Based on a play by Richard Reich, who adapted his own work with the help of director Nussbaum, PETS is divided into three seemingly random acts that somehow mesh perfectly together. The film follows Bonnie, played to perfection by the late Candice Rialson, as she aides in a kidnapping/robbery, takes a job as a nude model, enters into a lesbian relationship, harbors and beds a reluctant criminal, witnesses a murder and eventually becomes the main attraction in a private zoo. On paper such a storyline might sound somewhat haphazard if not completely illogical but the final product works and works well. Bubbling with far out scenarios, strings of hip dialogue and an abundance of gratuitous nudity, PETS is damn near exploitation bliss.
Having run away from home, Bonnie (Candice Rialson, billed as Candy
Rialson) is tracked down by her controlling brother (Mike Cartel) who acts more
like a pimp than a concerned sibling. Thankfully big bro gets his ass handed
to him by a couple of brothers, allowing Bonnie enough time to escape into the
California night. The next morning while strolling along the beach that serves
as her bedroom, Bonnie is befriended by an attractive con woman named Pat (Teri
Guzman, WOMEN UNCHAINED) who instantly sees potential in the fresh faced runaway.
Throwing her new friend into the fire within five minutes of their introduction,
Pat volunteers Bonnie in assisting her trick, a married businessman (Brett Parker),
into taking them both for a ride in his convertible. As they barrel down the
highway letting the wind whip through their hair, Pat pulls a gun on the distracted
driver and forces him to veer off onto a side street. After tying him up Pat
forces the horn dog to hand over his house keys and divulge where he stashes
his cash. Taking his annoying mutt as collateral, Pat high tails it back into
town to steal the man’s money, leaving Bonnie behind and in change. Naturally
Bonnie tortures the man with her bountiful bosom before realizing that the probability
of Pat returning with her cut of the loot is slim to none.
Leaving the poor sap tied up, Bonnie makes her way back into town where she is picked up by Geraldine (Joan Blackman, BLUE HAWAII), a local artist who has been secretly eyeballing the blonde beauty since the first act. Taking the hungry child in, Geraldine agrees to feed and house Bonnie in exchange for her posing nude. Agreeing to her terms, the relationship between Geraldine and Bonnie begins to blossom into much more than a mutually beneficial business arrangement as Bonnie begins to take on the roll of bottom to Geraldine’s top. Having inspired her finest work to date, Geraldine brings her inspiration to her latest show where she is introduced to eccentric gallery owner Victor Stackman (Ed Bishop, INVASION: UFO). Instantly smitten by the young model, Victor prods his artist for further details but learns very little as Geraldine isn’t about to share Bonnie with any man. Unfortunately for Geraldine, Bonnie does not share the same sentiment. The itch for a man's touch begins to grow in Bonnie and when a young destitute named Ron (Matt Green) breaks into their house, she goes to great length to make him feel at home. In retaliation for her heartbreak, Geraldine shoots Ron in front of Bonnie, sending the confused girl running back into the streets. Lost without her muse, Geraldine searches high and low for Bonnie only to come up empty handed. That is until Victor approaches her with proposition that could reunite her with Bonnie, though she may not be very happy with what she finds.
Star Candice Rialson sadly passed away in 2006 but she left behind a body of work befitting the brightest B-movie beauty. Speaking of PETS to Celebrity Sleuth magazine (Vol. 11, #6) Candice recalls, “That was the first time I ever did anything – y’know – topless and I was really kinda nervous about doing it. But by the end of the day, I didn’t care at all. It didn’t bother me in the least.” Clearly Candice carried this attitude throughout her short-lived career as after PETS, her first featured role, she would find little trouble finding work. Staring in a number of Corman (both Roger and Julie) produced titles, including SUMMER SCHOOL TEACHERS, CANDY STRIPE NURSES and HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, Candice rounded out the decade with decidedly more bizarre fare such as CHATTERBOX, in which she played a women with a talking vagina. Candice turned her back on acting before the dawning of the 1980s and never looked back, which is a damn shame as she was both a natural talent and beauty.
grey market staple, PETS finally receives an official 1.78:1 widescreen anamorphic
DVD release courtesy of Code Red DVD. Unfortunately their presentation of PETS
is a bit of a mess. Deep yellow and green emulsion lines battle for screen time,
often framing the action (rather befittingly) as if shot from behind neon bars,
dirt and debris can be found scattered about like pet dander knocked from a
couch cushion and there are a handful of instances of frame jumps and missing
dialogue. Likewise, the film's English mono track is peppered with pops and
crackles. Given the trashoholic tone of the film, such imperfections in many
ways actually add to the film's enjoyment. It’s the type of experience
that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez tried to emulate with GRINDHOUSE
and I have no problem with that as long as I know ahead of time what it is I’m
walking into. There is a disclaimer before the feature that states that proper
elements were not available from the rights owners so a theatrical print had
to be used.
Special features include the film's original trailer, which is presented full frame and appears to be taken from a video source as there is a bit of a tracking issue going on at the bottom of the frame. Also included is two and half minutes of footage so damaged they were excised altogether and presented here as deleted scenes. The scenes in question primarily deal with the fallout of Brett Parker’s character as he returns home and tries his best to explain to his wife what he it was he had been doing all afternoon. Trailers for FAMILY HONOR, BRUTE CORPS, DEVIL'S EXPRESS and THE STATUE round out a tremendously entertaining release that despite its technical flaws is worth seeking out. (Jason McElreath)
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