Trader Hornee (1970)

This has got to be one of the silliest films I've ever seen in my viewing career. Exploitation legend David Friedman strikes again with his writing, producing and even acting talents in this one-of-a-kind sex comedy, that will certainly have you thinking they don't make them like this anymore. Some of you will be pleased at this fact! Enough preamble, let's get into the film.

Private Investigator Hamilton Hornee (Buddy Pantsari) and his daffy secretary Jane Sommers (the delectable Elisabeth Monica) run a small, struggling firm in a dingy office. As we soon find out from redhead - and often seduced - Jane, Hornee is pronounced Horne, the e is silent. To their relief, they suddenly receive a much-needed mission by the local Bank Manager. The Bank wants to settle on a financial estate left to them by the Matthews, two zoologists that ventured into darkest Africa fifteen years ago, and were slain by the fiercest tribe in African existence. However, their young daughter was never found and if she survived the onslaught, stands to inherit a fortune. The Bank Manager wants to send 'Hammy' (as Jane constantly calls him), Jane, a cousin of the Matthews, the smarmy Max (John Alderman) and his masochistic, yet domineering wife Doris (Christine Murray). As Max discusses with the shrewish Doris after a thrashing session with a whip, if proof is found that the young daughter, namd Prentice, died, Max and Doris will inherit the family fortune. Along for the ride will be the Bank Manager's lover, Tender Lee, (Lisa Grant) a spirited local journalist, and Stanley Livingstone (Fletcher Davies), a bumbling zoologist hunting the great white gorilla rumoured to be lurking in the area. It turns out Stanley has two young lovers at home, one who calls him daddy to his great concern!

Hammy agrees and the expedition, is - to keep the tone of this review consistent with that of the film - mounted. They meet the pompous Commissioner in Africa, and he advises that they travel with a washed-up alcoholic called C.C. Carstairs (Andrew Herbert). After helping Hammy in a bar-room brawl (including Friedman as one of the brawlers) in his bar, Carstairs agrees to go with them. The expedition proceeds. Every bad joke is told, rest assured. The natives helping the explorers eat watermelon and sound straight from a Harlem ghetto. Carstairs stays permanently drunk and takes potshots at any animal he sees - of course he misses every time. To which, one effete giraffe complains: "Oh, he's so violent!" Yes, the animals seem to have the power of speech, in the world of Trader Hornee. Hammy tries and succeeds to yet again seduce Jane, and proposes to her finally. Later, Jane and Tender skinny-dip, with Tender taking the interest of Doris, who along with having a fetish for being thrashed with Max's riding-crop, likes women as well. She has sex with the cynical Tender, who has also been fending off Stanley. The white gorilla pops up now and again, to steal bananas from the cast and cause general mischief.

The native helpers get spooked and flee, allowing the savage tribe to capture the party. Of course, Doris loves their rough treatment. As the stereotypical ooga-booga natives tie them all up, they proceed to do a death-dance that is actually a modern broadway musical routine. Finally, the Great White Goddess, rumoured to live with the natives, makes her dramatic entrance on an elephant. Algona (willowy Deek Sills) as they call her, rules the tribe. The beautiful blonde girl is about the same age that Prentice would have been, had she somehow survived. Algona, along with her tame pet Cheetah, bids the natives bring Hammy into her tent, and proceeds to seduce the reluctant investigator with her mono-syllabic beauty. Freeing the drained Horne back to his team members, Algona then demands that Doris attend her. Doris is as keen as ever, but once Algona realises Doris is a girl, she sends her back, frustrated. Then Max is sent in. After communicating more with her, he realises that she is Prentice and that the natives hold a fortune in gold, far more than his potential inheritance. Still, by instinct Algona can tell he's bad and has her servants imprison him again. Finally, Jane is called in, and the two instantly hate each other, getting into a catfight that is depicted by multiple still shots. Both the women want Hamilton Hornee - who will be released and who will stay on as a willing lover to the great Algona? And what about that great white gorilla?

A quick warning to anyone considering buying this film. There are basically no sex scenes in it. While there are copious amounts of very nice nudity, the sex scenes in the version I saw were either edited out, quite choppily, or rendered unwatchable by odd solarizing effects and multiple, flickering images. Still, even in a butchered state it's almost a must-see for the sexist humor and the cheap enthusiasm of the cast. They all do their best over-acting, especially Elisabeth Monica as the ditzy Jane. Deek Sills is also fun as the child-like (but commanding) Algona. There's also plenty of pleasant jungle stock-footage for all you stock-footage enthusiasts! As directed by Jonathan Lucas (billed as Tsanusdi), Trader Hornee is a bit rough around the edges, but then they used live elephants and cheetahs in some scenes, so there must have been at least an animal budget in there! And I'm sure after a single view you'll never forget the line, "Hornee? Is that really his name?" It's uttered at least four times in the movie, even by a crocodile at one point.

Something Weird Video have done a fine job of restoring a lost gem again. For those of you with a nostalgic bent for seventies sex cinema, especially of the humorous kind, I'd say give this film a one-off view. The sex is practically non-existent, as well as the humour if you have high-brow tastes! Still, little epics like these have a certain naive charm that will never emerge in a cinema again. The adventures of 'Hammy' Hornee and Algona are worth a look for that reason alone.

© Borry Lugosee, 2006.


Review written: 01/31/2006 19:46:34