Thursday, June 16, 2016

Glutton for Punishment: Damaged Goods (aka V.D.)

by JB
“You sin a little, drink a little, and love a little. One down, two to go!” -Dolores Faith, Damaged Goods

We are all interested in cool cars, loose women, unusual rum drinks, and painful sores in our “swimsuit areas” for that is the stuff that occupies our every waking moment. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, and the curable—that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of some of the worst movies ever made. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a simple blood test and a shot of penicillin. I am that miserable soul. The absurdly low budgets, the overuse of dissolves, the ridiculous plots, the incredible score by the Ventures—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these (and the clap) will affect you in the future!
Boy, oh boy! Damaged Goods starts like a house on fire with cool racecars and attractive women and a carnival and surfing and the film is in color with an instrumental rock and roll score by The Ventures. It seems head and shoulders above all of the other films we have discussed here at “Glutton for Punishment.” Over the course of a brisk 75 minutes, those feelings of fun disappear, only to be replaced by a burning sensation, as the filmmakers invite us all to hate ourselves.

The Plot In Brief: High-school senior and sports car enthusiast Jim Radman (Robert Downey, Jr. look-alike Mory Schoolhouse) has a good thing going with his steady girl Judy Jackson (Charlotte Stewart). In fact, they are seriously contemplating getting married after graduation and starting their new life together instead of going to college. Needless to say, Judy’s parents are no fans of Jim and no fans of their daughter’s plans. (#fansofplans)
Jim’s best friend is the goofy Monk Monahan (Michael Bell), who starts dating new kid in town Kathy Durham (Dolores Faith). One fateful weekend Monk convinces Jim and some friends to accompany him to the vice-addled resort town of Sea View, where the women are cheap and the run drinks are ridiculously overpriced. Jim initially refuses but eventually allows himself to be talked into the sleazy adventure. If only Jim had listened to his conscience!

As Monk, Michael Bell gives the film’s only decent performance. Besides setting Jim on his road to perdition, the character of Monk seems to exist to throw around a lot of then-contemporary slang. Monk peppers his conversations with words like “crazy,” “baby,” “scene,” “groovy,” and “natch.” His character should be named “Lingo.” He is the 1961 human equivalent of an all-emojis text.
One amusing fringe benefit of writing these columns is the occasional fall down the Google rabbit hole, researching this actor or that director. In discovering as much as I could about Damaged Goods, I learned that Michael Bell has had a sixty-year career in Hollywood, largely focused on providing voices for cartoon characters. Who would have guessed back in 1961 that young Michael Bell was destined to voice such iconic characters as Handy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, and Lazy Smurf? He was the voice of Prowl, Sideswipe, and Scrapper on the original Transformers cartoon series, and of Chuckie’s father, Chas Finster, on the beloved Rugrats. What a career!

Michael Bell was also an elegant dancer. He and Delores Faith share a great dance number at the film’s 20-minute mark that is so energetic and delightful, we wish this film had been a musical instead of the venereal disease scare film it becomes in its final act. Yes, the dramatic structure of this film is, dare I say, cockeyed. After 45 minutes of warm California sun, surf guitar, fast cars, and jukeboxes, the film abruptly shifts genre. It’s as if a Beach Party movie suddenly ended with Dee Dee discovering she has Chlamydia.

Chlamydee-dee?
Following the weekend of debauchery, Jim confides to his track coach that he has “developed a sore on [his] penis.” The track coach takes him to a doctor, who shows them both a fifteen-minute film on venereal disease. To say this stops the picture cold is an understatement. What other movie ends with the protagonist watching a DIFFERENT MOVIE? At this point Damaged Goods willingly abandons any sense of drama or story: We never see Jim telling his parents. We never see Jim telling Judy. We never find out what happens to Monk and Kathy, even though it is darkly hinted that Jim may have had sex with Kathy after he was infected.

Here’s the thing (I mean, the thing that’s not on your penis): I recently stood in a garden at a baby’s birthday party and told Mr. Patrick Bromley that he HAD to watch this movie. It is not good. However, if you have 75 minutes to kill and want to see a film (in color) that features some shots of 1961 Los Angeles and a movie-within-a-movie about “the nation’s deepest shame,” you might dig this. Perfect for a Junesploitation “Free Space”!
My friend, you have now read this column, based on my own sworn testimony. Can you prove that this film doesn’t exist? Perhaps on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, but he or she may be in the Ventures (or have V.D.) Many scientists believe that bad movies are being filmed at this very moment. We once laughed at fire, the wheel, the jukebox, the electric light, and embarrassing discharges. So much laughter! And now some of us laugh at very bad movies. God help us in the future.

5 comments:

  1. You can't expect them to worry about what happened to anyone but Jim and Judy. Monk was a trouble maker with a big mouth. If he hadn't made trouble between Jim and Judy Jim wasn't going to boink Kathy (almost seconds after breaking up with Judy) so he deserved to get it from dating Kathy...

    (this sounds like that "I Got It From Agnes" song by Tom Lehrer)

    And Kathy was the "slut"...she got what she deserved in this movie's universe. Remember this was made by Sid Davis, producer of "Boys Beware" (if you haven't seen that it's on YouTube...it's amazing and infuriating at the same time).

    The thing about the ending that got me was the doctor's assurance that they'd never know it was Jim who told them about their syphilis. Because there's so many people who could know?

    I don't know why but I love these old VD films. Some are actually sympathetic - Damaged Lives and even Sex Madness in it's way. Some are kind of amazing - Know For Sure which stars people like J. Carroll Nash and Ward Bond (also on YouTube). Then there's the incredibly over the top and borderline psychotic ones like "Because of Eve". That last one is available through Something Weird as well on a disc with the abortion drama "Street Corner". I'd love to see your review of that one, JB.

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  2. Anything "borderline psychotic" interests me...

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  3. Ever see "It Came From Hollywood"...and that clip about "the two lovebirds" at the doctor's office about their exam? That's "Because of Eve". (Don't want to spoil the scene if you haven't)
    The acting, dialog and logic of the thing is that or worse all the way through.

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    1. Clearly, I need to see Because of Eve...

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    2. Another pair of films I forgot - they're on the Alpha Video copy of Sex Madness. They're films made by the US Navy...one for the men and one for the women.

      The one for the guys is a calm, clinical presentation of the facts and how to plan your future.

      The one for the women is all about control...and if you ever lose control even once YOU'RE GOING TO END UP CRIPPLED, BLIND, DEAD OR KNOCKED UP AND ALONE, YOU SLUT!!!! OR MAYBE EVEN IN AN INSANE ASYLUM, YOU DRUNK!!! It's charming.

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