Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sock It To Me, Baby! (1968)

Directed by Lou Campa
Starring Ileen Wreffer, Larry Hunter, Dina St. Helena
Rated X

"I've got a question."
"Ok. I bet the answer is yes."

Sexploitation legend Lou Campa drags us through the muck of some way-out Lynchian suburb-from-hell where the grown-ups are all grabby monsters preoccupied with booze and statutory rape, and the kids all carry switchblades and cry while they masturbate. Shot in stark black and white and staged like a whitebread Grand Guignol play, Sock It To Me, Baby is a remarkably nihilistic character study of one of sleaze cinema's more despicable assholes.

Supercreep Ron Baker (Larry Hunter, who had a brief but amazing career in softcore roughies and Doris Wishman lunacy) is a hand-wringing degenerate gambler. A kept man, he lives off of his wife June (Dina St Helena), a wealthy woman with some very dark secrets. These two deviants are raising their teenage niece, Susan (Gillian Martine). Susan has just turned 18 and yearns for the touch of a man. Luckily for her, she's about to head off to Rome for six weeks. There's sure to be lots of dudes there. More importantly, it will take her far away from Aunt June, who has attempted to seduce her sadly hetero niece on several occasions. She's pretty sure Uncle Ron wants to bang her too, he's just too gutless to put any moves on her.

Depressed that he's got to wait another six weeks for his next chance to try and nail lil' Susie, Ron heads over to see his mistress, Betty (Rosina Martin), an Italian chick with ass-length hair who caterwauls in the bathroom while Ron lies in bed blowing smoke rings and staring at the ceiling, clearly unsure whether he wants to fuck her or bash her skull in. She comes into the room wearing a flimsy negligee and demands they talk before Ron's getting any nookie. He agrees, as long as booze is involved, and as he chugs down scotch, she blabs about how some fucker wants to marry her. Ron calls her bluff, and they commence to make awkward 60's love. The camera occasionally cuts away to a wobbly pin-up painting on the wall. Betty tells Ron to "Kiss her bweasts", like some Italian Elmer Fudd.

Ron gets home from Betty's and peeps into the basement window to see an all-girl topless teenage dance party in full swing. Did they really have those in the 60's? Was that a thing? Anyway, he licks his lips and ponders dragging one of the girls into the bushes, but wisely goes for option B: "Drinks. Lots of drinks."

Meanwhile, upstairs, Aunt June is seducing some sweet young thing, but she is vadge-blocked when a now-sloshed Ron barges in. She gets rid of him with a bottle of hooch and goes back to scissorfighting with the teenage trollop. Ron wanders out into the front yard to puke on his shoes and fall asleep on the lawn, but is distracted by all the greasy young dudes wandering in and out of the house next door. Naturally curious, he peeps in the window to find lippy teen hussy Tina (the remarkable Ileen Wreffer, who looks sorta like a bustier, drug-fried Liv Tyler) servicing an endless stream of dudes. Miraculously, she has figured out how to ball the boys while fully dressed and reading a Spiderman comic. She does take her top off at one point, and sits there laughing at some kid's weiner while he masturbates furiously in front of her.

Tina, it turns out, is a babysitter. She's watching Ron's neighbor Charlie's kids while he's away. At this point, Ron's bananas in lust for her. He stumbles back to Betty's and squints while he bones her, pretending it's Tina, but this proves unsatisfying. So heads over to Charlie's and explains to Tina that he's Charlie's best pal, and just wants to borrow a golf club. At this point it's the middle of the night, but Tina doesn't really care one way or the other. She lets him and in tells him to go look for his fuckin' club. He wanders around slugging hooch and trying to work up the nerve to put the moves on the schoolgirl, but he chickens out.

The next couple of days are rough for Ron. He passes by the local teenage hangout to see Tina frugging away in front of the jukebox. Sorry Ron, no old pervs allowed. Betty's fed up with him, and she tosses him out of her apartment and her life. So there he is, sitting at home, sucking on a bottle, when out of the blue, Tina-from-next-door calls. She tells him she heard a prowler outside, and could he come by and check things out?

Well, yes. Yes he can.

Ron heads over, and it becomes obvious that Tina's in the mood for a little sexin'. Who knows why? She's got problems. They bone and then they smoke and slug booze. Turns our Tina's only 15. Ron's ok with that. He likes 'em young.

Ron and Tina enter into a weird relationship full of toe-sucking and blackmail. It all comes to a head one boozy evening when Ron, lying in bed in his underwear, hears a ruckus in the living room. Tina's invited her old fuck buddies over for an impromptu dance party. Ron tries to break it up, but the dudes threaten him with switchblades, so he crawls back up to his room, thoroughly defeated.

The next morning, he calls up Betty and spills his guts. He asks her to wait for him until he gets out of jail, because he wants to come clean, tell the cops the whole sordid story, leave June forever, and start a new life as an upstanding citizen. While he blabs on, Susan walks in. Remember her? She's back from Rome. She overheard Ron's sad story, so as thank you for not molesting her, she tell him all about June's secret lezzie life, arming him with enough blackmail ammo to stay out of jail, especially since she's downstairs balling Tina.

How's it all end? Badly. How else?

Persistently mean-spirited and filled with terrible people doing terrible things, Sock it To Me Baby is a hilariously jaundiced little film. Hunter's sniveling, alcoholic simp of a character is such a pathetic excuse for a human being that you almost feel bad when well-deserved misfortune consistently rains down on him. Hunter's hand-wringing, whiskey-killing, over the top performance is matched note for note by the amazing Ileen Wreffer, a thick-lipped, cross-eyed, brat-faced ball of teenage thunder who grabs this sordid little story by the throat and soundly thrashes it. How or why Miss Wreffer did not go on to a long and glorious career as a Hollywood femme-fatale/man-eater/ruiner-of-a-good-time is beyond me, because she was sensational here. From her emasculating striptease/handjob to her herky-jerky non-dancing, she is a full-on geek/bitch goddess.

Lou Campa followed this up with the even meaner C'mon Baby, Light My Fire (1969) and then quit directing altogether to concentrate on producing porn, including a 1977 remake of Sock It to Me called Jail Bait. Larry Hunter was last spotted in Doris Wishman's headache-making 1983 slasher A Night to Dismember. Their current whereabouts are unknown - at least to me- but if they're still alive, chances are they are somewhere in the immediate vicinity of booze and broads. Wreffer never made another movie, and the world is a dimmer place because of it.

Sock It to Me, Baby is available from Something Weird Video.

- Ken McIntyre

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