Hot Spur [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Severin Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (26th March 2024).
The Film

When a pair of ranch hand brothers (Teenage Innocence's John Alderman and Chain Gang Women's Wes Bishop) crash a local cantina and attempt to rape a dancing girl, meek stable boy Carlos (James Arena) is triggered by being forced to watch the rape of his sister as a child and springs to her defense. Unfortunately, he is out-manned and badly beaten before rancher Jason O'Hara (Jaws 2's Joseph Mascolo) steps in and reins his boys in. Carlos secretly follows them back to O'Hara's ranch and gets a job as cleaning out the stables. Carlos not only faces racial abuse from the brothers but also O'Hara's wife Susan (The Muthers' Virginia Gordon) who cares only for her horse when not trying to seduce the ranch hands to provoke her husband. When Carlos is caught spying on Susan, the ranch hands beat him again and order him to clear off; which he does… that is, after abducting Susan and spiriting her away to a mountain shack. Susan warns Carlos that her husband and his men will come and kill him; but that's exactly what Carlos is anticipating.

A bewilderingly popular example of the "roughie" genre, a sexually sadistic offshoot of the sixties softcore nudie cuties exemplified by the monochrome works of Joseph P. Mawra (Olga's House of Shame), Michael and Roberta Findlay (The Touch of Her Flesh), Byron Mabe (The Bushwhacker), and Barry Mahon (The Beast That Killed Women) but was truly the bread and butter of producing/directing team Bob Cresse (Love Camp 7) and Lee Frost (A Climax of Blue Power) who wrote, directed, and shot the film. Indeed, while the bulk of roughie filmmakers left the genre behind in the sixties – or, at least, mellowed out its "rougher" elements during the interim period before hardcore took off – Cresse and Frost went full color and attempted to give more bang for the audience buck.

Billed as "91 minutes of Freudian fury", Hot Spur does indeed move past the mere queasy, stripped down atmosphere of many of the urban-shot, bare apartment set entries not only with its wild west setting (however minimalist) but also in depicting the film's protagonist not as an oedipal-obsessed or sexually impotent deviate among normal people but as a victim of trauma who identifies with the aggressor rather than the victim. Although Carlo's abduction of Susan and even his initial torture of her is a means to an end, it devolves into an almost fetishistic ritual reenactment of his sister's rape in which he voices the taunts of the perpetrators as he enacts them upon Susan. While Susan never comes to identify with her attacker like so many heroines of the Japanese pink film equivalent of the roughies, and she keeps her wits about her constantly searching for a means of escape, she does express concern for Carlos when she realizes that he cares more about killing her husband and his men than surviving himself. Although Susan initially comes across as nasty, she ultimately proves to be one of the film's most sympathetic characters – along with the dancing girl who flashes a look of defiance directly at the camera while being groped by the brothers – merely a possession to her husband and a pawn to Carlos. In the end, she alone realizes the senselessness of the massacre and emerges from it numb.

Apart from Gordon, it is difficult to gauge the performances despite the presence of some familiar faces like Alderman – who worked in both exploitation and mainstream films as a character actor and also worked behind the camera here as make-up artist (presumably for the gore effects) – and Frost regular Bishop (who would later co-write AIP's Race with the Devil with Frost who began the production in the director's chair), with Arena's nondescript performance embellished by added voiceovers which are more effective for their content than their delivery, and Mascolo hamming it up as he would on Days of Our Lives as the chief recurring villain for nearly fifty years until his death in 2016. Cresse and Frost would further mine the wild west setting for more roughie thrills with the more ambitious The Scavengers (also out this month from Severin Films).


Distributed by Cresse's own Olympic International Films – who dealt directly with theater chains like the The Pussycat Theaters – Hot Spur was sold worldwide and its status as a softcore film during a time when exhibition mediums were becoming limited and not worth the vault storage fees meant that it has been hard to see in optimal shape with whatever source was utilized for Private Screening's VHS tape titled "Love Desperados" unavailable by the time Something Weird Video was dealing directly with filmmakers who were only able to supply a source with burnt-in Danish subtitles (which ran shorter either due to cuts, damage, or possibly being a PAL tape master) while a limited German DVD was apparently a composite of different sources. Severin's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 1.37:1 pillarboxed fullscreen Blu-ray comes from a new 4K scan of the recently rediscovered original camera negative (for which we have to thank Guillaume Le Disez of French boutique label Pulse Video who also discovered the negative for the aforementioned The Scavengers as well as Jess Franco's Count Dracula in the inventories of European distributors). Presumably the negative has not been handled since the French distributors struck an interpositive and internegative for print-making as the image is spotless, vibrant thanks to some actual consideration into the color scheme, and surprisingly sharp for the most part. Shadow detail is not always ideal in some sunny and day-for-night exteriors – the latter better judged digitally here than in some instances – due to the lack of fill lighting, but it is obvious Frost put a bit of care into his photography even if everything else was threadbare. One shot during the molestation of the dancing girl that seemed like a mismatching insert of a woman struggling against a grassy background is now apparent as a quick triggering flashback of the rape of Carlos' sister seen later in the film.


The English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track is very clean, with production dialogue always intelligible along with the aforementioned voiceovers. Sound design is rather spare apart from some foley work of whipping, bear-trapping, and the usual gunplay. Optional English SDH subtitles are included.


The film is accompanied by a new audio commentary by Vinegar Syndrome's Joe Rubin, Severin Films' Andrew Furtado and Bob Cresse friend/former Something Weird general manager Tim Lewis who discuss the ambition of Cresse and Frost, producing Hot Spur for $35,000 versus the average, and provide a handy history of the roughie genre, its outgrowth from the nudist camp and nudie cutie genres, and the differences between the art house/underground of its East Coast practitioners and the Hollywood influence of those on the West Coast like Cresse and Frost. They also discuss the Cresse and Frost partnership, with Cresse the ideas man and Frost the creative one, and the recurring Freudian element of their films. They also reveal that Severin had licensed the film from Something Weird four-to-five years ago and only had a cut Australian print before the negative was recovered.

Also included is a recently-discovered audio discussion on director Lee Frost/producer Bob Cresse by producer David F. Friedman and Something Weird founder Mike Vraney which plays over first 70:38 of the film on a secondary audio track. The track sounds like it was intended to be a Something Weird audio commentary but it is not scene-specific so we have no idea for which film it might have been intended and Severin offers no specifics on the track. Friedman provides a vivid portrait of Cresse who he first met as a child while he working at an amusement pier and later meeting him again out of college doing stand-up comedy. Friedman discusses their rivalry as filmmakers in the exploitation market and pranks that ensued between them, also providing an anecdote about the two of them vying for first exhibition of their similar Hot Spur and Brand of Shame (with Friedman noting that his film was comical because it was so exaggerated compared to the grimmer Cresse/Frost counterpart). He also recalls being double-crossed by Cresse who flew him to Paris, wined and dined him, and offered him the rights for The Blood-Spattered Bride only to put him off on delivery of the negative for a year during which it sprung up from another distributor. Lewis appears late in the track to provide his own recollections of Cresse in his later years.

Offered up in its entirety is the 1963 Frost/Cresse featuret Hollywood's World of Flesh (64:16) purporting to be a documentary on the skin trade in Los Angeles from nudie magazines to photo studios where men can pay to photograph women, hostess bars, prostitution, and the casting couch with Cresse and Frost appearing onscreen as young filmmakers shooting a movie about a voyeur and throwing a wild Hollywood pool party. This film was previously released on video and DVD-R by Something Weird Video.

Also included is "The Casing Director" (6:17) – a 1968 short film starring Cresse and directed by Friedman which is silent and gives comic Cresse an opportunity to pull various faces at stripping models – as well as a theatrical trailer (6:15) and teaser trailer (0:47) for the main feature.


Archival marketing materials reproduced on the reverse of the cover sleeve.


A bewilderingly popular late example of the roughie genre, Hot Spur provides what it promises of "91 minutes of Freudian fury" (more or less).


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