Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Friedman, Henenlotter and Vraney, now THAT'S SEXPLOITATION!

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Director: Frank Henenlotter

Cast: David F. Friedman, Frank Henenlotter, Albert Cadabra, Gal Friday

Severin Films / All Region / Unrated / Aspect Ratio (various) / English Dolby Digital 2.0 / 136 minutes

Extras: Over 3 1/2 Hours of Sexploitation Shorts From The Something Weird Archives / Audio Commentary With Director Frank Henenlotter And Something Weird's Lisa Petrucci / Trailer

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David F. Friedman has been called "The Mighty Monarch of Exploitation Film" and for very good reason. He began in the 1950s and hit his stride in the '60s producing what would become some of the most influential and classic horror, cult and exploitation films ever made. Some of his most famous credits are from his collaborations with long-time friend Herschell Gordon Lewis on such gore greats as Two Thousand Maniacs! and Blood Feast. He also produced some of Lewis' lesser known but no less awesome "roughies" that are considered to be the first of their kind like Scum of the Earth and The Defilers. Friedman would go on to work well into the '70s and had a hand in just about every exploitation sub-genre you can think of, even producing one of the most infamous Nazisploitation films of all time Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS under the pseudonym "Herman Traeger".

So who better to team with legendary horror director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Frankenhooker) and late Something Weird Video founder Mike Vraney to make a historical documentary about the genesis of sexploitation films than Friedman? Henenlotter also teamed with Vraney in 2010 for the excellent documentary Herschell Gordon Lewis: The Godfather of Gore who is also spotlighted in That's Sexploitation!, so everything comes full circle. Vraney spent his teen years as a film projectionists where he discovered his love of B-Movies and in 1990 realized that exploitation cinema from the 1930s through the '70s were largely ignored in the home video market. So he procured a large collection of 16mm loops and Something Weird Video (named after H.G. Lewis' film Something Weird and shares the same logo) was born.

It was around that time that Vraney would begin to receive support from the very filmmakers that he was trying to promote including none other than David F. Friedman, "I received an unexpected phone call that suddenly made all this real: my future and hands-down the king of sexploitation, Dave Friedman was on the other end of the line" Vraney explained on the Something Weird Video website, "This would be the beginning of a long and fruitful friendship for both of us. Dave's films became the building blocks for our film collection and he has taught and guided me through the wonderful world of sexploitation, introducing me to his colleagues (Dan Sonney, Harry Novak, H. G. Lewis, Bob Cresse and all the other colorful characters who were involved during his heyday) and they've been eager to dive into the business again." And so began a beautiful friendship and collaborations for years to come.


Fast-forward a couple of decades to 2013 and the release of the trios' collusion That's Sexploitation! from Something Weird Video that oddly never had a home video release (that I could find anyway). It had limited theatrical screenings worldwide like at the L'Etrange Film Festival in Paris France, Certificate X Cult Film Screenings in Manchester England and Austin's famous Alamo Drafthouse. Now in 2016, Severin Films has finally put together a beautiful high-definition package for this magnificent look back at "a visual history of over 40 years of sex in the cinema (1930-1970)" complete with over three and a half hours of girlie loops from the Something Weird Video archives that will surely be a hit at your next stag party. The film is full of Friedman's reminiscing about the old days and schooling us on everything from "Nudie Cuties" to sex hygiene films. There isn't a minute that goes by in the 136 minutes of fun that doesn't have a set of knockers in your face.

But everything, including everything wonderful, has to come to an end and the end of the sexploitation heyday was the rise of the full hardcore XXX movies that became dominant in the early 1970s and well into the '80s. But those movies that left nothing to the imagination owe a huge debt to their more playful, innocent ancestors in the sexploitation industry that ran for more than 40 years. While the movies and loops that it covers entices us with flirtatious teasing, That's Sexploitation! is a thorough and graphic look into a naked past that may now seem pretty tame. Henenlotter, along with his outstanding collaborators, use the Something Weird Video archives to the fullest with the multitude of clips that run throughout most of the running time of this very informative documentary. I am a huge fan of "The Golden Age of Porn" and the more explicit exploitation films that would follow but I can't help but appreciate and be fascinated by what came before.

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