If THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER and SASSY SUE were ice cream cones, they'd be soft vanilla. A pair of 42nd Street - back in the day - raincoat crowd pleasers, they've finally gotten their big DVD release and boy are these critic proof. Things one might quip about in another movie like camera work, acting, lighting don't really come into play here. Well, maybe they do, but only in the sense that the scene better be lit and the camera better be on the "action." While most people would draw a blank stare if you asked them about these films, Harry Novak in his commentary track for the "give the raincoats what they want" masterpiece PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER offers up this reason for why these films are so timeless: "It's cause they're funny." Are they funny? In a fifth rate burlesque way, yes. Will the average viewer find them funny? After their jaw is scooped up off the floor, they won't care.
THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER offers a lot of pleasant scenery, but it doesn't come from any carefully framed landscape shots, it's the "healthy" women folk who hold the eye and foam the mouth.
Moonbeam Swiner is in danger of becoming an old maid. She's 19 years old and she ain't found a husband yet. Ma Molly Swiner (Gina Paluzzi) is worried. Daughter Moonbeam has been spending too much time with that rascal Jasper (the scenery chewing, Glen Campbell look alike John Keith), who'd rather be "engaged" with Pretty Patty (Patty Smith, tackling the awesome responsibility of playing a character with the same name). Poor Moonbeam feels so alone that she's taken Lord Hamilton (a pig, no really, a pig - as in the animal) to be her best friend. All seems lost until a traveling salesman (a rather amusing Peter James) comes to the farm. Initially there to con the locals, he's no match for Mrs. Molly Swiner and her alluring ways, and she's got a little trick up her sleeve for Mr. Salesman.
Tons of corny jokes abound in this romp through farm living and the girls sure are pretty, so what else does one need? Nobody, but nobody, is going to get swept up in the sorrow that is Moonbeam's life, nor want to. This is the type of cheesecake times ten that producer Mr. Harry Novak (KISS ME QUICK!) excels at, and boy does he excel. Though obviously inspired by the Ma and Pa Kettle films of the '40s and '50s, the film is the last offering from an ongoing series of corn-fed, sock drawer classics that Mr. Novak produced and unleashed to an ever happier "gentleman" crowd throughout the '70s. Though the film bears the name Bethel Buckalew as director, it was actually handled by none other than Peter Perry which would be even more shocking if I thought that meant something. (One note of warning: for those not interested in the carnal activities of the fantasy farm set, it's best you pass this one by and rent WHAM-BAM-THANK YOU, SPACEMAN! instead; that's about the carnal activities of the fantasy alien set.)
Two for one is always a good deal, particularly when the second helping is farm fantasy favorite SASSY SUE.
Poor Junior only has eyes for one woman, Sassy Sue, but dad doesn't think she's right for him. Could it be because Sassy Sue's a cow (as in the farm animal)? Yeah, it could be. While retarded Junior keeps coming back to his beloved animal don't worry folks, as Harry Novak says in the liner notes, "Nobody slept with any animals" dad starts looking for a more human woman for his boy. Of course there's plenty of women around, like Dolly Lou (Sharon Kelly), Dottie Lee (Talie Cochrane), Abigale (Sandy Carey) and Bobbie (Jeanne Durham), but Junior wants none of that, outside of peeping. For he's found his cow and he'll stick by her, even if it makes every audience member want to throw up. There's a subplot (there I go using that dirty word again) about dad wanting to move from the moonshine business to the custom outhouse seat business, but who cares?
As far as the two movies go, SASSY SUE is the more crowd pleasing and better acted. Liner note author Vince Bonavoglia (webmaster of Media Unleashed, www.dvdunleashed.net) states that it is "the Citizen Corn of the 'country bumpkin' bonanzas" and I'll take his word for it even if his love of the movie is more than a little due to his "corruption" by it in his youth. Bad-sitcom funny and populated with true cuties, this movie delivers what it promises - with all the aw shucks humor one would expect from a HEE HAW gone bawdy. Oh, and this movie was also directed by Peter Perry under the Bethel Buckalew name, for what it's worth.
For those a bit wary about such college classics being too saucy just put your fears to rest. Mr. Novak says he doesn't do hardcore; he does "kinda-core," whatever the hell that means. Actually, Mr. Novak doesn't seem the most reliable source - he released most of these kind of films unrated with the warning "restricted audiences." (Actually, he apparently released every film he had under that banner, including the relatively tame FRANKENSTEIN'S CASTLE OF FREAKS, because he knew it would make an extra buck and one was never sure how strong the content would be.)
While nothing released on DVD from Image Entertainment will be "hardcore," apparently in a few of Novak's films the actors crossed the line. In the liner notes he talks about some of his films, like PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER where baby-making practices occurred (the same with FREE LOVE CONFIDENTIAL). You won't see that in the final product, and Image doesn't cut the Novak titles, but it makes for a good story from one of exploitation film's greats.
As far as print quality goes, THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER is pretty good, except towards the end when the print suddenly becomes marred with spots though not enough to hide the images. SASSY SUE fares much better, looking as sleazy, if not sleazier, as the day it was released. Both films have a rather interesting quasi-Technicolor look that demonstrates they were of the higher quality that Novak was capable of. Sound is in mono and is a tad faint, but one can always turn the volume up when mom and dad aren't around.
As it wouldn't be a Something Weird disc if it didn't have something extra, SW boss Mike Vraney has included the featurette "The Old Man's Bride," a 32-minute butts and boobs tease sleaze bit from the '60s. It was shot in black and white in the style of an early talky mixed with silent era visuals. An old man unknowingly marries a prostitute - he thought she was just hanging out on the street corner killing time. You can just imagine the wacky hijinks that will ensue as she encounters stud after stud. Not the best print ever exceptionally scratchy, choppy and with bad sound - and rather monotonous, this offering is amusing strictly as a memento of the '60s grindhouse era. But who doesn't love to revisit the past?
Trailers for both features are available along with ones for COUNTRY CUZZINS, COUNTRY HOOKER, MIDNIGHT PLOWBOY, SOUTHERN COMFORTS and TOBACCO ROODY, all Novak offerings from his country bumpkins line. While the trailers basically blend into one another, they do contain some very interesting visual data on cult favorite Rene Bond. For on COUNTRY CUZZINS you can see Ms. Bond before enhancements and on COUNTRY HOOKER you can see her after. (This may not mean much to the average viewer, but for the Rene Bond fanatics it's priceless.)
Rounding out the DVD is the always enjoyable "Gallery of Harry Novak Exploitation Art" with "Radio Spot Rarities." Not on the DVD but listed on the back of the box is a "Harry Novak Gallery of Exploitation Photos," unless this is just the exploitation art listed twice with different wording.
Sadly, this disc does not feature a commentary by Mr. Novak. Along with David F. Friedman, he's one of the few exploitation kings we've got left and his saucy asides and stories make for great listening.
Reviewed Format: DVD
Rated: Not Rated
Stars: THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER Terry Gibson, Patty Smith, Gina Paluzzi, John Keith, Peter James; SASSY SUE John Tull, Sharon Kelly, Patrick Wright, Talie Cochrane, Harvey Shain, Rachel Wolfe
Writer: Bethel Buckalew
Director: Bethel Buckalew
Distributor: Image Entertainment / Something Weird Video
Original Years of Release: THE PIGKEEPER'S DAUGHTER 1975; SASSY SUE - 1972
Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Extras: trailers; theatrical featurette "The Old Man's Bride"; "Gallery of Harry Novak Exploitation Art" with "Radio Spot Rarities"