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THE ULTIMATE DEGENERATE (1969; Something Weird Video).

This tawdry-titled outing came late in the Michael & Roberta Findlay oeuvre, with Michael taking full responsibility for the directing chores (under his "Julian Marsh" nom de plume, of course), with Roberta/"Anna Riva" receiving only a photography and co-producing credit. But since the highlight of this wild ride into depravity is its tripped-out camerawork, I think she deserves much of the credit for the film's success, thanks to her odd camera angles, fleshy close-ups and cruel imagery. Best of all is her (all-too-brief) footage of '60s Times Square and Coney Island, even filming from atop the Wonder Wheel! And despite some badly looped dialogue (worse than a Godzilla movie? Believe it!), on a purely technical level, this is a world away from their crude, early projects… Our tale begins with a little low-grade voyeurism featuring a very willing victim -- a nightied, somewhat-chunky blonde named Maria who opens her shades and prances about for the old man next door. After that, she gets it on with her female roommate, a brunette in a cheap push-up bra. If you haven't gotten the sledgehammer point yet, this gal is wild! And since she's in search of kinkier kicks, she answers an ad in a local sex paper (The New York Review of Sex) and accepts a mysterious, three-week gig in Vermont, hosted by a deviant named Spenser (Robert West, a.k.a. Michael Findlay, who was always surprisingly effective at playing a scumbag) and his manservant Bruno. Although most of us would find this set-up pretty skanky, as Maria puts it: "I needed sex. And I needed it my way." After arriving at this seemingly-innocent farmhouse in the middle of snowy New England, Maria encounters a basement full of strippers, a bitchy roommate who reads The Sunday Times in the nude and applies her mascara with a paint roller, and assorted horny dames, who bust into her room and practice their nude aerobics. But the nastiness begins when she first meets her wheelchaired host, who immediately injects her with "a harmless aphrodisiac of my own concoction." But while Bruno has his way with her on the dining room table, crippled Spenser watches from a distance, since his fetishes are of the more Extreme Variety (such as making one of his naked wenches use a corn-on-the-cob as an organic dildo)... There's a smattering of dramatic tension between Spenser and Bruno (who disapproves of his employer's perverse desires), but most of the movie's 70 minutes is padded with naked dancing, a "dyke" photo shoot, nipples pinched by clothes pins, and (best of all), the gals continually spraying each other with Ready-Whip. (Talk about product placement! After this pic, The Deuce must've had a run on the stuff!). Sure, it's just your standard nekkid-ladies-tortured-by-crippled-sadist storyline, but the Findlays give it a decidedly cruel edge, while touching upon bizarre sexual practices that were avoided by most other grindhouse fare. They even manage to end it all with a four-star twist.

© 1995 by Steven Puchalski.