Tag Archives: Exploitation

A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine/The Brick Dollhouse 1966/1967

“Get away from me you pervert.”

It’s easy to see why Something Weird Video packaged these three films together for a triple feature–they’re good examples of 60s ‘adult’ films. Obviously very low budget, with terrible acting, and thin plots, all three films cash in on theoretical sexual naivete, underwear and endless bathroom scenes. All three films use any excuse to show the female ‘stars’ undressing, stretching, dancing and generally jiggling at the camera.

There’s the title film–the strongest of the three–A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine (1966) which concerns Sharon, a young girl who teases men and then when she pushes them far enough, she calls the police and files assault charges. The film follows the games Sharon plays until the one night she meets her match. From director Bryon Mabe.

A Sweet Sickness (1968) is supposed to be a morality tale about tinsel town (“Hollywood. Where a beautiful body isn’t enough”). A naive young girl arrives from Kansas (of course!) and hopes to hit the big time. She takes a job in a strip auction and eventually ends up as a drugged participant in a whipped cream party. The Big Bertha scene was the highlight of the film. From director Jon Martin.

The third feature, The Brick Dollhouse (1967) is the only one of the three films in colour, and it truly has a swinging 60s feel. The film begins with three roommates coming home to find the fourth girl–a stripper complete with a cheap red wig–topless and shot to death–sprawled out across her bed. Detectives question the three nonchalant roommates (one files her nails). A wild party life emerges involving spin-the-bottle, scenes on the billiard table and even a few peeping through keyhole shots. From director Tony Martinez.

All three films take advantage of every moment to show endless shower and bath scenes. The girls go around half dressed (even answering the door topless at one point). It’s mainly a lot of silly naughtiness, and your tolerance for that may vary. This triple feature is not as campy as many of the Something Weird titles (my all-time favourite is Satan in High Heels), and these three films definitely lean towards the adult film industry. With Something Weird Titles, I seek a High Camp Factor (HCF) but here it’s unfortunately drowned by all the topless frolicking, and ultimately the occasional inadvertent humour isn’t much of a payoff.

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Heading South (2005)

“I always said when I was old, I’d pay young men to love me.”

It’s the 70s, and three single female tourists–all middle aged and white–make a habit of taking their holidays at a lush, private Haitian resort in Laurent Cantet’s film Vers le Sud (Heading South). Wellesley French literature professor Ellen (Charlotte Rampling) is 55, and she spends all summer at the resort and has done so for the last five years. Brenda (Karen Young) is 48 and she comes from Georgia. Brenda and her husband were on holiday at the resort three years ago, and it was during a stolen moment that Brenda had sex with local lad, Legba (Menothy Cesar), and she never forgot the brief liaison. The third woman is Sue (Louise Portal), a plump, uncomplicated and genial woman who can’t really seem to establish relationships with men.

When the film begins, Ellen and Sue are firmly ensconced in the languorous setting of the Haitian resort. They spend their days lolling on the beach, drinking exotic concoctions, and being the center of attention of a band of young, husky islanders. Brenda arrives, it seems, with the goal of reconnecting with Legba, and discovering if that moment they shared three years ago meant as much to him as it did to her.

In intimately confessional moments, each of the three female tourists argues her case for being at the resort and why they find it acceptable to whoop it up on the beaches while they feel constrained to behave differently in their natural environments. All three women bemoan the lack of suitable men at home, but none of them really question exactly why they feel so uninhibited in Haiti. To the viewer, however, it seems apparent that the relationships Ellen and Sue enjoy in Haiti bear no consequences. It’s just all fun and games–no responsibilities, and no nasty surprises. In addition, the white female tourists are firmly in the power seat here, and they are all divorced from the realities of Haiti–the ugliness, the corruption, and the grinding poverty. It never seems to occur to these women that the Haitian men pay them attention simply because they need to eat, and neither do any of the women question how the men survive when the summer’s over, and the tourists go home.

The plot plays with the idea of exploitation. On one level, there’s the issue of the white women tourists and their relationships with the native men, but on another level, these relationships are symptoms of the exploitive colonialism of Haiti. Tourists are on holiday to have a good time, and being face-to-face with starving people isn’t something tourists want to see. There are those who argue that tourism is a good thing for the economy of any nation, but it’s impossible to see that in Heading South. While the natives are turned into seasonal gigolos, the tourists are completely divorced from the morality of their situation, and ultimately the tourists are just passing through while the Haitians are locked into the turmoil of a disastrous social and political climate. Heading South is a morally complex film, and its depth resonates long after the closing credits. In French and English with subtitles.

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