Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The XXX-Factor: BAD PENNY (1978)

I don't know how he does it. Don't ask me, I don't know. Chuck Vincent somehow takes terrible acting, awful joke writing, unfocused script-writing and generally shoddy production values and makes it not only watchable, but really damned entertaining. The cynics among you, I'm sure, are rolling your eyes and mumbling something about the copious amounts of nekkidity having something to do with it. Yeah, sure, that could almost be called a recurring theme for Chuck, but I'm actually going to rebut that. Crazy, I know, but hear me out. I could line up screenings of WOMB RAIDER (2003), LUST IN THE MUMMY'S TOMB (2002) or BARE WENCH PROJECT (2000) and collectively get way more skin, but still get far less entertainment for your hard-earned dollar. Matter of fact there is such a deficit of entertainment value, I believe the directors owe us, the viewing public, some of their hard-earned dollars for ruining an admittedly small portion of our lives (yes, even you Jim). Chuck just knows how to deliver. He may not be the head chef of Le Cirque, but he ain't the fry cook at Burger King either. Case in point, BAD PENNY.

After getting a kick out of Radley Metzger's much maligned and surprisingly straightforward adaptation of THE CAT AND THE CANARY (1978), fellow VJ cohort Will, pointed out that Chuck Vincent had made his own adaptation and it was now on DVD. Awesome! Will it live up to my fevered expectations? Well, yes and no... but mostly yes.

The film doesn't waste a second diving into the plot and starts with the obligatory reading of the will. Eccentric Uncle Hickey has finally shuffled off this mortal coil and is going to leave the entirety of his fortune to a single family member, because, as he says, they are all a bunch of pussies. Hey, he was rich, he can say that kind of stuff, I guess. There is a bit of a catch though. The inheritance will belong to Penny (Samantha Fox), but only if she can solve a cryptic riddle on the mean streets of New York city, and if she can't... or if she dies, the inheritance will go to the conniving Aunt Celeste (Molly Malone). Aunt Celeste, complete with black mumu and turban, decides that the best plan of action is to bust out all Wile E. Coyote on Penny and do her in via trip-wires, bombs, tarantulas and  other subtle plans that would never be deemed at all suspicious to any law enforcement agency. All of this silliness is actually set to The Blue Danube, which somehow makes it even sillier.


Penny, never one to be accused of being the brightest bulb in the pack, oblivious to her aunt's bumbling attempts at assassination, wanders around Manhattan in search of the answer to the riddle, "What is French, lights up at night and gives good crown?". Uncle Hickey stated in the will that Sidney would know the answer. Using Uncle's little black book, Penny, draped in the furs and pearls befitting of her class, shows that she really has none by sucking off the first guy (Robert Kerman) in Sidney's Bar who says he knows the answer. Of course, he's just telling her that to get some easy action. Penny, only slightly disappointed, sets out to find another Sidney, ending up at a factory, a fetish oriented sex club, a penthouse of a rock band (in a french maid outfit, no less), all with happy endings for everyone, except poor Penny. Until she realizes that her boyfriend's middle name is Sidney! Cue the muted horns.

Starting out with firm footing in the right direction for a porno-spoof, Vincent seems to get a little absent minded and opts for a jazz-riff, free-form version of the tale. Indicative of an era when New York had a great deal of mystique overseas, a lot of time is spent stealing travelogue footage of the streets of the Big Apple as Penny blissfully wanders about in search of more Sidneys. Not that it's boring at all, '70s NY is always cool, and we get some of Vincent's trademark cartoonish deviant sex (the guy in flippers and snorkel with a girl in a wading pool is a classic example), but part of me wishes screenwriter Billy S. Schaeffer (who would later go on to be Vincent's script supervisor in the '80s) had stayed a little more on track with the story as he and Vincent seem to be earnestly making the effort to make a legit movie. Just with hard-core sex scenes. A shocker, I know.

Like much '70s porn, the actors really seem to be enjoying what they are doing, something that's hard to come by these days (ermm, so to speak), and is another strong point in it's favor. It's got plenty of Vincent's strange touches, such as the scene in which Penny ends up at the penthouse of a rock band, The Sindey's. The Teutonic butler forces her to wear a french maid outfit and suck off all of the band members while he dumps huge sacks of junk food on the dinner table. It's almost like an homage to Italian cinema's notorious obsession with eating scenes, just drawing the parallel between food and sex a little closer. In the end, it's a fun little jaunt, but part of me wishes that it had been an R-rated affair so that would have had the opportunity to be a little more fleshed out in the story area. Then again, porn fans may wish it had less story and more sex. Either way, Vincent works his craft and delivers entertainment out of nothing but a handfull of bad actors, stolen locations and the film it's shot on. Genius, I says.

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