The Love Bus (1974)

Although Shaun Costello would be the first to adopt a critical stance towards his own work, the alias of “Oscar Tripe” should in no way reflect perceived poor quality on the handful of freewheeling fornicatory farces attached to it, amongst which his notorious salvage job Teenage Nurses (previously Doug Collins’ monumentally misguided An American in Bethesda, proudly proclaimed as being “the world’s first vaudeville porno musical” !), the “uh-oh, your wife’s a secret porn star” cautionary tale Lady on the Couch and his revitalizing of the old coffee, tea or me routine with Come Fly With Us.  Shot over the weekend in New York’s scenic Sullivan County, The Love Bus probably qualifies as both the most narratively coherent and carnally creative of the lot.

Mighty strange credits, especially regarding the female performers, presumably need some clearing up for all but the most adamant adult aficionados.  Billed as “Penny Ashcroft” and conceivably making her dirty movie debut is Jennifer Jordan, an underrated thespian whose inexperience at this early stage unfortunately shows as Costello’s concise screenplay allowed her to ad-lib most of the dialogue as profoundly conflicted recent divorcee Barbara Malone attempting to adjust to the swinging single life but admittedly experiencing problems “relating to men”.  While she never breaks character, Jordan’s incessant whinging will eventually wear viewers down like Chinese water torture.  As perpetual patient of dodgy shrink Dr. Scheisekopf (German for “shithead” !), played with lipsmacking lascivity by the one and only Jamie Gillis, she’s in shock when he informs her that their extremely hands on therapy has run its course, suggesting a singles weekend at the Hotel Gross in the Catskills as a viable alternative.

Boarding the bus at Port Authority’s the usual selection of ’70s oddballs, including inveterate birdwatcher Mr. Finch – entertainingly essayed by Marc Stevens whose breathless exclamation of “a double-breasted sapsucker” provides a surefire laugh-getter – and spoiled millionaire Charlie Robinson, a plum role for Leo Lovemore whose common law wife Linda briefly appears in a non-sex capacity at the start, setting the stage for story development as redneck farmer Amos Johnson’s very pregnant better half.  Envious of the Gross Hotel’s big business with townie tourists, Amos schemes to deviate Greyhounds from their chosen route, Psycho style but with far more benevolent results.  He’s portrayed by the formidable Sonny Landham who parlayed his porno past into fleeting fight film prominence, garnering something of a cult following for playing the Billy Bear character in Walter Hill’s surprise smash hit 48 Hrs. which launched the career of Eddie Murphy and revived Nick Nolte’s.  Running for Governor of Kentucky in 2002, much like his Predator co-stars Arnold Schwarzenegger (California) and Jesse Ventura (Minnesota), Landham had to forfeit when campaign funding fell through but took another stab as the Libertarian Party candidate for US Senate in 2008, this time thwarting himself by rampantly rallying for Arabian genocide !

As the bus, driven by compelling character actor Kevin André in an unusually subdued turn (contrasting with his flamboyantly campy creation of the Ghost of Christmas Past in Costello’s The Passions of Carol), is none too convincingly run off the road, the passengers naturally enough come looking for shelter at the Johnson joint, conveniently paving the way for the pic’s pornographic party pieces.  Happy go lucky Levi Richards (a/k/a “Rick Livermore”), one of adult’s earliest bi-coastal workhorses whose career stretches all the way back to Jack Genero’s 1971 Kitty’s Pleasure Palace, is the first to fall foul of deliriously dedicated crotch watcher (“I like big crotches ! Small crotches ! Kiddie Crotches !”) Ginger Snaps, a low rent starlet spotted in Carter Stevens’ faux lavish The Mount of Venus and Roberta Findlay’s supremely silly spy spoof Slip Up.  Jordan attempts to accomodate Marc’s mighty member on the swing set, more of a hindrance than a help as it turns out, then stretches out Sapphically with butch roommate Judith Hamilton (sporting a becoming bob haircut), Sonny joining them for a solid threesome he makes them swear “not to tell the Missus about”.

Meanwhile back at the doctor’s office, Gillis is breaking in new patient Rita Davis (billed as “Rhonda Blake”), a minor league strumpet with surprisingly classy credentials, appearing in Gerard Damiano’s regrettably under the radar Portrait, Bill Milling’s When a Woman Calls and Radley Metzger’s Naked Came the Stranger.  I was amazed to find their fist insertion scene, allegedly the first in feature-length fuck films, preserved in its unflinching entirety on Video-X-Pix’s current DVD release.  Perhaps even more so to see it played for laughs – remember this is the same director who considers his notorious Enema Bandit shocker Water Power as “the funniest thing he has ever shot” ! – with the thicklipped Rita’s frenzied mantra of “I want your whole arm up me” and Gillis’ post-coital gag unsuccessfully trying to pull fist from furry fissure vying for incredulous guffaws.

Saving the best for last lustwise, harried tour guide Day Jason (credits : “Daniela Di Orici”) does her darnedest to tempt the recalcitrant Robinson back to the bus, inadvertently pulling the captured Costello (as a previously waylaid chauffeur) out of the convertible couch to prove three’s company.  Heat builds to boiling point as the fearless filmmaker explores undeniable bi-curious leanings.  Not only does he straddle Lovemore’s jutting crotch in the pretzel position – rarely attempted in straight porn for obvious reasons – to allow Jason to perform a double blowjob but he would just as soon flick his tongue along her labia while she’s being plowed by Leo’s lingam, making definite mouth to member contact in the process which will make tragically macho men whince.

Photographed with a care and concern for composition that belies its modest budget by his customary partner in crime Bill Markle, The Love Bus provides another treasure trove for the filmmaker’s personalized pilfering of legitimate cinema soundtracks, most notably several selections from Claude Bolling’s ragtime score for the 1970 French gangster saga Borsalino.  Sweeping instrumental renditions of the Al Dubin/Harry Warren standard I Only Have Eyes for You and the Gershwins’ melancholy But Not for Me also surface along the way.

Directed, written and edited by Shaun Costello (as Oscar Tripe). Produced by Costello for Hellenic Pictures. Photographed by Bill Markle. Starring Jennifer Jordan (as Penny Ashcroft) (Barbara Malone), Day Jason (as Daniela Di Orici) (Gloria), Jamie Gillis (Dr. Scheisekopf), Sonny Landham (Amos Johnson), Judith Hamilton (Candy), Marc Stevens (Mr. Finch), Leo Lovemore (Charlie Robinson), Levi Richards (Bill), Rita Davis (Miss Tudor), Ginger Snaps (Crotch Fancier), Shaun Costello (George), Kevin André (Ralph Kramden) & Linda Lovemore (Lucy Mae Johnson). Running time : 75 minutes.

Couch Therapy : Doctor Jamie Gillis tries to let patient Jennifer Jordan down easy

By Dries Vermeulen

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