Wednesday, November 16, 2022

B.o.Y.: The Women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Part VI – Lavelle Roby, Pt II (1979-2021)

To more or less repeat what we have written in almost every entry of out multi-part Babe of Yesteryear review of the babes of Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Fifty-two years and five months ago, on 17 June 1970, Russ Meyer's baroque masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls hit the screens in the US of Anal. One of only two movies Meyer ever made for a major Hollywood studio (in this case, Fox), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is without a doubt one of the Babest movies ever made.
"Using unknowns you avoid highly exaggerated salaries and prima donnas."
Russ Meyer
While we have yet to review Beyond the Valley of the Dolls here at a wasted life (if we did, we would foam at the mouth in raging rave), we have looked at it before: back in 2011, in our R.I.P. Career Review of Charles Napier (12 Apr 1936 – 5 Oct 2011), and again in 2013 in our R.I.P. Career Review for the Great Haji (24 Jan 1946 – 10 Aug 2013) — both appear in the film.
"This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!"
Advertisement tagline
In Haji's entry, we wrote, among other things, the following: "Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls (trailer), Meyer and co-screenwriter Roger Ebert instead made a Pop Art exploitation satire of the conventions of the modern Hollywood melodrama, written in sarcasm but played straight, complete with a 'moralistic' ending that owes its inspiration to the Manson-inspired murder of Sharon Tate and her guests on August 9, 1969. Aside from the movie's absolutely insane plot, the cinematography is also noteworthy — as are the figures of the pneumatic babes that populate the entire movie. For legal reasons, the film starts with the following disclaimer: 'The film you are about to see in not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. It is wholly original and bears no relationship to real persons, living or dead. It does, like Valley of the Dolls, deal with the oft-times nightmare world of show business but in a different time and context.' [...]" 
"Any movie that Jacqueline Susann thinks would damage her reputation as a writer cannot be all bad." 
Russ Meyer films are always populated by amazing females sights, but this one literally overflows its cups in an excess of pulchritude that (even if somewhat more demurely covered than in most of his films) lights the fires of any person attracted to women of the curvaceous kind that preceded today's sculptured plasticity. The film is simply Babe Galore — and so, for the year to come and then plus some, we are looking at the T&A film careers of the women of the Babest Film of All Times, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The size of their breasts roles is of lesser importance than the simple fact that they are known to be in the film somewhere, so we will look at the known unknowns in the background and the headlining semi-knowns in the front. That is, but for one notable exception: the National Treasure that is the Great Pam Grier. Though she had her film debut in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls somewhere in the background, and therefore should be included, we feel that a Wonderment of her caliber deserves an entry all of her own — a Sisyphean task we might one day take on... 
In any event, for more than  the year to come, Babes of Yesteryear will look deep into the cleavages eyes of the various females known to be in the movie, although one or two might barely register. They were all date material (barring, perhaps, the ethereal-looking one, now dead, that ended up murdering one husband and tried to do away with the second). So far, we have more or less gone alphabetically (last name) and looked at:
Part I (June 2022), The Non-babe of Note of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Princess Livingston
Part II (July 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Jacqulin Cole
Part III (Aug 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Bebe Louie
Part IV (Sept 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Trina Parks
Part V (Oct 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Lavelle Roby, Part I (1968-76)
And now: 
Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Lavelle Roby, Pt. II (1979-2021)
Born 17 March 1941, Lavelle Roby (a.k.a. Lavelle Robey & Lavell Roby & Lavell Ruby & even "Lavelle Toby") came to Los Angeles in 1960s, eventually landing her first screen credit in a Get Smart (1965-70) episode, A Tale of Two Tails (1968). From there on Lavelle Roby has acted ever since, in roles varying from relatively large to un-credited background. Roby might no longer maintain an active website, but as late as 2021 she was still acting in an occasional film project. The blog Miss Meyer has a pleasant but above all oddly shallow interview with Lavelle Roby in which it is pointed out that Roby was possibly the first Afro-American actress Russ Meyer ever hired, to which Roby responds, "I never gave any thought to being the 'first' other than the first woman Russ had hired who didn't have big breasts. I was just proud that he had hired me for my acting ability rather than my body." In Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, she plays Vanessa, the personal assistant of the music producer extraordinaire Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell (John La Zar).

Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens
(1979, writ. & dir. Russ Meyer)
The vagaries of the film business. In 1979, Ms. Roby had a credited part as Nurse Anita in one of director James F. Collier's [25 Apr 1929 – 27 May 1991]) typically we-shall-overcome-by-finding-Christ Christian flicks, Joni (1979), produced like so many Collier flicks by Billy Graham (7 Nov 1918 – 21 Feb 2018), who surely would have been a better man had he sucked weenie but, truth be told, was far from being the worst of his kind (sort of like Omicrom isn't as bad as Delta, or Trump isn't as bad as Franco).
Trailer to
Ms. Roby doesn't mention Joni during her interview with Miss Meyer, but for that she drops an interesting bomb: "I had the fortune to work with Russ on Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, The Seven Minutes and I did the entire voice track for another actress [italics ours] who met the breast requirement, however, her voice was terrible and had to be dubbed. I've forgotten the movie title but the character was Junk Yard Sal. Russ called me in to dub the film. It was great fun! I was able to do all the sexual things without actually being seen. When Russ screened the film, as we were walking out of the screening, I overheard the actress talking to one of her friends excitedly, 'I had no idea I sounded that good.' She never knew that it wasn't her voice. I was very proud that I had captured her rhythm well enough that she didn't even know that it wasn't her voice! In real life she was an S&M professional. She was murdered not long after the movie was made."
Trailer to
Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens:
The movie she is talking about, as Miss Meyer points out but everyone knows, is Meyer's Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens, and the actress is the tragically departed (as in murdered) June Mack (26 Jan 1955 – 3 may 1984), pictured directly below. As 2021 ended, the ever-intriguing Rialto Report did a two-part podcast on June Mack's demise, Murder Noir: Who Killed June Mack? Who Really Killed June Mack?Part 1: Podcast 114 and Part 2: Podcast 115.
We looked at Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens back in June 2020 in Babes of Yesteryear entry Uschi Digard, Part XI: 1978 to Addendum, where we wrote:
"Russ 'King Leer' Meyer's last feature-film release, co-written by Roger Ebert (as 'R. Hyde') is, in an oblique manner, a spoof of Our Town (1940 / fan trailer). Uschi has a cameo as SuperSoul, but she was primarily active behind the scenes. [...].
"We saw Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens somewhere, decades ago, and didn't like it — but maybe we might give it a second go, one day. Maybe... in all truth, we were never truly enamored by either Kitten Natividad or Ann Marie, and this movie is truly theirs.
"Nowadays, Kitten appears in an occasional (intentionally bad) movie, while rumor has it that Ann Marie (born Kathy Ayers), whose boobs (according to Boobpedia) were — like Kitten's — not 100% natural, now lives in Norway. [UPDATE: Kitten Natividad, born 13 Feb 1948, died on 24 Sept 2022.]
"Let's go to good ol' All Movie for Robert Firsching's plot synopsis: 'Like most of cult director Russ Meyer's later films, his final ode to the superhuman bosom largely dispenses with plot in favor of episodic sexual sight-gags. The ostensible storyline, narrated by Stuart Lancaster (30 Nov 1920 – 22 Dec 2000) in hilarious deadpan style, deals with the bedroom hijinx of small-town America — in this case the fictitious community of Rio Dio, Texas. Junkyard worker Lamar Shedd (Ken Kerr) is in trouble with his sexually ravenous wife Lavonia (Natividad) because he can only achieve satisfaction through unconventional openings. While Lavonia proceeds to bed down the local garbageman (Pat Wright [28 Nov 1939 – 9 Dec 2004]) and others with more standard tastes, Lamar is put through a series of increasingly silly 'cures', including a visit to a chainsaw-wielding gay dentist (Robert Pearson* [31 Jan 1921 – 4 July 2009]). Eventually, a radio faith-healer with enormous breasts (Anne [sic] Marie) gets him back on the right track. The amazing June Mack (26 Jan 1955 – 3 May 1984 [murdered]), who looks like she stepped straight out of a Robert Crumb cartoon, is the film's highlight as Kerr's insatiable black employer, Junk Yard Sal. The usual comic fight scenes are augmented here with different colors of blood for each character, but the high-voltage action of many earlier Meyer films is absent, as he was obviously trying to keep up with the booming porn market by including as many naughty close-ups as possible.'
* Pearson was also a prolific painter; directly below is an example of his art.
"As common for a Meyer's film, Henry Rowland, born Wolfram von Bock (28 Dec 1913 – 26 April 1984), shows up to play Martin Bormann: he gets bonked in a coffin by Ann Marie's faith healer. The actor playing '14-year-old' Rhett, Steve Tracy (born Steve Crumrine on 3 Oct 1952), was 27 when he made the movie; gay, he died of complications arising due to AIDS on 27 Nov 1987.
Who Killed June Mack?
"'It's as lewd as it is crude, as dirty as it is flirty, as right as it is wrong, as deep as it is long. The plot is little more than a ruse as it prefers we peruse and the one thing it won't do is allow for the blues,' says Rivers of Grue. They also point out that 'only the word Brobdingnagian comes close to defining their DD cup majesty' of Meyer's females, and that 'while his many detractors accused him of portraying the fairer sex purely as objects, more often than not, these Amazonians were stronger than their alpha counterparts which I guess made him an accidental feminist. Funny that.'
"The Spinning Image comes the closest to explaining our own problems with Meyer's last feature film, saying: 'Beneath the Valley of the Ultravixens holds a special place in film history as the last ever, proper film directed by cult auteur Russ Meyer. It was scripted by critic Roger Ebert [...], but if you're expecting the over-the-top laughs of Ebert's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970 / trailer, with Charles Napier & Haji) then you may well find this film curiously laugh-free. It takes Meyer's particular style about as far as it would go, and although promising a sequel at the close ("The Jaws of Vixen"), it was the end of the line for its creator, unless you count the video documentary on Pandora Peaks he made about twenty years later [...], and the virtually plotless ramble includes an abundance of sex scenes bringing the usually teasing Meyer about as close to hardcore as he ever got. [...] And so Ultravixens drags on, being one of Meyer's longest films and feeling it. The cast are cartoonishly energetic, and appropriate for the stag film humour, with Natividad displaying uncommon enthusiasm in her performance but there's only so many times you can see her bouncing up and down before it begins to get tiresomely repetitive. [...] It seemed the times were catching up with Meyer, and here he showed himself to have run out of ideas.'
"El Gore, on the other hand, sees the movie, at least on a cinematic level, as 'one of Meyer's more experimental films, containing a lot of gamy, curious but also remarkable and innovative camera angles and perspectives', and says: 'Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens focuses on women's struggle for sexual satisfaction and men's inability to fulfill the distorted male sexual role which is imposed by society. In a more simplified or superficial version this means that it is all about big-breasted, hairy nymphomaniacs and a man who only gets sexual satisfaction by anally raping women.'"

Love at First Bite
(1979, dir. Stan Dragoti)
The holes and detours that movies can take you down...
Trailer to
Love at First Bite:
Perhaps the most successful independent film of 1979, Love at First Bite totally rejuvenated the career George Hamilton, an actor no one really took seriously any longer by 1979. But, as time has proven, his talent is not only tan deep. Some people like to claim "the entire plot is almost a direct copy" of an obscure no-budget movie from 1971 entitled Guess What Happened to Count Dracula, the tale of which is far more intriguing than the one of Love at First Bite (which, admittedly, is the better movie of the two).*
Though mentioned less often, other plot points of Love at First Bite may have been lifted from the French comedy starring Christopher Lee (12 May 1922 – 7 Jun 2015), Dracula and Son (1976 / trailer).
According to some sources, Guess What Happened to Count Dracula? supposedly started off as a 1969 gay porno horror entitled Does Dracula Really Suck? (a.k.a. Dracula Sucks and Dracula and the Boys); Does Dracula Really Suck? was usually screened with the equally lost gay "horror" porn Frankenstein de Sade (a.k.a. Hollow-My-Weanie Dr Frankenstein. Little is known about either movie, other than that Dracula Sucks was directed by Laurence Merrick* (22 Apr 1926 – 26 Jan 1977), the man behind Guess What Happened to Count Dracula (and the equally notorious Black Angels a.k.a. Black Bikers from Hell [1970 / trailer] a.k.a. Outlaw Bikers — The Gang Wars).
* Director Laurence Merrick is best known for co-directing the Oscar-nominated documentary Manson (1973 / full film) with Robert Hendrickson (17 Sep 1944 – 1 Oct 2016). Laurence ran Merrick's Academy of Dramatic Arts, where Mansion Family victim Sharon Tate (24 Jan 1943 – 9 Aug 1969) had once been a student. Merrick was shot in the parking lot of the school on 26 Jan 1977 and, when stumbling into his school claiming to be shot, was first thought by his students to be acting. His murder remained unsolved until October 1981, when 35-year-old Dennis Mignano of San Jose, California, confessed to police. Mignano was subsequently found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental hospital. He's a free man now, address easily found online.
As seen by the ads above and below, the double feature was screened in LA, at the Park Theatre on Alvarado, and NYC, at the Park Miller. Rocky Rides Again, by "Ron Bravos", seems to have been a loop by Jerry Abrams ([28 Dec 1940 – 1 May 2010], see Overdoes of Degradation [1970] at Harry H. Novak, Part VII: 1970), should we believe SF pornster Zachary Strong. We know nothing about How to Make an Indian Basket, but can easily imagine it to be a Bob Mizer* (27 Mar 1922 – 12 May 1992) short, possibly featuring Steve Wengryn. Lost or not, Dracula Sucks / Dracula and the Boys possibly has the honor of being the first gay vampire porn flick, something normally bestowed on Sons of Satan (1973), directed by "Lance Brooks" (better known as Tom Di Simone — see Reform School Girls [1986] further below).
* Watch Beefcake (1998 / trailer) to learn more about the man's prodigious production.
A Bob Mizer photo.
In any event, "[...] in one of cinema history's most whiplash-inducing transformations, the picture [Does Dracula Really Suck?] was recast as a PG-rated monster comedy for the drive-in circuit. Some traces of the original incarnation remain visible, because while the PG-rated version of Guess What Happened to Count Dracula? lacks guy-on-guy action, it has a camp sensibility. The acting is deliberately overwrought, the photography is colorful (as in scenes are lit with randomly tinted gels), and the storyline is a (dim-witted) genre spoof. [Every 70s Movie]"
To take it all a step further, when Guess What Happened to Count Dracula? reached Europe, the pseudonymous director "Mario d'Alcala" — possibly Marijan Vajda, the Yugoslavian documentarian who made an occasional movie, like Bloodlust / Mosquito der Schänder (1976 / trailer) — added a lot of naked women and the movie became a softcore sex film entitled Draculas lusterne vampiro. Currently, some sites claim the a.k.a. titles Dracula, vampire sexuel and L'orgia del vampire; the latter seems indeed to be an Al Adamson version (or at least credited to him), while the former is probably José Luis Madrid's The Horrible Sexy Vampire (1971 / trailer).
But to return to Love at First Bite. The movie was released around the same time as two other "disco Dracula films", Nocturna (1979 / trailer) and Dracula Blows His Cool (a.k.a. Graf Dracula in Oberbayern [1979 / trailer]), but shoved them both off the dance floor to become the most critically and commercially successful of the three.
Supposedly, a working title of Love at First Bite was Dracula Sucks, but that title hit the silver screen first in the form of Phillip Marshak's neither fish nor fowl comedy porn horror (trailer). (Phillip Marshak [17 Jul 1934 – 27 Jul 2014], b.t.w., "participated" in the disasterpiece that is Night Train to Terror [1985].) After Love at First Bite, director Stan Dragoti (4 Oct 1932 – 13 Jul 2018), who had started his career with a genre-bending western like Dirty Little Billy (1972 / full film), went on to specialize in M.O.R. comedies; scriptwriter Robert Kaufman's (22 Mar 1931 – 21 Nov 1991) project prior to Love at First Bite was The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977 / trailer), which also featured George Hamilton — and Babe of Yesteryear Marilyn Joi. Lavelle Roby, in any event, has a screen credit in Love at First Bite as "Mourner", we assume in the funeral scene seen briefly in the trailer.
From the movie —
Alicia Bridges classic dance song,
I Love the Nightlife:
Plot from The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review: "The Communists evict Count Dracula (George Hamilton) and his manservant Renfield (Arte Johnson [20 Jan 1929 – 3 Jul 2019]) from Castle Dracula so that the Rumanian Gymnastics Team [can] use the castle. Dracula decides to head to New York City in pursuit of fashion model Cindy Sondheim (Susan Saint James), whom he believes to be the reincarnation of his lost love Mina Seward. He seduces Cindy after meeting her on a disco dancefloor. Cindy's psychologist Jeff Rosenberg (Richard Benjamin) notices the bites on her neck and tries to stop Dracula."
"Love at First Bite doesn't make the mistake of assuming that seeing Count Dracula dance with Cindy on a disco floor is inherently funny. It earns its laughs through some inspired comedy that doesn't reek of desperation, plus a few gags which wouldn't play well today. [...] Love at First Bite manages to adhere to the traditions of a Dracula movie while successfully kidding them at the same time. It is a delicate balancing act, but it works and it's pretty damn funny. [Bohica]"

The Formula
(1980, dir. John G. Avildsen)
Another movie by the guy who did that boxing film in 1976 (see Roby Part I), and once again Lavelle Roby plays another important role: she's a secretary. Based on a novel by Steve Shagan (25 Oct 1927 – 30 Nov 2015), we looked at this film briefly back in 2012, in R.I.P.: Richard Lynch Part I, where we wrote:
"To quote the BFI: 'A policeman follows a murder trail to West Germany and finds that it hinges on a secret formula for synthetic fuel' — in truth, however, one could just as easily say the trail of murder follows the policeman. The Formula is a thriller famous for being a dreary, confusing mess and, to a lesser extent, for being the only film in which George C. Scott and Marlon Brando, the only two actors to ever refuse the Oscars awarded them, appear together. Marlon Brando went on record that he only took the part because he was broke and needed the dough (roughly around 3 million dollars). Richard Lynch is in the opening scenes, playing the Nazi General Helmut Kladen who, as the Russians descend upon Berlin at the end of WWII, leaves for the Swiss border with top secret papers that he has been ordered to keep hidden from the Allies. At the First Golden Raspberry Awards, the movie was nominated for Worst Picture, director John G. Avildsen for Worst Director, Marlon Brando for Worst Supporting Actor and Steve Shagan for Worst Screenplay — just nominations, one and all. The major flaw of the plot is that the logical event — an early and efficient killing of Scott's character instead of the people he talks with — would have left the film with no story."
Trailer to
The Formula:
Over at Miss Meyer, Ms Roby's says the following about the movie: "[...] I had eleven days with just Brando, myself and George C. Scott. Watching Brando do his 'Brando' thing was amazing. I really learned from that experience that you didn't have to be sane to be a brilliant actor. I also learned that if you surrounded yourself with people who couldn't or wouldn't say no to you, that it's impossible to remain in the world of reality."

Blood Beach
(1980, dir. Jeffrey Bloom)

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water ... you can't get to it!"
Lavelle Roby has the negligible role of "Woman in Mayor's Office" in Blood Beach, but back when we were a teenager this was one our fave grindhouse catches, so we have to take a look at here. (True, the film, for a cinema flophouse find, is low on gore and skin, but sometimes fun goes a long way.)
Trailer to
Blood Beach:
We caught it again a few years ago, and while the effects really hadn't aged all that well and the movie seemed oddly slower than we remembered, we still found it a fun movie. Unluckily, Blood Beach is semi-lost: it has never had an official US DVD release and the European versions are hardly of the best quality. The monster on the Turkish poster above does not show up in the movie, which has a great cast, including the great John Saxon ([5 Aug 1936 – 25 Jul 2020] of Shalimar [1978]), born Carmine Orrico, showing massive pubes as a teen below, of too much fine trash to mention, including the original Black Christmas (1974 / trailer), Cannibal Apocalypse (1980 / trailer), the original and good A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 / trailer), and Death House (1988 / trailer), the last of which he also directed.
Over at Basement Rejects, JP Roscoe didn't just dislike the film, he also managed to totally ignore the 2nd main policeman character, an Afro-American, Lt. Piantadosi (Otis Young [4 Jul 1932 – 11 Oct 2001]), in his plot description: "People are disappearing from the beaches of Southern California. What starts out as general missing people including the mother of Catherine Hutton (Marianna Hill) and the friend of Harry Caulder (David Huffman), turns into a dangerous situation when more and more victims begin being sucked into the sand. Sergeant Royko (Burt Young) and Captain Pearson (Saxon) try to stop the people from panicking as they seek to uncover what is under the beach ... hungry and unstoppable." BLM, dude.

Johnny LaRue is also not a fan — "Frankly, Blood Beach is boring" — but he also points out some of the good aspects: "The screenplay [...] harkens back to the cheap monster flicks of the 1950s, but with humor and occasionally sharp dialogue. [Otis Young & Burt Young] are entertaining as bickering cops, and Saxon delivers a wry turn as their frustrated captain. He's the authority figure that has to make you believe there really is a monster sucking people into the sand, and I'll be damned if he doesn't. [...]"
We located a lone voice out there, Schlock to the System, that enjoys the film like we do: "When a movie from 1980 fails to get a Region 1 or 4 DVD release, it usually means it's craptacular and only of interest to lovers of bad cinema. [...] Imagine my surprise when Blood Beach turned out to be a damn good low-budget horror flick! [...] The kill scenes (victim sucked down into the sand by their feet, rinse, repeat) sound corny but they're actually effective. [...] And the main thing [director Jeffrey Bloom] does right is keeping the monster off-screen until the finale. [...] But what really ties Blood Beach together is the acting. The two leads are great and have good chemistry. It's a shame that David Huffman (Wolf Lake [1980 / trailer]) was lost to acting at the age of 39 (he was murdered just five years after this movie*), because he's a likeable leading man. Marianne Hill's career was waning [...], but she's also cute and likeable.

* David Oliver Huffman (10 May 1945 – 27 Feb 1985) was killed in Balboa Park, San Diego, on the morning 27 February 1985 by 16-year-old Genaro Samano Villanueva, an illegal alien from Mexico living with relatives, who stabbed Huffman twice in the chest with a screwdriver. The teen-ager later testified Huffman chased him after seeing him trying to burglarize a motor home and, fearing Huffman would kill him or turn him in to police, he stabbed the actor but had no intention of killing him. Convicted of first-degree murder, on 24 June 1986 Villanueva was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison. On December 9, 2011, he was denied parole for 15 years."
Blood Beach
, arguably, was "retooled"
as The Sand (2015):


Reform School Girls
(1986, writ. & dir. Tom DeSimone)

"You're just a shit stain on the panties of life."
Edna (Pat Ast)
Ah, the great Tom DeSimone (a.k.a. Lancer Brooks). Does he ever get enough recognition as the man who [probably] put the plot into gay porn? Probably not, but he [probably] did, back in the day of untrimmed pubic hair, when he swiped/bent the plot of The Collector (1965 / trailer) to come up with The Collection (1970): "The first 'homosexual feature film' with sync dialogue, original soundtrack, and a plot that went beyond the basic collection of sex scenes. A madman ('Max Blue', a.k.a. Nicholas Grippo [12 Dec 1938 – 9 May 2003]) kidnaps young guys and keeps them captive to satisfy his personal sex trips. While focusing primarily on the main character's preference for S&M, this film had one tender scene between two of the captives. The captives manage to get a hold of the key, break free and overpower their captor."
Two years later, in 1972, "Thomas DeSimone" made his first non-gay sex film, the softcore (and 3-D!) WIP film Prison Girls, with a killer cast of cult softcore sex-goddess names (many using pseudonyms) of varying obscurity in parts of varying importance: Jacqueline Giroux, Annik Borel (of Werewolf Woman [1976 / trailer]), Tracy Handfuss, Maria Arnold, the beautiful Neola Graef, the busy Marsha Jordan, Barbara Mills (23 Feb 1951 – 15 Dec 2010), Luanne Roberts, Peggy Church, the Queen of Bad Wigs Candy Samples (12 Apr 1928 – 23 Sep 2019), and the Great Uschi. (Indeed, due to Uschi's participation, we took a deeper look at Prison Girls in Uschi Digard Part VI: 1972.) DeSimone went back to porn after Prison Girls — among other films: Sons of Satan (1973 / see Love at First Bite above) — before going R-rated again with the legendary Chatterbox (1977 / trailer), the Linda Blair exploiter Hell Night (1981 — review here, with big sausages not from the film), and another WIP film The Concrete Jungle (1982 / trailer).
Trailer to
Reform School Girls:
Reform School Girls (1986) was Tom DeSimone's final WIP film, and also the movie that took him out of porn: as far as we can tell, he had no more raincoat-crowd projects after this movie, and after his next project — Angel III: The Final Chapter (1988 / trailer, with Dick Miller) — moved wholly into directing for television before finally retiring to Palm Springs, where he no longer maintains an active web presence.
As fitting for women-in-prison movie, Lavelle Roby plays a guard. We saw the film decades ago and not only didn't really like it but never noticed Roby, so whether or not she has any lines is unknown to us. We went to see it primarily because it was sold as a Wendy O. Williams (28 May 1949 – 6 Apr 1998) vehicle — not the plastic-surgery victim Wendy "Wiggy" Williams that currently insults one's intelligence on American TV, but the former sex show performer turned punk singer Wendy O. Williams (see the Rialto Report: Times Square’s Most Outrageous Sex Show Part I & Part II).
Reform School Girls, in any event, is not a straightforward WIP movie; it's a black comedy homage (spoof?) of the genre, and as easily happens when a genre is already almost a joke by nature, it arguably misses its mark (many people who watch it don't seem to catch on that it is a satire). The title, Reform School Girls is of course a reference to the 1957 teen WIP film Reform School Girl (with Yvette Vickers, trailer below). The whole cat bit (and other stuff) is taken from the Oscar-nominated WIP film Caged (1951 / trailer)… but most WIP films share so much in common that connections are easily made where they might not even be. Reform School Girl got remade for television in 1994 (full film).
Trailer to
Reform School Girl (1957):
B&S About Movies, who claims "[Tom DeSimone] knows exactly what I want to watch and delivers", has the plot: "[...] This movie is a force of nature. [...] Wendy O. Williams, the lead singer of the Plasmatics, plays Charlie Chambliss, the top dog of the reform school who sleeps with Edna (Pat Ast [21 Oct 1941 – 3 Oct 2001], Halston's muse and the star of Warhol's Heat [1972 / trailer]), the head of the ward, for special privileges. Jenny (Linda Carol [of Beverly Hills Bodysnatchers [1989], who may have been 16 when they shot this, making her nudity underage) is our heroine, a girl who gets caught in a shootout thanks to a bad boyfriend and ends up becoming the newbie who runs afoul of, well, everybody. And to make this even better, Sybil Danning plays Warden Sutter, a religious zealot with a radio tower that she uses to blast the Word of God while the girls try to sleep. [...]"
Cinema Head Cheese, which failed to notice that the movie was a spoof of WIP films and not a real WIP film, says, "This is one of those movies where you just absolutely love to hate the bad guys and get drawn into the shininess of the innocents and cheer on the good guys — or women, as is the case in this movie. There is one male character, some guy Pridemore (James Staszkiel [3 Mar 1949 – 2016]) hires for the use of his truck and he gives the juvies the use of his stick shift. [...] The character of Charlie is so over the top hard ass that you have to wonder if Wendy O was acting at all. The only problems I had with her were half the time she looked like she was reading her lines off cue cards and she was 38 at the time this was filmed. I don't care how good your genes are, you can't pass off as under-aged teen when you're over 35. Though I have to admit that her ass looked 20."
The last was a point of contention for Dr Gore as well, who finds that "Reform School Girls didn't have its heart in the right place": "A nice girl ends up in a woman's prison. Actually it's not really a prison but a reform school. [...] The nice girl starts getting bullied by a hard-looking, hard-bodied woman who sleeps in the bunk next to hers. How this woman, who looks like she's pushing 45, is still in a reform school is not explained. [...] Reform School Girls is a letdown. The most important thing to know about this one is that Sybil Danning does not get naked. I found this to be shocking. She keeps her giant black jacket on throughout the entire movie. [...]"
On the other hand, Fast Rewind, which did realize that Reform School Girls was persiflage, says: "This is satirical on a high level, loaded with campy and tasteless dialogue, many eye-catching ladies and great scenes of violence. The cast of B-movie talents and unknowns have fun with the material. The movie does require a suspension of disbelief, though. This is truly a 'check-your-brain-at-the-door' experience."
Title track done live:

Spider's Web
(2002, dir. Paul Levine)
Not to be confused with The Spider's Web (1938 / episodes 1 thru 5), The Spider's Web (1960 / music), or In the Spider's Web (2007 / trailer).
Trailer to
Spider's Web:
After Reform School Girls, Lavelle Roby has small parts in two films of the type we don't watch here at a wasted life, Martin Ritt's Nuts (1987 / trailer) and H. Gordon Boos's Touch Me (1997 / trailer). In Spider's Web, a film we have yet to see — but we would if we had a chance because it features a "star" we hate, Stephan "Braindead" Baldwin (of Snake King [2005], below not from the film), and a star we find hot, Kari Wuhrer (of Thinner [1996], Anaconda [1997] and Berserker [2004]), not to mention an aged George "I Hit Women" Lazanby (of Who Saw Her Die? (1972) and Death Dimension (1978, with Jim Kelly). Roby is credited as playing Miss Wilkins.
Spider's Web seems to be a contestant for anyone's Unknown Movies page, for like most Stephan Baldwin flicks it has long been forgotten, lurking forever unnoticed on this or that streaming service. The plot? Let's just loosely translate the text obviously found on the flipside of the German DVD case: "The successful Lauren (Wuhrer) works at an asset management company. One of her most important clients is Mr. Harding (George Murdock [25 Jun 1930 – 30 Apr 2012]), head of a globally operating glass empire. Lauren meets and falls in love with his son Clay (Baldwin). Together, they concoct a plan to transfer $40 million to a joint Swiss account during a business transaction. Only later does Lauren realize that she has been used as a pawn in by Clay. But Clay is not the only one pulling strings in this impenetrable web of murder and corruption: Lauren has made it her goal not to be the next victim!"
"Spider's Web starts with Lauren standing up from using the computer in her home, she is naked and she then proceeds to have sex with the guy in her room. There is some boring office-type stuff which follows but then you don't have to wait long for the next sex scene and moment of nudity with Lauren ending up in the shower. The rest of Spider's Web follows this formula of some drama and story followed by nudity and sex, which in the end makes this movie all about how sexy actress Kari Wuhrer is. [The Movie Scene]"

I Was the King of Porn...
The Adventurous Life of Lasse Braun
(2003, writ. & dir. Thorsten Schütte)
This credit definitely made us do a double take. What is Lavelle Roby doing as one of the talking heads in this German documentary on the influential Italian pornster Lasse Braun (11 Jan 1936 – 16 Feb 2015)?
A search of the web led us back to the dominating historians of the Golden Age of Porn, the Rialto Report, and their two-part interview Lasse Braun Interview – Part 1: The Early Years of a Trailblazer and Part 2: The American Years, where Lasse Braun mentions in passing: "I was visiting a friend in Stockholm who had a live sex club called 'Chat Noir', and I met two American girls there who were auditioning. One was Lavelle Roby [italics ours] and the other was Brigitte Maier [7 Aug 1952 – 13 Nov 2010]. They had come to Sweden for two weeks to appear in a local softcore feature, and they finished their work on it the previous day. Brigitte was intrigued by the idea of appearing in a live show and Lavelle was accompanying her to check it out. They were returning to America the next day. I invited them to come to Breda and stay with me there."Brigitte Maier, seen below on the cover of Penthouse, went, and the rest is history.
We took a tiny look at Brigitte Maier in Uschi Digrad Part VII: 1973-74 because she, like Uschi, is found in Lee Frost's Poor Cecily (1973). Maier's second-to-last project released prior to her retirement seems to have been the early Blaxploitation porn film Tongue (filmed in '74, released in '76), a C-budget ($25,000) porn movie that reveals artistic intentions that transcends the porn genre.
Plot: "Tongue is a [...] story of a mute black man ('Al Poe'), his pet frog, and his nine-inch tongue being exploited by horny females! Niva Ruschell (19 Jan 1948 – May 2020), the Afro-American producer of Tongue — she plays the hooker that deflowers a young Sweet Sweetback (Mario van Peebles) in the controversial and often cut (as "child porn") opening scene of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) — is seen in the opening scene of the Tongue below. She once gave a great interview about Tongue at Adult DVD Talk, one which reveals a lot answers. (For example: The mysterious director, "K.B." stands for Kurt Baker, an assistant director whose only solo directorial job seems to be the forgotten, all-Black version of The Importance of Being Earnest [1992, poster above].)
Scene with Niva Ruschell
from Tongue:
But to return to something Lasse Braun said at the Rialto Report: "They had come to Sweden for two weeks to appear in a local softcore feature, and they finished their work on it the previous day." We did a little research, and the only Swedish productions with Brigitte Maier we could locate are Mac Ahlberg's Second Coming of Eve (1974) and Justine & Juliette (1975 / credits), the latter with Harry Reems — but if Lavelle Roby appears in either, her presence has yet to spotted by anyone's eagle eye.

Freaks of Nature
(2015, dir. Robbie Pickering)
Working title of this "teenager" (as in all high-schoolers in this one are college-aged) "horror" comedy was The Kitchen Sink 'cause they really threw in everything: vampires, zombies, aliens, werewolves and even humans. Once finally made, with some surprisingly familiar faces and names playing the adults (Keegan-Michael Key, Joan Cusack, Denis Leary, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt), it sat two years on the studio shelves before they snuck it out at the tail end of the Halloween season, where it didn't exactly get rave reviews. We saw it and liked parts of it — basically everything they put in the trailer — but were left unsatisfied. Which isn't to say we wouldn't watch it again, it just that we didn't find it something to write home about (or, for that matter, to write a review of). Lavelle Roby is credited as playing someone named "Mrs. Franklin"... perhaps one of the teachers? We didn't notice.

Five Second Reviews has a 5-second plot description: "Humans, zombies and vampires are coexisting peacefully in the small town of Dillford. But then aliens invade the place and everything falls apart. Now it's up to three youngsters to figure out what the aliens want and get their town back to 'normal'."

Common Sense Media wants you to know what you can find out from the red band trailer: "[...] The violence is very strong (albeit played for humor), with fighting, biting, stabbing, killing, brain eating, blood spattering, and blood oozing. Teens talk a lot about sex, attempt to have sex, kiss, and (more or less) actually have sex (naked bottoms shown, but nothing more graphic). Language is strong and constant, including "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and much more. A secondary teen character smokes pot regularly, parents appear to be high on some kind of drug, and an adult character regularly drinks scotch. Several products are mentioned, mainly for humor."
Trailer to
Freaks of Nature:
"[...] The movie bites off way more than it can chew. I'm sure that on paper, writer Oren Uziel's ideas seemed like a can't-miss proposition, but in reality, we've got a near-mess of humans, zombies, vampires, and aliens. Do we want to see these various creatures all in one movie? Maybe. Does it work here? Not at all. We see in a deleted scene found on this disc that, at one point, there existed an opening sequence which gave us more background on why all of these characters are in Dillford. But, with that scene cut, the movie expects us to accept this True Blood-esque scenario and just go with it. However, this leaves us with too many questions at the beginning. The movie then decides that it wants to be something completely different and turns into a The Breakfast Club (1985 / trailer), as Dag (Nicholas Braun), Petra (Mackenzie Davis), and Ned (Josh Fadem) [below from the film] explore the fact that they all used to be friends, but drifted apart in high school. How many times have we seen this cliché trotted out? And is this what we want in the middle of our horror-comedy film? It's admirable that Freaks of Nature wants to insert a little heart into the story, but we actually don't need it and that's not why we are here. [DVD Sleuth]"

(2017, writ. & dir. Tom Costabile)
Not to be mistaken with Voodoo (1995 / trailer), starring Corey "Burnt Brain" Feldman. We heard tell that the characters in Costabile's Voodoo are in Los Angeles and don't have a car: now that is what we call unbelievable.
Lavelle Roby makes an appearance as "Venice Gypsy", which, seeing that the film is set in La La Land, makes us assume she is shown hanging around the Venice boardwalk; that's her below, in the film with the doomed main character.
Over at Black Horror Com, which has choice words about this white-man's movie, even noticed her (probably not hard when a movie about voodoo only features two Afro-American faces), mentioning her at the end of his vented anger about the wafer-thin characterization of the voodoo queen Serafina (Constance Strickland): "[...] Serafine pushed me over the edge. She's emblematic of how Hollywood has portrayed black characters in general — and black women in particular — since the dawn of the film era. Their value is clear in their wafer-thin characterizations. Serafine is the angry black woman, the evil voodoo practitioner, the magical Negro, anything but a three-dimensional human being. (Incidentally, one other black woman, referred to only as 'Venice Gypsy,' appears for a minute, serving as both a 'magical Negro' and a 'voice of reason.')"
Of course, what characterization does a woman who practices voodoo need? She's evil, of course. Anyone who practices an uncommon religion is evil to someone, somewhere. An interesting and uncommon (for the Judeo-Christian world) example of how religion can be used as the symbol of evil, particularly by those who have little information about or understanding of the religion, is found in one of the segments of the Hindi anthology horror film Ghost Stories (2020 / trailer), the fourth and final one directed by Hindi filmmaker and television personality Karan Johar. In that tale, the clue that the revered "dead" Grandmother is less than benevolent, and that the ghostly grande dame will ultimately do something nasty to the segment's heroine, is that before Grandmother died she converted to Christianity. (Oh, the terror!)
Voodoo is an independent production shot partially in a warehouse in Van Nuys (the hell scenes), and partially guerilla throughout Los Angeles. In theory a found footage film — a genre we here at a wasted life really don't like — more than one review mentions that the film is inconsistent in that some of the scenes are obviously not "found footage", and that the found-footage idea itself is lost for the whole Hell sequence. It is also supposed to be high on the cheap gore, in a good ol' fashioned way. For an independent low budget flick, it got a pretty broad release and a lot of press... and seems to be a love it or hate it film.
Trailer to

Warped Persepctive, which liked the film despite its warts and claims "if you're a horror fan who likes to be taken on a wild ride into transgressive territory, Voodoo is definitely one you'll want to give a look", has the plot: "After a sinister opening involving black magic and infanticide [...], Voodoo introduces us to Dani (Samantha Stewart), a young lady from 'N'Awlins' who's visiting her old friend Stacy (Ruth Reynolds) in Los Angeles. Dani's never been to LA before, and [...] she's excessively excited and determined to document it all on camcorder, even if that's a bit of an old school approach in these days of camera phones. As per usual, our leading ladies are determined to part-tay, drinking, chatting, flirting with boys, briefly meeting Ron Jeremy (yes, really); but eventually it comes to light that Dani hasn't come to stay with Stacy entirely for social reasons, but to escape a bad situation back home. Turns out she unwittingly embarked on a romance with a man who was already married, and as if that wasn't enough of a faux pas, the guy's wife is some sort of voodoo priestess determined to get her revenge. Naturally, Dani tries to shrug this off, but when it comes to light that the wife may have followed her to LA, anxiety sets in — and when she can't get to sleep on her second night, that’s when the shit hits the fan. [...]"
The plot does reflect one common mistake in everyday life: the woman who "unwittingly" gets involved in a conciously cheating married man gets the blame, when it's the guy who actually did the dirty by consciously lying to everyone involved. Girls, aim your anger correctly, okay? And rest assured: he ain't gonna change.
For that, Cinemalogue was less impressed by this "this amateurish micro-budget horror exercise that's more consistently cheesy than frightening": "[...] After rambling through some bad accents, annoying female bonding and a Ron Jeremy cameo, the film sends its lead character literally to Hell, at which point at least some creativity kicks in. Unfortunately, it's more gimmicky than scary. And little of it makes any sense."
"No bones about it, Voodoo is bad. But Voodoo is so wildly misconceived from idea to execution that it almost, almost, has ironic value as a batty curiosity of bizarreness. [Culture Crypt]"

Stranger's Relative
(2017, writ. & dir. Jorge Gomez)

After untold years, Lavelle Roby has an important role in a horror picture — and even has her name on the poster. Too bad this indi production seems to have disappeared. We only found one review of the movie, and the same plot description everywhere on the web.
Trailer to
Stranger's Relative:
"Angela (Natascha Berg, further down below, at the beach and not from the film) rents a room in the house of an African American woman (Roby, below), who offers services of witchcraft. After her arrival, paranormal activities begin to happen, causing her to experience intense situations full of intrigues. Convinced that there are evil entities in the house, Angela decides to move, but evil chases her wherever she goes, leading her to an unexpected outcome."
And the review? Well, over at Jay Hates Movies, Jay hates the film: "Stranger's Relative is another independent horror film that appears to have more or less had every scene filmed in one take. [...] We have caught ourselves a stinker in just about every way. [...] The film simply does nothing right. [...] The acting is bad that I am not sure if we can blame the actors [...]. The directing is also weird. This film has more cuts than most action films. [...] The visual quality is likewise odd [...] and not in a good way. There is a complete lack of scars. [...] Further, the story is just boring. We have terrible characters in a terrible story. There is nothing redemptive here in any way. The film isn't even self-aware enough to be in the 'so bad it is good' category. It is just bad."
Anyone out there want to counter that viewpoint? Anyone out there seen the movie?

Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion
(2021, dir. Jake Helgren)
Lavelle Roby plays Aunt Alma, and you even see her a lot in the trailer to this TV movie of the persuasion that we tend not to watch: Christmas chick flick feel good love story. Another reason not to watch it: it's a Lifetime flick.
And the Lifetime synopsis? Here: "Event planner Amy (Michelle Argyris) helps rising singer Tiffanie Christmas (Asia'h Epperson) plan her holiday family reunion. Along the way Amy must navigate some challenging family dynamics, especially among Tiffanie's aunts as well as her own growing feelings for Tiffanie's cousin, Calvin (Alonzo B. Slater). Will she be able to pull off an amazing Christmas family reunion? Vanessa Williams, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and Catherine Haena Kim costar (2021)." The family reunion is even held at Aunt Alma's house!
Trailer to
Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion:
Lyles Likes Movies likes the movie: "Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion is one of the stronger Lifetime offerings this season and feels like the kind of film that would have played well in theaters...back when that was the norm. [...] Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion is a nice family-focused romance movie that doesn't sacrifice the strong family dynamic for the sake of a relationship everyone watching knows is inevitable. Argyris and Slater's chemistry more than makes that worth the wait."
That said, Alonzo B. Slater — seen above, not from the movie — is sure one hunk o' delicious beefcake, isn't he? We'd have no problem finding our Christmas spirit were we to find him under our tree.
And as for Michelle Argyris (above right), she has made at least one of the kind of movies that we would be tempted to watch: Devil Seed (2012)...
Trailer to
Devil Seed (2012):

And now go to
The Women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Part VII: Samantha Scott (A Killer Chick!)

No comments: