Invitation to Ruin (Kurt Richter, 1968)
[note: review originally published 11Sept2010]
Every time I see some fool trumpeting about how much worse porn is than it ever was here in the early years of the new century, I have to laugh. What we have now barely passes as porn at all, if you’ve delved into the early, wild-frontier-like days of the commercial pornographic film. Can you imagine a movie like Teenage Twins (yes, exactly what it sounds like) being made in 2010? Well, yeah, you probably can, but you can also imagine everyone involved being led off in handcuffs and facing some sort of jumped-up kangaroo court aimed at protecting the “moral values” of Americans. I find the sort of people who feel they have a right to try and protect my “moral values” to be idiots, oversheltered and usually ultra-religious, and in desperate need of a little historical research. Let me tell you, folks: if you think modern BDSM movies are extreme, you need to check out some of what were known back in the day as “the roughies”, and there is no more infamous example of the genre than Invitation to Ruin. “Kurt Richter” (who also produced and edited the film) and “Max Conrad” (the screenwriter) are almost certainly pseudonyms, and having now seen the thing I’m relatively certain these two were at least involved in exploitation cinema, if not something more legit; they know what they’re doing. But if so, the real identities behind those pseudonyms have been kept very, very well hidden in the intervening forty-two years. Probably with good reason.
The story, much of which is told in flashback: Jerry Slone (exploitation vet Roger Gentry, probably best-remembered now for a small part in The Thing with Two Heads) is approached by bar owner Ernie Pulaski (Moe Wiese, also the movie’s executive producer). Pulaski doesn’t need a bartender, though—he’s looking for a talent scout to recruit girls for the white slave trade, as well as to pick up a profitable sideline running heroin brought in on oil tankers from Saudi Arabia. Slone jumps at the chance, but after a while, and especially after a tour through the dungeon where the mute Mama Lupo (Bertha Bigg, whose only other film appearance came in 1969’s Swingtail) “trains” Slone’s recruits with a combination of rape, heroin, and (for the girls who remain uppity) brutal physical abuse. It’s too late to get out, though, especially because Slone is seeing Pulaski’s daughter Allison (sixties porn star Kathy Williams, who spent quite a bit of onscreen time with Gentry in 1968-70) on the sly. Of course, if Pulaski ever finds out…
While the movie does have quite a few flaws (the time sequence will confuse the hell out of you for most of the movie), as I said earlier, “Richter” and “Conrad” knew the basics of filmmaking at least as well as someone like Ted V. Mikels, and better than a lot of exploitation guys who were working at the time. There’s one particular scene featuring Mama Lupo that’s pretty obviously influenced by Bunuel and Dali. Both the method of torture being used and the body part to which it’s being applied are different, but the technique? Shot-for-shot. (It is also, quite possibly, the single most uncomfortable moment in a pretty uncomfortable movie.) You don’t just happen upon that if you’re a first-timer who’s going to abandon the business after your first flick. And yes, it’s ugly and nasty and hateful and has not one bit of redeeming social value to it whatsoever—but if you think what we have today is extreme, watch this and be reminded that today’s commercialized, mainstream porn cinema, even the “taboo” stuff, is far, far away from the bleeding (and I mean that literally) edge. *