Oct 272019

Pets (IMDB) is a 1973 exploitation drama. It’s a picaresque story set in Southern California of a young homeless girl, Bonnie, who falls from one situation to another, not unlike Sade’s Juliette or Voltaire’s Candide. 

Ads for Pets emphasized its BDSM themes

In the first act, Bonnie and another homeless woman, Pat, seduce and rob a wealthy older man. Keeping the man tied up in the woods, Bonnie rapes him. 

The second act is Bonnie living with a older lesbian painter, Gerry, as a model, muse and lover. Bonnie jokingly called Gerry “Mommy.” Gerry isn’t exactly a shining role model for lesbian acceptance: she slaps Bonnie in the face during an argument, and later kills a man Bonnie wants to leave with. However, when people criticize her lesbianism, she stands tall in her identity, and there are moments of genuine affection between her and Bonnie. She’s not a monster like Tanya in One Shocking Moment.

L-R: Bonnie (Candice Rialson), Gerry (Joan Blackman) and Vincent (Ed Bishop) in Vincent’s basement menagerie

The real kinkiness starts in the third act. Having left Gerry’s house, Bonnie hooks up with Vincent, a wealthy gallery owner with a shady reputation. Vincent buys her new outfits and a bracelet engraved with, “Vincent’s Pet.” Ignoring the signs, she accepts his invitation to go down to his basement. 

The narrative shifts to Gerry’s search of Bonnie. She takes Vincent’s invitation to visit his Gothic mansion in the hills on the promise of seeing Bonnie. Vincent keeps a variety of exotic pets, all female, including a caged tiger. He rants about women impersonating men and taking their place, then reveals that he has Bonnie in a giant bird cage in his basement. She’s even wearing a special silk tunic. 

Bonnie (Rialson) being beaten by Vincent (Vincent).

We get short shots of Vincent bullwhipping Bonnie, and her writhing with fake red blood. Vincent plans to make Gerry his next pet, and threatens her with the bullwhip. Just as Vincent is about to push Gerry into the cage, Bonnie turns the tables and shoves both of them into the cage and locks it. She frees herself and the rest of Vincent’s menagerie, and drives off into the night, until she stops to pick up a man hitchhiking. 

Vincent is a sadistic, misogynistic freak, the most extreme instance of the people who want to possess and exploit Bonnie. This is obviously completely nonconsensual.

Addendum: Pets was originally an off-Broadway play with an interesting history of its own.

  One Response to “Pets (1973): The Celluloid Dungeon”

  1. […] my discussion of Pets, I neglected to mention that it was based on an off-Broadway play. The Temple of Schlock has a post […]

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