Written by: Carroll Jenkins on March 2nd, 2011
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1972 (White Rat), USA, 1976 (How to Score With Girls)
Directors: Steven Mullin (White Rat), Ogden Lowell (How to Score With Girls)
Cast: Hal Sherman, Alisha Fontaine, Joe Petrullo, Carolyn Lenz, Ray Fisher, Christine Sumerfield, Richie Close, Hugh Bennett (White Rat), Ron Osborne, Larry Jacobs, Richard Young, Sandra McKnight, Arlana Blue, Janice Fuller (How to Score With Girls)
DVD released: February 22nd, 2011
Approximate running times: 72 minutes (White Rat), 81 minutes (How to Score With Girls)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Full Frame (Both Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (Both Films)
DVD Release: Code Red
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $19.98
White Rat: A private eye neglects his chain smoking / caffeine fiend wife and has a fling with a young hippie chick. When she gets killed right under his nose, he goes looking for the killer.
This is a crime thriller filmed on a shoestring budget that still manages to pack quite a punch. In it’s humble way, it is a masterwork that takes threads from every genre precedent and skillfully spins them together to create a unique and vibrant tapestry. The film begins with a dry narrative exposition that fills the viewer in on the situation and the characters. After an argument between our main man and his frustrated spouse, he meets his sweet young thing, who breaks it off and is promptly murdered a few seconds later. Who done it?
The ambience is straight from a 1940′s hardboiled detective pulp paperback original. The film is almost wall-to-wall non-stop rapid-fire dialog, and at times germinates the image of Ed Wood doing a screen play from a Hugh B. Cave novel. The lead actor does a credible job of channeling Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade, complete with lisps and grimaces and “Sure”, and one of the leading ladies is reminiscent of Audrey Totter. But nothing spells ‘noir’ like dynamic camera work, and it’s here in spades. There are many striking camera angles and locations sprinkled throughout, and making shadows in color isn’t easy but is affective.
So, the main squeeze dies right away – but she keeps appearing in the film anyway. First in scattered interview segments in a nightclub where she mutters psycho babble like, “I don’t feel up, and I don’t feel down; I don’t know what I feel”, and later in nude sex scene flashbacks. Also escalating the exploitation quotient are scenes that occur (for no reason) at a cock fight, and a humorous scene in a brothel where the pimp daddy disarms the brother. These scenes are incongruous to the main vibe, but greatly enhance the groovy factor.
Code Red declares there are no extant film elements, and this VHS tape [transfer] was all that was available from director Steven Mullin. It was taken from a quality source, so other than typical VHS issues, this is a very good presentation. The sound is sometimes obscure on purpose, as ambient noise is almost a character of itself in a few scenes.
How To Score With Girls (Cry Your Purple Heart Out):This one is a sex comedy with three privates on leave in the Big Apple and out to score with the babes. But, not so fast. The situations are rather kinky including B-girls, hookers, lesbians, voyeurism, spiked drinks, etc.; but it’s presented in such a good natured manner that it’s more endearing and mildly humorous than raunchy (or hilarious). The cast is good, and the budget is reasonable. Overall a good date film, believe it or not. Travis Bickle should definitely have picked this one instead.
Again a lost film, this time from a 3/4 inch tape. It boasts a sharper image than White Rat, but also suffers heavier projection / tape wear damage.
These mega obscure New York features actually contain rather sparse nudity and are distinctly mild in content and tone for the 42nd street grindhouses (the exteriors of which are shown prominently in HTSWG). Not to worry, both films were made with enthusiasm, care, and more than a little talent. Don’t let the tape masters scare you away.