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[whitespace] 'Mau Mau Sex Sex'
Sin Cyr: David Friedman and Dan Sonney pioneered the golden age of nudie films.


Elderly sleaze peddlers are profiled in 'Mau Mau Sex Sex' documentary

By Richard von Busack

LIKE THE GRIND-HOUSE movies it celebrates, the film Mau Mau Sex Sex doesn't quite have as much snazz as its title. A moment of silence for just some of those titles: A Smell of Honey, A Swallow of Brine!, She-Freak, The Fabulous Bastard From Chicago, The Erotic Adventures of Zorro, Stick It in Your Ear, B-O-I-N-N-N-G!. These 1960s works, and many even weirder ones, were the product of the team that director Ted Bonnitt describes as "America's Oldest Independent Filmmakers": today, a pair of elderly retired gents named David Friedman and Dan Sonney.

Sonney was the son of Louis Sonney, an ex-coal miner, cop and burlesque-show owner. Louis Sonney was the distributor of The Maniac (1934), a film infamous for a scene where the madman pops out and eats a house cat's eyeball (it's excerpted here; the "eye" is apparently a palmed olive, thank God.). Maybe this anonymous stunt cat was honored in the name of the younger Sonney's famous business operation: the Pussycat Theaters, the coast-to-coast porn-house chain. (The Usual sits on the site of the San Jose Pussycat; where's the historical plaque?)

Friedman was a publicist for Paramount; we see pictures of him glad-handing Bing Crosby, Alfred Hitchcock and a suspicious-looking Bob Hope. But Friedman's true love was the carnival. We see him in action at the Calhoun County Fair in Alabama: "We will proceed to separate the suckers from their shekels," he says, swinging into action.

Sonney and Friedman teamed up on countless "nudies"--nudist-camp documentaries that were the ultimate in sex movies in 1960. "We had to salt the mine, so to speak," Friedman admits. He brought in professional nude models to augment the aging flesh of the campers, all tediously positioned to avoid illegal flashes of pickles and beavers. Today, these nudies are some of the most unbearable movies this side of an avant-garde film festival.

When it came to selling the sizzle, rather than the steak, Friedman was phenomenal: "I'd spend more time on the trailer copy than the scripts." (Quotes from the coming attractions excerpted here: "Garbage! Unfit to be seen by decent people!") The previews of much of Friedman and Sonney's work ought to be seen on collections sold by Mau Mau Sex Sex interviewee Mike Vraney (www.somethingweird.com). Unfortunately, the sequence with Vraney is much too short; the interviews with director Frank Hennenlotter (auteur of the great film Frankenhooker), are, by contrast, far too plentiful.

Mau Mau Sex Sex has the usual fan-boy problem: too much heat, not enough light. More sources would have helped. Of course it's nice to see that the two reprobates are still around, but Mau Mau Sex Sex serves up a bit too large a ration of old men puttering around the house and grumbling over their card games.

MAU MAU SEX SEX (Unrated; 80 min.), a documentary directed by Ted Bonnitt, opens Friday at the Towne Theater in San Jose.

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From the November 8-14, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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