS and CHANTAL, many of which are enjoyable films in their own right and with lots of goodies in the extras menus, the historical/nostalgia value of these dvds is inestimable. THE SEXPLOITERS has some charming elements, but it is a great reminder of why this genre was labeled “exploitation”.

THE SEXPLOITERS is the “story” of bored suburban housewives led by “Lynn”, who use their looks and talents to make extra money in the seedy heart of the Big City to support their materialistic lifestyle back in the ‘burbs. Women like Lynn take gigs posing for “camera club” photo shoots, attend swinger parties and fulfill fantasies of perverts only to end up with a fistful of cash back in the mundane world of track housing, manicured lawns and the two-car garage.

THE SEXPLOITERS doesn’t really have a “story”, but is a series of vignettes or nudie loops loosely bound together by Lynn’s tale. The underlying intent is to explore scenes like the seedy world of shutterbugs who leer at the occasionally attractive, but more often pedestrian women. There are scenes where the “models” of the “agency” do more than pose nude, but go to parties or arranged “liaisons” where their “talents” are tested more fully. Even taboo subjects like necrophilia and lesbianism are delicately broached. What is assembled is a perfect example of “exploitation” cinema. While some of the “actresses” are attractive, like “Lynn”, played by Terri Steele or Gigi Darlene’s “model eating ice cream”, most of the women would be considered fairly plain by today’s standards, but that is part of the charm of 60s exploitation cinema. In addition, like most theatrical releases of the time, only boobs and butts could be displayed and actual “sex scenes” were pretty tamely shot. The idea is to “tease” and get people in the seats with a “hint” of what they might see. What is surprising is the occasionally well-composed shot, witty camera angle or tongue-in-cheek exchange that keeps this film from being perilously dull. The problem isn’t that THE SEXPLOITERS doesn’t deliver on its promise of skin. Unlike a lot of exploitation film that is set in interesting locales or includes wonderful cars, fashions or kitsch of yore, THE SEXPLOITERS is set indoors for the most part and the sets were extremely simplistic. As a result, you have to dig to find anything of apparent nostalgic value, but it’s there. THE SEXPLOITERS is the very definition of what exploitation cinema was, from the grainy black & white film, to the archetypal drooling scumbags, to the lasciviously built “housewives” and the amiable incidental music that sounds like it was taken from Woolworth’s sound system. THE SEXPLOITERS reels you in with a great dvd front box cover, some fine box photos on the back and great use of old-school tag lines that promise all kinds of sleaze. In the end, you’ll get a laugh or a thrill. It just won’t be from what you expected.

Unlike a lot of Retro-Seduction’s recent offerings, the extras menu is a bit thin, but like the film, there is more than meets the eye if you search around. The commentary by C. Davis Smith is very interesting and entertaining. Michael Bowen’s liner notes are chock-full of historical information worthy of the serious film buff. The Retro-Seduction trailer vault is pretty similar to what can be found on other discs, but the vibe is right and the producers of this project avoid adding trailers from the other satellite imprints of PopCinema, which just wouldn’t fit.

While not up to the loftily set bar of HIDEOUT IN THE SUN or THE SEXPERTS, THE SEXPLOITERS is another worthwhile addition to Retro-Seduction Cinema’s growing “vault” of gems of long-ago. Americans have long had a poor relationship with history as we still tear down historic baseball parks, build malls on Revolutionary and Civil War battlefield sites, “refit” old farmhouses and brownstones and restructure City Squares and downtowns. What was and is lost can never be recovered. Film is a lot like that. If it is not carefully restored, old film is lost to history and all that is left is memory, which is never as accurate or as clear as we think. THE SEXPLOITERS may not be THE GRADUATE, but it is a snapshot of 1960s culture and mores none-the-less and as such it is worthy of preservation.


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