Friday, October 13, 2023

Sex Victims, The (1973) [short]

Directed by:
Derek Robbins

Since I've been sitting on this set for awhile now, let's go ahead and start wrapping up BFI's "Short Sharp Shocks" Blu-ray today. We're now on disc 2 of this collection of nine previously difficult-to-find British short subjects, which thus far have been neither sharp nor shocking, though they are short. If you'd like to start at the very beginning of my journey up 'til now, please hop over to my review of THE TELL-TALE HEART (1953) and follow the link-crumbs until you get back here. Otherwise, let's get started!

Like with the first disc, not all of these are horror or within our timeline here and thus won't be covered in any great detail. Twenty-Nine (1969), which opens this second disc, is one such short. French-Canadian Alexis Kanner, who had a sporadic though interesting acting career and also directed a few films, stars as Graham Baird, an extremely arrogant jag-off on the verge of turning 30 who still has a lot of growing up to do. Despite having a wife (Justine Lord) and kids at home, he spends most of his free time "at the office" i.e. going to bars and picking up young women. After one such bender leading to a blackout, he wakes up 16 hours later in a strange apartment. There's a mysterious message written in lipstick on the bathroom mirror and he's wearing someone else's clothing. As he tries to piece together the events of the previous evening, he begins to suspect that he may have been involved in a murder. This hinges most of its confusing narrative on a twist ending, which is merely OK. It's much more interesting as a little snapshot of Swingin' London at the time and, though mediocre, comes off looking like a masterpiece compared to the next short...

Sex Victims open with the shot of trees, followed by a woman's scream followed by a frantic man emerging from the woods and running off. The man in question gets filed away for the time being as we then meet degenerate Jack Piper (Ben Howard), a Ryder truck driver who likes to liven up his boring route by occasionally picking up young female hitchhikers and having his way with them, whether they want to or not. After he fails to lure a short-skirted brunette into his truck, he starts driving down a country road and spots a blue-eyed blonde (Felicity Devonshire) horseback riding completely nude; a sight so shocking it sends him right off the road! He pulls over to scream at her ("What do you think you're doing, you stupid bitch, riding around starkers!") but will return to the same spot like the Pavlovian dog he is hoping for a second look. A strange old tramp stops by long enough to make a comment about "bird watching" and then mysteriously disappears soon after.

Jack goes to a stable where another blonde named Miss Heath (Jane Cardew) works. Despite his weird and salacious behavior (like basically jerking off her riding crop - sorry, riding stick - right in front of her!), she agrees to let him saddle up one of her horses and go for a ride. Naturally, he's after the Godiva blonde first and foremost and finally runs across her, only this time she's actually wearing clothes! Well, if an ill-fitting bra that keeps falling down, low ridin' lace panties, high heels and a short, sheer blue nightie count as clothes.

After Jack feigns being unconscious from getting knocked off his horse, Lady G (who is never given an actual name) dismounts and walks over to help him. He then grabs her, gropes her, chases her through the woods and then chases her through a large abandoned factory and then chases her through the woods some more until he finally catches up to her. Finally caught, she curiously has consensual sex with the predator and then tells him she wants him to bring along his friend, whom she claims to have actually been trying to seduce by riding naked, next time. The friend? George (Alun Armstrong), the weirdo from the opening sequence who emerged from the woods after presumably attacking a girl. There's a supernatural resolution to the story, which is not only extremely predictable but also pretty much botched by filmmakers.

The running time is just 37 minutes, but it's a very long 37 minutes filled with endless horseback riding and running around. The editing and photography are both poor and the extremely thin plot doesn't seem fully formed. I suspect this may have been intended to be a full feature at some point and it either wasn't finished or they padded it out as much as they could and still came up short. Either way, after this was finally cobbled together it was used as a support feature to a number of soft sex films released in the UK, such as She Should Have Stayed in Bed, a re-title of some French sex film starring Sandra Julien.

Both male stars would go on to other things (Armstrong even graduated to award winning stage roles and big budget Hollywood films), but the real reason this thing even exists is to showcase former Page 3 girl, model and soft-core star Devonshire, who spends much of her screen time naked. Though not much of an actress, Devonshire would at least rack up a few interesting credits, like Ken Russell's Lisztomania (1975), the artificial insemination exploiter Whose Child Am I? (1975) and the Italian production Teenage Emanuelle (1976), before throwing in the towel on her acting career at the end of the decade. Though she actually gets to keep all of her clothes on, Cardew was also a sex comedy regular who'd previously appeared alongside Devonshire in several films, like Pete Walker's Four Dimensions of Greta (1972).

The director only made one other film; Sextet (1976), not to be confused with the Mae West vehicle Sextette from the following year. Next up on Short Shocks is the ghost story THE LAKE (1979), which I hope to God is going to finally redeem this set because it's been a disappointing trip thus far.

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