Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Title Tells You Exactly What You're In For: "Smoke and Flesh" (1968)

According to the film makers, if you have an empty paper towel roll, a flour sifter, and a slot car racing track, then you've got a party!

Turk (Richard Howell) is throwing a big pot party at his pad. He's invited a good half dozen friends over, and a character known as "The Man," who is bringing the marijuana. Everything goes swimmingly until four hoods travelling around in a car spot Turk's girlfriend Sue, and decide to crash the shindig. A cube of LSD and some quick thinking means a return to pre-hood fun!

This film was done on the cheap, shot in black and white, and probably shown in grindhouse theaters thanks to the copious amounts of nudity and drug use. However, Joseph Mangine, in this one of only two directorial efforts, does such fun things with his camera, I couldn't help but watch it. The film opens with an extended sequence involving The Man traveling by motorcycle to Turk's. I was reminded of New Wave French cinema watching the bike travel cold wet streets, with the camera strapped on the motorcycle's gas tank. The uncredited music score is infectious, and will stick with you for days.

One couple to watch for is Walter (Bo Barten) and Charlotte (Victoria Astor). Walter has a glandular problem, and watches his wife have sex with other men, taking notes for a planned book. You will know Walter when you find yourself screaming "what the hell is wrong with that guy's head?". Most of the cast go through the motions, the hoods are as scary as a newborn baby, but touches like Sue's near rape with just a swinging light illuminating the scene, and a certain sex scene involving whipped cream, make this film hilarious, and dare I say it, fun. Come on, where else are you going to see a strip game of slot car racing, or a cannabis fueled philosophical discussion about how similar humans are to fish?

Even the title, "Smoke and Flesh,"sounds European...I'm assuming "Sexy Pot Party" was too obvious. This is goofy stuff, and makes me wish Mangine had been able to do more, if someone could have given him a budget of more than a couple of hundred bucks! (* * * *) out of five stars.