Unless otherwise noted in the post title, these are not
reviews, per se. They are articles for people who have already seen the film or read the book in question--meaning that there will be spoilers. If you're already familiar with the material being covered, or don't mind the plot being spoiled, please read on and leave a comment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

[Genophobia] Case of the Smiling Stiffs (1973)

Stunning red head Emma, in her barely-there shorts and tight tee shirts, should have no problem
Case of the Smiling Stiffs - Poster Image
Poster Image
keeping a man, but apparently she does. According to her roommate Carolyn, it's because she only goes down on them once a month. What Carolyn doesn't know is that Emma's acts of fellatio always line up with the full moon, and the reason she can't keep a boyfriend is because they tend to die afterwards.

Emma is some vampire variation, whose choice of ingestible body fluid isn't blood. She doesn't wear a black cape or sprout fangs or any of that, but she does occasionally transform into a ridiculous rubber bat, just so that we'll know what's really going on here.

Two bumbling cops, Joe and Frank, do their best DRAGNET impressions while investigating the deaths plaguing the city—seemingly healthy men with giant erections and ecstatic rictus grins who have succumbed to severe dehydration. It's a tough case to crack, but luckily these coppers aren't afraid to get their hands—among other things—dirty in the pursuit of justice.

The only other character of merit is newspaper reporter Silverman who is ostensibly writing about the murders, but seems to be doing little more than having sex with countless women. You can always tell where Silverman has chosen to bury his lead (so to speak), because he is such a skilled lover that the women are thereafter unable to uncurl their toes.

I won't go into the plot any further, primarily because there isn't any more of it to speak of. Emma, Carolyn, Joe, Frank and Silverman stumble through the movie having sex with other people and occasionally each other, until the finale. When the full moon rises again and it's time for Emma to feed, she sets her sights on Silverman, which proves to be her doom. When the reporter drops trou, we learn just what it is that makes him such a skillful lover: his penis is made of silver...which just so happens to be deadly to vampires of all breeds.

Case of the Smiling Stiffs - Joe & Frank
Joe & Frank
This is a sex-crime-comedy-horror hybrid that ultimately falls flat on almost all accounts. The sex is very softcore and ultimately uninteresting, the humor is incessant and almost incessantly juvenile, and it barely qualifies as horror (aside from there being a vampire) or crime (aside from there being cops). It's as if someone took a movie that could have been charmingly in bad taste and excised all of the elements that one might conceivably want to see. All that's left behind are some genitals and a few mildly amusing antics—but certainly not enough to entertain throughout the admittedly brief running time.

The only reason this film even rates a mention here is because of the cast and crew. This is surely one of the movies that many of them wish would remain buried, but this is the Internet age. Almost nothing stays buried.

Sean S. Cunningham was fresh off of producing writer-director Wes Craven's sleazy 1972 thriller LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. The duo had pitched a number of projects around Hollywood, but nobody was buying. Instead, they decided to split up and try their luck apart from each other.  In time, they would both create the franchises that they will forever be remembered by: Cunnigham's FRIDAY THE 13TH (1980) and Craven's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984). But between LAST HOUSE and FRIDAY, Cunningham worked on a few less-successful films—including this one.

Information is really rather scarce due to a combination of lack of interest, and Cunningham all but
Case of the Smiling Stiffs - Sweet, Sweet Emma
Sweet, Sweet Emma
disowning the film. It was reportedly Brud Talbot's idea to film a sex comedy in Miami, and the two of them share both a director and producer credit. Somewhere along the way, funding fell through and Cunningham was forced to complete the project on his own. Perhaps he called in a few favors, because he brought in a number of people from LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT to round out the cast and crew.

Among them: Jim Hubbard and Gary Liebman, who worked sound on both films; film editor Steve Miner, who would go on to direct the first two sequels to FRIDAY THE 13TH; and adult film star/director Fred J. Lincoln, who went from portraying Weasel the rapist in LAST HOUSE to detective Joe here—and was quick to capitalize on his association with Cunningham, as evidenced by his work on XXX films FRIDAY THE 13TH: A NUDE BEGINNING (1987), FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2: THE NEXT GENERATION (1989), and THE LAST WHORE HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2005). Lincoln harbored a grudge against Cunningham for years, as he supposedly promised to executive produce some projects for Lincoln, but never followed through. His "parodies" of Cunningham's films were likely meant as a slap to the face.

Fred J. Lincoln wasn't the only porn actor to appear in the film. The legendary Harry Reems (most famous as Dr. Young in 1972's DEEP THROAT) plays Silverman. Lincoln may have been responsible for bringing Reems on board, as the two of them had appeared together in 1971's THE ALTAR OF LUST.

Only one other cast member went onto anything resembling a mainstream acting career, Ron Millkie, who portrayed officer Frank here, and went on to play Officer Dorf in FRIDAY THE 13TH. Most of the others never went on to perform again.

CASE OF THE SMILING STIFFS (aka CASE OF THE FULL MOON MURDERS aka SEX ON THE GROOVE TUBE) was released to little acclaim—except in Australia, where it inexplicably became something of a hit. It was rereleased in America at a later date, with additional hardcore footage—it's unclear if this was newly shot footage, or footage that was shot at the time of production and simply not included—but even that didn't help it find an audience. Furthermore, whatever hardcore footage did exist is now lost, and I'm not sure it would have improved things anyway. Cunningham put the movie behind him, slightly embarrassed by the whole ordeal, and moved onto greener pastures.

It should be noted that Cunningham's former partner Wes Craven ventured into the adult film world as well, directing the X-rated incest-laden drama THE FIREWORKS WOMAN from 1975. Craven had the good sense to work under a pseudonym (Abe Snake), but as I said before, this is the Internet age.

Almost nothing stays buried.


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