Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Pick-Up (1968) Vegas Road Trip - Sexploitation - Roughie - Transitional Film Noir -

I'm beginning to see a pattern, formulating a supposition, especially after viewing this film and recently 1967's Aroused. It's almost as if during Classic Film Noir's original run the darker subject matter of the films, even though hampered by the Hayes Code would reflect the realities of society albeit in a coded way, but with a sort of delayed time lag. But once the code and the Studio System began to breakdown and when film began to get increased competition from TV the subject matter began to get up to speed so to speak and cover more current topics,  i.e., beatniks (The Beat Generation 1959) juvenile delinquency (Crime in the Streets 1956, The Young Savages 1961), heroin addiction (The Man With The Golden Arm 1955, Stakeout on Dope Street 1958), rape (Anatomy of a Murder 1959), racism ( No Way Out 1950, The Crimson Kimono 1959, Odds Against Tomorrow 1959, The Pawnbroker 1964). Eventually independently produced films began to explore and depict fringe sex topics, virginity (The Moon Is Blue 1953 ) multiple partners (The Night of the Iguana 1964) homosexuality (Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, The Children's Hour 1961, Reflections in a Golden Eye 1967) fetishism (Satan In High Heels 1962), prostitution and sex maniacs (Aroused 1967) and this film The Pick-Up which features casual sex and a bit of bondage and sadism. But the sadism/bondage sequence would for all intents and purposes be equal to the Daniel Craig torture sequence in Casino Royale  (2006)  but getting an R rating because the victim is female.

The last two Films are shot in the Film Noir style but The Pick-Up would have benefited with just a tad bit of restraint. It just crosses over the line in a few sequences lingering on female nudity going into, for me, what I would consider definite exploitation. I wouldn't cut any shots but I didn't need to see that much repetition, a few seconds for each shot would have been sufficient and also would have left a bit to the imagination, the best of both worlds. You could say it went over the speed limit of the prevailing Zeitgiest. Noir for the most part sort of went underground. The mainstream culture wouldn't catch up to some taboo subjects for 20 or 30 years.

If you overlook those small excesses in The Pick-Up you will discover one of the last great gritty Black & White Transitional Noir's.


Directed by Lee Frost (a notable grindhouse feature director), the film is surprisingly well made and written, writing credits also by Lee Frost (original story) (as R.L. Frost) ,  and Lee Frost (screenplay) and Wes Bishop (screenplay) (as Wesdon Bishop). Cinematography is also by Lee Frost. 

The Film starred writer, actor, producer, Wes Bishop (Perry Mason (1957), Combat! (1962), Bonanza (1959) and The High Chaparral (1967) as Tony. Tony reminds you of a cool Robert Wagner, Stefan Zema (Crime Story) plays Frankie, he's comes off like a young Ernest Borgnine. Tony and Frankie are bag-men for the mob transporting Las Vegas skim in a '66 Cadillac Fleetwood from a strip casino run by Charlie (exploitation film producer David F. Friedman) to Los Angeles Mob boss Sal (sexploitation producer Bob Cresse). 

Frankie lt. , Tony rt.
The story set up is that Tony, the veteran bag-man is breaking in hired gun Frankie the newbie. The operation has a simple check and balance Tony works for Sal, and Frankie was hired (back East) to work for Eddie. Frankie has never been to Vegas before and since they have arrived early in the morning before the scheduled pick-up, Frankie wants to explore the strip a bit. Frankie is like a kid in a candy store, exclaiming at one point that the mass of neon lights the street "like daylight". Tony plays by the book but breaks down a little and while the Caddy is being serviced and he and Frankie walk the strip, he even lets Frankie try his had at the slots. The opening sequence is a great traveling time capsule through the windshield of  the Fleetwood to circa 1967 Las Vegas as Tony & Frankie glide into town.

Las Vegas circa 1968

The Sands

The Mint
The Lido and The Stardust
The Golden Nugget "like daylight"
Fremont Street
Whenever Tony has to get serious he puts on his shades, perhaps a reference to Sam Fullers killer in Underworld U.S.A. (1967). When they arrive at the casino Tony tells Frankie to stay inside the car while he puts on his shades and makes the transaction accepting two suitcases from Eddies cronies and handing over a receipt. 

They head out of town into the desert on old Highway 91 towards Los Angeles. Frankie is driving down a desolate stretch of highway while Tony tries to catch some shut eye, when they approach two women stranded on the side of the road with the hood up on their car. The women dressed in miniskirts try to flag Frankie down. Frankie pulls over and wakes up Tony and convinces him to go back and give the ladies a hand. They U-Turn and pull up behind the women. Tony puts on his sunglasses and tells Frankie to stay inside and lock the doors.

Dana (Lois Ursone) lt. and Marcia (Lynn Harris) rt.

Flagging the boys down.
 The women wear that mid sixties tent dress/mini - micro mini skirt fashion style resembling the female cast of daytime TV soap opera Dark Shadows. The two women are played by the sultry Lois Ursone (Dana) and waif-ish space case Lynn Harris (Marcia) who looks like brunette Goldie Hawn circa her Laugh-In years.

Let me look (Tony)
Frankie convinces Tony to give the girls a ride to a service garage. On the way Marcia comes on to Frankie in the back seat.

Backseat shenanigans. 

Come on Tony let's say we had car trouble.
 Frankie convinces Tony to call in and say they have car problems so that they can party with the girls. The decide to look for a bar but since the girls have there own booze they get two rooms at a motel. What could go wrong?

Hot Sheet Motel where Tony and Dana pair-off to one cabin while Frankie and Marcia go to another..

Marcia Strips

Tony approves

getting it on

Dana's surprise
Frankie & Marcia

Marcia ready for Frankie
Getting it on
So a good time is had by all until Dana puts a gun to Tony's head.
Frame showing the Danish subtitles a small quibble since it the only print left in existence of the gem.

What could go wrong?
So the gals are really confidence women and they have been after the loot all along, soon Frankie shows up at the cabin and Dana hiding behind the door gets the drop on him also. She makes Frankie strip and he's hog tied along with Tony on the bed.

They girls skedaddle out of the cabin unit, jump in the Fleetwood and spin gravel in a cloud of dust out of the parking lot then burn rubber down the highway will all the moolah in the trunk.

The dash with the cash

 Pedal to the metal
Tony and Frankie finally wiggle loose and knowing that their lives are now on the line waste no time renting a plane to comb the highways looking for Dana and Marcia who have now abandoned the Fleetwood and transferred the loot into their own car and are headed for LA.

Casino Boss Charlie reflected in a mirror
The film segues back to the penthouse digs of Charlie the Casino Boss, he's "auditioning" a headliner act for the floor show, some of his buddies "audition" some showgirls. The auditioning is an excuse for a little more sexploitation, that really could have been trimmed as I mentioned above.



Charlie keeps getting coitus interrupted by phone calls from Sal who is wondering what happened to his delivery which is now eight hours late.

Mob Boss Sal and his fascination with plants 
Charlie sends two men down 91 from Vegas while Sal is sending wise guys to check out Tony's LA house and his girlfriend's apartment. The goon (he resembles Walter Matthau) who checks out Tony's gal pal finds her in the sack with another woman, another segment that could use a trim. Again, there is no actual sex depicted though there is nudity.

Tony and Frankie spot Dana and Marcia driving on the highway and get the pilot of the plane to land at the nearest airport up ahead of them in the direction of LA so that they can rent a car and intercept the women.  They spot Dana and Marcia and follow them into LA where they break into their apartment and capture them. Frankie checks the car and doesn't find the money. Tony splits the girls up questioning one at a time the stories don't match. So Tony now hog ties Dana and Marcia and whips their backsides with his belt handing it off to Frankie when he get's tired.

The whipping

When all that results from the whipping is that the gals pass out, Tony separates them again having Frankie take Marcia upstairs while he tapes two electrical wires to Dana's nipples, a few sparks later she spills the beans that is was Sal that set them up.

Now That's Smoking!
After repeated calls from Sal, Charlie catches a plane to LA to deal with the situation. All hell breaks loose.

Noir styled cinematography crops up throughout with Dutch angles, chiaroscuro lighting, shadows, high and low angles.


The DVD is available from Something Weird Video 8/10

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