Joy (1977)

On the surface a raucous rape reversal satire pushing back boundaries even in a decade not particularly known for political correctness, Joy has a far more serious agenda bubbling barely below, fueling the ongoing sex versus violence debate in truly transgressive fashion.  "Harley Mansfield" (as in Harley Davidson and Jayne Mansfield, an unlikely if characteristic combo of machismo and old school Hollywood camp) was long believed to actually be Chuck Vincent until a 2014 revival screening revealed him as a seperate (albeit one time only) director who had incidentally served as editor on Chuck's twilight Sex Crimes 2084.  The mistake, in retrospect, was easy enough to make as there were striking similarities to Vincent's sophisticated sex comedy formula with which he had successfully solidified his admirable adult industry reputation.  Playing like Jean Arthur or - perhaps more to the point - Mae West vehicles with their underlying inuendo literally made flesh, movies like Mrs. Barrington, Farewell Scarlet and Misbehavin' crystalised his unique blend of wit and wantonness to perfection and he had already started to explore new frontiers of his own.  Hence the Laugh-In like skit structure on both Bang Bang You Got It! and its R-rated counterpart American Tickler (or the Winner of 10 Academy Awards) or the dialogue-deprived dance of death that illuminated his haunting Visions

Poking fun at one of society's serious ills by turning a morally reprehensible situation completely on its head would have fit in beautifully with the spirit of search which characterized Chuck's career at this very stage.  Indeed, the film's working title of The Female Rapists suggests that subtlety had not been an issue right from inception.  Still, the results (and the controversy they stirred up) startled Mansfield to such a degree that he would never own up to his involvement right up until most recently.  Since then, leading lady Sharon Mitchell and Maniac's Bill Lustig (who DoP'ed, learning the trade on countless NY adult sets before branching out into the "real world") have gone on record to confirm.  Besides, anyone studying the director's style could easily have made the same faux pas, even apart from the presence of his loyal editor James MacReading (barely even hiding behind a thinly veiled pseudonym as "James F. MacRell" !) and a thespian troupe largely made up of personal favorites.  So far my case for the defense...

Veering back and forth between the traditional roughie territory of rape 'n' (sometimes) revenge dramas that were a '70s staple and clever comedy, Joy still strikes as an incongruous hybrid that has lost little of its power to perturb adult audiences out of their carnal complacency that comes with a set of rigid rules this naughty little number cheerfully shatters right from the get-go.  Allegedly not quite of legal age as this film - albeit her second, having made her debut supporting Vanessa Del Rio as That Lady from Rio, Shaun Costello's subdued sequel to Bill Milling's outstanding Oriental Blue - was being shot (again corroborated by Lustig as well as her own admission, although she was notoriously flexible on the issue, apparently never quite attaining her 50th birthday !), with release held up until after she had turned 18, Mitchell shines (as does her lustrous hair, I mean, we're talking L'Oreal quality here, folks, but I digress...) as the titular Joy, a "good" girl unwilling to give it up to her jock boyfriend Ricky (one shot performer Jay Pierce) who promptly breaks up with her as a result.  Coming home in tears to the apartment she shares with her unseen mom (who sounds suspiciously like regular Vincent comedienne Molly Malone), she answers the door to a pair of delivery guys only to have her maidenhead forcefully taken from her...and finding out she really likes it along the way !  Intentionally oblique as to what's the "big idea" behind it, the scene plays out purposefully problematic as the savage treatment Joy receives at the hands of the ethnically exaggerated Pedro (one shot Marco), slapping her across the face by way of foreplay, opens the portals of pleasure she has innocently - as in foolishly ? - denied herself, a sudden realisation signposted in classic comedy double take fashion as her fearful yelping's replaced with a beaming smile and cries of "I want more", incidentally also the title of the emasculated cable version that was a late night regular well into the next decade.

Once her passion has been "unlocked", there's no turning back.  First port of call is the ungrateful Ricky, surprising him in the shower.  Hilariously, his response is to accusingly point a finger at her and shout : "You're naked !"  After she goes down on him, she's shocked to see his previously proud manhood shrivel to a mere shadow of its former splendor.  "Where does it go ?"  Told you she was naive.  Either frustrated or enlightened, depending upon interpretation, Joy embarks on a nightly NYC rampage, "raping" unsuspecting male "victims" yet simultaneously - and as befits her all but incidental name - "spreading joy" by assuaging uncertainties patriarchal society prohibits them from fessing up to.  A married man (Bob Bolla's Fred) admits he hasn't come in months.  A gawky teen (Frank Kenwood, appropriately another single shot stud) nervously thumbs through a manual monikered "How to Pick Up Girls" in a deserted subway carriage.  A henpecked husband (the realistically slobby Philip Marlowe, Samantha Fox's unsatisfying bar pick-up from Gerard Damiano's Odyssey) is turned away by his unsympathetic spouse (Lacy Thomas, also in Chuck's T&A romp Hot T-Shirts) but finds solace with a curvaceous catburglar, ironically portrayed by the performer's real life mate Melinda. 

As other women follow suit, harried cop John Han(d)cock (porn's resident "senior citizen" Jake Teague, looking more handsome than ever, courtesy of an actually matching hairpiece for a change) mobilizes his team to put a stop to this "outrage" that's upsetting the male-dominated status quo, even though a TV newscaster dryly states that other crime rates have plummeted since the estrogen-fueled rape spree took off and congratulates Joy (whose identity has been revealed through a pair of discarded panties at a "crime" scene) on bringing love to the streets of New York.  This Utopian bliss is then rudely interrupted, coincidentally (?) by another racial stereotype (black Jesse Wilson) who corners Joy and handcuffs her to a staircase before fucking some "sense" into her, spouting meanspirited verbal abuse like "bitch" and "cunt" throughout.  If the scene shocks, as indeed it should, this is entirely by design as Mansfield readjusts his funhouse mirror distortion to fit the ugly truth.  Dragged to the police station, Joy's strapped down to a gurney to keep her from "corrupting" the menfolk but still manages to convince the curious Handcock (who caught his wife in flagrante with the plumber, a ten second sex scene inexplicably wasting high profile performers Gloria Leonard and Bobby Astyr) to loosen her ties, along with his belt !  Allowing to let her go free on the condition she leaves town never to return, he drops her off at the airport where she makes a beeline for the men's room, entertaining case-carrying businessman Eric Edwards, shoreleave sailors Roger Caine and Dave Ruby and pilot Terry Austin - who was in Shaun Costello's one day wonder Girl Scout Cookies as well as one of Connie Money's myriad "educational" extras on Misty Beethoven - in a climax worthy of both her name and film's title, Joy breaking down the fourth wall ("There you are...") just prior to fade-out.

The sex is largely tailored to fit the narrative rather than the other way round as was to become the industry "rule".  Apart from the concluding pile-up, the hottest scene - which, incidentally, kinda mirrors it - has bumbling salesman Herschel Savage muttering to himself in an elevator as a predatory trio moves in for the "kill".  They are stalwart Clea Carson, solo stab strumpet Ursula Brooke and the questionable Veri Knotty, totally redeeming her tasteless trademark party trick (the clue's in her last name...) with an all out animalistic performance, even "stooping" to hungrily gobble Herschel's Hershey highway !  For contrasting tenderness, there's the tentatively paced time out between Mitch and wide-eyed gal pal Crystal Sync (still sporting the buck teeth she'd already had fixed prior to pic's belated release) who would prove one of adult's most underrated actresses - rather than the pejoratively tossed around "performers" - in Joe Sarno's double whammy of Slippery When Wet and The Trouble With Young Stuff and her absolute career turn in Roberta Findlay's superlative psycho thriller The Tiffany Minx.  Bolla's real life girlfriend at the time, her real name was Erica Wolfe though she's only credited as such on Joel M. Reed's genre-bending sicko satire Bloodsucking Freaks.  Like most NYC shot sexploitation, Joy benefits tremendously from its realistically grimy surroundings, as unlikely a setting for the movie's wishfulfilment pleasure paradise as can be imagined.  In this respect, Lustig's lenswork which wallows almost voluptuously in the city's splendid squalor produces imagery one can almost smell and even taste.   

Directed by  Harley Mansfield. Written by Mansfield and Derek Davidson. Produced by Davidson for Premier Pictures. Photographed by William Lustig (as Keith McGovern). Edited by James MacReading (as James F. MacRell). Starring Sharon Mitchell (Joy), Jake Teague (Lt. John Handcock), Crystal Sync (as Ellen Williams) (Chere), Robert Bolla (Fred), Melinda Marlowe (Catburglar), Philip Marlowe (Henpecked Husband), Veri Knotty (Francine), Clea Carson (as Justine Fletcher) (Marylin), Ursula Brooke (Sheila), Herschel Savage (as Paul Hues) (Salesman), Gloria Leonard (Mrs. Handcock), Bobby Astyr (Phil the Plumber), Jay Pierce (Ricky), Marco (Pedro), Terry Austin (Pilot), Eric Edwards (Businessman at Airport), Dave Ruby (Sailor), Roger Caine (as Mike Jefferson) (Sailor), Frank Kenwood (Subway Nerd), Jesse Wilson (Black Officer), Tony Turco (Sgt. Murphy), Neil Lansing (Barney), Lacy Thomas (Nagging Wife) & Paula Morton (Phonebooth Prowler). Running time : 74 minutes.