Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ginger (1971) & The Abductors (1972) & Girls Are for Loving (1972)



          In some quarters, this sleazy trilogy is referred to as "Jerseysploitation," because the series emerged from the Garden State. Funny though it may be, the label is misleading since it suggests the pictures contain something culturally or geographically distinctive. Not so. Cheap, grungy, and unpleasant, these movies could just as easily have been made anywhere. More importantly, they could just as easily have not been made anywhere. Sadly, the pictures exist, collectively representing the crowning achievement of a bland screen personality named Cheri Caffaro. Uncharismatic, uninhibited, and untalented, the extremely blonde and extremely tall Caffaro spends the duration of this series giving stilted line deliveries while acting the role of a wealthy socialite who moonlights as a private detective. That is, when she isn't performing roughly the function of a porn actress by participating in highly realistic--and yet spectacularly unerotic--love scenes. All three movies were written and directed by Caffaro’s husband, Don Schain.
          In the first picture, Ginger, heroine Ginger McAllister (Caffaro) accepts an assignment to infiltrate a criminal gang responsible for blackmail and drug trafficking. Setting aside the clumsy and vague plot, the takeaway is that Ginger’s a nymphomaniac with a cause, willing to use her body in the name of justice. For example, Ginger comforts a young woman whom she’s just rescued from captivity by going down on the woman, then assuring the woman that their encounter doesn’t mean they’re lesbians. It’s not all fun and games, however; later in the movie, Ginger handcuffs a dude to a bed, strips naked, and rubs against him until he’s aroused, at which point she ties a piano wire around his member and threatens castration unless he cooperates. None of the sex in Ginger is explicit, but the love scenes are so raw that it’s surprising Ginger escaped an X-rating. In any event, except perhaps for those who relish themes of abuse, bondage, and rape, Ginger is utterly disposable.
          The same can be said, more or less, of the picture’s first sequel, The Abductors. Made with a moderately higher budget and featuring zippier music than its predecessor, The Abductors finds Ginger tasked with capturing criminals who kidnap young women, employ brainwashing and torture to transform the women into sex slaves, and sell the women to clients who pay upwards of $100,000 per playmate. While the action scenes and the storytelling in The Abductors improve on those in Ginger, the film is still so unremittingly tacky that it’s impossible to muster any praise. Schain’s idea of a sex scene usually involves having a doughy naked dude place himself atop an uncomfortable-looking woman and then grind away, with private parts just barely hidden from view; for a filmmaker preoccupied with putting sex onscreen, Schain proves remarkably unimaginative when trying to accomplish the task. Caffaro’s performance in The Abductors is just as awful as it was in Ginger, especially when she breaks into one of her signature dance numbers. Yes, in each movie, Caffaro shakes her groove thing for an extended period, and her footwork is as weak as her acting.
          Of the trilogy, only the final picture, Girls Are for Loving is remotely tolerable, though it’s hardly meritorious. In the first 10 minutes, criminals parachute onto the grounds surrounding a ski lodge, kidnap the man of the house, and rape and murder the woman of the house, concluding the whole enterprise with an explosion. Girls Are For Loving represents Schain’s boldest attempt to date at mimicking the 007 formula, and, indeed the film’s story is as convoluted and twisty as the narrative of any Bond film. Girls Are for Loving provides Ginger with a proper adversary, the vicious Ronnie St. Clair (Sheila Leighton), and the movie features a mildly entertaining sled run down a mine-laden mountainside. It’s all very low-budget, to be sure, but it’s better than what came before. The nasty sex stuff is still present, including an odd preponderance of handjob scenes, yet Girls Are For Loving also has a certain self-awareness—at one point, Ginger and Ronnie have a conversation about the difference between love and lust. Alas, any hope the series might have found a brain is dashed by the scene in which Ginger responds to an inquiry about whether she considers herself promiscuous: “Let’s just say I like to fuck a lot.” Subtle!
          Caffaro and Schain reteamed once more after the Ginger series by introducing the new adventure character Samantha Fox in Too Hot to Handle (1977), but that picture failed to generate any sequels.

Ginger: LAME
The Abductors: LAME
Girls Are for Loving: FUNKY

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I saw The Abductors at a local video store, back in the very early 90s, and rented it. It's pretty pathetic as either an exploitation film; or soft-core porn/fetish film. Thank god I never encountered the others. The Doll Squad it ain't (and that one isn't the greatest exploitation film around, either).

Unknown said...

It should be noted that "Ginger", as hilariously tacky as it was, was a hit at the boxoffice if not with the critics. Curiously, the only professional actor on hand was not the pathetic director's untalented wife (Cheri Caffaro) but a good-looking young blond stud (and former English teacher) who went by the name of Calvin Culver and provided the film's only total nudity (still a rarity in 1971, especially in a softcore porn film aimed at straight middle-aged hetero male audiences). Under the name of Casey Donovan, however, this likably uninhibited and enthusiastic young fellow became the first and foremost superstar of the then new and thriving hardcore gay cinema, his name above the title guaranteeing hefty profits from low-budget junk to well-received classics like "Boys in the Sand" and Radley Metzger's smash hit "Score" in which Calvin/Casey displayed his versatility by showing he was equally capable of coupling with the women as well as the men in this bisexual frolic. Off-screen, he also gained prominence as the boytoy/lover of Tom Tryon, the Hollywood hunk best-known for playing the lead in Otto Preminger's "The Cardinal" and other mainstream movie hits of the 1960s who, in the 1970s, proved to everyone's astonishment that he was much more than a handsome face by penning terrific best-selling novels such as the spine-chilling "The Other" and "Harvest Home", the former turned into a first-rate movie and the latter a bulls-eye TV mini-series starring Bette Davis. Meanwhile, Calvin/Casey apparently grew tired of typing the manuscripts of Tryon's novels and, nearing 40, returned to his former occupation of being a highly-paid male 'escort' as well as making his cinematic comeback in "Boys in the Sand--Part II". While the film was a resounding hit, it was Casey's last. Sadly, the still-young superstar succumbed to AIDS in the early 1980s. But his fame/notoriety far outlasted that of his "Ginger" co-star, Cheri Caffaro, from a decade earlier. Not unlike too many hack filmmakers who made millions from his "Ginger" trilogy, Cheri's filmmaker husband Don Shain lusted after respectability, sank his fortune into a "serious" (though still X-rated) drama "A Place Called Today" (a vehicle designed to demonstrate his wife's expertise as a first-rate dramatic actress), hired the prestigious publicity outfit Rogers & Cowan to promote it, and even lavished a World Premiere at the swank East Side art-house he paid to book it. He even made the fatal mistake of screening his magnum opus for the hornets' nest known as the New York Film Critics, but it turned out those killjoys missed his "Ginger" movies (which were at least perversely entertaining) and went after "Today" with tomahawks. The NYTimes critic Vincent Canby, usually even-tempered even when he panned a new movie, managed to outdo his assessment of Cheri Caffaro from one of her "Ginger" movies where he was put off by her "shark's teeth" while admitting "her skin is still tight" though adding her age was "pushing forty"! Since the theater showing "A Place Called Today" was forced to evict it after one week, Ms. Caffaro and Mr. Shain were never heard from again.
I should add, however, that members of the crews of movies I worked on had also worked with Cheri, Shain, and Calvin Culver, and said they were all very sweet, nice people.
I don't doubt it. I should also admit that I miss the 1970s. At least, they were fun!