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The Bootleg Files: The Apple-Knockers and the Coke

BOOTLEG FILES 663: “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” (1948 stag film).

LAST SEEN: On YouTube.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: Not believed to be included in any commercial release.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A naughty film that circulated underground for decades.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Not likely at this time.

For a number of years, rumors circulated that Marilyn Monroe appeared in pornographic movies. Much of the fuel for that belief came from her 1949 nude calendar art photo shoot, for which she only received $50. After all, if the great MM could disrobe for a still photographer during the period when she was a struggling actress, why wouldn’t she go one step further and go clothing-free for an adult film?

But despite all of the talk, an actual film featuring a nude and carnal Marilyn Monroe was never confirmed. In 1980, Bob Guccione’s Penthouse magazine published an article that claimed a Swedish photographer had uncovered an untitled stag film with someone that Guccione insisted was a young Marilyn Monroe. The magazine published frame captures alongside the iconic studio shots of Monroe. “Here, in grainy celluloid, may well be the still unglamorized sex goddess the public never knew, before plastic surgeons, stylists, and designers transformed her into the mythical Marilyn Monroe,” the magazine stated. “It’s a thought to fire the imagination of every man who ever dreamed of her, a fantasy come to fruition.”

Well, someone’s imagination was on fire, and their logic got burned in the process. Anyone looking at the photographs in Penthouse would immediately realize the woman in the stag film was not the legendary star – indeed, she was conspicuously older and heavier than the late 1940s Monroe.

Then, there was another stag film that carried the title “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke.” Throughout the 1970s, there were many claims that the unidentified woman in that little flick was the young Monroe. However, that talk came to an end in 1982 when Playboy magazine published an interview with a former model and actress named Arline Hunter, who identified herself as being the star of “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke.”

Back in the day, Hunter bore a slight resemblance to the young, pre-platinum blonde Monroe. Indeed, nudie photos of Hunter were falsely marketed by a pair of mail-order pornographers as being of Monroe – with Monroe going to court in 1952 to testify against the sleazy pair and clear her name. Hunter continued to cash in on her resemblance to Monroe in the August 1954 edition of Playboy, where her Playmate of the Month status involved a series of photographs that were designed to replicate the style of Monroe’s nude calendar photographs.

But unlike Monroe, Hunter’s career never took off – she was mostly stuck in tiny roles in forgettable B-movies including “The Angry Red Planet” and “Sex Kittens Go to College,” and she hit an artistic rock bottom as an uncredited extra-terrestrial in “Outer Space Jitters,” one of the dreadful Three Stooges shorts made during the regrettable Joe Besser period in that long-running series.

Oddly, “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” was Hunter’s most famous – or, perhaps, most infamous – effort on screen. But even by the standards of the stag film genre, it really has little going for it.

Hunter is the sole performer in this six-minute silent film. She first appears fully clothed, but quickly disrobes until she is topless and clad only in her panties. She initially tickles her breasts with a plant, then pulls an apple from a paper bag and lies down on the floor. Hunter rolls the apple down her torso, letting it run between her breasts and roll off her body. She repeats this a few times before reaching into the paper bag again, this time to pull out a bottle of Coca-Cola. She takes several sips from the bottle, then writhes on the floor. And at that point, the film abruptly stops – whether she finished the soft drink or ever took a bite from the apple is left unanswered.

By the low standards of the stag film genre, “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” was nothing special. Hunter is pretty but dull, and her apple-rolling game has nothing that could be mistaken for an erotic tease. But in an era when nudity was not found in mainstream movies, these grimy little efforts offered the horniest men a chance to indulge in a bit of scintillation. It may not have been sexy, but back in the day it was better than nothing.

Little is known about the production history of “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” – some online sources date it to 1948, but that is hard to confirm. In the 1970s, the film was included in an anthology of stag films distributed to colleges and independent cinemas by Grove Films, and some venues falsely advertised that Monroe was in “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke.” In 1973, the film re-emerged when underground filmmaker Bruce Conner included footage in his Monroe-inspired work “Marilyn Times Five” – whether he knew that was not Monroe on film is not certain. Also in 1973, a mail-order company called Matco Film sold an 8mm version to the home movie market under the title “Marilyn” for a rather exorbitant price of fifty dollars.

Over the years, “The Apple-Knockers and the Coke” has been bootlegged so frequently into multiple-generation copies that many of the surviving prints are a nearly unwatchable blurry mess. Still, people want to see it. Last February, the Light Industry venue in Brooklyn screened it as part of a retrospective of vintage smut. And a heavily duped copy can be found on YouTube with a wretched music score that makes the presentation and audio-visual disaster. Seriously, viewers are advised to just enjoy an apple and a Coke without watching this dumb little skin flick.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: While this weekly column acknowledges the presence of rare film and television productions through the so-called collector-to-collector market, this should not be seen as encouraging or condoning the unauthorized duplication and distribution of copyright-protected material, either through DVDs or Blu-ray discs or through postings on Internet video sites.

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