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The Naked Zoo
The Hallucinators / The Grove

USA 1970
produced by
William Grefé, C.T. Robertson (executive) for Film Artists International
directed by William Grefé
starring Rita Hayworth, Steve Oliver, Fay Spain, Ford Rainey, Joe E. Ross, Willie Pastrano, John Vella, Fleurette Carter, Anne Gilliam, Kim Bretton, Edward Anderson, Kay Daphne, Jeff Gillen, Gertrude Marx, Robert Jackson Sparks, Ninon Wilkinson, Gwen Merrill, Johanna Bailey, Lynn Topping, George Brooks, Luis Carvajal, Bill Kelley, William Kerwin
story by William Grefé, screenplay by Ray Preston, songs written by Joe Sherman, Sid Wayne, performed by Steve Alaimo

review by
Mike Haberfelner


Terry (Steve Oliver) is a writer "between books", so presently he more enjoys the lifestyle than doing anything creatife, meaning he does plenty of drugs and booze, and has over time also become quite the womanizer. Of course, this lifestyle doesn't come free, so on the side he does work as a gigolo, doing "favours" to the older women in the neighbourhood - like Helen Golden (Rita Hayworth), whose husband Harry's (Ford Rainey) is wheelchair-bound, which of course is no reason for her to deny herself some bedroom fun. Unfortunately, Harry one day catches her with Terry, and unfortunately he packs a gun. However, chasing after Terry, he falls out of his wheelchair by mere accident, bangs his head and dies. As mentioned, a mere accident, and yet Terry's quick to take a powder, leaving Helen to deal with the affair on her own. Another client of his, Pauline (Fay Spain), asks him out soon afterwards, but he finds it hilarious to drug her to the hilt and humiliate her as the centerpiece of the spontaneous party he's throwing at his place. This gives him an idea how to deal with Helen who he's sure will squeal at the earliest opportunity ...

 

One of the very last films by Hollywood legend Rita Hayworth, this is of course not a film that lives up to her standards - but she handles her role with all the diginity you'd expect her to and turns in a fine performance while the film, while definitely from the low budget end of the spectrum, isn't at all bad, pretty much an exploitation drama firmly set in the drug-infused late 1960s/early 70s that on a surface level of course plays to the balcony, but that actually also paints a disturbing picture of a man without conscience, and how that ultimately breaks him, and some scenes (like Pauline's humiliation at the party) strike a really unpleasant chord and will stay with one for a while, and yet make perfect sense in the film's context. That said, I'm not at all saying The Naked Zoo is a hidden gem or forgotten masterpiece, as that would simply do the film too much honour, but it sure is an interesting watch, even beyond being one of Rita Hayworth's last movies.

 

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review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
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you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
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starring
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out now on DVD