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Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Label: Something Weird Video
"The Hard-Hitting Inside Story of the Magazine Publishing Industry... And the Reckless Men Who Run It!" HERSCHELL GORDON LEWIS’ second film and the first he directed, Living Venus is loosely based on the life of Hugh Hefner but so fictionalized as to avoid any possible legal repercussions.
Magazine editor Jack Norwall (frequent Lewis star WILLIAM KERWIN) quits his cushy job at Newlywed Magazine when the publisher becomes irate over a controversial cover photographed by a talented freelancer, Ken Carter (HARVEY KORMAN in his feature film debut). Jack retorts, "I know what the public wants and I’m gonna give it to them!" At this point he goes home, walks out on his clingy girlfriend, Diane, and, inspired by a Venus de Milo statuette he swipes from an antique shop in a drunken stupor, decides to create a new magazine for men, Pagan.
While sobering up at a bar, Jack finds his real-life Venus when he sees Peggy (DANICA D’HONDT), a feisty cocktail waitress. "You’ll be famous — I guarantee it!" he assures, and whisks the starry-eyed beauty to sleepy-eyed Ken’s studio for a cheesecake photo shoot. Jack then convinces a major distributor to back Pagan, and in no time, it becomes a huge success. However, both Jack and Ken want Peggy, and vie for her affection. Peggy, more concerned with her rising star, marries the lecherous Jack, while Ken is replaced by a beret-wearing lothario.
But Jack doesn’t want his wife prancing around in the nude anymore and makes her his "promotion manager," basically pimping her for advertising while he consorts with the models. Peggy starts drinking heavily and, without Ken’s photographic talent, Pagan loses circulation and heads down the toilet. At Pagan’s two year anniversary bash, the distributor informs Jack that he’s pulling the plug on the magazine unless he gets Ken back. Too arrogant to admit defeat, Jack proceeds to have his swinging party anyway (which features the comedic ramblings of Adventures of Lucky Pierre star, BILLY FALBO, and music by BOB SCOBEY’s Famous Band) which ultimately ends in someone’s demise...
Well made, compelling, and featuring some fleeting nudity, Living Venus is often overlooked in favor of Lewis’ more extreme titles which is a shame since it’s surprisingly good. Kerwin and Korman had previously starred together in the meat-slicing short Carving Magic which led to their casting here. The best actor Lewis ever worked with. Kerwin would eventually go on to star in ten more Lewis epics — usually billed as "Thomas Wood" or "Thomas Sweetwood" — though one of them, 1966’s An Eye for an Eye, would never be released.
From the 35mm armless negative that’s The Answer to Every Lonely Guy’s Dream!" — Lisa Petrucci