Bite Size: The Love Statue: LSD Experience (1965)

Tyler (Peter Ratray) is just another starving artist in Greenwich Village. His paintings don’t pay the rent, so he must turn to other tools—like keeping financially solvent cabaret dancer Lisa (Broadway dancer Beti Seay) satisfied during their on demand sex sessions. Ty chafes at the sugar baby lifestyle, particularly when constantly reminded of his failings by his acid tongued lover. It’s a constant cycle of break ups to make ups, broken bottles, and Ty tossing Lisa’s latest donation of ready cash off the roof of the building. All of the fireworks are followed by a rush to apologize when the bills come due.

Before the day is out he has sculptor Stan (Harvey J. Goldenberg) squatting in his studio, and Ty is getting miserably sauced at the—slightly disreputable, but still a destination—Bitter End. His attempts to take revenge by humiliating Lisa during her performance fall flat, as she big boots him off the stage and steps on his fallen body as she makes her exit.

His equally underemployed friends Nick (Coleman Younger) and Josh try to offer Ty an ear, but he just keeps on drinking himself insensate. The pair, sensing the need for something stronger, introduce him to Japanese chanteuse Mashiko (Hisako Tsukuba, The Golden Bat). She’s a dealer in the “instant psychotherapy” of L.S.D., “the latest in dreams”. Initially resistant, he decides to join her friends for a little trip. Rather than just a few hours, Ty ends up vanishing for almost three days.

Post trip, he’s feeling confident and clear headed. Finally, he finds the words to break up with Lisa for good. He has a lovely celebratory day running some errands and feeding ducks in the park. Too bad that Ty’s happiness is very short lived. He returns home to find his paintings destroyed, Stan missing, and Lisa’s lifeless body on the floor. Given his adventures in hallucinogenics, he has to try to piece together where he’s been, and if he could’ve been the one to kill her.

This early effort by writer/director David Durston (Stigma) definitely seems like his attempt to add some arty Michelangelo Antonioni style flare to his visuals and some Joe Sarno style psychosexual conflict to his plots. To that point, the opening credits sequence is actually rather effective, with a woman dancing in silhouette behind a screen as a melancholy sounding Japanese language ballad plays. There’s plenty of intercuts of classical statues, art, and candles used as punctuation to events on screen, and a moody black and white cinematography that seems carefully calibrated by comparison to his later work.

Despite the marketing push and the title, The Love Statue has much more in common with something like 1953’s Violated — another poverty stricken Greenwich Village set film that mixes atmospheric arty ambitions with exploitation practicality— than the full on hippie hangover of Durston’s own I Drink Your Blood. The thrust of the narrative lies in the interpersonal conflicts and their implications in the central murder mystery.

As for L.S.D. references, there’s a quick acid fueled party scene, but nothing of note happens. Ty’s own trip is a 5 minute digression into shaky cameras, kaleidoscope style swirling visuals, and a brief cameo from New York sexploitation starlet Gigi Darlene (Bad Girls Go To Hell) as the titular statue. The drug then basically vanishes from the film, only mentioned in a last minute bit of throwaway dialog meant to tie up loose ends.

There’s a certain quaint charm in all of this down at heel hep cat Bohemia, but the snappy, slangy dialog amongst Ty’s group of friends doesn’t really lead to any deeper characterization. Beti Seay’s Lisa is a snarling humiliatrix imported from a roughie, but everyone else (including Peter Ratray’s pushover Ty) is just a “big, beautiful bowl of mush”, acting as convenient devices to move the plot along. Not that it would’ve mattered much, as the very limited cast list makes sussing out the killer a simple operation.

In 1965, Beatniks and noir trappings were both a bit dated, but the garish explosion of flower power had not yet taken over. This left youth culture trendsetters and filmmakers looking for exploitable content a bit betwixt and between. Perhaps this is why The Love Statue never really gels into a cohesive whole. The film is too chaste to really work as sexploitation, too thin to work as a crime thriller and too serious and square to operate as a substance fueled youth scare sleaze fest. There are glimmers of good ideas scattered throughout, all of which were better handled somewhere in Durston’s later filmography .

This leaves The Love Statue as more of a historical curio—it is early example of L.S.D. being painted as a potential boogeyman— than an essential. The movie is certainly of minor interest to exploitation history nerds, fans of the all too brief career of Gigi Darlene, and David Durston completetionists. For everyone else, finding the original source of this popular GIF is likely the best thing gleaned from viewing it.

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