Sex Psycho/Widow Blue (1970) -*
It is my considered opinion that hardcore is absolutely the worst thing that ever happened to the sex movie as an art form. Now Iím sure most people would contend that Iím being ridiculous simply by using ďsex movieĒ and ďart formĒ in the same sentence, anyway, but donít you believe them. Go have a look at, say, The Kiss of Her Flesh, and then tell me it doesnít require quite a bit of cracked creativity to dream up a film like that! But once the legal restrictions on sexual content in movies relaxed to the point that it became possible to give the raincoaters exactly what they always really wanted, it took hardly any time at all for the traditional pretenses at storytelling to begin withering away. Consider Walt Davisís Sex Psycho. This is exactly the sort of premise that Michael and Roberta Findlay would have used to great and delirious effect in the late 1960ís, but as early as 1970ó that is to say, at the very dawn of hardcoreó Davis had already seen fit to compress the plot into less than ten minutes, devoting the rest of the running time to a monotonous and dispiriting succession of indifferently shot cookie-cutter sex scenes.
The sex psycho of the title is a guy named Nick (Mike Haven, from Tribe of Passion and Flesh of the Lotus), who is pretty much the living embodiment of smarm. We meet him one morning while he is in bed with his wife, Karen (Sandy Dempsey, of Wham, Bam, Thank You Spaceman and Is There Sex After Marriage?). Remarkably, the couple are not having sex, although it isnít for lack of trying on Karenís part. Nick says itís too early for that sort of thing, but itís pretty obvious that the real reason is that he just plain canít stand his wife. Thereís a fight (which rapidly expands to include the subjects of poor housekeeping, fiscal irresponsibility, and atrocious cooking), but the feuding spouses sort of make up before Nick leaves for work. On his way out the door, Nick reminds his wife that they are supposed to be having dinner that evening with their friend, Eva (probably Susan Westcott, from Drop Out and Beauties and the Beast). Nick is expecting a busy day at the office, so he tells Karen to meet him there, rather than waiting around to be picked up.
Meanwhile, over at Evaís place, Evaís husband, Jerry (director Walt Davis, who can also be seen ďactingĒ in Evil Come, Evil Go and The Dicktator), is taking advantage of her absence to cheat on heró with her brother, Marshall! (Marshall is played by The Teaserís Charles Lish.) For that matter, Karen is also up to no good, for no sooner is Nick out the door than she picks up the phone to invite another man (Rick Cassidy, from Cheri and The Beach Bunnies) over to pick up Nickís slack. Itís worth pointing out, however, that Nick is standing stealthily in the garden, just below the bedroom window, when his wife makes the call. It therefore seems safe to say that he has something other than barbecuing in mind when he blows off work to buy himself a gigantic meat cleaver.
The movie throws us a curve at this point, however, for Nick goes not to his own house, but to Evaís where he bursts in on Jerry and Marshall, and buries his new cleaver in the former manís throat. Eva is right behind him when he does it, and it swiftly becomes apparent that Marshallís seduction of his brother-in-law was a setup. Apparently Eva figured out at some point that she was married to a fairy, and got just a little bit pissed off about the whole thing. While Marshall runs out to fetch a coffin (!), she essentially forces herself on Nick, who understandably isnít thrilled with the idea of having sex on top of (or even beside) Jerryís bloody corpse. Nick is much less prudish after Marshall returns, however; once Jerry is securely boxed up, Nick bullies Marshall into screwing his sister right there on the lid of the casket!
Thatís when the swingers arrive. You heard me. Some of Evaís friends are swingers, and two of them (the legendary John Holmesó whose insignificant role here gives some indication of how early in his career Sex Psycho cameó and some girl whose name I havenít been able to uncover) stop by just as the three conspirators are attempting to haul Jerryís coffin out of the house. Now that might sound like pressing business to you and me, but this is a porno movie, and in porno movies, a gang-bang takes precedence over the need to cover up a murder.
Finally, after Marshall and the swingers have gone home, Karen arrives at the house for that dinner date about which the vast majority of the audience has almost certainly forgotten by now. Eva brings her guests some wine, and then tells Karen that sheís just received a call from her mother. Evidently the old woman is ill, and needs Eva to do something for her. Eva says sheíll be back in about half an hour. In marked contrast to his behavior that morning, Nick takes advantage of the sudden solitude to hustle Karen into the bedroom. But again there are ulterior motives at work, and this time itís Evaís turn to make an unexpected entrance with a cleaver in her handó although this second bedroom ambush doesnít go quite according to planÖ
Frankly, what this movie really needs is a lot more psycho and a little less sex. Unless perhaps youíre actually in the room with the participants, there are few things more boring than watching a sex act played out from inception to conclusion in real time, but thatís exactly how Sex Psycho asks us to spend the great bulk of its 70-odd minutes. Though it possesses a notional plot and nominal characters, this movie is really much closer to todayís nothing-but-fucking sensibility than it is to the essentially narrative-driven school of dirty movies that dominated the industry only a year or two prior to its release. And whatís worse, the majority of Sex Psychoís erotic interludes are dismally pedestrian, displaying little of the twisted imagination that can be seen during the first couple of reels. The movie would have benefited greatly from more touches of black humor, like the moment during Nickís initial coupling with Eva when he suddenly realizes (to his immense disgust) that sheís splitting her amorous attention between him and the recently deceased Jerry. It could also have used more slaps in the face of convention, especially since the premise alone (to say nothing of the two Lewis-esque gore scenes) marks Sex Psycho as a deliberate attempt to transgress against genre norms. For example, the sex scene between Jerry and Marshall offers an especially vivid illustration of how far outside the box Walt Davis was capable of thinking when he felt like it. Given the usually rigid segregation of the audience for porn into presumed heterosexual and homosexual markets, it comes as a welcome shock when the filmís first full-blown sex scene is a male-on-male affair. Of course, the effectiveness of the scene in question is diminished somewhat by the spectacle of two limp-dicked straight guys pretending, with visible discomfort, to be queer for each other, but this is a genre in which one must applaud anything truly unexpected, no matter how half-assed the execution. That Davis was willing to go there at all speaks well for him, so itís terribly frustrating that we see so little of that adventurous spirit during the main body of the film.
Thanks to Preacher Quint for providing me with my copy of this film.