Love is a Four Letter Word
Love is a Four Letter Word aka The Love Girls (1966) is a low-budget, "grindhouse" sexploitation film released by Producer's International Films. This black-and-white feature was directed by R. L. (Lee) Frost and written and produced by R. W. (Bob) Cresse. (Frost and Cresse were key figures in the exploitation film industry in the 1960s.) Typical with films in this genre, the cast consists of unknown, mostly amateur, actors: Forman Shane, Diane Michaels, Yvette Marne, Michelle Lee, Gina Barrone, et al.
Credits and alternate title
Sometime after the film's premiere, Frost and Cresse promoted it with a different title, The Love Girls. And most of the video and DVD releases that followed (including the Cinema Epoch disc reviewed here) use The Love Girls in the box art. However, Love is a Four Letter Word is still seen at the start of the film as it could not be removed without reshooting the entire venetian blind sequence.
There are also inconsistent records regarding the release date of this film. The year 1966 is hand-printed in Roman numerals on the blinds in the opening credits. However, most film sources incorrectly list the year as 1964, most likely due to the last two digits, VI, being transposed as IV.
Despite the voyeuristic theme, this darkly perverse story is the antithesis of the colorful "nudie-cutie" sex comedies of the period. In fact, making an anti-cutie — which inspired the "roughie" subgenre — may have been the impetus for making this film. However, this movie lacks the violent, mysoginistic elements of a typical roughie. Instead, it falls somewhere in between these two categories.
Forman Shane plays a 20-year-old student at a California college. His beautiful girlfriend (Diane Michaels) keeps putting off having sex with him for some mysterious reason. The frustrated student is obsessed with sexual fantasies by day and becomes a perverted voyeur at night. He prowls around peering into windows, visits seedy strip clubs, watches coin-operated peep shows at adult shops and plays 16mm porn flicks in his apartment.
As the resident Peeping Tom on campus, he constantly comes across lovely coeds undressing in front of windows and even watches a kinky sorority initiation ceremony. Eventually he spies on his girlfriend and learns why she's been putting him off, with tragic results.
The spanking scene
Five sorority sisters clad in black underwear and stockings perform an initiation ritual for two new pledges. In a scene resembling D/s doggie training, the initiates, wearing dog collars, are led on leashes as they humbly crawl into the room on all fours. "Kiss the floor, slaves", the leader orders, then adds: "You are nothing more than dogs at our feet."
The pledges are then stripped naked and bound in a standing position with their arms held high by ropes. They are menaced with a switchblade knife (the "blade of truth") and told they will feel its cold sting if they fail to stand still. After the girls are blindfolded, the sorority leader slashes at their breasts with an ice cube as they scream in terror.
Then the "sacred paddle" is presented — a standard wooden sorority paddle engraved with Greek letters. The pledges are told they must endure the beating to come if they are to be accepted in the sorority. The leader holds the big paddle with both hands and swings hard, again and again. About 20 vigorous smacks are applied, half of which are seen on camera. (This appears to be the first fetishistic sorority/fraternity paddling scene on film.)
A video clip of this scene is available for viewing at Internet Archive
A color still from the initiation scene appears on the cover of the 1968 one-shot magazine Fetish in Films (photo).
Working together, Frost and Cresse made many taboo-breaking sexploitation films with sadistic scenes of corporal punishment. These include: Mondo Bizarro, The Forbidden, Mondo Freudo (all 1966), the roughie Western Hot Spur, The Animal, and The Pick-Up (all 1968).
Forman Shane went on to star in The Secret Sex Lives of Romeo and Juliet (1969), a nudie comedy with an erotic whipping scene.