It's somewhat ironic that the fleshy limbs dangling from their torsos are sometimes called "stems," because that's precisely what the attractive stems belonging to the ladies of Sweet Sugar (a.k.a. She Devils in Chains) have to put up with on a daily basis. Let me stop you there for a second, "dangling from their torsos"? Who talks like that? Oh, shit. I know what you're doing. You're about to start typing a bunch of words that revolve around legs, aren't you? Please tell me you are, because I love it when you write about those kooky appendages. Every time you go on and on about gams, stems, wheels... whatever (give us a spin, doll), my crotch seems to go from being a dry, brittle place that no-one wants to lick to a profoundly wet one filled with fresh gullies, humid nooks, and the dampest of crannies. Well, fear not my soon-to-be moist friend, that's exactly what I plan on doing. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, stems. Human females, as almost everyone knows, are born with stems (it's true, human males also have stems, but nobody I know wants to ejaculate anything of note in their general direction). As they mature, these so-called stems not only increase in size, but they acquire shape and definition, which will allow them to carry out a wide array of tasks. You know what else on this planet has stems and grows slowly over time? Plants, or, to be more specific, sugar cane and marijuana. A woman's stems, just like their stems, are highly sought after commodities, ones that have spawned entire industries whose sole existence is centered around exploiting the metaphorical meat swinging seductively off their succulent branches. Sure, they may sprout naturally from your body and the ground respectively, but like all natural resources, there are going to be those who will want to make a substantial profit by selling your stem cells to the highest bidder.
A brunette prostitute named Sugar (Phyllis Davis) working the streets of, oh, let's say, Tijuana, Mexico, all of a sudden finds her sexy, perspiration-stained stems standing in the middle of a sugar cane field in, oh, let's say, Costa Rica, after being framed for marijuana possession (don't ask me why Mexico is sending its drug offenders to Costa Rica, I'm just making this up as I go along). Anyway, did I just blow your mind or what? What are the odds that three of the most important stems in the long and somewhat storied history of stems would wind up in a locked battle with one another? Pretty remote, if you ask me. While the leafy stems of the marijuana plant are the reason Sugar is sentenced to two years hard labour, it's the lanky, course stems of the sugar cane plant that end up causing her stems the most grief. You'd think they would get along since they're both sweet, extremely tough, and go great with your morning coffee. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system and an amateur mad scientist named Dr. John (Angus Duncan) have driven a wedge between Sugar and her botanical allies.
Arriving at a remote plantation in a truck with a bunch of other ladies, whose stems are just well-proportioned as Sugar's (and so they should be, as they're always trying to flee, and, as most personal trainers will tell you, fleeing is great for tightening up those pesky calve muscles), the wily prostitute in the purple mini-dress is handed a machete and told to cut sugar cane all the day for very little money.
Speaking of garments that are miniature in stature, a leggy (which should go without saying in a film as leg-friendly as this one, but I thought hers were extraordinary) woman in a yellow mini-skirt does most of the fleeing during the film's early going. Sadly, the strength of her extraordinary legs let her down, as she is easily caught by one of the guards. After punching her in the face a few times (a gentle slap would have suffice, but this guy was obviously in a punching mood), the guard prepares to collect his free rape. Oh, didn't you know? The plantation guard rule book clearly states that any guard who catches an inmate while attempting to flee shall be rewarded with one free rape. Luckily for the leggy rapee, Simone (Ella Edwards), a fellow prisoner, decides to help out by placating the rapists with her afro-centric charm. "Why mess with that scrawny thing when you can have me," she tells the guards before fornicating with one of them in the bushes. And it's good thing she stepped in when she did, as the guard's partner was just about to remove her iconic yellow mini-skirt (the plantation rule book also states that the guard's free rape may be shared with up to five other guards).
Just as the women are starting to come to terms with the grim reality of their arid surroundings, they meet Burgos (Cliff Osmond), the burly brute who oversees daily operation of the plantation with a hairy-knuckled fist, Max (Albert Cole), a mustache-sporting guard who sees himself as some sort of renaissance man, and Ricky (James Houghton), a horny yet socially awkward guard, who, with the help of Max, hopes to romance one of the new arrivals. Yeah, that's right, I said "romance." It would seem that not all the guards are dirty psychopaths. In fact, Max and Ricky don't seem like they belong there at all, as their carefree attitudes seem more in line with that of camp counselors than prison guards. Anyway, Dr. John, the aforementioned amateur mad scientist, is the actual owner of the plantation and shows up on horseback just as the ladies are getting off the truck.
While perusing some of the film's promotional material, I couldn't help but notice that all the women on the poster, including Phyllis Davis, are wearing cut-off jean shorts. After I was finished studying it, I thought to myself: There's no way they actually dress like this in the movie. If my scepticism sounds a little misguided, you have to understand, I've been burned many times in the past by films that openly flaunt their cut-off jean short-related content. Ultimately failing to deliver the denim-deficient goods I so wantonly crave, these jean-short inadequate films are a blight on humanity. Well, you should have seen my reaction the moment Sugar was handed a pair of cut-off jean shorts along with her machete, I was bouncing up and down like a hyperactive little girl with an unfunny form of cerebral palsy.
It turns out, cut-off jean shorts are standard issue for all the female workers at Dr. John's super happy fun time plantation and jean short emporium, thus nullifying any chance that Sweet Sugar might wind up being a real stinker. After all, I got my cut-off jean shorts, and that's all that really matters in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, the film, directed by Michel Levesque, is sleazy in all the right places, and takes the leggy women in peril genre to new and unsavoury heights.
Okay, I'll admit it, the heights are definitely unsavoury, but they're not all that new (it's pretty basic stuff when looked at from a cockeyed angle). I know, that whole bit I did about stems makes the film seem more like a tangled trip through an intellectual vortex, than a seedy slab of uncouth exploitation. But I'm one of few people who has the skills necessary to decipher what writers R.Z. Samuel (story) and Don Spencer (screenplay) were trying to convey with their cinematic examination of the complex relationship that exists between a woman's legs and the plant world. In other words, you're gonna have to trust me when it comes to the newness that Sweet Sugar brings to the table.
As any sane individual with all their faculties intact, I want to start lavishing praise on the quality of the catfight that takes place in this movie. But then I remembered, I despise the term "catfight." To call the campfire brouhaha that Phyllis Davis's Sugar and Ella Edwards' Simone engage in over Mojo (Timothy Brown), a voodoo priest, a "catfight," is a tad demeaning. Besides, why would you call their dust-up a "catfght" when the film features an actual cat fight?!? You heard correctly, there's a fight and it involves cats.
You see, Dr. John, on top of boasting about the agreeable shape of his well looked after genitals, loves to tinker with science (the guy's a huge fan of ethnopharmacology). And, get this, he's currently working on a serum that will rid women of their frigidity. When he's not devising convoluted ways to force women to appreciate the rectum-challenging girth of his penis, he can be seen bragging about his greatest triumph: a serum that drives docile kitties insane. Itching to try out his new serum, Dr. John, with the help of a couple of guards, throws a bunch of drug-addled cats in the direction of Sugar and her leggy clique. Scratching and clawing at their defenseless thighs with an abrasion-causing glee, the hopped-up felines make mince meat out of their soft, supple flesh.
Keen observers will notice that Dolores (Pamela Collins), a bewildered blonde with a terrible work ethic, is knocked to the ground like a sack of dirt during the cat chucking incident. Unlike Sugar, whose moxie is unshakable, Dolores seems ill-equipped to handle the hardships that come with lengthy sentences at out of the way labour camps. In an act of pure naivety, Dolores tries to ingratiate herself with Dr. John ("Forget it, LaRue. This is Polynesiantown") by playing the underage damsel in distress card. However, instead of receiving preferential treatment, she ends up getting experimented on. What kind of experiments, you ask? Well, let's just say, there the kind of experiments that make you walk funny when all is said and done.
When Dr. John says, "take off your sweater... it's perfectly all right, I'm a doctor," to Dolores, that should have been her cue to jump out the nearest window (don't worry, honey, the sweat that has been accumulating in your socks over the course of the day will cushion your landing, that is, if you're lucky enough to land on your feet). Oh, and just because someone says they're a doctor, doesn't mean they're an actual doctor. In fact, no-one is really a doctor, it's a completely made up vocation, much like, "psychiatrist" or "music critic."
I'm tired of Dolores and her average, cock-teasing ways, let's get back to Sugar and her savage, cock-pleasing ways. Grabbing a guard named Carlos (Darl Severns), she literally plucks him out of the jungle, in order to feed her voracious appetite for coitus, Sugar takes a bath with him in Dr. John's bath! You gotta admire Sugar's audacity. I mean, taking a bath, and, not to mention, having sex in his bed, was a pretty ballsy move, especially when you consider the fact that Sugar had previously rebuffed Dr. John and his soapy schlong while he was standing in the very same bathtub. But that's just way Sugar operates. She doesn't think about the consequences of her actions, she lives in the moment, and that's why she's such an appealing character. I don't think there are any actresses working today who could possibly match the amount of swagger Phyllis Davis oozes as Sugar, whose body, not only allows her to communicate with cougars, but contains all the properties of the known pyschosexual universe.
Watching as the stems of the plantation's sugar cane plants burn, it becomes paramount that Sugar's stems, no doubt still coursing with the chronic residue from the dried marijuana stems she smoked in Tijuana, need to live to strut another day. At least, that's what I gleaned from the film's chaos-filled finale. It's important that her stems survive, and not just for the benefit of future generations, but for all the tragically flaccid men out there waiting for her shapely stems to bring meaning back to their pathetic lives.
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