If any home video com­pa­ny could qual­i­fy as the patron saint of sex­ploita­tion cin­e­ma, it would have to be Something Weird Video.  For a few decades, they unleashed count­less pre-porn exam­ples of skin and sin that enlivened the col­lec­tions of count­less exploita­tion film buffs.  Fittingly, Something Weird was the dri­ving force behind That’s Sexploitation, a doc­u­men­tary that aims to be the defin­i­tive tes­ta­ment of pre-porn erot­i­ca on ThatSexp-blucel­lu­loid.

As the title sug­gests, That’s Sexploitation uses the mod­el of the That’s Entertainment musi­cal com­pi­la­tion series, off­set­ting inter­views with plen­ti­ful footage of sex­ploita­tion flicks rang­ing from the silent era to the ear­ly ‘70s.  However, there is just one inter­view par­tic­i­pant here in David Friedman, a leg­endary exploita­tion flick pro­duc­er.  Thankfully, he’s all you real­ly need: not only did he pro­duce sev­er­al sex­ploita­tion films, he’s also an expert on exploita­tion film pro­duc­tion who worked with all the ear­ly leg­ends of the busi­ness.

Friedman appeared here near the end of his life and though he is clear­ly ail­ing in the footage we see, he’s pos­sessed of a sharp mem­o­ry.  He tells won­der­ful tales of the “Forty Thieves” who cre­at­ed the sex­ploita­tion film busi­ness out­side of the big stu­dios.  There are a string of fun vignettes, com­plete with plen­ti­ful film clips, for infa­mous pro­duc­ers and dis­trib­u­tors like Dwain Esper, Louis Sonney and H. Kroger Babb.  Friedman is as wit­ty as he is smart, reflect­ing on the his­to­ry of pre-porn erot­i­ca with the wit and glee­ful­ness of a man who exploit­ed sin on film and got paid well for it (he real­ly lights up when he talks about his favorite decade as a film­mak­er, the ‘60s).ThatSexp-02

Director/co-writer Frank Henenlotter also appears on screen to help stitch the clips and inter­view footage into a fast-mov­ing docu-nar­ra­tive.  A life­long stu­dent of all things of exploita­tion, Henenlotter was also a key play­er at Something Weird so he’s able to draw on the count­less hours of footage in the company’s vault to illus­trate the genre’s devel­op­ment.  Like Friedman, he is both knowl­edge­able and wit­ty but he cuts a dif­fer­ent fig­ure onscreen, with his New Yorker’s gift for machine-gun pat­ter giv­ing him the ver­bal verve of a stand-up come­di­an.

Together, Henenlotter and Friedman show how sex­ploita­tion moved through a vari­ety of trends as it rode the razor’s edge of what exhibitors could defend in the court­room: sub­gen­res like V.D. expos­es, the nud­ist film, the nudie-cutie, the roughie and the mar­riage man­u­al are explored ThatSexp-01here and illus­trat­ed with plen­ti­ful clips from the Something Weird archives.  Henenlotter also han­dled the edit­ing of the film and his film­mak­ing gifts show in the peri­od mon­tages he does of skin­ful and sin­ful moments he uses to punc­tu­ate the his­tor­i­cal talk.  Simply put, you’ve nev­er seen this many bare breasts and behinds in a sin­gle film in your life.

In short, That’s Sexploitation is a delight for exploita­tion cin­e­ma stu­dents that cov­ers a wide array of his­to­ry — and sev­er­al acres of bare flesh — in just over two hours.  By the time the cred­its roll, you may find your­self wish­ing it had a been a minis­eries.

Blu-Ray Notes: Severin Films just issued this title via a new con­tent-packed blu-ray.  The trans­fer looks pret­ty good: there are a few moments of inter­lac­ing but the dig­i­tal inter­view footage looks col­or­ful and sharp.  The qual­i­ty of the vin­tage clips depends on how well they’ve been pre­served but most of them look sur­pris­ing­ly good.  The track is an LPCM mix that han­dles the dif­fer­ent lev­els of record­ing qual­i­ty pret­ty well.

This dThatSexp-iconisc also max­es out on the extras.  The first is a fea­ture-length com­men­tary track with Henenlotter and Something Weird co-own­er Lisa Petrucci.  The two are old friends so their pat­ter has an ease and a depth to it.  They cov­er a lot of ground, includ­ing the final years of Friedman and Something Weird founder Mike Vraney, the chal­lenge of select­ing and edit­ing clips for the doc­u­men­tary and plen­ti­ful fac­toids about the films.

There’s also a whop­ping three and a half hours’ worth of sex­ploita­tion shorts from the Something Weird vault pre­sent­ed in SD form.  Several shorts includ­ed here were used for clips in the main fea­ture and it’s worth not­ing that a lot of famous sex­ploita­tion fea­ture direc­tors are rep­re­sent­ed here like Joe Sarno, Barry Mahon and Mike Findlay.  This gen­er­ous selec­tion essen­tial­ly dou­bles the val­ue of this set for exploita­tion fans.