Friday, June 8, 2012

I'm Just Wild About Harry Novak

A flashback post from 2009 when I watched a exploitation classic called AXE (1974). AXE was basically THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT meets THE LEGEND OF LZZIE BORDEN with a small dose of John Waters. What was most intriguing is that the dvd featured trailers from the same original distributor Harry Novak and his Box Office International schlockhouse. Harry Novak has been dubbed "The Sultan of Sexploitation" and "The King of Camp," but his films ran the gamut of the exploitation genres - including monster films  like PLEASE DON'T EAT MY MOTHER (1973) well as documentaries (MONDO MOD, 1967) and horror films (THE CHILD, 1977).
His signature logo elevated him to the distinction of being the Walt Disney or Louie B. Mayer of exploitation - with the exception that Harry stressed quantity over quality. Harry was notorious for not spending one nickel more than was needed to get a film made. He would watch industry trends and create a dirtier and more violent knock-off of whatever was selling tickets at the time. These include MIDNIGHT PLOWBOY (1971) THE LAST TANGO IN ACAPULCO (1975), EROTIC ENCOUNTERS OF THE FOURTH KIND (1975) and THE BLACK CONNECTION (1974). Harry once said "When I was a kid, my Daddy told me, 'There's a buyer for everything' and I lived to find out that he was right."  Novak's began his career in showbiz at Howard Hughes' RKO Studios - by booking and selling films as well as designing ads and marketing campaigns, ironically, for the Disney films that RKO was distributing! It must have been Hughes' admiration for full-figured women that inspired Novak to set out on his own after RKO's collaspse. After taking a crash course in distribution, by selling re-dubbed foreign "art films" that featured partially clad women. He soon formed Box Office International in 1964.

Harry had now started producing and distributing a string of his own films - all lowbrow, crude and very violent - this made sense since violence was allowed to be screened even where sex wasn't. KISS ME QUICK! - a sci-fi parody of DR. STRANGELOVE about strippers - was his first big drive-in success. Over 200 entertainingly trashy features followed. Some great titles include MANTIS IN LACE (1968) well as TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN (1972), WILBUR & THE BABY FACTORY (1970) and BOOBY TRAP (1970).As standards continued to relax, Novak's films began to resemble softcore pornography- as full frontal nudity by both women and men and simulated sex scenes became the norm. A string of lurid sexy crime thrillers  like THE GODSON (1971)...and dirty martial arts romps (SEXUAL KUNG FU IN HONG KONG,1974), white trash hillbilly sex comedies (COUNTRY CUZZINS, 1970)...and ambitious period sex farces (like THE SECRET SEX LIVES OF ROMEO & JULIET,1969) followed...all with tantalizing ad campaigns.By the late 70s - hardcore porn became the norm and Box Office International transformed into Valiant Pictures International in 1978. Harry's last film was 1983's MOMENTS IN LOVE. Lucky for us most of his films are available on dvd via Something Weird.


Danny in WeHo said...

There was no axe in AXE!!!
guns, a razor & a hatchet... but no AXE!!!

WookieWin said...

"Erotic Encounters of the Fourth Kind" was originally titled "Wam Bam Thank You Spaceman" in 1975. The title was changed after "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" was released in 1977.