The Manhandlers (1973)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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This relic from the drive-in era suffers from a desire to be too many things to too many viewers. The Manhandlers can't decide whether it is a lighthearted smutfest, a sexy "women's drama" in the vein of Roger Corman's "nurse" films or a gritty slice of crime noir and tries to fulfill all three aims in one package. The end result doesn't deliver enough on any front to be satisfying but manages to offer a few diversions for the patient b-movie fan. One of the most surprising aspects of The Manhandlers is the acting: the cast is suprisingly good for this fare, with all three female leads making solid impressions and Henry Brandon turning in a memorably imposing performance as a mobster hood. It also benefits from an effectively gritty visual style (supplied by veteran b-movie cinematographer Robert Caramico) and an amusing musical score that alternates syrupy lounge ballads with cop-show funk reminiscent of the music for Police Woman. However, none of these side-benefits can obscure the fact that The Manhandlers never delivers the kind of racy excitement its title promises - one can only wonder what a more inspired filmmaker like Russ Meyer might have made out of this premise. As a result, The Manhandlers can only be recommended to the most devoted exploitation film fans.