Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death / Invasion of the Love Drones Blu-ray Review: A for Effort

There’s an unofficial saying pertaining to the world of adult-oriented filmmaking which goes something along the lines of “If you can think it, someone has already filmed it.” Various horrors which shall undoubtedly spew forth from your subconscious once you’ve thought long and hard about that notwithstanding, there is that occasional moment in time wherein you witness something you had actually wanted to see. For years, I had imagined a scenario involving a man and woman in a post-apocalyptic setting whose first meeting is interrupted by a kung fu fight to the finish with roaming bandits.

You can imagine the sublime satisfaction I experienced when I saw such a scene in Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death ‒ an amazing 1973 sci-fi softie from an experimental (and completely unknown) filmmaker named Antony Weber. The film also happens to be the first title in one of two new double feature collaborations from Pop Cinema and Something Weird Video entitled Racy Reels from the Something Weird Vault.

Filmed out in the desert with just enough money to buy some inflatable tents and film stock, Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death initially comes across as another silly excuse to display a variety of figures, including softcore skin flick legends Sandy Carey, Uschi Digard and Neola Graef. But whereas most movies of this particular ilk tend to lose their panache early on, there is ultimately something which escalates the rarely-seen Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death far above its level of obscurity.

In-between the numerous instances of nekkid (softcore) copulating, one is shocked to discover a surprising, appropriately grim tone; one which could even compete with future contributions to a subgenre that technically wouldn’t start for almost another decade. It is all the more bewildering when one observes the acting on display here excels that which you would expect from such an odd little production. Plus, there’s sex and kung fu goin’ on here, kids! What’s not to love about that?

Truly, this is something worth checking out. But, should the downer dystopianism of Cries of Ecstasy, Blows of Death prove to be too much for someone looking for a little on-screen excitement, fear not. For you see, boys and girls, the second film on Pop Cinema’s Racy Reels from the Something Weird Vault, Vol. 1 may be more up your alley. Provided you don’t mind the fact that all of its more explicit footage has been excised for this particular home video release, that is (it was released uncut on videocassette way back when).

Released the same year as Star Wars, 1977’s Invasion of the Love Drones is a delightfully dumb sexy sci-fi spoof. The “plot” ‒ or rather, what little there is resembling one ‒ features an alien spaceship (shaped like a standout section of the male anatomy, naturally) settling into orbit around Earth. Once there, its onboard alien species proceeds to abduct horny humans from New York City, transforming them (and anyone else they have sex with) into sex ‘bots which reminded me a lot of the aliens in Quatermass and the Pit.

Like its co-feature, there are a few fairly impressive moments to be found here, from both a stylish standpoint as well as an erotic perspective. Alas, neither of the movies included in this release are complete. The trained eye and ear will immediately observe digital dissolves (as in “recently edited on a computer”) and the fact that a majority of the sound effects and scores have been replaced with newer ones. Granted, they’re pretty good scores, but I definitely think it warrants a “Some music/effects has been edited for this home video release” disclaimer somewhere on the packaging. Presumably, this was done to obtain a current copyright for the titles, but again, this should be advertised.

The editing of visual and aural content becomes all the more painfully apparent when one dives into the second installment of Pop Cinema’s Racy Reels from the Something Weird Vault, Vol. 2. Two more erotic oddities are presented here, Female Chauvinists from the fabulous year of 1976, and Hot Connections from ’73. In the first offering, the late great Roxanne Brewer stars as a busty beauty named Boopsie who, at the behest of a slimy photographer friend who wants to expose a group of fanatical Women’s Lib ladies as “the dirty bunch of lesbians they really are.”

And people wonder why I love exploitation movies from the ’70s sometimes.

Fortunately, Boopsie does a fine job of exposing all of the ladies who occupy a private stretch of land somewhere in Southern California (somebody please tell me that’s not Spahn Ranch). In fact, there’s an awful lot of exposure going on in this one, some of which you might not be fully prepared for, believe me! But Boopsie is not alone in this bizarre quest: her horny boyfriend Vince (Rick Dillon) also infiltrates the posse (in more ways than one) posing as a deaf-mute, whom the ladies decide to keep on-hand so that they may study the male members of the species. So to speak.

Featuring what has since become one of my favorite lines in exploitation film history (“It’s a fucking miracle!”), the sight of a woman pepping up more than her step with the assistance of a Dr. Pepper bottle, and even more Uschi Digard (thank you, Sweden), Female Chauvinists is a better-than-average entry from the sexploitation era. Viewers may be surprised at the inclusion of explicit inserts (some culled from other productions, some not), but that won’t raise as many eyebrows or drop as many jaws as will a certain walk-on cameo appearance in the following feature, Hot Connections.

While it isn’t uncommon for the director of a movie to pop up (some guy named Hitchcock used to do the same, from what I’ve gathered), it is rather rare to see someone like James Hong appear in a skin flick. But then, the good Mr. Hong is no ordinary fellow: even as he was making a name for himself in mainstream movies such as Chinatown, he dabbled a bit within the realms of adult filmmaking on both sides of the camera (as a non-performing co-player, FYI). Hot Connections was his first directorial effort, which he achieved under the alias of James Young.

Story-wise (I know that’s what you all came here for, right?), Hot Connections offers up more liberation exploitation centering around the kind of office life most of us only dream of. After the telephone company’s bastard VP fires a secretary for getting pregnant, the office gals seek out the VP’s ex-wife ‒ who runs a Women’s Lib group ‒ for revenge. Meanwhile, the VP is busy screwing everyone over in the workplace (figuratively and literally) along with another brainless male co-worker who joins his hedonistic private life, while his own wife joins the liberation committee!

Christopher Geoffries, Jay Scott, Tallie Cochrane, Cindy Daly, Peggy Church, Sandy Dempsey, Ric Lutze, and Lynn Harris are amongst the uncredited cast of Hot Connections. But it’s the appearance of the one and only Rene Bond that will stand out the most to fans of classic adult film legends. Sadly, her screen time is limited here, despite the fact her face is pictured on the cover art for this Blu-ray/DVD combo release (unfortunate, but not the least bit uncommon within the realms of exploitation filmmaking and distribution).

Every title in these two Racy Reels from the Something Weird Vault releases has been framed at 1.78:1; their source material presumably being the original 35mm prints SWV (and, to a lesser extent, Alpha Blue Archives) used once upon a time for their individual, mail-order DVD-R issues. The picture quality for these 1080p upgrades is a vast improvement over those aforementioned open matte incarnations, which were watermarked in the lower right corner. Frankly, I would have taken new open matte presentations with the SWV watermark as opposed to the heavily edited versions present here, but any chance to see movies this rare in High-Definition ‒ or at all, for that matter ‒ should be taken advantage of. Even if I’m not overly impressed with these releases as a whole.

Aurally (heh), these experimental efforts offer feature Dolby Digital Mono (or, in the case of Love Drones, an LPCM English 2.0 audio track), which are about as good as they can be considering what little restoration (if any) went into these releases. In all honesty, it’s hard to judge the audio when parts of it have been replaced with newer scores and effects. Special features for Volume 1 include a bonus third feature, 1970’s Double-D Experiment, which had previously been released to DVD by After Hours Cinema as Dr. Dildo’s Secret (!). It’s a pretty fuzzy SD affair, and is accompanied in the bonus section by trailers for all four features from both volumes (most of which have been newly created for these releases).

Those same four previews appear on Volume 2, with the main extra being a classic Uschi Digard loop, newly revamped in HD from an 8mm negative. If you’re a SWV DVD aficionado, you will most likely have seen this solo pleasure before. Purists will no doubt object to Pop Cinema’s inclusion of some faux sprocket holes on the sides of the frame (thus making the 1.33:1 item appear more widescreen TV friendly, I guess). Finally, both titles include bonus DVD copies. It should be noted the Blu-ray copies are compressed BD25s, with neither (main) feature taking up more than 10GB of space.

It’s a mixed bag, yes, but until someone who isn’t worried about the bootlegging of titles they probably don’t own the copyrights to in the first place comes along, these two mixed bags ‒ and all of the fun bags contained therein ‒ will suffice.

For most parties, that is.

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Luigi Bastardo

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