Sep 20, 2020

The Love Merchant (1966)


Another Sarno flick filled with his usual stock of actors, bringing "class" to the world of exploitation cinema via quality acting and direction. This film is an early example of the "Indecent Proposal" trope.

 Kendall Harvey III (Judson Todd) is a rich asshole who hangs out at a go-go club.  His assistant, to his right, is the bi-sexual Polly Fields (Patti Paget).

Click (Louis Waldon) is a biker with high aspirations.  He knows he can make it big by hitching his wagon to Harvey.

Peggy Johns (Patricia McNair) is a housewife married to Roger Johns (George Wolfe). She meets an old school friend, Bobbi (Joanna Mills), who's an artist in Greenwich Village.

Bobbi paints her model, Hillary (Annette Godette).

Peggy is a little taken aback by the nude model, but Bobbi assures her that this is the norm in Greenwich Village.

Look who just rolled in: Harvey and his assistant Polly (and this other creepy assistant who never says a word).

Harvey, with the snap of his fingers, commands Hillary to his side.

Bobbi, not wanting to be left out, strips and tries to join in.

Peggy and Roger go out with Click and Bobbi - two very different couples.

Harvey treats Polly like shit; like she's his personal slave.  He has sex with her, but she has to do his bidding and call him Mr. Harvey.

Click gets a job getting women for Harvey, working through Polly... a "Love Merchant" you might say.

Peggy at home.

Roger comes home from work devastated. They're financially ruined.

And here comes the "Indecent Proposal".  Harvey will agree to save Roger's ass via connections in the financial sector... in exchange with having sex with Peggy.

Peggy sits wild-eyed at Harvey's party which more resembles an orgy.

Peggy is stripped and has sex with Harvey.

She confesses to Roger what she's done.  Rather than be grateful, he divorces her.

Click has found a super hot biker chick to offer to Harvey and Polly.  I love their exchange:
Click: "Hey baby, how many cylinders you got in that engine?" 
Dixie: "Six... spelled "S...E...X"
Click: "I dig your style.  Why don't you hop on the back of my motorized pogostick and see if we can't vibrate around a little."

Click introduces Polly to Dixie, topless.  Polly is smitten and falls in love.

Later when Click tries to get grabby with Polly, she breaks out a chain and beats his ass down.

Dixie is presented to Harvey.

When Polly discovers them together she freaks out in jealous rage, swinging her chains.  Peggy witnesses the violent encounter and realizes what a shitshow this all is.  She decides to go find Roger and beg his forgiveness. 

While not great, you have to respect Sarno's ability to bring quality to the sexploitation genre.  His NYC troupe delivers excellent performances, and the story, while kinda lame, is still engaging.  Of course, it would've been better with a bit more sleaze, but this is '66, and Sarno would definitely take things in that direction in the following decade.


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