"On Her Bed of Roses"
The Film (2.5/5)
A distraught Stephon Long recklessly drives to the hills where he perches with his rifle and shoots on drivers passing by on the highway. Before the police could overtake him, Stephon turns the rifle on himself. For the past year with a psychologist, Melissa has been struggling with guilt over Stephon’s death. The promiscuous blonde’s sessions with her doctor delve deep into her troubled past of self-destructive nymphomania, her inexplicable sexually deviant mother, and her incest relationship with her father before his abandonment. Before she can reveal the cause of her severe guilt, a police sergeant barges through the doctor’s privacy doors, serving a warrant for the arrest of Melissa as the prime suspect in the murder of Stephon’s overprotective and abusive mother.
“On Her Bed of Roses” aka “Psychedelic Sexualis” was written and directed by a prominent early exploitation producer Albert Zugsmith. This particular film is based off the clinical-forensic on human sexual behavior novel “Psychopathia Sexualis” by Austro-German psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing and within these pages, Krafft-Ebing explores the sexual pathology of the criminal mind and sexual behaviors. Zugsmith and Lee Gladden, who loosely portrays Krafft-Ebing in the film, attempt to showcase the psychiatrist’s foundational work within a dominantly conservative age in film and do go against the censorship grain, sometimes unsubtly and sometimes implied, to get the message across to the viewers.
Chock-full of not only sexual deviances but also other mental tribulations, “On Her Bed of Roses” should be a staple film for any student prospecting the field of psychology or any other study of mental health. Parental abandonment, suicide and attempted suicide, mental and physical abuse, quenchless nymphomania, incest, substance abuse, and depression are just a few of the many mental and physical issues addressed in this 1966 film. Zugsmith does a tremendous job weaving each of these disorders into a 104 minute runtime by creating a non-linear story with doctor office recollections from guilt-ridden Melissa that maintains tension after the beginning scene of Stephon’s suicide. Melissa recounts her troubled and promiscuous lifestyle that romantically leads to her encounters with an innocent and naďve Stephon who lives next door and is obsessed with his garden roses, an escape from his overbearing mother.
While the film is a great look into the human psyche, the sometimes boisterous overacted performances by lead actress Sandra Lynn puts a small damper on the story. Lynn’s distressed Melissa character often seems too pretentious with less embodiment of guilt-laden hurt and anger. Melissa’s scenes with Dr. Krafft-Ebing had referenced many of times of her being in a transference state in order to avoid her problems, but the redirection of Melissa’s true state wasn’t proactively pursued and failed to establish a sympathetic connection. Zugsmith also adulterates his own evolution of sex film by implementing gratuitous nudity with partying teens. As a party ensues at Melissa’s parents house with her father involved, Melissa’s guests that show up at the doorstep. At first, I thought these guests were not the same guests dancing without their tops, having a pillow fight in the buff, and showcasing their Middle Eastern dance choreography. The scenes feel wrongfully injected into the scenario that’s suppose to represent the irresponsible attitude of teens in a coming of age sexual revolution. However, in the uncensored cut of the film, certain dancers don't make the cut, such as the Middle Eastern belly dancers. In the alternate 'soft' edits, the dancers appear with their tops on.
"The Incredible Sex Revolution"
The Film (1.5/5)
Distressed Peggy Bardot pays numerous visits to psychologist Dr. Lee Gladden in order to discover the reason for her sexual phobias and reclusiveness. Peggy recounts her troubles with living in dire poverty, her role in the relationship with man named Aaron, and the sexual abuse she suffered at hands of those she trusted. As Dr. Gladden keeps prodding Peggy, inquiring about her tragic past, she realizes that sexual hang-ups may not be problematic or very uncommon after all.
The second film on this Albert Zugsmith double feature doesn't share the same type of psychological practiced characteristics as "On Her Bed of Roses," but does follow most of the Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing published conclusions on sexual deviancy and orientation; the ladder being more implied than oblivious in the film. "The Incredible Sex Revolution" was released a year before "On Her Bed of Roses and, once again, stars Lee Gladden as a psychologists serenely guiding his patients to the help they require, but in this instance, Gladden plays the role of himself instead of Krafft-Ebing as he did in "On Her Bed of Roses." The two roles, though separate in story and in name, might as well have been merged into one sole character with the same precisions delivered from a deadpan actor.
Much like "On Her Bed of Roses," "The Incredible Sex Revolution" tells most of the narrative through flashbacks. Accompanying the flashbacks is an introduction of how man discovers woman and, inevitably, sex, starting with the very first people on Earth - Adam and Eve. Through loose interpretations of historical figures and facts, the introduction continues to display how man became the dominant of the dual species and managed, in one way or another, how to have sex with more than one woman. The whimsical opening segment contributes nothing substancial to Peggy's recollections and with it being omitted, Peggy's story would still hold water. However, the story of Peggy's dismal life fails to convey the impact needed to sustain enticing storytelling and the problems lie within a couple of areas.
For instance, lead actress Lovey Song is far too mechanical; her robotic performances almost feels like watching the B-9 robot in "Lost in Space." Song creates no sympathy for the character that's been through abandonment, sexual bullying and pressure, and gang rape. Secondly, Gladden's couch scenes with Song drag out way too long while the audience is being subjected to a dictionary full of psychology jargon. Frankly, Zugsmith should have dumbed down the jargon, cut the session scenes in half, and have Song take more control of her character and, maybe, this film would have made a 180 degree turnaround.
The gratuitous nudity felt more natural this time, especially during the given nature in the Adam and Eve segments. There's still a topless 60's swinging dance scene where half naked women do hand stands and twist their hips as if they're dancing in a Beach Boys music video. The scene of course drags also, trying to expose as much jiggling breasts as possible, to show that the sexual revolution is now here. Song doesn't shed clothing, but she's in more provocative predicaments with her husband Aaron, who wants her to stop being such a square and be involved in couples swing parties. Not being raised in that manner, Peggy becomes hung-up in her attempts to please or repay the man who brought her out of a state of destitution. As Peggy and Aaron spat about their lifestyle choices, their relationship spins out of control from simple arguments to physical abuse to all out hatred and wicked restitution for her inability to adapt to his needs.
Vinegar Syndrome scans and restores in 2K the international 'hot' and 'soft' versions of "On Her bed of Roses" and "The Incredible Sex Revolution" from the original 35mm negatives into a nearly unblemished original aspect ratio 1.85:1 exploitation film. The quality is fairly sharp with some pieces of the negative unfortunately lightly scratched and damaged beyond repair, but these flawed scenes are seldom throughout and don't hinder the entirety. No sign of unnatural enhancements and compression issues either.
The audio is presented in a Mono 2.0 dual channel and it is as good as it's going to get with these two films. The clarity is fine with faint static popping throughout. The soundtrack, dialogue, and ambient tracks are nicely balanced. Overall, considering the age of the films, the audio is solid.
Extras included are 'soft' scenes of the nude segments. Each 'soft' scene adds a little more detail into each story's unfolding.
I can see why the Vinegar Syndrome Drive-In Collection features “On Her Bed of Roses” and "The Incredible Sex Revolution" would have been a hard sell toward mainstream audiences as much of the once considered taboo subject matter is thrown right into the audience’s faces. The juxtaposition between the Melissa and Stephon characters seemed slightly one-sided, learning more toward the emotions of Melissa with her being the one to survive an indirect ordeal and able to tell the story from her point of view, but both characters were portrayed as the unfortunate outcome of their parents’ dilapidated care. Whereas Peggy Bardot’s story solely stands front and center through the thickness of aggressive and unwanted sexual appetites. Though Krafft-Ebing’s century old theories and conclusions are obsolete and dated today, “On Her bed of Roses” and "The Incredible Sex Revolution" are a fascinating and historical perceived pair of films from the raging 1960’s. Rental.