||It's strange how certain visual images make extraordinary impressions on you as a youth, eventually buried in the subconscious but not forgotten. By serendipity, you'll cross paths with the image again in adulthood - and although it may have lost some of its impact - you'll immediately recognize it as an exhibit in your memory bank gallery. When you consider the billions of other photos, drawings, posters, paintings, etc. you've seen and how few affected you the same way, it's quite a tribute to the power of the original.
Like most lads, Master Manor used to sneak a peek at nudie mags on occasion. Most were dated; but who cared, this was "hot stuff." As could be expected, certain pics captured the pre-pubescent imagination (even if we didn't know why). One such photo was an outdoor shot of several cowgirls wearing only boots and hats, their backs toward the camera. Hot damn, if that long-out-of-mind picture didn't resurface at the vid joint I worked at a few years ago, cover art for Tonight for Sure.
Another example was a shapely vampiress, strategically placed spider appliques barely covering her ample bosom. What a dream gal for a monster-loving juvenile developing an interest in the feminine form.
Two months ago, I obtained Mondo Keyhole (thanks, Joe Bob!) and there was the arachno-doll in all her fleshy glory. By crazy coincidence, there's a connection between Tonight and Mondo: Jack Hill, director of the legendary Spider Baby and Switchblade Sister, worked on both films. Funkier still, he actually appears in the scene with the Mondo maiden!
Of all the new-to-video releases I've seen over the past couple years, Mondo Keyhole is easily the most warped. (And I view lots of freaky features, folks). Not a documentary despite the title's implication, Mondo tells the twisted tale of Howard Thorne, producer and distributor of S&M-laced porn. But Howard's not only the president of the Sleaze Club for Men, he's also an active participant.
Howie's horny and heroined wife longs for some conjugal comfort, her hubby always too pooped to pop. Mister T. have a mistress? Nah, it's nothing as simple as that. You see, Howard can only get his jollies if the woman is unwilling. Not a major surprise, considering he owns a 'Punishment in Hi-Fi' LP.
The bulk of Mondo's 70-minute running time consists of Howard stalking and raping local ladies - complete with ultradisturbed narration. Complications arise when Howard hankers for his wife's friend and trails the twosome to a costume party...then mistakenly pulls the rough stuff on his masked Mrs. One of his earlier victims, spotting him at the bash, rounds up her female martial arts neighbor, and the duo gain revenge by subjecting Howard to the same torture scenario as in one of his perv productions.
Peppered with flashy photography and demento dialogue, Mondo Keyhole is one sick flick, a worthy addition to any cult collector's library. Oddly enough, although heaving cleavage abounds, there is no unobscured nudity in the nut fest. I mean, it's not like Mondo was going to play any Main St. bijous - except, perhaps, in Hell.
One director of kitschy features that did reach the mainstream was William Castle, king of the widely distributed gimmick pics. Rubber skeletons flew over patrons' heads, onscreen ghosts were visible through special "Illusion-O" lenses, viewers were hypnotized; Bill even rigged theater chairs to receive minor electrical jolts when The Tingler menaced the audience.
My favorite Castle creepfest is Homicidal, an oh-my-God-the-girl's-a-boy gimmicker predating The Crying Game by over thirty years. You know this baby is going to be unique from the first reel: a curt blonde bribes a bellhop to marry her; ceremony concluded, she whips out a blade and jams it right into the Justice's belly.
"Emily" is a gal brought up as guy "Warren," who reverts to the female guise to murder everyone standing in the way of cashing in on an inheritance scam, then slips back into her male mode as a cover. She's also the nurse at the place he lives, passing herself off as his wife; and such a fine crossdresser, Warren's sister doesn't recognize Emily as her bro. Stand under?
After the character hacks its way to the film's finale - including chopping the head off a mute wheelchair woman - the thespian simultaneously appears in the closing credits as both a man and a woman, billed as Jean Arless. Master showman Castle played up the ambiguity to the hilt, dropping hints that Jean very well may be Gene, refusing to expose whether it was a male playing a female or vice versa. To add to the mystique, Jean Genie was never heard from again. Pretty cool, huh?
Several years later, William Castle (briefly featured in the opening credits) finally spilled the beans: Jean Arless was...hey, I'm not going to spoil it!