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“THE ROOMMATES” / “A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN” (Blu-ray Review)

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Producer/director and eventual distributor Arthur Marks is widely recognized as one of the true innovators of the American exploitation film, having helmed such lurid, brash 70’s classics as DETROIT 9000, J.D’s REVENGE, THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS and MONKEY HU$TLE but his roots lay in network television. Years before Marks made his, er, mark at the drive-in, he was one of the major creative forces behind iconic early TV drama PERRY MASON and it’s that small screen sensibility that is vital to both appreciating and understanding the pair of fantastic and virtually forgotten cult gems found on the revived Gorgon Video’s Marks-centric Blu-ray: 1972’s THE ROOMMATES and 1974’s A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN, both films making their home video premieres here.

THE ROOMMATES features a pack a snappy-speaking, stunning and frequently unclothed ladies (led by THE BIG DOLL HOUSE’s Pat Woodell and THE STEWARDESSES’s Christina Hart) heading to gorgeous Lake Arrowhead for the summer, to work, relax and have awesome sex. Problem is, some masked goon who’s good with a gun and decent with a dagger has set the dames in his sights and is knocking them off in bloody and stylish ways.  It’s the late in development murder subplot that sneaks the film via the backdoor into the horror genre, but before that happens, there is much talk and talk and talk. Some romance. Plenty of skin. Some sex and silliness. Meandering plotlines and much melodrama.

In fact, the jarring shift in tone makes THE ROOMATES the most obvious blueprint for Quentin Tarantino’s oft and unfairly maligned Marks’ riff DEATH PROOF, no wonder considering QT adores Marks and even re-released DETROIT 9000 under his now defunct Rolling Thunder imprint. Like that misunderstood mini-masterpiece that is DEATH PROOF, THE ROOMMATES is two films wedged awkwardly into one and has an evenly lit, no-frills TV movie sensibility that is both pedestrian and avant-garde, if that makes any sense. Its craft meets crass and it’s that jamming of styles that makes the movie so much damn fun.

Similarly, A WOMAN FOR ALL MEN, starring the stacked Judy Brown, also feels like a colorful, brightly lit and tacky TV movie, but it’s a superior film, loaded with a lurid, noir-infused narrative that is never predictable, and a pace that is brisk and groovy. And the cast! Outside of Brown, who plays an ex-Vegas hooker and showgirl marrying for wealth and decimating an otherwise stable family, we have veteran Hollywood actors like Keenan Wynn and Marks regular Alex Rocco along with HELLRAISER and DIRTY HARRY legend Andrew (here billed as Andy) Robinson. This is a definitive drive-in flick, dirty and down and yet, like all of Marks’ films, oddly charming.

Gorgon (doesn’t it feel nice to reference a new Gorgon release in 2015) packs this disc with great supplements including two new Marks interviews, a full Marks commentary for THE ROOMMATES along with interviews with actresses Brown and Roberta Collins.

Make no mistake: It’s an essential release.

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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