Review by Matt Bailey
Posted on 11 July 2004
Source 7th Planet Productions DVD
Who would not want to watch a movie called Mau Mau Sex Sex? Even if you had no idea what the film was about, the title is so strange and alluring that you would probably give it a try. Unfortunately, the title of this documentary by Ted Bonnitt is probably the best thing about it. Essentially an eighty-minute interview with exploitation film pioneers Dan Sonney and David Friedman, the film is only as interesting as its subjects allow their reminiscences to be and as interested as the viewer is in what goes on behind the scenes of the exploitation film business. As someone who has seen dozens of exploitation films and who counts David Friedman as one of his personal heroes, even I had a difficult time sitting through the film. Perhaps this is because I already knew most of the stories being recounted by these veterans of the skin trade, but therein lies the predicament of this film: anyone interested enough in these old geezers to watch this film probably already knows enough about them to make it redundant, and anyone not interested in Sonney and Friedman or their films may not care enough to watch it.
Despite the often seemingly endless talking-head interview footage, there are a few moments in the film that are genuinely touching for fans of exploitation film. One of these is watching the interaction between Friedman and his wife of many years. One would think that a man whose great claims to fame are getting girls to play volleyball in the nude in front of a camera and fostering the careers of Doris Wishman and Herschell Gordon Lewis would be a lifelong confirmed bachelor, but Mrs. Friedman is just as feisty and sharp-witted as her husband. It lends new credibility to the old adage that behind every great man is a great woman. Another touching moment is when Sonney and Friedman tour a vault in which several of their old films have been carefully preserved. What they thought would play for a few months in grindhouses back in the ’60s has become archival and historically important material finding new life on home video. These old guys who thought they were just making a buck slowly come to realize that they have created a vast legacy that will live on long after they die.
One of the attractions for viewers of this documentary aside from watching two grandfatherly yet dirty-minded men chuckle about the good old days is the promise of seeing clips from several of the films produced by Sonney and Friedman. Unfortunately, there is not nearly enough of these clips in the film and what is included is far too short and not entirely representative of the shoestring-budget genius of these filmmakers. Anyone interested in exploitation film would be better served by buying some of the excellent Something Weird Video DVD releases of these films (many with hilarious commentaries by Friedman himself). If the idea of spending $20 on something called The Amazing Transplant or Goldilocks and the Three Bares does not quite do it for you, you can spend much less on a compilation of a hundred trailers also released by Something Weird. This compilation is an essential purchase for anyone with a modicum of interest in exploitation film as (and almost any exploitation film fan will tell you this) the trailers are often far better than the films they advertise. I wish that I could give Mau Mau Sex Sex the same unreserved praise, but as charming as Messrs. Sonney and Friedman are, I am afraid this documentary is for their most ardent fans only.