Street of a Thousand Pleasures (1972)

Also known as:
Arab Slave Market

This could well become the shortest review in the annals of Girls, Guns and Ghouls. As you'd know if you're a regular reader of mine, a large proportion of each of these little works is a description of the plot. Well, Street of a Thousand Pleasures would have to have one of the most minimal plots in existence, existing only to show the naked bodies of countless young women gazing at the camera, in a set imitating an Arabian tent-city. Is this a good thing? Well, by the end of this write-up we may have a clearer picture on this topic, but it's not looking hopeful at this very moment! Now, to describe the bare-bones story. It won't take long, I can assure you ...

After an opening credits scene, featuring vaguely Arabic music and lots of voluptious naked women being fondled by men's hands, we meet our protagonist. Leaving his nagging, off-screen wife at home, a young American businessman, John Dalton (John Tull, the only name I can gather from the IMDB) flies overseas to do a business deal with a Sheik in Basra. Well, that's how I heard the place's name, anyway. John flies over with the Sheik and harangues him about wanting to see the female sex-slave trade in his country. The sheik fobs him off though, and they end up talking about something else. Finally they land and we gather we're in the 'Basra' when we see some faux-Arabic scrawled on a sign. This is a low-budget production, and that's the only way we know we're in another country! Anyway, John and the Sheik prattle on about various things, one of them being how the Sheik's life is always in danger from Assassins. Sure enough, an assassin tries his luck with a knife and John defends him with a gun, killing the would-be murderer. Now, the Sheik is in debt to John, and reluctantly agrees to shows him the sex-slavery rings of Basra.

Now, this is where the film truly moves to where it wants to be. Entering the tents of the sex-slaves, we now spend at least forty minutes looking at naked women. John is barely seen, but we hear him on the soundtrack, constantly saying lines like, "this is amazing!", "there's so many of them!" "I'm going crazy!" Her skin is so soft!" over and over and ... over. The women are virtually all beautiful, I'll grant the film that, and not an ounce of silicone between them. Some are in chains, some happily dance for our observer in various stages of undress, who is now reduced to the point of view of the audience. As us, the cameraman manages to kiss the women on the breasts, belly-button and generally feel them up from time to time. We spend a lot of time snuggling into large breasts. There's bountiful women, skinny women, blonde women, black women - but no Asian women, strangely. Exploitation regular Uschi Digart features in one of the groups of girls. Well, this goes on for quite a while. Quite a while, indeed. Was I pleased by what I saw? For the first ten minutes or so, perhaps. Lovely, nice nudity. But no sex, which is amazing for a film so willing to display the charms of its cast.

Eventually John has sex with one of the slave-girls in a brief scene which isn't too bad. Then, he explores other parts of the slave-camp, dragged along by his host, the Sheik. They don't seem any different to the tents we saw at the start, though. John has sex with a black belly-dancer who's pretty easy on the eye. Then, with a few minutes left, some plot hits us again. The Sheik is finally murdered - in the throes of his own sexual shenanigans - and John's basically a witness. Starting to flee, one of the slave-girls who's an American begs him to take her with him, promising to be his sex-slave forever. John reluctantly agrees and the two make a dash for the sand dunes, the towel-headed killer in hot pursuit. Will John make it home alive with his own personal sex-slave, and what will his wife think of this development? Or will their blood soak into the Arabian sands, never to get on the plane?

And, there we have it! A film devoted to showing us naked women is certainly being honest with us. I was actually surprised when the last little fragments of plot took place. Director William Rostler has obviously spent all of his tiny budget on hiring as many attractive women as he could, who were willing to disrobe for the camera and possibly be fondled a bit. There's a few belly-dancer and harem costumes here and there, but let's face it, the object was to show as little clothing as possible. Sets consist of a few striped sheets standing in for the tents. Some of the dialogue was done in the Doris Wishman fashion, ie shot from behind when characters talk, or have them talk off-screen. Then, at other times we see John and the Sheik talking in synchronised sound. So, production-wise, Street of a Thousand Pleasures is a real mish-mash. The film-stock looks different with the John-and-Sheik scenes, and the 'POV' nudie-bits. That's all fine, though. We're not expecting 'The Godfather' whene we pop this in our DVD player. Are we entertained, though? Is Street of a Thousand Pleasures a fun view?

One of Girls, Guns and Ghouls's main missions is to explore the weird, the oddball in cinema. Most of the time this takes me down enjoyable and sometimes bizarre roads, with films that I'd watch again anytime. Very occasionally, it's an exercise in tedium which is enough as a once-only experience. Street of a Thousand Pleasures fits into this category quite nicely. I love looking at naked women as much as the next person. But over forty minutes of the same inane dialogue, looped over and over as we watch various women striking the same poses, all gazing vacantly at us? Sorry, even the bountiful Uschi Digard can't save this one. One ironic thing about the film, is that it seems to shy away from sex with all these nubile women. The two sex scenes are brief, and unenthusiastic. For whatever reason, it only dips its toe into the softcore arena and in 1972, this is unusual. It's almost a 'nudie' film from a bygone era that got made too late for the sizzling seventies. Was this even a hit for the raincoat crowd?

Never mind. If you're a breast enthusiast or an Uschi Digart completist, you'll find something to enjoy here. I'm glad I watched it all the same, and the neverending quest to keep watching and reviewing cult cinema continues apace!

© Boris Lugosi, 2008.

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