The Movie Waffler New to Amazon Prime Video - TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN | The Movie Waffler

New to Amazon Prime Video - TOYS ARE NOT FOR CHILDREN

toys are not for children review
In an attempt to track down her absent father, a young woman turns to prostitution.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Stanley H. Brassloff

Starring: Marcia Forbes, Harlan Cary Poe, Evelyn Kingsley, Luis Arroyo, Fran Warren

Toys Are Not For Children bluray

Even by the standards of 1970s exploitation cinema, director Stanley H. Brassloff's 1972 sex-shocker Toys Are Not For Children registers an 11 out of 10 on the 'What did I just watch?' scale.

The film concerns Jamie (Marcia Forbes), a troubled young woman who loves her collection of toys a little too much. The movie opens with her snuggling up to a fluffy toy soldier in a decidedly sexual manner, at which point her disapproving mother, Edna (Fran Warren, a stage star who claims she was drunk when she agreed to star in the film), bursts in and catches her going to (toy) town on the lucky doll.

Toys Are Not For Children review

Through some bluntly delivered backstory, we learn that Jamie's sexual obsession with her toys stems from her father walking out on her as a young girl. The only contact she now has with her old man comes through the toys he sends her every year on her birthday. She's gonna need tissues for these Daddy issues.

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When she's kicked out of her home, Jamie moves to New York and takes a job at a toy shop (uh-oh), where she meets and marries co-worker Charlie (Harlan Cary Poe). You would think working in retail would have taught Charlie that you should always try before you buy, but he enters into marriage with Jamie's cherry wine still very much uncorked, and his attempts to change this on their wedding night results in more heavy resistance than heavy petting.

Figuring he's not getting any at home, Charlie begins to pick up other women at one of those gloriously tacky nightclubs that were so popular in the late '60 and early '70s. Meanwhile Jamie befriends aging prostitute Pearl (Evelyn Kingsley) and her sleazy pimp Eddie (Luis Arroyo, whose acting style seems to have inspired Nicolas Cage). Knowing her father was fond of ladies of the night, Jamie becomes a hooker herself, specialising in elderly male clients in the hopes that she'll run into Daddy at work.

Toys Are Not For Children review

Toys Are Not For Children boasts the sort of sordid plotline that wouldn't have been out of place in a celebrated European arthouse classic of the era. You can imagine a French or Swedish filmmaker actually pulling off this premise with a straight face, but there's something about the puritanical innocence of the US that makes it impossible to take this sort of thing seriously when presented by Americans.

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Brassloff only directed two movies - this and 1968's Two Girls for a Madman - and Toys Are Not For Children boasts all the symptoms of a movie made by someone for whom filmmaking doesn't come naturally. With most scenes shot with a variation of either pockmark-revealing extreme close-ups or plonking the camera a few feet away from the actors and letting it roll, the movie has a stiffness that only makes the serious delivery of the plot all the more laughable. With the amateurish Forbes' wide-eyed innocent sucked into the seedy side of '70s New York, the movie at times reminded me of 1995's The Brady Bunch Movie, in which the titular '70s TV clan are offset against the cynicism of the '90s.

Toys Are Not For Children review

Hitchcock always maintained that suspense was superior to shock, but Toys Are Not For Children makes a compelling argument against this idea. Compare the complete lack of suspense in Jamie's climactic 'will she, won't she?' encounter with her long lost Daddy to the power of the incestuous reveal in Park Chan-Wook's Oldboy and you may begin to doubt old Alfred.

Despite how nonsensical it all seems, or perhaps because of how nonsensical it all seems, Toys Are Not For Children is an easier watch than many of its '70s exploitation 'quickie' cousins. It's helped greatly by some surprisingly appealing cinematography by Rolph Laube, whose credits also include Sylvester Stallone's soft-porn debut The Party at Kitty and Stud's, and a colour palette Douglas Sirk might suggest toning down. It will probably best be appreciated by fans of cult director Anna Biller (Viva; The Love Witch), as far more than the European horrors she's often linked with, it's American quickie melodramas like this that Biller's really riffing on.

Toys Are Not For Children is on Amazon Prime Video UK now.