THE ULTIMATE DEGENERATE (1969) – The Dungeon Review!
I was not intending on reviewing a Michael Findlay film before my co-host David’s feature but I really only want to review my favourites from Something Weird Video’s catalog. I only watched a handful of Something Weird Video films in the past week and other than a couple of Joe Sarno’s (and I’ve already reviewed two Sarno flicks) the only one I felt really enthusiastic about was Michael Findlay’s opus The Ultimate Degenerate. At this point I have seen five of Findlay’s directorial efforts and have dug the absolute hell out of all of them but thus far The Ultimate Degenerate has been the Ultimate Findlay!
I am guessing that Michael Findlay is an admirer of Hugo Haas as he included at least two nods to the director in The Ultimate Degenerate. In the first picture above is a shot of New York and if you look at the marquee to the left you will see That Woman is playing. The second picture above features Carla (Suzzan Landau) who is standing in front of a poster for Hold Back Tomorrow (it is actually written in French La potence est pour demain). I instantly recognized the names Cleo Moore and John Agar on the poster and when I looked it up I was thrilled to learn it was Hold Back Tomorrow; a film I had by chance watched just a few weeks before starting this Something Weird Video feature. I have seen two films directed by Hugo Haas that I enjoyed very much; Bait and Hold Back Tomorrow. I have read a couple of pieces on Haas both of which referred to him as a hack. I don’t like the word hack and I don’t like when it is used to describe director’s work that I enjoyed. Although I have seen just the two Haas films neither reflected the work of a hack. Haas made films on a low-budget that is true but both of the aforementioned films featuring the lovely Cleo Moore are pretty great and definitely risqué stuff for their time. Both of these Haas films have a seediness that suits the material well. I could see how Michael Findlay might have found inspiration in Haas’s work. Of the five Findlay directing efforts I’ve seen they have been considerably more salacious than others from their period. I will be checking out more Findlay and Haas stuff in the near future.
“People are a lot like cars except when they’ve had it they don’t put them in the junkyard, they put them in the crazy house.”
The film opens with narration by the film’s central character Maria played by Uta Erickson as we are shown footage of cars in a junkyard. Maria informs us that “Six months ago things were different.” Maria was living in New York with her girlfriend Tammy (Donna Stone). Thinking she was alone, Maria does a little striptease for her neighbor Mr. Elsworth. Maria as it turns out was not alone and is scorned by Tammy; “You’ll give old Elsworth a heart attack.”
Maria’s girlfriend Tammy is pretty uptight, Maria on the other hand is a voyeur and a borderline nymphomaniac. Maria realizes it is time to part ways with Tammy.
Maria answers an ad in a New York sex paper. The job is in Vermont and pays $500/week for three weeks working for a man named Spencer (Michael Findlay). She is to meet his assistant Bruno (Earl Hindman) at Coney Island the next day.
Little did Maria know that Spencer was watching over Coney Island from a ferris wheel.
Bruno picks Maria up as planned and they drive to Spencer’s home in Vermont. Once they arrive, Maria is shuffled downstairs to a theatre where there are three women dancing and spraying whipped cream on each other.
Maria is brought upstairs to meet the eccentric Spencer. Maria undresses for Spencer with a little assistance from Bruno. She is than shot up with one of Bruno’s aphrodisiacs.
“Don’t worry, this is a harmless aphrodisiac of my own concoction. Don’t be afraid. In a few moments after the fluids coursed through your veins you will experience the most delicious sensations.”
Perpetual rehearsals but never any actual shows. The perverts Spencer claims to cater to don’t exist. Spencer is a deluded madman. His nurse died a couple of years previous and he has been on the verge of insanity since.
Maria is taken to a room upstairs where she meets Sally (Cindy Freemont).
“What is it?”
“After you finish showering don’t dry yourself; just stand in the doorway.”
Maria awakes to find Carla (Suzzan Landau) exercising topless at the end of her bed.
Carla escorts Maria to the theatre where they watch Sally perform with/for her “butch”.
“That’s Sally’s butch, Spencer likes to watch them in bed together.”
Whipped cream obsessed. Whipped cream is an ongoing theme in The Ultimate Degenerate. And really, who doesn’t like whipped cream? This is one of Carla’s photo shoots for Spencer.
Another one of Carla’s photo shoots; Dora (Janet Banzet) is posing for Lesbian photos with Maria. Carla’s cartoonish Betty Boop like voice barks at the two women to mash it up and make it look like they mean it.
Spencer can not seem to achieve the level of excitement he desires and shoots up more junk. The spectacular psychedelic firepot dancing scene had me tripping along with Spencer who eventually falls into a brief drug coma.
“Jeez, that’s all I ever see around here is broads chewing on each other.”
Bruno tells Maria that Spencer’s fantasies have gotten weirder. Bruno tells Maria that he walked into the dressing room in the basement to find Spencer with his hair brushed down flat on his head wearing someone else’s glasses while Laura grinded her feet into his chest and he pretended to be in pain.
Bruno relays another story to Maria when Spencer had a huge plate of boiled corn brought to him.
“I think he just read The Sound and the Fury and got excited by the scene where the guy rapes the girl in the barn with a corn cob.”
“He himself has no sense of humor. But he is a very comic figure.”
Spencer wanted Conchita (Rita Vance) to look like she was in great pain for a photo shoot. Spencer got frustrated when Conchita’s performance did not live up to expectations. I have to agree with Spencer she really did a brutally bad job of looking like she was in pain! Spencer fixes the problem by pulling out some pliers and going at her nipples to get a real reaction.
“Roll up your sleeve, I’m going to give you another stimulant.”
Spencer believes he is giving Maria another one of his “harmless aphrodisiacs” but he does not know Bruno has substituted Spencer’s concoction with something that will have Maria tripping balls in a bad way.
The film’s final act after Maria has been doped up is the pièce de résistance of The Ultimate Degenerate!
The Ultimate Degenerate is funny, crazy, titillating, violent and sleazy; in other words it is everything I look for in a film. Michael Findlay’s unusual quirky accent and delivery is completely unique; I really can’t think of another actor who has his cadence. Growing up a huge horror fan and seeing a ton of films where women are tortured to death and raped mercilessly the “degenerate” acts committed by Spencer don’t really seem all that depraved. I mean who doesn’t like whipping cream or watching women dance naked by a firepot? Granted most people don’t have a theatre in their basement where women perpetually practice for a show that will never be put on. I think that speaks more to Spencer’s mental state than his degeneration but The Ultimate Mental Case doesn’t have the same ring. The Ultimate Degenerate features just one other male character other than Spencer and that is Bruno. I rather liked Bruno even though he is a total bastard. This was Earl Hindman’s second appearance in a Findlay film; the first was The Kiss of her Flesh. Hindman is best known for his role in Home Improvement as Wilson; Tim Taylor’s neighbor who is always obscured by a fence. There is loads of nudity in The Ultimate Degenerate; it would be impossible to review the film without including some. So many adorable and sexy ladies on display here! There were a lot of women I recognized from other Something Weird films and Findlay himself tended to work with a lot of the same women from film to film. Uta Erickson, Janet Banzet, Suzzan Landau, Rita Vance, Kim Lewid, Donna Stone and Cindy Freemont all appear in The Ultimate Degenerate and have made appearances in at least one other Findlay flick. Like so many of these low-budget underground films The Ultimate Degenerate is dubbed. Obviously Findlay dubbed himself but I think it may be his wife Roberta Findlay who dubs most of the women. On IMDB she is noted as providing “voices”. The Carla character’s voice was too much; I think it would give me a headache having to listen to that voice for any longer than the few minutes it was featured. The visuals in The Ultimate Degenerate are really primo! I hope I did a good job of capturing the awesomeness of the tripping out scenes because they are truly a hypnotic treat. I have watched forty-seven Something Weird titles at this point and The Ultimate Degenerate and its final chapter ranks high among my favourite viewing experiences. It is a perfect introduction to Findlay’s work and to the parade of fine and sexy broads of the world of underground cinema. The Ultimate Degenerate gets my highest of recommendations; a perfect score!
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Michael Findlay
Starring: Uta Erickson, Michael Findlay, Earl Hindman, Janet Banzet, Suzzan Landau, Yolanda Cortez, Rita Vance, Kim Lewid, Donna Stone, Clint McCook, Cindy Freemont, Roberta Findlay.