The Curse of Her Flesh (1968) The Curse of Her Flesh/The Curse of the Flesh/The Curse of the Curious (1968) -***½

     When Stanley Borden released Michael and Roberta Findlay’s The Touch of Her Flesh in 1967, it was the biggest hit in years at the Times Square grindhouses where it initially played. Not since the first three Olga movies appeared in 1964 had the porno theaters of 42nd Street seen a phenomenon of comparable proportions. That being the case, a sequel was inevitable; in fact, two were produced the following year. The first of these, The Curse of Her Flesh, marks a major improvement— in entertainment value if not in technical quality— over its predecessor, and might fairly be categorized as a true Sleaze Gem.

     The last time we saw misogynist psychopath Richard Jennings (writer/director/ producer Michael Findlay), he was being gut-shot with a crossbow by his wife’s lesbian lover. Well forget about that, okay? As we are now told by a radio broadcast of the Plot-Specific News Network, it was the woman who was killed, after which Jennings went into hiding. Now calling himself “Joe Davidson,” Jennings has gone into business as the proprietor of a Times Square burlesque theater, where he never, ever puts in a personal appearance except while disguised as the joint’s janitor. The movie will be just about over before we put all this together, but Jennings does indeed have a reason for his bizarre behavior. You see, having already squared up accounts with his cheating wife, Claudia, Jennings is now gunning for Steve Blakely (still Ron Skideri, but now sporting a big-ass moustache and the amazing stage name “A. Dick Feeler”), the man who made a cuckold of him. Jennings decided to lease this particular theater because the ticket-taker there is Blakely’s brother, Terrence (longtime Findlay collaborator John Amero, also working under an assumed name), and because Jennings knows Steve has expressed interest in getting a job there himself. Richard sees to it that Steve is hired, and then sets in motion a preposterously complicated plan to ruin his life.

     Step number one is to kill Blakely’s ex-girlfriend, who also works as one of Richard’s dancers. Jennings picks the girl up at a bar (the pickup goes much better after he reveals that he’s her hitherto unseen boss), and then goes back to her apartment to do away with her after pumping her for information regarding his true prey. Astonishingly, he kills her by surreptitiously dipping her cat’s claws in a deadly poison, and then contriving to have the animal scratch her. (By the way, the scratching itself comes as the culmination of what may just be the most overdone belaboring of the word “pussy’s” double meaning in the history of motion picture dialogue.) As for the interrogation, Jennings learns that Steve is now involved with another of his dancers, and that he is simultaneously engaged to yet a third woman, who is apparently only interested in him because of the huge pile of money he and his brother are soon to inherit.

     Next up is an episode that is entirely inexplicable, except as an indication that Jennings still has his old vendetta against all women everywhere on the back burner. (Although I suppose we should give the man credit for having evolved an attitude toward the opposite sex that’s at least a tiny bit healthier than the one he displayed last time— Jennings now gets along well enough with women that he can bring himself to take them to bed before humiliating and killing them.) After amusing himself for a bit with Stella, one of his two star strippers (Linda Boyce, from Sugar Daddy and Olga’s Dance Hall Girls), Jennings instructs her to go to a certain address and seduce the woman who lives there. Stella is to use the strap-on dildo with which her boss furnishes her to consummate said seduction, and the whole operation must be completed in time for Stella to take the stage for her scheduled 1:00 am curtain call. The trick here is that the dildo Stella is to use has been booby trapped, Horrors of the Black Museum-style. When Stella inserts it into the seducee’s body, it deploys a lethal spring-loaded blade. Not only that, Stella herself— along with her partner in the 1:00 show— dies soon thereafter from the slow-acting poison with which Jennings has treated her g-string! He does this partly to prevent Stella from blackmailing him over the murder she unwittingly committed at his instigation, and partly to eliminate the second stripper, who turns out to be married to Terrence Blakely; we never will learn who the girl Stella killed earlier was supposed to be. Terrence, for his part, follows his wife into the grave the very next night.

     Finally, Jennings closes in on Steve. Posing as the cashier at an adult bookstore, he arranges a “chance” meeting with Steve’s fiancee, Paula. He tells her that he knows who she is, and offers to help her out of a little fix. Don’t ask me how Jennings acquired this information, but Steve is obsessively hung up on the idea of marrying a virgin; Paula’s trouble is that she hasn’t been one of those since she was twelve years old. If Paula will do Jennings a little favor in return, he’ll perform hymen-reconstruction surgery on her so that Blakely will never suspect a thing. (And come to think of it, don’t ask me how Jennings— a dealer in antique weapons turned Times Square smut peddler— could possibly have developed the skills to perform delicate plastic surgery, either!) What’s the favor, you ask? Jennings wants Paula to make a little movie for him: Squash Crazy, in which she is to allow Richard to pleasure her with a huge, phallic gourd! He also films the “re-virginization,” and six months later (after Steve and Paula are happily married), he express-mails a copy of both Squash Crazy and the surgery footage to their apartment. Steve watches the film, and flies into a rage at his wife’s deception; he shoots her dead with a spear gun he just happened to have lying around the living room. And at just that moment, Jennings bursts out of his hiding place in the very same room (...the hell?!) and attacks his old enemy with a machete. Richard chases Steve down the street, and when Blakely tries to escape by hitching a ride in the back of an empty moving van, Jennings closes the distance by killing a passing Orthodox Jew for his car. Jennings catches up to Blakely when the van comes to a stop, and The Curse of Her Flesh concludes with the two of them fighting it out in the vehicle’s cargo compartment.

     I’ve just made The Curse of Her Flesh sound like a much more disciplined and efficient film than it really is. Only about half of its 78 minutes are devoted to telling the preceding story. The rest are given over mainly to one burlesque routine after another. We see no fewer than four complete performances by three different strippers (two of them involving bondage and surprisingly heavy-duty S&M), along with an utterly bewildering scene early on, in which Steve delivers a lengthy and completely incoherent soliloquy while drinking himself unconscious and fantasizing about a pair of twenty-dollar whores (and we know they’re twenty-dollar whores because the front pieces of their g-strings are each made from a pair of $10 bills...) having lesbian sex in a bedroom much too large to exist anywhere in New York City. Furthermore, none of the underlying motives for the film’s main action become apparent until well after the events hinging on those motives have taken place, meaning that every ten minutes or so, you’ll find yourself saying, “Oh! So that’s what that was about…” or “Oh! So that’s who that person was…” Meanwhile, the entire movie exhibits a jarring discordance between the ever-grittier sleaze and the increasingly frequent appearance of elements that can only be interpreted as extremely sick jokes. Watching The Curse of Her Flesh will give you a whole new appreciation for how logical and well-structured The Touch of Her Flesh was by comparison. Of course, that’s also what makes this movie such a load of fun.



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