Saturday, May 4, 2013

Obscure Oddities: THE SUCKERS (1972)


One of the best things on the internet(s) is Temple of Schlock’s The Endangered List.  Over the last four and a half years, Schlock’s Chris Poggiali has painstakingly researched films that have fallen through the cracks over time and offered readers reports on 131 films as scarce as the African wild ass (thank you, Wikipedia!).  Thankfully, these films have a dedicated group of cinematic archaeologists on the hunt for them and – with nary a Belloq in sight – titles are being unearthed and saved every now and then.  2013 has been an especially good year with several titles being discovered and released to DVD.  One such title is THE SUCKERS, a T&A filled action thriller out on a double feature disc with THE LOVE GARDEN (1971) from upstart label Vinegar Syndrome.

The film opens with advertising man George Stone (Norman Fields) driving up some mountain roads along with his photographer wife Cindy (Barbara Mills) and two models, Barbara (Sandy Dempsey) and Joanne (Laurie Rose).  As George explains, they are heading to the isolated estate of Steve Vandemeer (Steve Vincent), a wealthy hunter that George used to photograph on his big game hunts in Africa years ago. After being confronted by two of Vandemeer’s armed security guards, the group makes it to his home for their secret assignment.  Also there for the affair is Jeff Baxter (Richard Smedley), another big game hunter and ex-Green Beret who is also in the dark about the group’s intended prey.  Vandemeer is mysteriously tight lipped, only saying, “The old days are finished. Only the appetite remains.”  Uh oh.  If there is one thing movies have taught me, it is not to trust wealthy white guys with appetites.

After some dinner and drinks, everyone settles down for the night before their big hunt the next day.  Naturally, that means we get extended couplings as George/Cindy, Jeff/Barbara, and Barbara/Joanne all get it on in sex scenes that seem to go on for days.  The next day finally arrives and Vandemeer escorts everyone out to the woods and then calmly explains to everyone what the audience has figured out long ago – his guests are going to be the hunted!  Yep, ol’ Vandemeer craves the world’s most dangerous game (he even says those words) and informs them that he and his two henchmen will spend the next day tracking and hunting them.  And you thought your job sucked!  Naturally, Jeff doesn’t take kindly to the idea and whips out his pistol, only to be informed the firing pins have been removed.  With little choice other than to run, the folks split up and dash into the woods with the hopes of escaping from this unhinged huntsman.

Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game” has provided plenty of cinematic inspiration since its publication in 1924, starting with the official adaptation THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932).  I’m sure there has probably been at least one “wealthy person hunts humans” film every year since.  However, I doubt many have gone the sexploitation route that director Stu Segall (DRIVE IN MASSACRE) did with this film.  THE SUCKERS broke new ground by introducing nekkid folks into the mix.  (Eddie Romero and Jess Franco would up the ante over the next few years by having the hunted being nude; in fact, co-star Laurie Rose was also in Romero's THE WOMAN HUNT.)  The title THE SUCKERS is definitely a double entendre as it not only refers to the poor saps caught up in this rich man’s deranged fantasy, but also the main action during the onscreen make out sessions. Seriously, I haven’t seen this much nipple sucking since that breast feeding flash mob at McDonalds.  Now don’t get your hopes up as most of these sex scenes have all the erotic power of George “Buck” Flower giving you a lap dance.  Yes, it is one of those flicks where the participants are as unappealing as the 70s wall paper.  To make matters worse, the sex scenes seem to go on for days we don’t actually get to the hunting plot until the 51 minute mark of an 80 minute movie.  There is also a rather disturbing rape scene around the 1 hour mark (not that I’ve ever found a rape scene in any film non-disturbing).

"I'm afraid his comb over won't make it."
Please don’t misinterpret those criticisms as a pan though.  The film is definitely entertaining for most of its duration.  Segall’s style of directing is very “lock and talk” but there are some great bits of unintentional comedy.  There are a few flubbed lines/scenes and I loved that flashback to George and Cindy getting the job and previously clean shaven George sporting a mustache.  Segall covers his tracks by having Cindy tell him it tickles her and he better shave it off before their job.  Also, I love how George dismisses Cindy telling him one of the guards was ogling her by saying, “These guys are up here in the wilderness. What do you expect?” Even the abrupt end credits are just a re-showing of the opening credits.  These low budget bits are what give THE SUCKERS a lot of its charm.  

Long considered lost, the movie was given a 2K scan by Vinegar Syndrome from a found 35mm print.  Obviously aware of the market and narrow fan base, they didn’t clean up the print like they did for their unreleased Hershell Gordon Lewis films or MASSAGE PARLOR MURDERS (1972).  There are some heavy scratches at points and the audio gets really rough during one portion about 15 minutes in. However, it didn’t really bother me.  In fact, I think it might have enhanced the viewing experience for me as it would have been strange to watch a sleazy 1970s T&A takeoff on “The Most Dangerous Game” in crystal clear quality.  Outside of the co-feature THE LOVE GARDEN, there aren't any extras on this disc.  I would have totally dug an audio commentary talking about the film's history and how this print was found, but beggars can't be choosers.  I’m just thankful that it was saved and transferred to a digital media so that future generations can also be disturbed by George’s comb over and his sex scene.

Moments of Clarity:

1 Reactions:

  1. Norman Fields was oddly enough a sexploitation regular, and was married to one of the loveliest ladies of the genre, Angela Carnon. He passed away some time ago, but Angela has remarried and actually lives near the DC metro area.

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