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.

Bite Size: Lurkers (1988)

While likely best remembered for her collaborations with her husband Michael, Roberta Findlay keep on grinding out films long after his 1977 death. After a stint in hardcore, she spent the last phase of her long career turning out New York local horror and exploitation efforts, with Lurkers being one of her final releases before retiring from filmmaking in 1989.

Cathy (Christine Moore) is a deeply unhappy child. Already timid and near constantly afraid because of bloody nightmares and visions of spirits climbing out of the walls of her apartment building, her abusive mother uses the young girl’s worries to exert control. The slightest infraction is grounds for her mother to shriek that she’ll call “them” to take Cathy away. In the thrall of the specters the little girl will be forced to behave.

Despite a near death experience in a childhood game of jump rope and the horror of losing her parents in a murder/suicide, Cathy miraculously manages to be a (mostly) well adjusted adult. She’s grown into a beautiful young woman, with a successful career as a cellist and a fashion photographer fiancee named Bob (Gary Warner). While heading to meet Bob after rehearsals she sees an all too familiar ghostly figure in the crowd, and almost gets hit by a cab trying to catch up to her.

All of Cathy’s childhood nightmares and visions come flooding back, of hands reaching out to grab her in the night, her mother’s bloodied face and a wan little girl. The ghostly woman in oddly old fashioned Gunne Sax dress continues echoing warnings in her ear. Cathy should have more of a support system as an adult, but her estranged brother Phil (Gil Newsom) still blames her for the past. Even Bob doesn’t take any of her distress very seriously— perhaps because he’s too busy making eyes at his business partner and anyone else he can find with a pretty smile and a pulse. Increasingly anxious and unhinged by paranormal history repeating itself, she’s heard but not really believed.

Lurkers takes a while to get where it is going, strolling through the usual signposts of the “beautiful woman who may or may not be having a breakdown” trope. The reoccurring nature of the nightmares allows for some budget friendly recycling of the nice for the price special effects the legendary Ed French (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) created for the opening scenes.

While nothing of too much narrative consequence happens in the first two thirds of the film, at least the meandering pace is garnished with healthy dollops of both sleaze and silliness. There’s a brief bit of softcore sex, goofy photoshoot montages, Bob’s corny pick up lines, and a deliciously stupid bit of gratuitous nudity as two models undress while discussing the finer points of investment strategy.

One doesn’t necessarily dive into a Roberta Findlay film for the performances, but Colleen Moore’s Cathy is neither unduly narcoleptic or excessively hammy, landing firmly in the land of “adequate” at the lovestruck mooning and cowering in fear that are her primary jobs in the film’s first two acts . Gary Warner’s Bob fares slightly better, only because he gets more to do as a two faced scheming slimeball.

A pile of plot contrivances get Cathy back inside of her childhood building for Bob’s studio opening party. Her homecoming is when Lurkers finally abandons the slow burn format for some proper exploitation, “everything but the kitchen sink” style weirdness. A mallet wielding maniac cackles through the streets, a rainbow of color gels and a symphony of synth hits coming out to play. There’s a scuzzy set piece lurking behind every door— from crucified bondage boys to geriatric group sex. The malevolent spirits weren’t all in Cathy’s head, and now they’re reciting poetry in thick Bronx accents.

The reveal of what is actually going on doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the larger regret is that the bulk of the movie’s runtime could have been just as much shaggy fun had it tossed its remaining restraint aside a bit earlier.

Roberta Findlay may not have been the most technically proficient filmmaker, nor were her choices of scripts always the easiest to parse. What she did have was a sharp eye for sleaze and a hometown gal’s pleasingly unromantic vision of the streets of New York. In the late career world of Roberta Findlay, every overpriced apartment is haunted and brutal disco gangs rampage through the Bronx. Why couldn’t the gateway to an eternity in Satan’s service lie at the end of the West Side Highway? If you can bind souls here, you’ll make it Hell anywhere else you might want to supernaturally go.

The Tenement (1985)

Roberta Findlay was one of the few female creators of the exploitation golden age, and is only rivaled by Doris Wishman in terms of both longevity and prolific output across the sleaze subgenres. In her multi decade career, Roberta wrote, produced, directed, distributed, and occasionally acted in her own work.

Thankfully, Ms. Findlay is a far more competent multi hyphenate than her predecessor. Less thankfully, keep in mind the curve on which we are grading.

Alongside her husband Michael, she created the landmark Flesh trilogy of roughies, which mixed sex and violence into a brand new bag, helping eradicate the tamer trend of the nudie cuties that had dominated the early 60s. Their early 70s failed slasher experiment called Slaughter was later reedited into the notorious Snuff, which set an urban legend into motion that still persists today.

After parting ways with Michael in 1973, Roberta made a successful string of porn features, before controversy came calling again regarding 1985’s Shauna: Every Man’s Fantasy. The movie was a cash in Frankenstein’s monster, made from archive footage after the titular star had committed suicide at 20.

Roberta scuttled back to splatter, and the remainder of her career was spent making low budget action and horror films, before she retired in 1989. Unlike Ms. Wishman, who seemed to revel in the reappraisal of her work, Roberta has resisted all efforts to be praised as a pioneer. In her own words, she was “merely a barnacle on the ship of life” whose main filmmaking inspiration was “not getting caught out on her tax”.

So what happens when an admittedly indifferent schlockmeister mixes rape revenge tropes with a knockoff of Assault On Precinct 13? 1985’s The Tenement, which I watched under its lamer alternate title:

The font and the theme song got lost on their way to Beat Street, full of stutter synth, and a rap lyric that can’t decide if the tenement is a “place of shelter” or “helter skelter”. We get some generic exteriors and cut to a dingy basement, where a gang of weekend Warriors is busy doing drugs, waving dead rats at each other, and…….whatever the fuck this is:

Too bad the party gets broken up pretty quickly by the cops. The dude who called the police is our first introduction to the building residents, and he stops to greasily gloat at the gang members in a Speedy Gonzales accent as they get packed off into a squad car. This way they know exactly which person turned the gang in. How could that possibly go wrong?

The residents throw a party to celebrate the gang being gone. This introduces us to the rest of the ethnic stereotypes tenants, some of which I’m not even sure were given names outside of the credits. Rojas is the drunk tub of greasiness and bluster who called law enforcement. Mr. Washington is a strong silent type doing his best Duane Jones impression. Leona is a sassy single mom. Anita is a sweet pregnant girl. Ruth a tough Jewish grandmother, and Angel a hooker with a heart of gold who turns tricks to support her husband’s habit.

There’s another older couple named Wesley, blind Mr. Gonzalez with a seeing eye dog, some random little kids who belong to someone or another….none of this is going to get developed in any significant fashion, so trust that the accents are horrible and the characterization is worse. This celebratory party scene lasts longer than some of these actors’ careers.

Aside from Leona, they all prattle on at length about being SO VERY GLAD THE GANG IS GONE. THEY ARE SAFE NOW. FOREVER. WE SURE WON’T SEE THOSE GANGBANGERS AGAIN.

Looking like the least popular kids at the leather bar

Except for the fact that bail exists, and within a few hours our gang is right back out on the streets, making sure that snitch Rojas gets the mandated stitches. Due to budgetary constraints “stitches” becomes 1 tiny piece of prop glass and a large bandage on the forehead.

The baddies get their own long and equally boring party scene, where they smoke a bunch of angel dust in a parking lot and sing off key songs about “passing that fucker, man”, to the tune of stock music cues that would later pop up in Zombie Nightmare. Then the mighty Chaco, our aviator shade and frontless shirt wearing gang leader gets a listless spin shot and this struggle of a 4 line speech. It absolutely sounds like he learned it phonetically:

Chaco (gazing at nothing): Blood. My head….is full of blood. My dream…. is full of blood. I’m going to take my building BACK!

Because this looks more badass than using the unlocked door right next to it

Typical of most “urban warfare” style films, 20 minutes in and that’s pretty much it for plot. There’s a ton of expository padding, but none of it teaches you anything important about the characters you didn’t learn through the early party scenes. Angel and her husband fight over his drug use. Anita’s mom is not thrilled she’s pregnant. Leona wishes she could move. Mr. Gonzalez is beloved by the children, because cute seeing eye dog. Rojas is drunk and Ruth is reciting a Shabbat blessing. Just in case the caricatures weren’t broad enough the first time around, hit me baby one more time.

We know there’s going to be a bloody conflict. The film just needs to give Crow T Robot his Christmas gift , and decide who lives and who dies. Place your bets or grab your bingo cards, whichever you prefer.

While the post apocalypse aerobics instructor of the group cuts the phone lines, the seeing eye dog ends up as fodder for a banger’s Countess Bathory moment.

By the way, timestamped title cards have been present but irrelevant the entire movie, as its not like PCP fueled murder sprees are on a tight schedule. Feel free to join me in continuing to ignore them.

Leona goes downstairs to check the phone line, and is brutally punished for being right about the gang’s return. This sequence made me glad for how weirdly prim this movie is, despite its X rating for violence. Conceptually horrible things happen, but we don’t explicitly see much of them. In the case of a deceased pup and a Last House On The Left style remix of the uses of household implements, less really is more.

In a thin upside, Leona’s little girl is smart enough to head upstairs to safety with a neighbor, and Leona managed to pull a Fulci on one of her attackers before dying.

Mr. Washington begrudgingly helps herd everyone he can find onto the upper floor landing, because apparently Chaco & friends are a bit confused on how stairs work, and won’t follow them. Bickering amongst the residents ensues, but they do comply. That runtime needs a lot of padding to make a safe landing.

Proving Mr. Washington’s point, Chaco yells some threats from the lobby, but doesn’t move an inch. The rest of the gang rampages through the emptied apartments like unattended Sims. Without someone to tell them what to do, they are stabbing random furniture, tossing food around, and getting bags stuck on their heads.

Variations of these same 3 shots fluff out a lot of the remaining runtime. Assume they happen in between any relevant action, and even some that aren’t. For example, Angel’s futile plea to one of her tricks on the street to go get help rather than come inside, which wastes another few minutes without disturbing the main plot’s vacation.

Angel’s husband dies defending his stash. Angel only makes it to safety because Mr. Washington comes out onto the landing to protect her as she runs upstairs. The fourth floor stairs are still lava.

One of the gang overdoses by virtue of doing the entire stolen pile of drugs at once. Chaco and Olivia Newton Chula mourn by having a bloody trip to second base beside the body of their fallen comrade.

Not to be outdone by gangbangers for moronic and unnecessary deaths, Mrs. Wesley dies searching downstairs for disinfectant. Anita’s mom dies trying to escape from the third story window via a single strand of clothesline. That doesn’t even work in cartoons, for fuck’s sake.

Over an hour into the movie, the baddies finally figure out the whole fourth floor stairs thing, and start tearing apart the makeshift furniture barricade the residents made.

Only by the grace of grandma Ruth and her ancient New York wisdom of nut shots and baseball bats, do the residents escape up to the fifth and final floor.


The good ship plot device comes in, and the gang wastes more time with random vandalism, to give the good guys time to MacGuyver an elaborate defense of an electrified bed frame and wet steps.

Downstairs, Chaco kills one of his own people via genital stab because the film’s runtime is almost out and too many people are still alive.

The residents loot a gun clip off of the crispy fried victim of their death bed, assuming the gang’s gun is no longer a threat without ammo. Our fifth grade teachers taught us what happens when you assume. In this case, it gets Mr. Washington shot as he heads downstairs.

Assumption also gets Rojas killed by Chaco’s handy dog collar. While a brilliant parry of boiling water and a fridge made of foam killed Chaco’s ladyfriend, and mortally wounded another gangster, Chaco himself was unharmed.

By going downstairs to gloat and finish the job with a knife, Rojas proves that only manual strangulation can get him to shut the fuck up.


Ruth stuns Chaco with her trusty bat, but doesn’t kill him. That leaves poor pregnant Anita to battle the big bad on a rainy roof, and finish the job with a TV antenna and a convenient attack of sudden rotoscope lightning. Too bad she locked herself out, as the door slammed shut in the struggle…….

Surprise! Mr. Washington is still alive and here to open the door after missing the entire fight. For the survivors it’s a brand new day………

……….or maybe just a less rainy pitch black night. Allegory is hard.