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Toys Are Not for Children - Toys Are Not for Children(Blu Ray) [Arrow Video - 2019]

Toys Are Not for Children is a queasy, troubling, and at times highly twisted example of early 1970ís psychodrama- it follows an emotionally stunted twenty-something woman who obsessed with toys & finding her father. It brings together themes of parental abuse, sex, and manipulation to create a film that slow, but surely creeps up & general unsettles/freaks you out. Here from Arrow Video is a recent Blu Ray reissue of this lesser-known slice of US exploitation- which really wouldnít have been out of place on the recent second volume of the American Horror Project box set- and fittingly we get Stephen Thrower- who curated  said set turning up on the extras, as do respected exploitation/ cult film commentators Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain.

Toys Are Not For Children appeared in 1972, and was the second & last film from Philadelphia based writer & director Stanley H. Brassloff. The film is competently scoped to both slowly unsettle & unnerve- bringing together a lulling almost soapy TV feel, with uneasy psychosexual imagery & unpleasant visual suggestion. I can well imagine grindhouse denizens of the í70s getting a rather nasty shock from this film because itís poster suggests sexploitation genre, as does itís distributor/producer Harry Novak- but there is nothing remotely titling or arousing, really itís the complete opposite- even though there is some female flesh & sexual suggestion present.
 
I first saw Toys Are Not For Children ten or so years back, when I brought it as a Something Weird double bill DVD which also featured 1971 The Toy Box, which was an often lopsided attempt to bring together creepy haunted house elements with soft-core & bizarre horror fed psychedelics. Both films had their impact on me, but Toys Are Not For Children stuck in my mind most- as itís a film that slowly but surely pulls you into its unsettling web.
 
The film is centered around repressed women child Jamie Godard- she is total obsessed with toys, and her estranged father still sends her a toy each birthday- even though she now in her early twenties. She also works in a toy shop where she meets happy-go-lucky fellow employee Eddie- she moves in with him after her seemingly unbalanced mother throws her out, and fairly soon the pair get married. No matter what Eddie does Jamie wonít be in any way intimate with him- instead, she constantly plays with her toys. Along the way, she befriends middle age Pearl- who is seemingly well to do and lives in the nearby city. One day she goes to track down Pearl, finding she a hooker who lives with her cruel & grease haired pimp..as the marriage is not working out between Jamie & Eddie, she moves out from Eddies flat to move in with Pearl, and from here goes on a steady-and-unsettling decline as she goes on the game, and starts doing a daddy & daughter act with her clients. The film moves itís way to a very twisted & uncomfortable finish- which will stay with you long after the film finishes.
 
Toys Are Not For Children
is certainly one of the more distinct & uncomfortable psycho dramaís of the 1970ís- with the largely unknown cast doing well enough, but really itís Brassloff story telling, use of toy imagery, editing,and largely unpleasant suggestion which makes the film work- certainly not in anyway a good time or amusing exploitation, but if your after something thatís going to subtle unsettle & ultimately trouble- this will certainly do the job.
 
Moving onto this new Blu ray disc- and the new 2K scan makes the more bright childlike & candy-colored pallet of the film really pop, as well as giving definition to more formally shadowy & murky elements of the film. The extras start with a commentary track from Kat Ellinger and Heather Drain- this finds the pair mostly discussing the films onscreen action, the film's themes, and itís more shocking undertones- as sadly there not an awful lot known about many of the cast & crew. The pair also dip into talking about similar films, reviews from the time, as well as little spits & spots of info about the cast & director. As tracks go itís nicely chatty & often humor edged- it was an ok one-off listen, though one canít expect more as there are few cast & crew facts to dig up. Next we a twenty-five minute featurette from Stephen Thrower- this finds him discussing Brassloff's career as a whole- going from his early dabblings in stand up comedy, small film crew role, before talking about his only other directorial credit 1968ís roughie Two Girls & A Madman, before of course discussing the film at hand. After this he goes onto talk about Brassloffís post-film career, as he made one or two failed business investments- in told itís a good look at the director's career really ringing the facts out, as best he can for someone not much is known about. The final extra here an around half-an-hour visual essay from Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, discussing the film's themes & the wider sexualization of toys, and what it means. Oh and we, of course, we get an original trailer.
 
Itís great to see Arrow Video tracking down more uncomfortable & queasy exploitation films like Toys Are Not for Children- and once again theyíve certainly done a grand job with both the remastering & extras.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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