Perverts!

Camp began as a secret code among gay men, as a kind of handshake, recognizing each other as members of the same disaffected group. Andy Warhol was an early master at taking pleasure in noticing bad taste; actually elevating the drab, ordinary object to precious and rare fine arts status was a way of reversing the social order – the pathetic, pathological homosexual pervert (in society’s eyes) became transformed into a rare and discerning observer (in the perverted eye), even arbiter of the real schlock.

And so it is with camp cult film, from unintended bloopers, such as Ed Woods’ Glen or Glenda? to the genre-defining masterpiece The Rocky Horror Picture Show. With Perverts! director Jonathan Yudis picks up the gauntlet thrown by another master of camp, Russ Meyer. For the non-initiated, think Kill Bill, with lots of silicon-enhanced female breasts, cartoonish gore, and a whole different set of in-joke subtext. The film opens with a page of comic book panels, in the black-and-white, rough wood-block style of R. Crumb, a known connoisseur of big-boobed, clod-hopping women. A dreadlocked, bhang-filled narrator addresses the audience as a voodoo prophet bringing stern warning from New Orleans, not to do what this poor young man James (Sean Andrews) has done.

James ran away from home, but has now found his way into college. For no particular reason, he is driving across the Southwest desert to reunite with his father, Hezekiah (Darrell Sandeen). James is, sadly, a pervert and a loser. The girl he picks up hitchhiking, though obviously ready to jump his bone, jumps out of the car when James’ glove box pops open and a pile of porno magazines cascade out. Dad, meanwhile, is slapping and slamming his live-in girlfriend, the largely endowed Jayne Mansfield clone. Of course, absolutely everyone in this film is a pervert, and the plot is a set up for slapstick cartoon sex and violence.

Yudis cleverly appeals to a variety of classically “perverse” tastes. One huge-breasted female after another pops up, engages and engorges the men folk. Who is doing whom, and who is blithely oblivious keeps changing. The mix of science fiction, slasher/horror, and porno genres serve the ultimately comic-book romp through camp territory, under a very hot and parched southern California desert sun. Hezekiah’s deliberately articulate dialog is oddly mesmerizing, and focuses the audience’s attention for the sprinkling, or litter-strewn effusion, of camp, quotable one-liners, which are often actually funny.

Director Jonathan Yudis plays the homo-pervert mechanic, another one of the running jokes in this film. To balance the hetero male perverse penchant for big bosoms, hacked, bloody flesh, and punitive daddy violence, he provides rough-trade, Richard Locke gay porn quality action scenarios as well. The film stars the breasts of Mary Carey, Juliette Clarke, Sally Jean, and Candice Hussein, essentialist and social constructivist homosexuals, and an inverted phallus. The heteros become homos, the unsatisfied virgins become red meat, over and over. If you liked Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, you will like this bit of silliness. And, if you understand this film, then, truly, you are a pervert too. Go, be with your people.

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Beverly Berning has recently begun her fourth career as a high school teacher of French and Italian, but her love of film remains steadfast. A former film student who aspired to be just like her idols Woody Allen, Erik Rohmer and Charlie Kaufman, she has been writing reviews for Culturevulture since 2006.