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No look into the world of New York City's Exploitation history is complete without knowing about Cambist Films. Led by Lee Hessel, Cambist was one of the best companies that aimed for a more arty flavor of Sexploitation with some great films that are among the best moments in Exploitation history, with their small line up compared to other companies like American Film Distribution, Joseph Brenner, and Chancellor Films showed it to be a very picky operation. Some of the imported films have a interesting trivia fact of the participation of Jack Curtis (Known for The Flesh Eaters, Distributed by Exploitation notable Mike Ripps and some voice work as Pops Racer for the Speed Racer series) working on the English Dialogue for some of the imported films and even an insert for what turned into 1965's Love Hunger, although his passing in 1970 stopped his valuable contributions. Many of Cambist's best offerings are the Stateside presentations of imported films which include the work of Armando Bo (Put Up or Shut Up), as well as the infamous and very successful Ilsa series mainly Co-Produced by Cinepix in Canada, and their few local productions including Aroused! and Rent-a-Girl have had some acclaim, especially with those discovering these films recently.
Cambist closed up shop in 1978, with a short post-script in Bernie Jacon Films, managed by one of the other leading players in the story.
1964 - Daniella By Night and The Unsatisfied
Cambist's 1960's history started out strong with a 1964 release of Max Pecas' Daniella By Night, originally from Audubon who released it in The States in 1962, and the December, 1964 offering of Ignacio F. Iquino's sexy melodrama The Unsatisfied starring Rita Cadillac. With The Unsatisfied, Curtis served as the Editor of the US Version, marking his debut with the company after The Flesh Eaters, while also it has been noted that he has an uncredited cameo as the voice of the Deejay.
1965 - Love Hunger and Rent a Girl
Alberto Dubois' Argentinian Drama Love Hunger was given an August, 1965 premiere in Chicago, although with an added color insert helped by Curtis which became the focus of the advertising campaign for the mainly B&W film (This sequence would serve as an Extra on the Something Weird DVD to The Psycho Lover). Cambist followed this up later in the year with it's first film made entirely in New York, Rent a Girl, which clearly was a strong entry in the Roughie scene dominated by other companies in the area, Thanks to fine performances and a good choice of background music, the Sexy Roughie Drama about an underground erotic group with an S/M flavor played well.
Rent-a-Girl would reportedly see censorship problems in Illinois in Spring, 1966 as well as 1967.
1966 - Aroused! and The Pink Pussy (Where Sin Lives)
Anton Holden's Aroused started off 1966 with what could be Cambist's finest film presented in The 60's; a very strong film about a maniac who kills hookers, the group of streetwalkers who plan revenge, and a Vice Squad cop who gets a little too involved with the case. Some sequences may have sparked moments in William Lustig's 1980 classic Maniac 1980. Another Dubois film, Acosada, was turned into The Pink Pussy (Where Sin Lives), for its other 1966 release (June), featuring a S/M nightclub act (Featured as an Extra on Something Weird Video's Fuego DVD), more strong performances, and help from Jack Curtis who went on to work for other companies after this. Also noted was the East Coast Distribution of AP Stephens' Suburbia Confidential.
Aroused will later be the focus in a trail in Joliet, Ill., as a print was seized at a theater in Will County, Ill before any proper hearing in Late 1968.
1967 - The Deadly Organ
Oddly, Cambist was credited with just one film in 1967, a very quirky, campy, and stylish Horror film by Emilio Vieyra about a masked organist who abducts beautiful women, filling them with Heroin, and making them his slaves. The music used is very effective, giving off a great Midnight show flavor while some of the location scenes are well done. This was turned into Feast of Flesh when it played with Night of the Bloody Apes in The 70's by Jerand Films, another interesting New York based Distributor.
1968 - The Female 70X7, Put Up or Shut Up, and Sappho Darling
1968 was the year of Isabel Sarli, one of the most recognized ladies in Argentina's Exploitation scene thanks mainly to her films Directed by Armando Bo, although it was a film that was Directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson which was a March, 1968 release in the States, the Dramatic The Woman 70X7 originally released in 1962. In August, 1968, Cambist released the English Version of Armando Bo's 1958 film Put Up or Shut Up, sometimes known as Put Out or shut Up and Positions of Love (Sarli's breakout hit, Fuego, would be released in 1969 by Haven International Pictures). Another interesting original production followed in December, 1968 with Albert Zugsmith's Sappho Darling, a production that was claimed to have been filmed in Stockholm and directed by Gunnar Steele, although cameos by such Exploitation notables such as Julia Blackburn, Gary Kent, and Uschi Digart bring the production more closer to LA - such claims were the trend of the day.
In 1969, The Female 70X7 was the focus of another lawsuit involving prints being seized before proper hearing.
1969/1970 - The Minx and Relations
The Minx was a Made in New York film by Raymond Jacobs which had the distinction of having a soundtrack album that would serve as the final album by The Cyrcle ("Red Rubber Ball" was their biggest hit), although it has been seen as one of the company's lesser films. More memorable was the Danish pick up of Relations by Hans Abramson and Brandon Chase, the later soon to be a major player in US Exploitation history with running Group One Film Distribution through The 70's and Early 80's. Gertie Young's performance looking younger than she actually was was a breakthrough for Stateside audiences who later saw her in 1,001 Danish Delights.
The 1970's - More Imports, George Romero, and Ilsa
The 70's moved on with films like 1,001 Swedish Delights (US Release 1971) and, very importantly to the followers of European Erotica, the Swedish film Anita starring Christina Lindberg (1973), although by 1975 their imported offerings were of a much lighter fare including The Sensuous Housewife (US Release 1975). Cambist also distributed John G. Avildsen's Cry Uncle (1971, later to be re-issued by Troma)a couple of films by George A. Romero, There's Always Vanilla (1971) and the better remembered The Crazies (1973), adding onto a story that was just beginning after Night of the Living Dead, John G. Avildsen's Cry Uncle (1971, later to be re-issued by Troma), and the British classic Vampyres (1974). Unlike many other companies who faded away with lesser films, Cambist's final years included one of the greatest Exploitation films of all time, Ilsa: She Wolf of The S.S. (1975), and its Ilsa: Harem Keeper of The Oil Sheiks sequel (1976), with "castrated" R-rated versions prepared in Late 1976..
For a short time in 1979, Bernie Jacon, who worked for the company for years, took over distribution of a good amount of the Cambist catalog under his own name as well as taking on one final fitting Exploitation title: Jess Franco's Ilsa: The Wicked Warden.