Blu-ray Review: Frank Henenlotter’s THAT’S SEXPLOITATION!

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Something Weird Video doc tells the history of the skin-flick.

When I interviewed director Frank Henenlotter some months back about his relationship with the late Mike Vraney and the birth of Something Weird Video (you can check out that audio interview here), he mentioned how excited Vraney used to get about his vast and still growing collection of sexploitation films. He’d call up Henenlotter and enthusiastically tell him about a new find and yet, eventually, even Henenlotter was confounded by this unyielding passion for jiggly flicks.

“After a while, I was just like, how many more can I watch?,” he said.

“What else can I see? More tits?!”

Yes indeed, even boobs can get boring and Henenlotter and Vraney’s epic documentary salute to the history of the sex film, 2013’s THAT’S SEXPLOITATION! is proof of this!

This is not a condemnation of the film. Rather it’s a cold, hard (ahem) fact. In fact, watching THAT’S SEXPLOITATION! is akin to a kind of happy, horny Ludivico experiment, with endless footage culled from sexploitation’s storied past trotted out to the point of insanity. By the end of it, you won’t need to see another naked body, male or female, for several days, maybe weeks. You might even close your eyes while showering.

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Henenlotter made the film for Something Weird Video as not only a love-letter to the ailing Vraney (who passed from cancer not long after the film’s initial release in 2013) but to the already deceased exploitation movie pioneer and producer David F. Friedman. The duo had shot some great footage of Friedman relating the evolution of the sex film subgenre in 2011, shortly before his death. You can tell Friedman aint doing so hot here; he was virtually blind and very frail. But his mind is sharp and the off the cuff stories and factoids he relates are often convulsively hilarious and, yes, educational

The movie is framed by Henenlotter himself, hanging out in a cheesy bar with a nude male bartender and a tassel-twirling Burlesque queen, introducing himself and setting up the scene. Soon we cut to Henenlotter and Friedman in his studio (or some sort of shrine to his own incredible film legacy)…and then the clips begin.

THAT’S SEXPLOITATION! runs almost 2 1/2 hours and every inch of it is filled with flesh. We learn lessons of the early reels, stag loops, nudie cuties, burlesque films, peeping tom flicks, sex-hygiene romps (they’re really gross, BTW) and the whole thing climaxes with the advent of the “white coat” films of the late 1960s, early ’70s, which used the pretense of educating pundits on where to stick their stuff. And then came hardcore porn. And that’s where both Friedman and Henelottter throw their hands up and pull the plug. With porn came the hard drugs, the crime, the ugliness. Gone was the fun of the boob and the bum. Now it was all about gynecology. It was the end of an era. And it’s the end of the movie.

Severin Films have licensed the movie for Blu-ray (it streets on April 26th) and, as usual, they have loaded the release with tons of stuff. Naked stuff. Over 3 1/2 hours of insane, full-length sexploitation films, most of which are seen in clips in the main feature. They’ve also added an amazing, hilarious and heartfelt commentary with Henenlotter and Vraney’s widow and SWV braintrust Lisa Petrucci. It’s a beautiful thing.

THAT’S SEXPLOITATION! is the first and last word on the subject of sexploitation cinema history. You’ll want it in your library. And you’ll never need to see another arse as long as you live!