Friday, April 13, 2012

"Week of Hong" presents HOT CONNECTIONS (1972)

For our contribution to Lost Video Archive’s “Week of Hong” (April 9-14), a blogathon devoted to the long and always interesting career of actor-filmmaker James Hong, we unveil another Temple of Schlock exclusive: HOT CONNECTIONS (1972), a soft-X skin flick directed by “James Young,” the same alias Hong used as the co-star of the hardcore CHINA GIRL (1975). Made at the tail end of an all-too-brief period in Hollywood when the opportunity to direct an adult movie was looked upon as an opportunity to direct a movie (see: Corey Allen, Melvin Van Peebles, Jack Starrett), one can’t fault Hong for ultimately hiding behind a pseudonym, even if HOT CONNECTIONS had more brain in its head forty years ago than most legitimate comedies are packing today. Pic carries a 1972 copyright date but seems to have received the bulk of its playdates (through Ellman Film Enterprises) beginning in the spring of 1973. The ad campaign above, promising "The first seX with karate," appeared in July '73 and could possibly explain a brief, awkward karate fight seemingly shoehorned into a beach scene that may have been shot earlier. Hong handled dubbing supervision duties on the Ellman kung fu import FEARLESS FIGHTERS around the same time.

The film's ad art winkingly refers to the female switchboard operators employed by Ma Bell, still pretty much a monopoly in 1972, more than 20 years after an antitrust lawsuit should've ended the bitch's reign of terror. THE PRESIDENT'S ANALYST it ain't, but HOT CONNECTIONS smartly uses TPC as a platform for its pro-feminism plotline; in addition to being figuratively screwed by the Bell like everyone else, its own curvier employees are literally (according to the ad below) "Bugged...Tapped...Crossed...Plugged" by The Phone Company's chauvinistic, micromanaging men-in-power.

Enter the militant Marilyn Thaxton (Tallie Cochrane), leader of the Women's Liberation Defense Center.

Her ex-husband happens to be Arnold Thaxton (Christopher Geoffries from TEENAGE JAILBAIT, billed as "Fred Kodel"), a VP at the TPC as well as the company's number one abuser of the female staff.

Arnold’s had affairs with hundreds of phone company gals...

...but when he knocks up one of his employees and then fires her for not getting an abortion, he incurs the wrath of his ex-wife and the Women’s Liberation Defense Center.

The pregnant girl’s name, Mary Collins, is mentioned numerous times during demonstrations and meetings as if she’s a notable public figure, leading us to the conclusion that her character (hardly seen in the movie) is supposed to represent Mary Moore, the first voice of the Bell Telephone Company.

Arnold’s best friend and co-conspirator is dopey middle manager George Hanes, played by John Hayes stock actor Jay Scott, credited as “Billy Busby” (the name of his character in Hayes’ sexploitation western FANDANGO).

The men share a few bad habits, both in and out of the office.

One of these habits is keeping track of how much time the female employees spend in the women’s room and on the telephone with their boyfriends. Here we see the professional manner in which George deals with Angie (Rene Bond).

ANGIE: “Honestly, George, are you still timing my trips to the washroom?!

GEORGE: “This is phone company business and my name is Mr. Hanes!”

ANGIE: “Why don’t you change some of these figures? You’re making me look like I’ve got diarrhea!”

George is married to foxy Cynthia, played by Margie Lanier from FUGITIVE GIRLS (billed as "Marjorie Lane").

She's a member of the Women’s Liberation Defense Center as well, and -- much to George's irritation -- their home is frequently used as the group's meeting place.

Marilyn and Cynthia set out to publicly humiliate Arnold and get him fired from The Phone Company. Their plan? Hire a snooper to snap photos of Arnold balling his latest squeeze, Tiffany (sexy Lynn Harris from THE PICK-UP), enlarge the pics to placard-size and use them in a demonstration outside the TPC building.

The snooper is played by our guest of honor, James Hong.

Oops, sorry -- we mean "James Young."

Hmm. There's also a James Haig credited as producer.

Hong/Young/maybe-Haig tails Arnold to a meeting with George at a shoeshine stand. George tells Arnold about the photos and the Women’s Liberation Defense Center's plan to get him fired.

At this point, Snooper Hong is spotted...

...and the two friends hide behind newspapers until he leaves.

This is a nicely composed shot, with the Bell sign in the top center of the frame, above the shoeshine stand (power-subordination imagery), as director Hong crosses in the foreground, a camera dangling from a strap around his neck.

It makes us wish Hong had directed more features than just the three we know about. HOT CONNECTIONS never reaches the genius plateau of his masterwork, THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR (a.k.a. TEEN LUST), but is still a solid sexploiter with strong performances by the attractive leads, decent camerawork by future director Steve Carver, and a fast, funny script. Other cast members include Elana Casey (CANDY STRIPE NURSES), Starlyn Simone (A CLIMAX OF BLUE POWER), and THE ALL-AMERICAN GIRL'S Peggy Church. The print from Something Weird runs 71 minutes, 14 seconds and appears incomplete, with four minutes of loud distortion on the soundtrack at the one-hour mark. Hopefully a better print will surface eventually.

Please visit the Week of Hong's other participants:

Monday April 9th
Illogical Contraption - BLOODSPORT II

Tuesday April 10th
Direct to Video Connoisseur - SOUTH BEACH ACADEMY
Lost Video Archive - TEEN LUST

Wednesday April 11th
She Blogged By Night - SEVENTH SIN
Lost Video Archive - CYBER BANDITS

Thursday April 12th
Booksteve's Library - CHINA GIRL
Lost Video Archive - GLADIATOR COP

Friday April 13th
Lines That Make Things - THE A-TEAM (TV episode)
Temple of Schlock - HOT CONNECTIONS

Saturday April 14th
Illogical Contraption - BLOODSPORT III
Lost Video Archive - BLADE IN HONG KONG
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear - BAT MASTERSON and CHECKMATE (TV episodes)


Temple of Schlock said...

James Hong trivia: Richard S. Ellman of Ellman Film Enterprises, the distributor of HOT CONNECTIONS, has a cameo appearance in Hong's THE GIRLS NEXT DOOR.

The Goodkind said...

Nice one, even if it's not such a good print it sounds like a fun little piece of Hong/film history. And from Something Weird? I'm all in.
Thanks for participating!

Marty McKee said...

Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Leo Gordon directed a porn film??

Temple of Schlock said...

No - thanks for catching that mistake! He only wrote the X-rated ALL THE LOVING COUPLES (1970) and then co-wrote a book about the making of it, "How to Make a Dirty Movie." He didn't actually direct it.