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THE HAREM BUNCH; OR WAR AND PIECE
[a.k.a. Undercover Vixens] (1969; Just for the Hell of It).

Who in their right mind would make a softcore sex-comedy about the Arab-Israeli conflict? Especially only two years after the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and defeated neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Syria? That proud distinction goes to '60s-surfboard-maker-turned-director Paul Hunt (WILD, FREE & HUNGRY), who cranked out this unfathomable, stereotype-laden cheapie in which a trio of sexy Israeli spies go undercover and give everything for their country. Based on a story by legendary sleazemeister R.W. [Bob] Cresse (LOVE CAMP 7), the exploitation never gets too extreme but the plot is consistently outlandish, with the steamiest impression made by lovely Monica Gayle (SWITCHBLADE SISTERS, NASHVILLE GIRL) in one of her earliest features... In hopes of provoking their Arab enemies, Israeli General Irving Roseberg (Mitch Evans) must send a message to a double agent inside Jordan and rounds up several female candidates (who hang around the kibbutz half-naked and are observed via hidden cameras) for this secret mission. The brass then chooses three Special Forces babes, who'll each enter the country separately, carrying a different portion of this vital message. It's not the brightest plan, but the real stupidity is in the details! Kaplan (Barbara Caron, a.k.a. Barbara Mills) disguises herself as a caravan's "camel boy"; Toblosky (Sherrie Land) pretends to be an Armenian farmgirl; and Schwartz (Gayle) plays one of 27 wives belonging to a 90-year-old Turk. Of course, their sexual wiles soon come in handy, with the caravan leader hitting on Kaplan (convinced that she's a 14-year-old boy) and Schwartz seduced by one of the other harem wives. Alas, the Arabs get wind of this Israeli scheme and all three spies are eventually exposed (in more ways than one). But instead of the usual torture, UCLA-educated Ali (Frank Cuva), son of the world's richest sheik, has a modern way of handling spies involving a hookah full of rare "magical smoke"... This is a fascinating mess. The lead ladies display their fair share of bare flesh, from intermittent nude fondling to being strung up topless, but the attempts at humor are pathetic (e.g., one Arab thinks he can flush out Jewish spies by handing out free matzah balls; Schwartz blows her cover by blurting out, "Oy vey, you schmuck!" in public); most of the Arab characters are bed-sheet-wearing stereotypes; set-designer/ cinematographer Ron Garcia (who later shot ONE FROM THE HEART and TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME) tries his best not to call attention to the minimally-dressed sets and obvious budgetary limitations; while its narration offers a little welcome relief by making fun of the on-screen antics and attempting to explain its nonsensical plot. Strangest of all are the film's bookending segments set in the far-off future (1982 Tel Aviv!), with one-time enemies Irving and Ali running a men's clothing shop together, now that all of this silly Israeli-Arab animosity has ended and their countries have merged into one big, peaceful place. Wow, talk about a Criswell-level prediction!

© 2015 by Steven Puchalski.