The Love Cult (1966)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Sexploitation  |   Run Time - 65 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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At one point in The Love Cult, the titular mixture of sex and religion is appraised by one character as "an idea as old as the hills," and herein lies the problem with this slow-moving skin show. Perhaps the topic had more bite when the picture first saw the dim light of the grindhouse, but after years of very public falls from grace for a variety of religious figures, this tale of hubris won't be terribly shocking to the modern viewer. The Great Eric is a small-time stage hypnotist desperate to raise his financial status ("There's gotta be a way to turn the suckers loose from their dough!"). While watching an evangelist on television, he is inspired to combine his smooth tongue with a cleric's robe, opening up a church that forsakes the promise of life after death for a sexual heaven here on earth. Re-christened "Brother Eros," he preaches physical liberation and erotic fulfillment, and a small dedicated following happily pours money into his pockets to take part in the cult's ribald revivals. Naturally, Eros gets greedy, so when a wealthy older woman offers her mansion as a temple, trouble follows in the guise of adultery, rape, and murder. There are no reliable credits for The Love Cult, but a few of the players were regulars in exploitation films of the day, working for directors like Barry Mahon and Doris Wishman. The amount of onscreen skin is paltry, so the viewer's titillation is dependant on the sleaziness of the story and the charisma of the actors, and neither element is particularly strong. Eros' popeyed mug is unpleasant enough, but his craven whining for filthy lucre is interrupted only by arrogant proselytizing once his ship comes in; he's a thoroughly repellent and one-dimensional character who never even flirts with being interesting. The Love Cult bears a passing resemblance to Timothy Carey's lost masterwork The World's Greatest Sinner. A hedonistic religious cult, a sneering omnipotent narrator, a raw, downbeat conclusion featuring a lot of screaming; most likely it's all a coincidence, but the fact that this dull skin flick enjoys healthy circulation while Carey's film still molders in a lonely vault somewhere is criminal. For a more outrageous take on the "sex religion" theme, dig up the similarly titled Love Camp (aka Die Todesgoettin des Liebescamps), a German-Grecian production starring the dark, lithesome Laura Gemser as a seductive evangelist called "The Divine One."