"Friends, let us for the moment drop all pretense. Let’s be terribly frank about one of the twentieth century’s most critical problems. Has the most important part of your life become just a matter of course? Today’s progress in science and technology has the answer. This new product, the XX-20 Ultra Vibrator from Joyful Novelties, is just one of the many revolutionary new products to come out of Joyful laboratories. Joyful also manufactures vibrators, whips, chains, French ticklers, party dolls and hundreds of other erotic devices, guaranteed to provide you, the consumer, with the ultimate in sexual fulfillment. Joyful was founded in 1953 by imaginative, hard-driving entrepreneur Theophilus Suck. In Suck’s firm hand, Joyful has risen rapidly, swelling to new proportions, penetrating expanding markets, bursting with profits, and satisfying the sexual demands of discerning consumers everywhere."
Review Date: November 3, 2011
Released by: Synapse Films
Release date: 4/28/2009
Region 0, NTSC
Widescreen 1.66:1 | 16x9: Yes
Young, pretty Cherry Jankowski (Sharon Joy Miller
) has been down in the dumps lately. Her problem is that she is suffering from unrequited sexual desires, although the funny thing is that she actually gets plenty of sex at work, as she is a product tester at the Joyful Novelties laboratory, where dildos, penis extensions and all manner of other sex toys are tried out in preparation for sale. But she’s not getting sex from her live-in boyfriend Herman (Doug Sortino
), a pretentious poet and intellectual who wants them to wait until marriage. Herman is also a cross-dresser, although Cherry doesn’t realize it.
Meanwhile, her co-worker and old flame Marcello Fettucini (Rudy Ricci
) is suffering from a different set of maladies. He was once the company’s top male product tester, but lately he has gone impotent for no apparent reason. Company owner Theophilus Suck (N. Detroit
) is very fond of Marcello and doesn’t want to fire him, but warns him that if he can’t start getting it up again soon he will have no choice but to let him go. Marcello tries everything he can, but it’s of no use. His mother prays for him, his father disowns him, and his thuggish younger brother Angie (David Emge
) even offers to have Mr. Suck beaten to a pulp, but none of it is of any use. Deciding to take his own life, his last hope is that Cherry might be able to get through to him and solve the mystery as to why he can no longer perform like a real man...
The Booby Hatch
is a low budget, shot in Pittsburgh sex comedy from some of the same creators as the original Night of the Living Dead
. In particular, it was co-directed, co-written and co-produced by John Russo, and the other co-producer was Russell Streiner, who produced and acted in the 1968 film. While George Romero himself had nothing to do with this one, other past and future Romero alums do pop up in the cast. Rudy Ricci, who was also the co-writer and co-director alongside Russo, played the leader of the biker gang in Dawn of the Dead
(“We don’t like people who don’t share, you just fucked up real bad!”), and George Kosana, who played the rural police chief in Night of the Living Dead
(“Beat 'em or burn 'em!”) has one scene here as a detective. But the showiest role for a Romero alumnus is reserved for David Emge as Marcello’s brother, who tells his parents that he is a private detective, but who is actually (and quite obviously) a Mafioso. Emge doesn’t have to participate in any of the awkward sex scenes, but he does get to do a Humphrey Bogart impression every time he’s on camera.
I have never been a particularly big fan of sex films, whether they be hardcore, softcore or simply raunchy. It’s just not my genre. The Booby Hatch
is no exception, although I would be lying if I said that I got no enjoyment whatsoever out of it. Yes, there is very little plot to speak of; although both Cherry and Marcello are essential to the resolution of the story, they only share one scene together before the climax. In this version (and to a lesser extent the alternate version included as a bonus) there is obviously a lot of footage added in as padding in order to increase the number of bare breasts, and not all of the filler material works. But there is a very real sense of absurd humor here, and while it didn’t always click with me, there were moments when I found myself laughing out loud in spite of any desire I had not to.
What The Booby Hatch
does is create an alternate universe, one that is superficially like our own, but one in which crazy, kinky sexual antics are more acceptable to society at large, and more out in the open. It’s a place where being a product tester at a sex toys factory is a perfectly legitimate career for someone. Russo and Ricci admit that they were trying to spoof the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s, and there is some occasional wit to be found in their attempts. While trying to fix Marcello’s impotence, Mr. Suck suggests that he try copulating with one of the company’s revolutionary plastic women, which is actually a human female with a chipmunk-like voice who begs for sex. Trying to encourage him, Suck mentions that the doll is so lifelike that he left his wife for it (and when the doll begs him for sex, he uses the excuse that he’s too busy and that she should be patient). And in a humorous, if stupid, running gag, a janitor in Cherry’s apartment building, a foul-looking man with a stuttering problem, repeatedly makes obscene phone calls to Cherry, who is so dense that she simply cannot figure out who is harassing her, even though she hears the janitor’s voice in person several times throughout the film. Of course, not all of the humorous material works; many of the jokes fall flat, and in the twenty-first century making a joke out of rape, as the movie repeatedly does, is more offensive than funny.
Stretched around these successful and unsuccessful attempts at humor is a movie that is technically unsophisticated but occasionally artistic, particularly in the sad montages that follow Marcello as he tries to enjoy life in spite of his impotence, yet he can’t help but contemplate killing himself. In one sequence that could have come from a European film, he goes to an amusement park and sits dejectedly by himself on the Ferris wheel as it spins round and round, with happy people all around him who are oblivious to his agony. It’s a surprisingly effective and touching detail. As Marcello, Rudy Ricci gives the part his all, and while he is hardly a great thespian, he does somehow manage to evoke our sympathies. None of the other actors give anything more than adequate performances, but in a low budget, regional movie such as this one, adequate is enough.
This disc also includes, as a bonus, the original cut of the film, titled The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
. This version of is basically the same in terms of plot, though it has a different ending and less padding. The original cut has more David Emge (this time plotting to blow up the Joyful Novelties building with some comically large explosives) and a different ending (Marcello himself blows up the factory) when compared to The Booby Hatch
cut, which is less plot heavy and features more nudity.
The Booby Hatch
is presented at 1.66:1, and is enhanced for 16x9 displays. This progressive scan transfer is quite good, allowing for the production’s age and low budget. This film was shot on 16mm stock, so one should expect a noticeable but visually unobtrusive veneer of grain. On the plus side, the transfer sports a decent level of detail and clarity (although, as the filmmakers point out in the commentary, the film will never look quite as sharp as it should have because they were stuck using an imprecise lens), with accurate flesh tones and bold, vivid colors that really pop off the screen in some shots. The film elements used in this transfer do show a degree of wear and tear, with a number of minor blemishes, scratches and specks appearing throughout the presentation.
The Booby HatchThe Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
In contrast to that, The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
is much weaker. While the framing does tend reveal noticeably more picture information on all sides, the image quality looks very thin and flat compared to The Booby Hatch
, and it clearly has not undergone the same level of restoration. The color scheme as a whole is very pink, and there is quite a bit of print damage evident, especially when compared to the other cut. The screen captures above should give you some idea of the differences.
The Booby Hatch
is presented in Dolby 2.0 Mono and it sounds surprisingly good for an old, independently made film. Dialogue is always perfectly understandable, and there is little in the way of background noise or distortion to hamper the presentation. Even more pleasing is the fact that the volume levels on the track are surprisingly well balanced, and once I had set a comfortable volume with my remote control I was able to keep it at that level for most of the film, only making minor adjustments here at there.
The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
sounds similar, although it’s a little more flat and muffled in comparison.
John Russo, Rudy Ricci and Russell Streiner are on hand for an entertaining and lighthearted commentary track, although it is marred by the poor audio quality of Streiner's comments (it sounds like he wasn't mic'd properly, because the other two guys are completely intelligible). After more than thirty years there are some things that these men can no longer quite remember, but for the most part they have lucid recollections of the long, arduous process that was the making of The Booby Hatch
. Russo and Ricci go into some detail as to why there were so many differences between this and the original Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
cut, particularly the attempts to avoid an 'X' rating. They also cover the picture's distribution history, including the difficulty they had getting it exhibited because of a Supreme Court ruling giving the individual states the power to decide what was or was not pornography (which scared off a lot of exhibitors) and how the project was scaled down from something initially meant to cost several million dollars to the no-budget guerilla picture that it ultimately became.
The next extra is a ten and a half minute featurette called A Flyboy in Earth Shoes
, made up of an on-camera interview with David Emge, who talks at length about his background as an actor and his experience with this project and with how he was cast in Dawn of the Dead
. Emge is an interesting speaker, although his memory is a little shaky (he remembers the shoot but admits he has no idea how he was cast in the first place) and he says he never ended up seeing either version of the finished film. Emge appears to have shot this interview at the same time that he filmed the featurette that appears on Synapse’s Basket Case 2
release, as he wears the same shirt!
Lastly there are two theatrical trailers, one selling the film as The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
and the other selling it as The Booby Hatch
Are you a fan of vintage 70’s sexploitation? Or does the idea of seeing an almost lost film from the creators of Night of the Living Dead
excite you? Do you have a girlfriend or significant other who will crucify you for watching a movie like this (like mine almost did)? If the answer to the first two questions is yes and the answer to the third question is no, then The Booby Hatch
is for you. Synapse Films has done an admirable job with this release, in spite of the recording problems on the audio commentary. The Booby Hatch
looks great for an old, no-budget film, and the inclusion of The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski
is an important step in preserving the history of this production. This is a recommended release for anyone who enjoys this type of film.
Movie – C+
Image Quality – The Booby Hatch – B
Sound – The Booby Hatch - B
Image Quality – The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski – C-
Sound - The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski – B-
Supplements – B-
- Running Time – The Booby Hatch - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Running Time – The Liberation of Cherry Jankowski - 1 hour 22 minutes
- Not Rated
- Chapter Stops
- 1 Disc
- English 2.0 Mono
- Audio commentary with John Russo, Rudy Ricci and Russell Streiner
- A Flyboy in Earth Shoes featurette