can tell you as a major film lover I first came into learned the name of Michael Findlay and his wife Roberta when I was a teenager, when I bought a copy of UK magazine Total Film and inside they had a “Video Nasty” section which talked about films such as “Blood Bath” (1976), “The Corpse Grinders” (1972), “S.S. Experiment Camp” (1976) and of course “Snuff” (1976). I investigated every one of these films and in particular “Snuff” intrigued me the most, so I looked up the film and discovered The Findlays which I will describe as depraved yet ultimately rewarding if you are interested in underground cinematic history. I waited quite a while for Michael and Roberta Findlay’s films from the 60s to be released on to home video and thanks to Something Weird (excuse the pun) here they come in all their impious glory. I now present to you the perfect alternative to The “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in The “Flesh” trilogy for a long night of curvy child baring hips and a director who looked every bit of a maniac, playing the lead role in his own trio of debauched nudie cuties. The Findlays names are nowhere to be seen here, performing assumed duties under a list of aliases such as “Anna Riva”, “Julian Marsh”, and “Robert West”. In fact I believe the first time Michael and Roberta used their real names was for “Shriek of the Mutilated” (1974). Either they were protecting themselves from crazed fans or violent picketers? You decide!
The Touch of Her Flesh ***1/2
Richard Jennings (Michael Findlay) is in the weapon trade and goes on a trip to Boston leaving his wife Claudia home alone. Claudia is having an affair on her husband and he forgets something back home and returns to find her in bed with another man. This causes Richard to run out of the house and down the busy streets of New York and he is struck by a car resulting in temporary paralysis and the loss of an eye, sending him on an insane female killing spree.
I really enjoyed this film, in fact I would go so far as to say that it is very artistic in its direction and camera work. The script is minimal as there are only around ten lines in the whole film and the lines are dubbed over performers who have wrong expressions and actions which directly combat the dialogue that Michael and Roberta post-dubbed themselves. Every character has the same voice which makes them harder to differentiate. Lots of psychedelic madness such as the scene in the strip club, where the black stripper boogies to the tune of a pretty cool song called “Right Kinda Loving”. The song captured the era as did the primitive yet subtly excellent score. Findlay is perfect as Jennings mostly due to his sinister look. I really believe this film is very arty and brilliant compared to his later efforts of “Shriek of the Mutilated” (1974) and “Snuff” (1976). This one shows much more spirit and originality. I recommend this film to any fans of underground grind house cinema. This film is a part of our film history; I only wish more could be found out about the Findlays as you could really dub them the creators of graphic sexploitation and also some of the first people to take soft-core straight to hard-core at the start of the 70s. In a word …fun!
The Curse of Her Flesh *****
The Curse of Her Flesh continues on around a year after the first one takes place. The opening credits are among the most original I’ve ever seen. A man is using the urinal in a restroom and is reading the graffiti on the walls and as he reads them the camera rolls over them which have the film credits scribbled on to the walls amongst miscellaneous graffiti which read things such as “up your bucket!” Richard Jennings (Michael Findlay) is now completely out of his wheelchair, which allows him to become more mobile that aids him in being a better killer. His M.O. from the first film was to kill all women whom he perceives to be smut peddling filth, the trail of which would eventually lead to his ex-wife’s grizzly demise. Jennings now runs a successful underground theatre where live sex shows are performed by his female employees. What the ladies are not aware of is that they are only being hired only to be killed.
However from the first film I thought Richard was only a lady killer, but in this one he kills anyone who gets in his way. His objective is to find Steve (Ron Skideri – credited here as A. Dick Feeler in a great performance) the man who cheated with his wife Claudia while he was away on business. Out does the original by a long stretch, largely due to the fact that this one recorded live sound, rather than shoot in silent and then dub voices in later. Aside from an obviously bigger budget, Michael Findlay’s style in the director’s chair is phenomenal. The opening scene, Jennings applies a disguise on himself in the form of a long shaggy beard, which he uses only around those that were once acquainted with him, who might recognize him without it. The editing is also improved, and I would go so far as to call it flashy. The infamous song from the first entry “Right Kind of Loving”, is also used in this film, in a very cool stylized scene with Steve performing a thespian style monologue on stage in Jennings’ theatre and just at the right time in this monologue it then cuts to a room with great flashing disco lights and two strippers dancing to the number. It is far more depraved than the original and creates some new ground for films of the time. There is one scene where Jennings goes home with a woman and she is patting her cat, and the two of them use the obvious connotations in reference to a female’s anatomy which now seems corny but by the standards of the 60s, was something quite new. This film works so much better than the original, and it helps that Michael and Roberta, didn’t post dub all of the characters voices like they did in the original. None of the characters from the first one had any real distinction, but in this one the acting is superb, especially by Michael Findlay who could give Scorsese some competition for the most psychotic role to be played by a director in his own film. I really love the film and it is so great to see Findlay running around New York streets being filmed obviously without a permit. So many people were probably extras in their films without even knowing. A great scene is when a cop is poking around inside Jennings’ theatre, and Jennings walks up to the cop holding a shotgun at him, walking towards him. The cop says “does that gun really work”. Richard Jennings replies “only at very close range”, and then blows the cop away. A fantastic film this is, and I must once again mention a memorable performance by Michael Findlay as Jennings, the man who credits the female gender as the ultimate downfall of the male gender. In a word …exciting!
The Kiss of Her Flesh ***
The Kiss of Her Flesh follows similar trends of the first instalment technically speaking; this one seems to have been filmed in silent and post-dubbed all of the dialog which is unfitting to the film. Richard Jennings’s sexual perversion and sex related murders reach their worst in this instalment. Jennings no longer runs the exotic sex shows, now he has been reduced to similar status that he was at in the first film just after his accident. Michael Findlay pushes the limits even further with this film, containing some scenes and themes that hardcore pornography didn’t even have a go at, at that time. Things such as oral sex and oral ejaculation, sticking beads up one’s anus and a graphic shot of female genitalia! The trilogy progressed in shock value, but not technically speaking. The second instalment used live recorded sound for nearly all of it which really added to the film’s style and the story was much better. I still liked this one, I thought Findlay’s performance is still as chilling as ever, but it seems that more time was spent on the second film and this one was rushed through. There was some nifty camera-work and direction in the film, but ultimately, I think Findlay’s intention was to just make this one push all the boundaries of society and even create some new ones while breaking old conventions. I guess the whole trilogy may have been too far ahead of their time. Findlay exposed sexually depraved beings which we would rather pretend didn’t exist, and although the films are sickening at times, Findlay portrays the sexual predator realistically and his transformation from normal average Joe to crazed killer is believable. Kudos to Michael and Roberta Findlay for a trilogy well done with the genre of course! From now on the name Richard Jennings will enter my list of infamous characters such as Hannibal Lecter, Freddy Krueger and Matt Cordell. Findlay’s chilling performance will leave us feeling uneasy for a long time. On par with the first film, but not as good as The Curse of Her Flesh! Great performances all round, and I was impressed with the on-screen presence of Alice Noland as Dorice. Not many filmmakers get to have their trilogy, so it is full points to the Findlays for making their little continuing saga turn into somewhat of an underground grind-house would-be franchise without the action figures! In a word …bold!
The DVD contains no special features; I mean really if three Findlay movies on one disk is not enough depravity for you then may I suggest to go register as a potential sex offender before any damage is done. I take my hat off to Something Weird Video for finding and actually caring about our forgotten underground cinema for days gone. It is amazing that younger people of my generation can experience rare subversive cinema for themselves, in this case actually getting to see what New York used to look like. As notorious film history is dug up, I say spectacular. Let’s make sure no film is ever lost completely. It is great that Something Weird is attempting to revive the ‘B’ movie drive in experience on home video.