Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Review: The Toy Box
Synopsis: Ralph persuades his girlfriend, Donna, to participate in a bizarre swingers party, where the guests are to perform erotic plays in the presence of a corpse - Ralph's millionaire uncle. The players are promised gifts from the "toy box." But it's not long before they discover the players are being murdered and that the uncle isn't all he seems to be!
Review: Without a doubt, this is probably the strangest and most bizarre sexploitation film I've ever seen. And given the amount of them that I've watched, that's truly saying something.
The plot revolves around a swingers party, where the guests act out sexually perverse scenarios for a man called "Uncle" to obtain gifts from a mysterious "toy box." But when a couple of the guests suspect all is not as it seems, including the identity of "Uncle," we go from a very commonplace sexploitation piece and veer off into an insanely wild and absurd story involving aliens and humans sold as drugs.
This film isn't so much shocking, as it is it off-the-wall kooky. For the first 45 minutes, I had little idea what I was watching. It isn't until the end of the second act that the pieces of this oddball story start to fall into place. The film does live up to it's perverse billing, though, as you see plenty of weird sexual antics, not the least of which is faux necrophilia, faux cannibalism, and the first (and only, I believe) display of a woman molested by a bed. Yes, you heard right, she is sexually pleasured by an actual bed. The murders, such as they happen, are mostly off-screen implied than shown. And when you get the big revelation of who "Uncle" really is, as well as what this party is really all about, well, it'll make about as much sense as anything else you've seen up to that point.
The cast is a virtual who's who of 60's and 70's exploitation films, with the curvaceous sex bombs, Marsha Jordan and Uschi Digard, among the most notable of them. All the actors don't really do much acting, as the film is much more centered on the sexual displays, as most films of this kind are. They are well shot scenes and a few are even quite erotic. As is typical of such fare, the guys are the average, hairy males you would find walking the streets in the 70's, while the women as all have bodaciously banging bods and curves. No one ever said that sexploitation films were bastions of gender equality.
Writer/director Ronald Victor Garica was obviously out to make this a very different kind of exploitation film. In that he certainly succeeded, as there is no other film I've seen that is anything like this. Of course, being unique doesn't make this an excellent effort. During most of the first act, much of the voice dubbing is off, which can be distracting. To cover for this, Garcia falls back on Doris Wishman's classic trick, of have the actor that's supposed to be speaking facing away from the camera, thereby circumventing the need for proper dubbing. The music sounds exactly like what you'd hear on old episodes of the classic "Star Trek" series and some of the special effects are, well, just not that special. Garcia's attempt to blend horror, sci-fi, and sexploitation into a cohesive form doesn't really play out, but it does make for some strange and intriguing scenes, which will probably hold your attention, until you get to the revelations behind what you've seen.
"The Toy Box" is unlike anything you could ever hope to see, then or today. While I can't quite call it "good," the quirky and outlandish nature of the film does have a very strange entertainment value to it. Within the world of sexploitation films (and, more broadly, of film in general), this one defies easy categorization and stands alone in its erratic and eccentric tone. Fans of the genre should check it out at least once, just for the experience of the sheer spectacle of it all. But don't expect it to make any kind of lasting impact on you, except to, perhaps, have you never look at your bed the same way again.
Rating: 2 Stars (out of 4)