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  Toy Box, The Odd's Your UncleBuy this film here.
Year: 1971
Director: Ronald Víctor García
Stars: Sean Kenney, Ann Perry, Neal Bishop, Debbie Osborne, T.E. Brown, Lisa Goodman, Kathy Hilton, Maria Arnold, Jack King, Marsha Jordan, Steve Moon, Casey Larrain, Ralph Dale, Nancy Freese, Karen Hutt, Patti Mendosa, Uschi Digard, Neola Graef
Genre: Horror, Sex, Trash, Weirdo
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Donna (Ann Perry) is driving through the pouring rain in the dead of night to reach the mansion house of the man she only knows as "Uncle", and as she wishes the weather would lift, she remembers what brought her to this state of affairs. She was a secretary when she met Ralph (Sean Kenney) who introduced her to the world of sexual desire: one day he gave her a gift as they were about to go out, and he left her in the car to attend to something, giving her time to examine the present more carefully. It was a vibrator, and though Donna was a virgin she thought she would try out the gadget while she waited for Ralph to return. Minutes later, she had enjoyed a shuddering orgasm, and a whole new world had opened up...

So from that you think you're getting a porno flick, right? Well, right and wrong, for while there was plenty of skin on display, The Toy Box had other fish to fry and writer and director Ronald Víctor Garcia evidently had his own ideas about pushing back the boundaries of softcore, to the extent of fashioning a very strange atmosphere to all intents and purposes driven by sexual fantasies made reality, or as real as something like this could achieve, at any rate. There was a decidedly unnerving ambience to it all, not least because those fantasies were being staged for the enjoyment of a largely unseen but pressing presence, the Uncle Donna refers to, who when we do glimpse him looks pretty odd.

He took the form of a bald, white-bearded old geezer who was apparently blind judging by his makeup job, and when he spoke he simply opened his gob and the words were heard on the soundtrack - indeed, the whole affair looked to have been dubbed in post-production, which may be an indication of its cheapness. There wasn't a whole load of cash thrown about that you could see, therefore it fell back on the cheapest special effect there is, nudity and plenty of it as a group of what could best be described as swingers descend on the mansion and assemble in the roomy lounge to pair off and perform staged sex acts for Uncle's pleasure. But what if there was a more sinister reason behind his motives?

For a start, there is mention of currency changing hands (and not only in the novelty money box we see being operated a few times), but when you question any single aspect of this it promptly falls apart since very little of it makes sense. Somehow this is appropriate, because García became a highly prolific cinematographer in cinema and television, and one of his associations was with David Lynch's Twin Peaks, he being the man who photographed Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, another mindbending effort that may have been more artistically successful, but in a funny kind of way was of a theme with The Toy Box with its mixture of exploitative elements like sex and horror, accompanied by a mood of something metaphysically weird happening.

You imagine the audience for this at the time was seeking more carnal sights, so quite what their reaction was when confronted with a very different style of softcore than they had seen before is intriguing to contemplate, though given how many sex scenes they got you can't imagine there were many walkouts, that's what they were here for after all. Nevertheless, when those sequences presented, for example, a butcher having sex with the corpse of the woman he is about to cut up with a cleaver, or a wholesome-seeming bucolic romp that turns into a pitchfork attack, there may well have been more than a few audiences unnerved by what they were watching, and when Ralph and Donna work out that all is not well when dead bodies show up and the front door remains steadfastly locked, the claustrophobia of being trapped in someone's twisted sex party was enough to create a rising sense of anxiety rather than a rising anything else. The Toy Box wasn't good, exactly, but it did belong to an unanticipated subset.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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