Sunday, February 10, 2008

THE SEXPERTS (1965) d. Jerald Intrator aka J. Nehemiah

Reviewed by Rick Trottier

The late 1960s are often held up as a time of vast changes in the art, science, culture and politics of the United States. Often, it is the hidden agenda of the historian or essayist who makes this claim, for the entire decade was a time of immense transformation, especially in film. Pioneers like Russ Meyer and Dave Friedman pushed boundary after boundary in the early 1960s, setting the stage for the explosion of exploitation cinema that erupted between the years 1963-1978. THE SEXPERTS: TOUCHED BY TEMPATION is an example of a film that grew out of the rapidly changing mores and tastes of filmgoers, so that exploitation cinema of the mid-1960s could rewrite the appetites of movie lovers for years to come.

THE SEXPERTS is the story of three men who sit down to plan out a film about two starry-eyed beauties hungry to get into the “film business”. A director, producer and writer (very possibly William Mishkin, J. Nehemiah and Charles Ross who created THE SEXPERTS), discuss the story and characters of the “morality tale” they wish to tell about “Liz and Connie”. Liz Adams and Connie Mason are two young lovelies who are willing to try just about anything to become “movie stars”. As casting calls, screen tests, producer parties, beach house stay-overs and apartment orgies ensue it becomes increasingly obvious that Liz will do anything asked of her, while Connie has reservations about the seamy side of cinema. Each girl has to make choices that will determine their future in “the business”.

Like its nudist-film cousin, HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, the nudie-cutie THE SEXPERTS was a mid-60s effort to bring babes and boobs to the Big Screen, while simultaneously lifting a few dollars out of the film buff’s pocket. THE SEXPERTS has many things going for it that patrons of the 60s would have enjoyed and even more to enjoy from a completely different perspective today. The seedy tale of “the good girl & the bad girl” is always a winner no matter what the vehicle, and unlike most of the actresses in THE SEXPERTS’ relative THE SEXPLOITERS, leading actresses Lana Lynn and Rusty Allen are supremely attractive girls. Poured into elegant, form-fitting dresses of the day, carefully coiffed and cantilevered, these girls are a perfect counterpoint to the dorky and loathsome “film makers” who are deciding their “fate” as they arrange them like pieces on a chess board. As Dave Friedman once said, most actresses of exploitation film looked like “dog meat”, but these two dolls must have brought forth quite a few sweaty foreheads in 1965, and their loveliness is still palpable today. What might have been missed by the moviegoer then but can be appreciated so very well now are the marvelously filmed scenes of Greenwich Village, Manhattan and the Long Island beaches. Coupled with a delightful lounge-lizard score, those supremely feminine dress fashions and all the little snapshots of mid-60s life and culture that each crisply filmed black & white frame so beautifully preserves, THE SEXPERTS operates on a pair of levels. It is another marvelous trip back to the past guided by Retro-Seduction, and it is a nudie-cutie film that still has its eggs in the right basket. While not the tour de force of a film like THE IMMORAL MR. TEAS, THE SEXPERTS is in an entirely different echelon when compared to later offerings by producers like Harry Novak and Dick Randall, and for that let us be glad.

THE SEXPERTS does have its “flaws”. Some people might be put off by the dubbed conversation of the film makers and the voice over narration track that is substituted for character dialogue. In the liner notes by Michael Bowen, he described the audio issues as giving THE SEXPERTS ‘an unfinished feel that sacrifices a degree of ambience” and he is probably right. There is something about that narration track that reminds me strongly of the narrator spiels of the SPEED RACER episodes I used to devour as a boy, so it worked for me and did not detract from the visual cornucopia that is offered throughout. The other flaw has to do with the “caliber” of the visuals offered in the extras.

As has been the case with most of the Retro-Seduction offerings, SEXPERTS is a 2-disc set that includes a rich haul of extras, such as bonus SEXPERTS color scenes, television spots starring Audrey Campbell (a minor star in THE SEXPERTS), a bevy of trailers, Michael Bowen’s outstanding liner notes and NAUGHTY NUDES ’65, a sizable selection of 1960s nudie loops that do show Friedman’s feared Fidos and Fifis. After the allure of Lana Lynn and Rusty Allen, the NAUGHTY NUDES of ’65 settles on the stomach like Bromo-Seltzer. It is probably a good idea to watch NAUGHTY NUDES first and then move on to the feature film, kind of like when you used to bolt your green beans before savoring the cherry pie at dinner.

For twenty-something guys raised on Vivid Girls and other ridiculously crafted “actresses” of the modern age, THE SEXPERTS may seem quaint and out of date. For anyone yearning for a glimpse of the past other than the sterile news reels we see over and over again on The History Channel, THE SEXPERTS is a wonderful slice of vanished Americana during a time when life was changing faster than we knew. By the end of the 60s, Drive-In theaters were starting their decline, the once-mighty American car was ready to be unseated by foreign competitors and our faith in our leaders was going to receive a savaging we still haven’t been able to assuage. THE SEXPERTS is a naughty-but-nice look at a time when all things seemed possible, even an American Dream filled with sexiness that still seemed as sweet as the girl next door.

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