HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Saturday, April 16, 2011

SKIN IN THE FIFTIES -- DVD review by porfle

Secret Key Motion Pictures brings us another nostalgic festival of 50s smut-filled sexploitation with their 2-disc set, SKIN IN THE FIFTIES.  Loaded with old 8mm nudie loops along with the 1956 roadhouse feature THE FLESH MERCHANT, this titillating time-capsule is more fun than you can shake a stick at.  Or whatever you happen to be holding at the moment.

THE FLESH MERCHANT begins as Paula Sheridan (Lisa Rack) gets a surprise visit from her kid sister, Nancy (the perky, voluptuous Joy Reynolds).  Eager to escape her small-town existence and jealous of her big sister's success as a Hollywood "model", Nancy has come to the big city to get in on the action herself.  Despite Paula's insistence that she turn around and go back home, the naive Nancy applies for a modeling job and quickly ends up as a prostitute servicing rich clientele at a swank hideaway called "The Colony."  This joint is run by a violent scumbag named Vito Perini (Marko Perri) who slaps his employees around whenever they don't "cooperate"--which proves a painful lesson for Nancy after she initially rejects a wealthy customer's amourous advances. 

Nancy's roommate is an over-the-hill veteran named Easy (Geri Moffatt) who is getting fed up with her life of sexual servitude.  After blowing up at a customer one night, she's dealt with by a vicious Perini, who savagely beats her up and banishes the aging party girl to a cheap brothel on skid row.  With Easy gone, Nancy gets a surprising new roommate--her sister, Paula.  When Paula sees the sorry state her kid sister has ended up in, she rebels against Perini and the rest of the flesh merchants at the risk of her own life.

THE FLESH MERCHANT is an hour-long parade of softcore 50s-style titillation that's surprisingly entertaining.  The story zips along briskly, rarely slowing down even when clips from various nudie loops are spliced in here and there to naked things up a bit.  In fact, about halfway through this story I realized I was really getting into it. 

This is especially true during the scene where Easy is called into Perini's office--as she desperately begs the heartless creep not to kick her down the ladder to skid row, only to be beaten within an inch of her life, the movie has suddenly become surprisingly effective.  And when Paula lashes out at her bosses and the clients themselves for being a bunch of sick perverts, Lisa Rack's intensely dramatic performance during this well-written scene is riveting.  This may be the first time I've sat down to laugh my way through a cheap, campy old sex flick and watched it morph into a relatively good movie before my eyes. 

Technically, it's just below the level of a really low-budget 50s TV episode, with performances that range from adequate to fine.  The nudie-loop inserts (the full versions of which are available as disc-one bonus features) are pretty well incorporated into the movie proper, though their film quality is markedly inferior.  The print used for this DVD isn't in the best shape, but to me that adds to its grindhouse appeal.  Unfortunately the original opening and closing titles appear to have been lost.

Moving on to disc two, we get a selection of nineteen short nudie films from the era.  These bring back old memories of my younger days when I ordered some of these things from the back of adult magazines before home video made 8mm obsolete.  Even the discs in this set are made to resemble 8mm movie reels, and a booklet insert, which includes a history of 50s sexploitation films along with a vintage Joy Reynolds pictorial, has the look of an old nudie digest.  

Most of these loops look pretty ancient, some seemingly pre-dating the '50s a bit.  There's full nudity, except for the "forbidden zone", of course.  Some of the girls are pretty cute, while others are, well, frightening.  Several shorts have rudimentary storylines, which tend to be downright nutty--in fact, "African Frenzy" is one of the most accidentally avant-garde films I've ever seen, and "Cocktails and Cuties" is so wacky it's hard to believe real people actually made it. 

One nice-looking brunette does something called the "Danse de L'Ebandan" in which she slinks into a seedy bar and proceeds to freak out for three-and-a-half minutes as her clothes fall off.  The rest of the performers seem to be second-rate burlesque dancers, some resembling a few of my grade school teachers.  One pleasant surprise, however, was the appearance of an adorable young Jennie Lee in "Diamond Lil."  Her segment is about as captivatingly sexy as one of these 50s loops can get, ending with Jenny performing her famous "tassle trick."  At that moment, I was officially enjoying myself.  And when another statuesque beauty resembling Blaze Starr showed up to do her routine to the sultry strains of "Harlem Nocturne", I think my TV started to smoke.  Or maybe that was just me.

I didn't live during the heyday of these films, but mail-order warehouses everywhere were still clearing out their stock of this stuff well into the 80s.  And now that it's on DVD, I don't have to crank up my old projector to see it.  If you're still nostalgic for those times, or you just want to check out what they were all about, SKIN IN THE FIFTIES should be a welcome addition to your collection.

Buy it at


Squashpants said...

Porf, there is obviously more here than in the Alpha video I have of the same movie. Although a remember one shot with a bare butt in it (proving that pulchritude never goes out of style).

porfle said...

My guess is that the Alpha release may have just dispensed with the added nudity clips since the original elements have apparently been lost, whereas this DVD release includes different but similar clips.

porfle said...

I've since bought a Mill Creek 12-movie 3-disc DVD set called "Taboo Tales"(for only $2.96 at Wal-Mart)which contains this movie under the title THE WILD AND THE WICKED. It includes the main titles intact and a bit of a longer ending. It also lacks the added-in nude shots which weren't a part of the original edit anyway.