The Curse of Her Flesh (1968)
The world of the Roughie is certainly not for everyone, but it remains something of a major chapter in Adult Movie history. Street-Wise and Sleazy these films are mainly Crime Noir tales spiced with Exploitation and Skin, and most of these are in Black and White to give it that “Art Film” feeling and usually seen in downtown areas in states where they would at least allow these films to play (In the Pre-Ratings days, a film went from State to State to get a “Seal of Approval” in order for it to be shown without a problem – These films would have a very limited audience then). Through The 60’s, most of these came from New York, using most of it’s gritty scenery and actors who usually had a very tough break in the arts sometimes gravitating to modeling for the numerous magazines that were published or getting in contact with one, or sometimes two or more, of the many Directors who made their names in that scene (usually with a number of aka names).
Through The 60’s, Michael Findlay Directed some of the most inventive and ambitious Roughies. Instead of just making simple but effective Action stories for the Adult set in the Pre-Ratings era, he created a world of his own populated with manic characters and unbelievable situations making much use of his surroundings enough to be true snapshots and the most talented of those who wandered into the Nudie world in New York City in The 60’s to help create some of the most memorable films in that scene. His best work, usually with Roberta Findlay around (sometimes known as Anna Riva), was with American Film Distribution, which really was New York’s best Adult film company of the 60’s, home to such character-driven films like Olga’s House of Shame as well as some off-beat wonders and the occasional throw back to Stan Borden’s past.
Through 1967 and 68, Findlay would work on three films known as the “Flesh” trilogy, The Touch of Her Flesh, The Curse of Her Flesh, and The Kiss of Her Flesh. While Touch… and Kiss… are great in their own right, The Curse of Her Flesh remains the standout. The films take the viewer into the life of Richard Jennings (Michael Findlay), who was living a good life although with a fascination with weapons until one day he discovers his wife fooling around with Steve Blakeney (Ron Skidari), and turns crazy, while being in a wheelchair in the first film after surviving an accident. In a way, his reaction is like a Body Count Horror mixed in with Sexploitation as various ladies are offed one by one, usually strippers, while aiming for Blakely in the second, and his wife’s sister and boyfriend in the last. The Jennings character died in the first, but the success of the first film revitalized him kind of like Ilsa after her First Film Death in the true Grindhouse style. It’s not Clean Fun, but it’s Sleaze in excellence!
After a classic cheap opening credits sequence written on a Men’s bathroom wall, complete with in jokes and a reference to Gigi Darlene (More on that name later on in another review…) and a recap of the events of the first film read by Roberta Findlay (Great voice!), the film moves on into the latest chapter. Setting the scene, Blakeney is now seen as a struggling actor trying to find some role anywhere in New York City’s off-off Broadway stages, and winding up at the very low rent and ran down theater “managed” by Jennings under heavy make up, knowing that there are people on the lookout for him. He auditions with a rant, drunk and mad, while two topless lovelies dance with only stockings and dollar bills covering up the parts to make the film playable in the Pre-Rating era just before one “suffocates” the other. The classic “Right Kind of Loving” is the great song they dance to.
After checking out the audition, Jennings takes one of them home, grills her about Blakeney, flips out, and then kills her with a poisoned cat’s paw. To continue the carnage, Jennings gets Stella, a starlet of the Red Hot Scandals of 1968 show to kill the other dancer with what one could call the Lethal G String, much to her anger after finding out after the fact (Think Se7en, but with two females instead). As the top in the Red Hot show, Linda Boyce is great, while her Submissive, Uta Erickson is just as good, making them one of the Late 60’s Roughie scene’s perfect pairs.
As Jennings moves on, for some reason…wait, reason is certainly not the order of the day here…he’s “working” at a bookstore where he sees Blakeney’s soon-to-be wife Paula (Eve Bork), knowing that she certainly did not save her virginity until marriage, and decides to make a movie called Squash Love to freak out Steve which has an ending featuring Jennings as a “Doctor.” Jennings delivers the film to the couple’s hotel room, and upon seeing the 8mm flick, Steve decides to kill Paula with a harpoon not knowing that Jennings is nearby, with everything leading up to a chase and a fight on the back of a truck that could be right up with the fight scenes in The Guy from Harlem in terms of the worst staged fighting in film history, leaving Jennings to find the rest of his victims in The Kiss of Her Flesh after killing Steve with a machete.
For being one of the many Roughies of the Late 60’s, the print on the Something Weird Video DVD is surprisingly sharp. Knowing that most of them played in theaters where the projectors ate up the film giving them that wonderful “Deuce Vision” which gives them the legendary well-played look, this (along with the other two films on the disc) is a fine view. Then again, this was one of the better films in that scene distributed by one of the longest-surviving companies in it’s field, so better care was obviously made.
Again, it’s not for everyone, but for those willing to look at something a little bit darker in tone than usual, or at least find out why the Findlays have gained a following through the years with fans of Exploitation, this may be something to check out.