A THOUSAND PLEASURES (1968)

Released the same year as The Curse of Her Flesh and The Kiss of Her Flesh, 1968’s A Thousand Pleasures opens on yet another scene of domestic tranquillity according to the Family Findlay which is to say that, before the opening credits even begin to roll, Michael Findlay becomes fed up with Roberta’s constant nagging so he takes a knife out of a kitchen drawer and murders her.

Again playing a psychopath named Richard (though, this time it’s Richard Davis and not Richard Jennings, his character’s name from the Flesh films and his editing pseudonym for this one), Michael Findlay puts his deep-rooted and unhealthy problems right out there in the open and then asks people to pay money to watch them play out. However, unlike the murderous odyssey taken in the Flesh trilogy, A Thousand Pleasures has a much stranger bent to it as this film goes from brutal thriller to weird and sinister psychosexual drama to horror film, finally landing on soapy, parodic melodrama in its closing seconds.

Davis, with the dead body of his wife stuffed into the back of his station wagon, decides not to first find a place to dispose of his wife’s corpse like any other canny murderer but, instead, picks up two randy hitchhikers named Jackie (Linda Boyce) and Maggie (Uta Erickson). While Jackie gives Richard (poorly simulated) head, Maggie discovers his wife’s body and, instead of becoming visibly alarmed, she licks her lips with a relished glee. “He’s our boy,” Maggie says. “He’s coming home with us.” And the Cape Ann house in which Jackie and Maggie live turns out to be, in Michael Findlay’s own sternly delivered words, “more like the CRAZY house!”

For Richard has bumbled his way into an off-kilter netherworld that operates like an early John Waters film as he finds himself the inexplicable wedge in a bizarre sexual game between Belle (Janet Baznet), the lady of the house, and Baby (Kim Lewid), a grown woman-child who regularly masturbates with unlit candles and sleeps in a crib. And then, wouldn’t you know it, Jackie and Maggie turn out to be a couple of lesbians who want to get impregnated by Richard Davis so they can have a child to raise as they have raised Baby. With the help of manservant Bruno (Findlay associate and filmmaker John Amero), the body of Richard’s wife is relocated without Richard’s knowledge to blackmail him into going along with their mad scheme!

The juicy centerpiece of the film involves a living room party described as “light entertainment” where Baby sucks Maggie’s lactating breast while the former is whipped by Jackie. Davis and Anna (Donna Stone), a buxom nymphomaniac who comes to the house to experience ceaseless sexual pleasure and who Davis continuously calls ‘Boobarella,’ make out on a couch while Bruno sits and watches everything while blocking the advances of Belle. When Belle, completely devoid of anything to contribute to the orgy, is then rebuffed by Anna, who is in favor of continuing to make out with Davis, she runs off to another part of the house, rubs one out, and cries herself to sleep which, obviously, is something I can completely understand. I like to get loose and party and what not but if my wife stiff armed my sexual advances because Michael Findlay was in the room and he seemed like the more enjoyable option, I’d probably jack myself into a miserable river of tears, too.

The last ten minutes of the film don’t exactly move at lightning speed but do illustrate the Findlays’ ability to pivot to whatever tone was necessary to move the plot forward. They begin with Findlay brandishing a straight razor between his teeth while crawling across the floor and up the stairs to brutally dispatch “all of the pigs” that did him wrong, hissing his dialogue as he goes. Of course, why he starts his murderous rampage on the one person who does him no harm whatsoever is more reflective of the mind of Michael Findlay than it is evidence of any logic on the part of Richard Davis. But the final act closes as a despondent Belle and Anna find true love in each other and walk way arm-in-arm, waves crashing around the same rocks where, earlier in the film, Roberta Findlay’s body was unceremoniously dumped. Who said romance and poetry are dead?

And speaking of Roberta, she gets a full-throated credit as the cinematographer here (using her usual Anna Riva pseudonym) though, as is the case with everything before Mnasadkia the following year, it’s anyone’s guess (including her own) as to how much of the work belongs to her. Because I’m shameless and care more about results than sinful splash damage that might be all over me, I would have started claiming credit for all the camerawork at this point because, as they went along, Michael Findlay’s films became more and more competently shot, sometimes stumbling upwards into a higher echelon than they might have otherwise due to their crack technical prowess. Sure they have the occasional blurry image and visible light stands with their thick, heavy power cords dangling at their side, but that’s just part of the marginal debris anyone can expect from a run-and-gun production like this. Roberta also contributes a lot of voice work on this one and listening her talk about moist crevices, swollen penises, vomit, and pink tongues is really worth the price of admission though she can’t help be overshadowed by Michael’s usual dramatic intensity, most especially the way he says “concrete lullaby” and “fruitcake.”

While he always seemed to have bizarre fantasies about women, there does seem to be a point in his filmography where he seems to take great glee in the damage they could physically do to him. In A Thousand Pleasures, Findlay gets beaten with an end iron and the soles of his feet get put into the fireplace before a cigarette is put out in his face. Perhaps killing him by covering his nostrils and smothering him Donna Stone’s giant tit is both ridiculous and on-the-nose, but it seems allowable in this context. For Michael’s limited bag of filmmaking tricks and obsessive themes were becoming rote and old hat and Roberta, learning all she could while mixed up with him, would soon suck up all the creative oxygen in the partnership. And it would be her that would march them into uncharted territories before, eventually, leaving him behind where he would remain forever lost.

(C) Copyright 2022, Patrick Crain

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s