Rebounding from their disappointing Flesh Trilogy disc, Something Weird presents one certified sexploitation classic in A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine, and throws in two lesser but enjoyably kitschy nudies, A Sweet Sickness and The Brick Dollhouse, for a satisfying David Friedman triple-bill.
In Smell of Honey, Sharon Winters (Stacey Walker) makes a hobby of seducing her dullard male coworkers then screaming rape, ruining their careers and reputations. While not destroying men, Sharon spends her time teasing her big-haired lesbian roommate Paula. Sharon embarks on a "serious relationship" with new man at the office Lowell Carter, leading to his inevitable seduction/rejection. He reacts by having an erotic, kinky, soft-focus bondage dream about Sharon whipping and being whipped by him. After Sharon cries rape on Carter, he stalks and sexually assaults another woman and is shot in the back by her boyfriend. Finally, Sharon picks up young stud Tony, they dance at a bar, and she takes him home to try her usual routine only to find that she's more than met her match. Friedman's script nicely balances plot and dialogue with the obligatory petting/bathing scenes, and first-time director Byron Mabe (She Freak, The Acid Eaters) actually goes for the occasional arty montage. As Friedman observes, Walker ("discovered" by him on a Florida beach) perfectly personifies white-trash sexuality, playing the harlot with obvious relish as she spits out such lines as "Some of us, Paula, would rather fight than switch" or the now-famous "I may be a bi**h, but I'll never be a bu**h." The strangely appropriate soundtrack is by an anonymous garage band (Et Cetra) that falls somewhere between hippieish folk-psych and Stooges-like proto-punk, and often seems on the verge of completely falling apart. Another of Laszlo Kovacs's early pre-fame movies, this looks great even when nothing spectacular is happening; unfortunately the print is far from perfect. The tonal values, detail, sharpness, and grain are generally fine, but there is light speckling and blemishing, light lining, some heavier damage around reel changes, and a series of horizontal emulsion dings that appears for about 15 or 20 minutes midway through. Worse, the opening scene in the car, a shower scene with Sharon and Carter, and a few other spots are marred by jump cuts and missing dialogue. Considering the logistics of finding any decent print of a film like this after 35 years, these are forgivable flaws, yet still disappointing. Ignoring the print problems, Smell of Honey is terrific fun for fans of 60s roughie sexploitation and a nice bookend to Friedman and Lee Frost's The Defilers.
A Sweet Sickness tells the story of the "young gals" who come to Hollywood looking for stardom only to find that unless they "put out" they'll get nothing but a "one-way ticket back to Hicksville." The narrator snidely informs us that Connie, a seasoned casting-couch veteran, has a three-day $750 Vegas gig, while roommate Dee, a newcomer who wants to make it without compromising herself, is broke and unemployed ("but then, she still has her pride"). Dee is molested by their scuzzy landlord, applies for a job with a lecherous agent (then tells him to "shove it"), and is shown an apartment by a realtor who drugs her and imprisons her (in a distorted "trip" sequence) in a room full of pot-smoking white slave girls. Later, at a club holding a strange "strip auction," Dee and a "cute" guy in silk shirt and white pants dance on stage, backed by The Tigers and the Pussycat, a novelty garage trio featuring a female guitarist with long blonde hair. The owner threatens to withhold Dee's pay for spurning the winning "bidder" and a skinny topless "hippie" chick dances wildly. Back at the realtor's, Dee's involved in a drugged-out slo-mo bisexual whipped-cream party. In the hilarious final scene, a lustful casting agent reveals his pushbutton roll-away "casting" bed. These sequences, with their goofy dialogue, sarcastic narration, and bizarre plot twists are amusing enough; unfortunately they only account for about 25 percent of the 65-minute movie. The rest is the usual "nudie" padding of dressing, showering, bathing, hairbrushing, dancing, etc., that seems at times to go on forever (at least the women are generally good looking). The soundtrack is again provided by an unknown garage/frat rock band (Raul and the Revelations), and some vintage Bell System dial telephones are featured prominently. Print quality is quite good, better than the main feature, with generally excellent tonal values, sharpness, and detail, marred only by some light speckling and visible grain. Entertaining in a mid-60s schlock sort of way, just be ready with the fast-forward button.
The Brick Dollhouse, is ostensibly a murder mystery set in a "swinging" apartment building. The framing story of detectives questioning the (mostly female) residents about the murder is really just an excuse for extended flashback "party" scenes of backyard/poolside bongo playing, semi-naked go-go dancing, water-pipe smoking, joint Bogarting, chess playing, showering, dressing, keyhole-peeping, whipping, spanking, macho posturing, and spin-the-bottle sessions. There's plenty of hideous 1960s decor, clothing, and hairdos on display, backed by sub-Ventures guitar, sax, and organ. Print quality is surpisingly good, with very good to excellent color balance and saturation, acceptable contrast and detail, and some light speckling/blemishing the only evident damage. While far from classic, Brick Dollhouse is a painless, mildly amusing 55 minutes, more so for serious students of 1960s kitsch. "Yeah, she's outasight. Really outasight!"
The outstanding "extra" is a florid, fanciful, fascinating audio commentary on Smell of Honey by storyteller extraordinaire Dave Friedman, easily worth half the price of the disc if you're at all interested in the history of exploitation cinema. Friedman trailers include A Sweet Sickness, The Defilers, The Lustful Turk (looks pretty painful), Starlet, and The Notorious Daughter of Fanny Hill (with Stacey Walker). There is also a Friedman exploitation art gallery and an odd short containing the (videotaped) trailer for Brick Dollhouse. Overall, a solid buy for 1960s sexploitation fans. Recommended.