Toys Are Not For Children [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Arrow Films
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (22nd March 2020).
The Film

Here we have an unusual film by any means; appealing to an exploitation market, but having stronger, almost art house yearnings in some scenes. I was surprised that Arrow was offering this long forgotten gem up, this being more the market for Something Weird Video, but nonetheless Arrow has sourced a brand new 2k restoration from the original film elements and the film looks very good despite its age. I really didn’t know what I was in store for upon viewing this film, but in a way coming into it blind left me open to decide whether or not it worked. This small film is a sad and depressing tale of a young girl with some serious father issues.

The topic of incest has been used countless times to “put asses in the seats” of the theaters that used to populate 42nd Street in New York and this film is no doubt a contender for some type of award (most like a twisted after school special award). The film opens up with a young woman Jamie Goddard (Marcia Forbes) pretending to masturbate with a large toy soldier doll and murmuring “Daddy, O Daddy!” No sooner are we siting up straight in our seats when the bedroom door flings open and the girl’s mother, Edna (Fran Warren) barges in, flipping on the lights, and immediately yelling at the girl for her indecent display. Screaming in a Long Island accent, she accuses the daughter of being a whore: “What are you doing? Where’s your nightgown? How long has this been going on? You’re just like your father!” and she continues her interrogation of the undoubtedly embarrassed woman, haranguing her with questions. Talk about someone with problems! Edna clearly has some anger issues and we will soon learn that they center on one person: the missing father, Phillip (Peter Lightstone), who is seen in many flashbacks, usually being a kind person. However underlying these flashbacks lurks the question of abuse, and we must question whether or not Jamie was the victim of such abuse. Edna confronts the sobbing Jamie and tells her that she wanted to be love as well, but that Jamie wouldn’t allow it.

Cut to the local toy store where Jamie works. She is shown waiting on a woman that is looking to purchase a gift for her daughter; she easily makes the sale and the two strike up a conversation. Turns out that the woman Pearl Valdi (Evelyn Kingsley) lives in the city and it is hardly a surprise when she mentions that she knows Jamie’s father as well. The woman gives Jamie her address and phone number and offers to have Jamie over for lunch the next time she is in the city. This all occurs a tad too smoothly and yes, I am suspecting that the woman has a hidden motive in her invitation. Suddenly we feel like we are in Doris Wishman territory and that the woman is looking for a new bed partner in the naïve young Jamie. While Jamie waits on Pearl we see a young man making faces at her; Pearl enquires if that is her boyfriend and Jamie tells him no. “He’s always grabbing at me all day.” Pearl agrees that she too dislikes being mauled. This is ironic given Pearl’s choice of careers; yes, she is a prostitute!

Next thing is the ultra-creepy credits roll and of course it is populated with toys. This reminds me of another film that had a similar theme: The Sinful Dwarf. Freak fans take note of it and seek it out immediately if you haven’t seen it. We cut to a wedding ceremony being hosted by the local Justice of the Peace (Robert Hazelton) and the owner, Max (N.J. Osrag) of the toy store is the witness. The two lucky people are Jamie and Charlie (Harlan Cary Poe) and the wedding night is not consummated at all because Jamie is extremely gun shy. She would rather watch television or play with her huge collection of toys than to make love with her husband. This film is starting to edge into more adult territory and the iciness is starting to grow. Jamie falls asleep clutching her toy soldier as the synthesizer percolates in the background.

With an abrupt jump cut we see Jamie taking the bus to New York City and she knocks on Pearl’s door. A heavily side burned individual with a head of greasy Brylcreemed hair answers the door, Eddie (Luis Arroyo). I’m shouting “Pimping Ain’t Easy” at the sight of him, but naïve Jamie wanders into the predator’s lair. Foolishly she sits next to him on the couch and immediately his hands are on her knee while he smooth talks her with a line of jive. “Please don’t do that” Jamie pleads. He replies that “he has been around a long time honey, and I got strong vibrations from you.” Whoa, are we at the bus station or what? Pearl bursts onto the scene and breaks it up. Jamie escapes with her virginity intact, but you can bet money that she’ll be back. In a flashback Jamie remembers when Pearl threw her out of the house. These scenes blend together effortlessly, the past influencing the present, the future darkened by the past.

Charlie is one frustrated dude. Jamie has her mother’s constant rants ringing in her head and she recites them automatically. Jamie tells Charlie that yesterday was her 20th birthday and shows him a doll that her father sent to her. In Jamie’s head, there is a constant stream of flashbacks: her parents arguing, Edna’s screeching about whores and “painted pigs.” Edna tells Jamie that her father is a lout and a womanizer; that he isn’t worth getting upset about. Jamie’s internalizing all this noise and it haunts her daytime thoughts. Charlie is seen out at the bars, hitting on a variety of women. His boss enters the bar and spies Charlie; he is concerned. Seems that Charlie is not satisfied with what he has at home and that he is playing the bachelor scene hard. Max confronts Charlie and he doesn’t understand why Charlie is acting the way he is. Charlie tells Max that he needs to get laid and that Jamie is sick. The story is unfolding on two levels: there is the virginal Jamie and then there is the wanton woman when she is at Pearl’s place. The two sides are in a somewhat peaceful relationship, but there is a struggle for dominance. Pearl puts the bad mouth on Edna and tells Jamie that she needs to live it up. “Wear some make up on, dress up nice.” Pearl is at a restraint with Jamie when she confronts her about her livelihood. “You’re a whore” she says a little too loudly. Jamie peppers Pearl with questions about her activities and mostly about her father. Pearl evades answering Jamie’s questions and promises to tell her all later on.

Later on Jamie heads to Pear’s apartment, but she isn’t there but the ever ready and ever greasy Eddie is. He makes with the pimping line of jive, giving Jamie a few drinks to loosen her up. Before you know it they are rolling around on the living room rug and Jamie is begging Eddie to be forceful. She doesn’t need to ask Eddie twice as he “has a thing for virgins.” Immediately Jamie is a changed woman and she celebrates with a snazzy short hair style and a new wardrobe. Husband Charlie gets wind of Jamie’s new look and he wastes no time in collecting what he believes is due him, but Jamie doesn’t act like a woman in love. You can tell that Charlie is disappointed in his wife’s enthusiasm and he immediately departs from the rest of the film. Jamie immediately moves in with Pearl and Eddie and she is hot to trot. Pearl is surprised by Jamie’s ardor for hooking and Eddie is all smiles as he keeps reminding her to “get the money first.” Pearl is now yesterday’s news as all the tricks are clamoring for the new girl on the street. In a brief scene, Pearl busts a move on Jamie, but she rebukes that attempt in disgust since she is only hot for older daddy types. In a scene that reminded me of vintage John Waters, Jamie is about to have sex with an older blindfolded dude, dressed head to toe in Polyester, that excitedly keeps repeating that Jamie needs to describe what she is doing. This scene drips with a sleaze that is kept under wraps in other parts of the film, as the oldster excitedly yelps like a dog in heat.

Pearl is a bitter hooker sans the heart of gold so often found in tales such as this and so she decides to fix Jamie’s wagon but good by secretly arranging a date with the long missing father figure. “Oh yes, you will be so excited” she tells Jamie, barely containing her twisted joy. The hook up happens and when Jamie accidentally revels that she is his long lost daughter, Phillip gets unmoored and Jamie hysterically shoves him out a nearby window. The film closes with a shot of a catatonic Jamie starring off into space, a look of having a lobotomy delivered on her child like face. The syrupy theme song plays as the wind blows the curtains outward. Roll the credits on this episode of unadulterated sleaze! While the credits roll a dreadful theme song plays that features a horrible theme song, "Lonely Am I?" Yes, it’s one of those songs sung by a middle aged man about his yearning for his daughter.

Video

Presented in widescreen 1.78:1 HD 1080p 24/fps using an AVC MPEG-4 codec, this presentation features a brand new 2k restoration. How lucky for you home viewers! not bad overall, bright colors, flesh tones are correct, interiors are well lit, and blacks are distinct and strong.

Audio

Presented with an English LPCM 1.0 mono track, this features good clean dialogue tracks and features optional English subtitles for the hard of hearing.

Extras

Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain. Two podcasters supply a commentary to the film, essentially liking the film for what it is. The track is enjoyable and supplies some interesting feminist insights to what is essentially a sleaze film.

"Fragments of Stanley H. Brasloff" (25:03) featurette. Author Stephen Thrower speaks at large about the artistic aspirations of the director and his earlier film efforts. An interesting look at a director that performed stand-up comedy for a number of years.

"Dirty Dolls: Feminity, Perversion and Play" (23:00) featurette. A video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas examines "Toys are Not for Children" using feminist theory to dissect femininity and female sexuality. She analyses various other films that invoke the incest angle and speaks at large about vintage Shirley Temple “baby burlesque” films. Who would have thunk it?

Theme Song (2:33) plays over a still scene from the film. Warning: This Way Madness Lies!

The film's original theatrical trailer for "Toys are not for Children" is included (2:47).

A Stanley H. Brasloff trailer gallery is included in case you didn’t get enough sleaze? Then feast your blood shot pupils at these gems:

- "Behind Locked Doors" (3:57)
- Two Girls for a Madman (1:49)

In the package also includes a liner notes booklet for first pressings only.

I am done and I need a shower after this!

Packaging

Packaged in a clear Blu-ray keep case.

Overall

for a sketchy exploitation film, Arrow has done an impressive job bringing this long forgotten gem to life.

The Film: B+ Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A-

 


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