Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Aurora (Philippines, 2018)

The Philippines. Once upon a time, that land was responsible for some of the best trash to be found in your local Grindhouse (see: Machete Maidens Released [2010 / trailer]). But the glory days of trashy Filipino co-productions and productions peaked long ago, and though the production of local product remains healthy in the land, filmic exports are now almost as rare as a non-hypocritical Republican. And so the trailer of Aurora had no trouble catching our eye and our interest when we stumbled upon it one day, looking, as it does, so Gothic and scary if decidedly not all that trashy. And thus we came to watch this movie, which we have since learned is directed by Yam Laranas, a successful Filipino director with a penchant for horror movies who, in 2008, even directed The Echo (trailer), the American remake of his 2004 horror flick Sigaw, aka The Echo (trailer).
Trailer to
Starring the popular and highly attractive (Australian-born) Filipino actress, singer and TV personality Anne Curtis, Aurora is a far cry from the kind of flick full of guns, machetes, breasts and blood remembered so fondly from the 70s and 80s. No, it is an often beautifully shot, moody horror movie that flips between visual artificiality and verisimilitude as it tries to bring way too much under one salakót. The end result is a movie that starts out with so much promise but, by the time it meanders to its oh-so-desired end, comes across as much, much longer than its 110-minute running time. It is, to say the least, a struggle to sit through till the end — which didn't stop it from being a success in its homeland and making its way to Netfux, where it lingers.
There's a magnificent tracking shot at the start of the movie that sweeps from afar down to the (extremely artificial looking) seaside inn on a remote island run by Leana (Curtis), whom we later learn took charge of the inn and her younger sister Rita (Phoebe Villamor) upon the death of her parents. The inn, like the island, is suffering a slow death since the ferry liner Aurora crashed on the rocks just off the coast (and directly in front of the inn), resulting in the deaths of thousands. ("Instantly" it says in the trailer, but don't be fooled.) When the coast guard official in charge (Ricardo Cepeda of Tarot [2009 / trailer]) calls off the search for the remaining dead, the cash-strapped Leana, faced with financial ruin and having to give up the family homestead, accepts an offer by a couple whose daughter hasn't been found to continue the search for bodies in exchange for cold, hard cash per cold body. Wandering the shores proves less than successful, so she goes in 50-50 with a local fisherman Eddie (Allan Paule of Macho Dancer [1988 / trailer] and Haunted Mansion [2015 / trailer]), but he proves more adept at finding salvageable, sellable cargo than the dead even as ghostly figures begin to make their appearance — including, once, as a laughably hilarious oversized [dead] face in the upstairs window of the inn, visible only to Eddie's wife (Andrea Del Rosario of Rome & Juliet [2006 / trailer] and Kutob [2005 / trailer])...
Without doubt, the strongest aspect of the movie — aside the eye-candy actresses — is the cinematography, which remains impressive for most of the movie. The grey color scheme of the arty-fake house and its interior has its appeal, as does the forlorn landscape, and the camerawork is occasionally almost majestic (re: the opening shot). But as often as too many scenes take way too long, thus moving into the realm of pointless padding, other interludes are marred by an editing so quick and savage that it looks as if done by a half-blind person with dull scissors. And while the interaction with fellow townspeople adds an interesting social-studies aspect, the whole character of Ricky (Marco "Teen Heartthrob" Gumabao), as the young attractive male who really isn't necessary but is shoved into prominence soon after Leona has an attack of conscious, does little more than add to the overall impression that the filmmakers lost their direction along the way. True, he does find the body of the dead giant (Raul Dillo), the only one among the dead who doesn't want "to go home", but it is arguable whether the giant's tangent of the tale is even needed, either — in the end, although one gets the feeling the viewer is meant to sympathize with him, it is difficult to overlook the fact that he is also responsible for the shipwreck, and thus the deaths of countless innocent people.
For all the tangents that fray along the way, towards the end, when the first dead finally make their appearance at the inn, Aurora takes a truly what-the-fuck turn: Leona and Rita try to leave the inn but, when walking through the door, get beamed back in time and onto the ship itself so that they (and the viewer) can experience the tragedy and horror of the boat's shipwreck from below deck, after the expository of a tertiary character allows us to experience it from above deck. While well-made from the point of showing a shipwreck, it is filmed in such a realistic fashion that its very factualness destroys the little sense of the supernatural horror that hadn't yet faded from the narrative, the result being that even the final scene, when the dead walk en mass, totally lacks the horrific punch it should have.
These and other flaws, like occasional highly questionable CGI (the worst being that big face in the window), do great damage to the movie by literally negating any plus points of the narrative and images. Visually, for example, Aurora is well-made and often engaging, and it is also not overly marred by the almost silent-film theatricalism often found in Asian films, but for all the promise the movie holds when it starts, it is an uninteresting mess by the end.
Hardly imperative viewing in any way, Aurora should definitely not be watched late at night — not because it is in any way scary, but because it may well put you to sleep. That said, if your relatives have little kids, the film might scare them into nightmares, so it might be a fun way to introduce to horror films the next time you have to babysit. If you're lucky, and the kids are impressionable, you might never have to babysit again!
As an extra – Oh! The Horror!
Anne Curtis (hot) & Marco Gumabao (less hot) slaughtering Señorita on Filipino TV:

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Vault (USA, 2017)

A pulpy, functionally engaging movie, The Vault is an odd mélange that sort of works and meanders interestingly from its effective opening credits to its mildly satisfying Twilight Zone revelation towards the end but, with the subsequent final and totally unnecessary generic "shock" epilogue ending, makes you want to kick in your TV screen. Up until then, however, the at-times effective, at-times clumsily structured crossbreed offers an engaging evening of crime cum horror. 
Trailer to
The Vault: 
The acting, like the movie's narrative, is a bit uneven, but Taryn Manning (of Zombie Apocalypse [2011] and Cult [2007]) excels as Vee Dillon, the jumpy, possibly itchy-armed sister of the trio of siblings of the 5-person team of robbers that chooses the wrong bank to rob, James Franco sort of sleepwalks through his role as a bank manager who is more than he appears to be, and Q'orianka Kilcher (of Color Our of Space [2019 / trailer]) is surprisingly effective as head teller Susan, a tertiary but nevertheless visible part that offers her the opportunity to believably display a variety of emotions. Possibly the weakest aspect of the film, barring the all the illogicalities that keep the narrative flowing – you definitely will enjoy the movie more if you don't think about stuff like logic and proportion, both of which are sloppy dead in the movie – is the film's lead actress, Francesca Eastwood (of M.F.A. [2017 / trailer]) as Leah Dillon, the nominal non-leader of the robbery gang, who is undoubtedly an attractive person but always sort of comes across like a living, breathing and usually pissed-off Barbie doll, even after she takes off her blonde wig.
As mentioned, The Vault is a tale of a troop of five who stage a relatively well-organized bank robbery – they got the right weapons, they got all the right tools for any eventuality (including drilling a vault open), they got the right outfits, they cause the right distraction – but simply choose the wrong bank: the one they choose, reputed to be haunted we learn early on when the bank manager explains why they have problems keeping tellers, has very little money in its main vault. And just as tensions are about to flair and people are about to get hurt, bank employee Ed Maas (Franco) reveals that the real money is in the basement vault and, against the promise that "no one gets hurt", helps the robbery proceed…
Of course, there is more in The Vault than money and once it is open, the shit hits the fan – not just the supernatural shit, but the cops also surround the bank because of call from the inside, a call that keeps repeating itself over the course of the movie. And so the tension mounts: on the one side, the tension of traditional robbery-gone-wrong-and-we-got-hostages movie, and on the other, the tension of supernatural entities appearing and disappearing and bad guys dying. Of course, only the two most expendable robbers fall [bloody] victim to the supernatural — oddly quickly, actually — while the trio of siblings, on the other hand, are continually confronted with side-line supernatural or heist-movie scares up until the main climax of the narrative. (After all, were they, too, to die as quickly as the characters what's-his-face [Keith Loneker (21 June 1971 – 22 June 2017)] and what's-his-name [Michael Milford], there wouldn't have been much of a movie.)
For all its flaws, The Vault does offer a diverting and engaging evening of visual entertainment, and that all the more successfully on its obviously tight budget than, say, the average Michael Bay movie. But like most of the latter's big-budget extravaganzas, The Vault doesn't stay remembered all that long. Still, if The Vault's filming budget truly was only $5,000,000, the money was much better spent on this film than the $217 million spent on Bay's 2017 project, Transformers: The Last Knight or, for that matter, that movie's TP budget.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Short Film: Fall of the House of Usher (USA, 1928)

Illustration by Harry Clarke
"Plots? Plots? We don’t need no stinkin' plots!" 
(Movies Silently, which doesn't like the film.) 
First published in 1839 in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine (1837-40), the original Gothic short story is probably one of Edgar Allen Poe's most famous tales of terror. And like so many of his works of fiction, it has enjoyed the attention of numerous filmmakers* — indeed, not only does the imdb currently claim a new version is in development hell, but just last month we were invited to review a new independent flick inspired by the tale, George Adams' Lady Usher (2020 / trailer). 
Interestingly enough, in 1928, just as the Silent Age was putting its first foot into the grave, Poe's tale was adapted for the screen for the first time – in two different countries! The result was a silent feature-length film, and a silent short film, both revealing a shared a bent for experimentation on the part of the directors. 
In France, the influential filmmaking film critic Jean Epstein (25 Mar 1897 – 2 Apr 1953), made La chute de la maison Usher (poster above), the film he is perhaps still best-remembered for: co-written by Luis Buñuel — see our Short Film of the Month for February 2016, Un Chien Andalou (1929) — Epstein's version is considered by many to be an early masterpiece of cinema. Online, you can find a full version of the film here.
And back in Edgar Allen Poe's homeland, the (at the time still) United States, the experimental filmmakers James Sibley Watson (10 Aug 1894 – 31 Mar 1982) and Melville Webber (July 1871 – 1947) came up with their directorial debut, the 13-minute short Fall of the House of Usher, which, 72 years later was deemed a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant film" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
"James Sibley Watson, Jr., and Melville Webber, came to filmmaking from diverse, revealing backgrounds. Watson received his medical doctorate in 1923 and published the influential U.S. literary journal The Dial throughout the 1920s. Among frequent contributors to The Dial was poet e.e. cummings, who wrote an early scenario for this film (as well as for Watson's unfinished The Dinner Party [1925]). Webber was an art historian at the University of Rochester, in New York, specializing in medieval frescoes. He designed and painted the striking sets in a barn behind Watson's Rochester home. [National Film Preservation]" 
As explained over at Bill's Movie Emporium, this short is "a nightmarish version of the death of a family. It's all too easy for a family to fall when they have lost their handle on reality. The Fall of the House of Usher takes the viewer into the nightmare that the Ushers' are experiencing, all too vividly. There's plenty of experimentation going on in this short film, but it's experimentation with a purpose. The film is constructed like a dream turned nightmare, and the longer the film goes the deeper into the nightmare the viewer is dragged. As far as early avant-garde cinema is concerned, The Fall of the House of Usher is something special." 
It should perhaps be noted that the film forgoes some narrative clarity in its pursuit of visual experimentation, so some familiarity with the original tale is a plus when viewing this historic visual treat.
The Fall of the House of Usher (1928):

Of making the film, over at River Campus Library, the co-director, the "American medical doctor, philanthropist, publisher, editor, photographer, and early experimenter in motion pictures" James Sibley Watson explains: "Melville Webber and I started to work on our first entertainment film in the Winter of 1926-27. Melville was scenarist, idea man, scene painter, costume designer, make-up man, director, and also played the part of The Visitor. My part was cranking the camera, lighting the sets and the actors, developing, printing, splicing, and projecting the film. Our preliminary experiments left us with many feet of discards. On the other hand, we had managed to assemble a number of 'properties' that were to be extremely useful when we finally settled down to retelling Poe's story. The 'properties' included a home-made coffin, a cardboard flat painted by Melville to represent the façade of the house of Usher, a short flight of fairly normal steps, and a long flight of steps in miniature. We had also acquired from Scott Sterling, of Bausch & Lomb, prisms and distorting lenses that could be rotated in front of the camera lens. Rotating the latter device causes the subject to appear successively short and wide and then tall and thin, an 'effect' employed to give a sort of rhythm to the scene in which a black-gloved hand smoothes Madeline's burial robe as she lies supine in her coffin. In another scene, The Visitor is reading to Roderick. Here certain key words are emphasized by reflecting the letters in the polished surface of a platter turning on a phonograph turntable, making the syllables ripple. […] All of the effects in Usher had to be done with, or in, the camera. […] Usher was strictly amateur; none of us had had any experience with professional film production, least of all myself. It was only recently that I had become obsessed by the idea of making movies. […] I bought a second-hand Bell & Howell 'studio' camera and a speed movement for it. The standard B&H movement could be adjusted to run two films, and it was in this way that we were able to superimpose a moving horse and rider on a background of moving clouds, the opening scene of our film. Melville, The Visitor, was supposed to be the horseman, but that summer (1928) he was in Paris, and a substitute had to be found for this much-needed outdoor shot. Elizabeth Lasell volunteered to make the ride disguised as The Visitor by a top hat and a cloak improvised from a piece of black cloth. The fact that a woman rider was taking the part of a man was apparently not noticed by anyone who had not been told about it beforehand. […]"

* Feature-length versions famous and forgotten can be found everywhere, the most famous possibly being Roger Corman's first Poe flick, with Vincent Price, House of Usher (1960 / poster above / trailer). But while that version is known and fondly remembered, it is far from the only post-Jean Epstein feature-length interpretation of the tale. Most obscure is surely the 1974 Mexican version from Julián Soler (17 Feb 1907 – 5 May 1977), Satanás de todos los horrores (last 13 minutes), though equally few people probably remember that Ken Russell, during his twilight years, did one of his typically tacky takes on the tale with his obscure horror drollery, The Fall of the Louse of Usher (2002 / song from film). Equally obtuse in its reinterpretation of the tale, if with far less artistic intention, are the forgotten Katherine Heigle flick Descendent (2003 / trailer), produced and supposedly co-directed legendary no-budget trash producer Del Tenney (27 July 1930 – 21 Feb 2013), and the buff and beefcake-heavy but auraless homo-eroticus version by film-fertile David DeCoteau, House of Usher (2008 / trailer). On the more exploitive side, there is of course Aussie Alan Birkinshaw's forgotten The House of Usher (1989 / trailer), which surely had Poe rolling over in laughter in his grave but leaves bad-film lovers happy; Hayley Cloake's The House of Usher (2006 / trailer), which he — like everyone — probably failed to notice; and the great headscratcher of them all, found in multiple cuts and versions, Jess Franco's obscure The Fall of the House of Usher aka Neurosis / Revenge in the House of Usher aka The Crimes of Usher aka (1982 / trailer, with Lina Romay). And lest we forget, a TV take from James L. Conway, The Fall of the House of Usher (1979 / clip); the unknown Ivan Barnett's low budget B&W directorial debut from the Borisland, The Fall of the House of Usher (1948 / full film), and...
As for short-film versions, the tales has also had its interpretations, the newest possibly being the dully animated The Fall of the House of Usher (2013 / trailer), narrated by Christopher Lee, one of the episodes of the 5-tale Poe anthology, Extraordinary Tales (trailer). The great Jan Švankmajer also tackled the tale in 1982, with Zánik domu Usherú (full short film without subtitles), a mood piece of more subdued nature than most of his projects, while the eternally underappreciated Curtis Harrington (17 Sept 1926 – 6 May 2007) made two short versions of the tale: the first, the 8mm Fall of the House of Usher, opened his directorial career in 1942 at the age of 16, while the second, Usher, closed it in 2000; in both films, he took over the roles of both Roderick Usher and Madeline Usher. Lastly, at least in regard to the short films we could find, Guerdon Trueblood, the man behind the legendary exploitation movie The Candy Snatchers (1973 / trailer), directed a very true-to-the-source, 30-minute version for Encyclopaedia Britannica's Short Story Showcase in 1976 (full film).

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Babe of Yesteryear: Marilyn Joi, Part IV: 1977-80

Let's hear it for Marilyn Joi. Between 1972 and 1989, this Babe of Yesteryear made indelible as well as blink-and-you-miss-her appearances in a variety of fondly remembered, unjustly forgotten, or gladly overlooked grindhouse products. But fame is a fickle thing, especially in the nether regions of exploitation movies, and although she always exuded a memorable presence and has some notable films in her resume, she never became a "name" — heck, more people know the name Jean Bell than they do Marilyn Joi,* though Joi arguably displayed far greater thespian talent and definitely appeared in a larger number of noteworthy movies. Indeed: "Joi brought variety and a measure of depth to her big and small screen performances. She never walked through a role and she knew the meaning of nuance. She could be a bad girl, a traditional action film heroine, or a light comedienne of considerable charm. [Bob McCann in Encyclopedia of African American Actresses in Film and Television]" To that, we might add that she had a killer figure and she was sexy, and she had fabulous eyes.
* Perhaps due in part to Ms. Bell's status of being one of the first Afro-American women to get nekkid in Playboy, while Ms. Joi only did cheesecake for race-specific publications like Players, "the Black Playboy". (Although, according to Ms. Joi, "I did do some [nude] pictures, but they were never published. I'm sure they're floating around somewhere."**) The original photo of the above image — found at Pulp International — is actually a cover photo from Players. Players deemed Marilyn "America's Favorite Black Poster Girl" in 1980 and, two years later, voted her one of "America's Ten Sexiest Black Women" — and she was. 
** Quote taken from an informative interview published in Shock Cinema #16 in 2000, which can be found at the Internet Archives. We make extensive use of that interview in the following blog entry. For those of you who don't know Shock Cinema, it is one of the best magazines around, particularly for people who read sites like this one. Check it out, buy an issue — you'll love it! 
A beautiful and bubbly Marilyn Joi interviewed:
"Marilyn Joi" was born 22 May 1945 in New Orleans, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, USA. Her full real name is not general knowledge, though her real first name seems to be "Mary"; on-screen, she was at times also credited as Tracy King, Tracy Ann King, T.A. King and even Anita King. She is alive and well and (unlike us) on twitter. A true Babe of Yesteryear, her film career was much too short and she is unjustly unknown — which is why we here at a wasted life have decided to take one of our typically meandering and unfocused looks at her filmography. (If it's more meandering and unfocused than usual, well, in this day and age of corona lockdown we have more time on our hands…) 
As always, we make no guarantee that anything we write is 100% correct (feel free to tell us where we're wrong — preferably in a non-trolly tone of voice). And if we missed a film, let us know…
Go here for
Marilyn Joi, Part One: 1972-73
Marilyn Joi, Part Two: 1974
Marilyn Joi, Part Three: 1975-76
The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington
(1977, dir. William A. Levey)
"She served her country... the only way she knew how!"

As one can imagine, the title does not refer to the state. This is an early documentary about Donald Trump, the titular hooker of the title who goes to Washington...
Just kidding! Trump may be a political whore, but he was still just paying for hookers when the real titular hooker of this film, Xaviera Hollander, pictured bellow, gained international fame as the Happy Hooker. (For a review of her first book, The Happy Hooker, go here at our currently dead blogspot Mostly Crappy Books.) Incongruent to the poster tagline, Xaviera's [home] country is the Netherlands, where there is no town named "Washington".
Xaviera's first book was filmed in 1975 (scene), starring Lynn Redgrave, and since it was a financial success a sequel was greenlighted. Redgrave bailed on the decidedly more low-rent sequel, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, which was based on no previously published Xaviera book (but got a novelization written by Anne Fletcher), and was replaced by Joey Heatherton, whose career was (and stayed thereafter) on the skids. The sequel was followed roughly three years later by The Happy Hooker Goes to Hollywood (1980), which we took a look at in Part V of our R.I.P. Career Review of Dick Miller.
Joey Heatherton's 1972 semi-hit single,
Director William A. Levey will forever have a place in film history for his first directorial project, the anti-classic that is Blackenstein (1973 / trailer below), and also be at least fondly remembered as the scriptwriter and director of the Harry Novak-produced grindhouse comedy (with an uncredited Haji), Wham Bam Thank You Spaceman (1975) — oh, yeah, an additional claim to fame: Deborah Winger's first feature film appearance is in his dull comedy, Slumber Party '57 (1976 / scene). Scriptwriter Robert Kaufman (22 Mar 1931 – 21 Nov 1991) wrote better movies than this one, like Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965 / trailer) and Ski Party (1965, see Dick Miller Part II). He was a specialist of sophomoric humor, most of which dates badly.
Trailer to
As the Spinning Image points out, "Any resemblance between genuine prostitution and the kind depicted here was purely coincidental, as this was a comic romp first and foremost, with a bizarre roster of hard up celebs appearing in supporting roles, including George Hamilton as Xaviera's lawyer."
But Hamilton isn't the only odd and/or recognizable face in the movie: "The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977) is a cinematic time capsule. Think of an actor or actress who you saw every week on television in the 70s but whose name you just cannot remember. He or she is in this movie. The guy who played Darrin Stevens's boss on Bewitched (both Darrins, same boss)? He's in it. The frenetic corporal on F Troop (1965-67 / opening credits)? In it. [...] Billy Frickin' Barty is in it... as a mafia don... whose henchmen pick him up so he can be at eye level with those to whom he speaks. Anyone who was almost someone but didn't have that little something extra made it into this second installment of the Happy Hooker series. [...] Other members of the marvelous cast include Uncle Martin from My Favorite Martian (1963-66), Gunther "Ooh-Ooh" Toody from Car 54 (1961-63 / intro), Odd Job from Goldfinger (1964 / trailer), Rip Taylor from The $1.98 Beauty Show (1978-80 / what?), and Phil Foster and Jack Carter, who were required to be on TV every minute in the 70s. [...] Raven Delacroix (see: Up! In Uschi, Part IX), a staple of 70s nudie movies, has a short, uncredited part. Louisa Moritz,* another frequently nekkid babe, has an equally short but credited role. Both show boobs and bum [...] Two of Xaviera's girls... including the one who has gone missing... are played by former Hefmates. They are Miss May for 1973, Bonnie Large, and for 1974, Pamela Zinszer. [...] Cissie Cameron-Colpitts, Dawn Clark and Marilyn Joi provide the bulk of the exposure. [...] You'd never guess the names, but you might recognize the... uh, faces. [Movie House Commentary]"
* "In November 2014, [Louisa] Moritz became one of the first women to accuse Bill Cosby, claiming Cosby sexually assaulted her in the green room for The Tonight Show in 1971. After Cosby accused her of lying, she sued him for defamation; her lawyer planned to continue the lawsuit after her death. [Wikipedia, accessed 27.04.2020]" Question: What's the biggest difference between a rich white man and a rich black man who likes to sexually assault women? The white man goes to the White House, the black man to jail.
Trailer to
The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington:

"The fact of the matter is that some of the most imaginative films ever made were low-budget grindhouse movies. [...] But, honestly, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington is just bad. It's boring. The acting is terrible. The jokes fall flat. [...] In the Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, Joey Heatherton plays Xaviera Hollander, a former madam who is now a businesswoman, magazine publisher, and sex-advice columnist. [...] Xaviera has been called to testify in front of the Senate Committee to Investigate Sexual Excess in America. And goddamn, this movie is stupid. But anyway, Xaviera goes to Washington to stand up for sexual freedom. Accompanying her is an attorney named Ward Thompson (George Hamilton) and, quicker than you can say 'Fifth place on Dancing with the Stars,' Ward is explaining to Xaviera why her testimony is so important. 'We're heading right into the teeth of a new puritanism,' he tells her. 'Under the new puritanism, there won't be any happy hookers!' Anyway, Xaviera testifies in front of the committee and we get a few flashbacks to some of Xaviera's past accomplishments. And then she gets recruited by a dwarf (Billy Barty) and is sent to seduce a Middle Eastern ruler and ... well, it just keep going and going. This is one of the longest 84-minute films ever released. Anyway, this movie sucks. (And so does Xaviera! That's the level of humor that you can expect when you watch The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington.) [Through a Shattered Lens]"
The Video Vacuum, which admits that what they liked about the movie "doesn't necessarily make for a good movie", saw some positive things on the screen: "The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington is a much better movie than the original for a few reasons. First off, the producers hired a REAL director for the film, not just some dope whose only other credits are TV shows. Of course, the guy they hired was William A Levey, the director of Blackenstein. He's not exactly Orson Welles or anything, although he does know how to film titties bouncing up and down. Which brings me to the second reason Goes to Washington is more entertaining than the first one: it features a hell of a lot more nudity than its predecessor. In fact, there are more tits in the first ten minutes of this movie than there was in the entire running time of Part 1. Thirdly, there are actual jokes this time out. Of course, they are jokes that wouldn't get a laugh in a burlesque house in 1932, but they are jokes nevertheless. Finally, the supporting cast is a lot more fun. [...] Never mind the fact that they aren't really given anything to do, at least they're here dammit."
At least at the Family Drive-in at Mundys Corner, The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington was part of a family appropriate — fit for kids of all ages! — double feature with the equally lame movie Linda Lovelace for President (1975 / scene below), starring the titular star of the X-rated groundbreaker Deep Throat (1972 / soundtrack). A perfect pairing, to say the least. 
Scene from
 Linda Lovelace for President:
In her interview with Shock Cinema, Marilyn Joi says that the best things about making The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington was "Bending over and sticking my butt in George Hamilton's face." But she also has the following anecdote: "I took my mother to see The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington, but I didn't know that there was a porno flick out at the time with the same title!* I saw the listing, and the theatre was right over here on Santa Monica between Fairfax and I think Crescent. I said, 'Oh, Momma, my movie's out! It's right around the corner! Let's go see it!' So we sit in the theatre, and there are all these men... (Laughs) And this movie comes on, and it's reaaaaally dirty! My momma's looking at me — I'm like, 'There's something wrong with this movie, Momma! That's not me!' I ran out to the front and asked the guy, 'Is this The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington?' 'Yeah.' 'Starring Joey Heatherton and George Hamilton?' 'No! This is an X-rated porno theatre!" Ohhhhhhhhhh! 'Oh, Momma, let's go!' (Laughs) All these men were looking at us; and the man behind us, oh God, all I could hear behind us was [makes wet smacking noises]. Oh God!"
* Try as we might, we couldn't locate an X-rated The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington anywhere… but Andy Milligan's Fleshpot on 42nd Street (1973), featuring Harry Reems, did hit the screens at one point as The Erotic Diary of a Happy Hooker. But who does [wet smacking noises] to an Andy Milligan flick? But when it comes to straight porn, the closest we could come to an X-rated Happy Hooker flick is retired exploitation filmmaker Larry G. Spangler's singular gynecologically explicit project, The Life and Times of the Happy Hooker a.k.a The Life and Times of Xaviera Hollander (1974), a poorly shot fuck-fest that had multiple releases and a self-imposed X-rating.
The Kentucky Fried Movie
 (1977, dir. John Landis)
"Never before has the beauty of the sexual act been so crassly exploited!"
The movie most people refer to when they mention Marilyn Joi in an online post somewhere. We took a look at Kentucky Fried Movie in Part X of our Babe of Yesteryear feature on the Great Uschi, where we wrote: 
The classic amongst the anthology sketch comedy films that flooded the screens in the 70s, a genre that has for the most part died out (the last one we saw, and laughed our heads off at, was the immensely tasteless Movie 43 [2013 / trailer]). Also typical of the times: lots of naked breasts. And P.I. humor. 
Trailer to
Kentucky Fried Movie:
As directed by John Landis, who made his directorial debut six years earlier with Schlock! (1971 / trailer), the movie helped launched a directorial career that even survived the death of Vic Morrow and two children during the coke-fueled filming of his segment of The Twilight Zone Movie (1982 / trailer). The scriptwriters — Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker — also went on to substantial careers, together and apart, though our favorite movie of theirs, Top Secret! (1984 / trailer), typically enough, was their biggest flop.
"The Kentucky Fried Movie," says Cracked Rear Viewer, "takes guerilla comedy to the extreme. A series of unrelated events, KFM skewers local news, commercials, PSAs (Henry Gibson in a United Appeal for the Dead), TV shows, and movies. There's some previews of Coming Attractions thrown in, touting 'Samuel L. Bronkowitz' productions of R-rated titillation pics (Catholic High School Girls in Trouble), disaster movies (That's Armageddon!!), and Blaxploitation (Cleopatra Schwartz). The big set-piece is A Fistful of Yen, a pitch-perfect kung-fu parody with leads that can't pronounce their R's ('Total consentwation'), cheesy sound effects, an evil villain bent on world domination, and an insanely funny conclusion."
We re-watched the movie recently and came away with laugh cramps. A Fistful of Yen probably couldn't get made nowadays, nor would the short skit Danger Seekers (the N-word alone negates it), and there wouldn't be either as much nakedness or as many gay jokes, but the movie as a whole remains more funny than dated. Our favorite segment remains the faux trailer for Cleopatra Schwartz, with the delicious, doe-eyed Babe of Yesteryear Marilyn Joi, of the Jim Kelly-vehicle Black Samurai (1976 / trailer [see Part III]), Mansion of the Doomed (1976 / trailer [see Part III]) and a lot of other fun trash, like Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks (1976, see Uschi Part IX or R.I.P. Haji or Joi Part III]), as the titular Cleopatra. 
Faux trailer to
Cleopatra Schwartz:
Catholic High School Girls in Trouble, famously enough, is the segment featuring Uschi Digard, whose famous breasts are felt up in a zoom to squeaky-balloon sound effects and subsequently squashed against a shower door during a shower sex scene. But hers are not the only merry melons paraded in the two-minute faux-trailer: there's the memorable topless conversation between three healthy Catholic high-school girls (Nancy Mann, Lenka Novak [of Vampire Hookers (1978 / trailer) and Betsy Genson] who are later chained up and whipped by a dwarf...
The Wonderful World of Sex sketch is also pretty funny, and a good argument against instructional records. Stuntman Manny Perry, in his full yummy muscular prime, shows up for the punch line as "Big Jim Slade".
But though we find The Kentucky Fried Movie funny, not everyone does. Flick Filosopher, for example, says, "If I had been introduced to the film at a more impressionable age, I might today have pleasant adolescent memories of it that would color my grownup response to it today, and perhaps I could be kinder to a movie considered a comedy classic by some. But I wasn't, I haven't, and I can't. […] The Kentucky Fried Movie believes itself to be wild, but it's depressingly quite restrained: it sets up a formula for itself — cheap setup, obvious punchline, then a treadmill of repeating the punchline instead of developing it even further — and never once deviates from it." (Sounds like the Trump presidency to us, actually.)
About Kentucky Fried Movie, the movie she used to get recognized for all the time, in her interview at Shock Cinema Marilyn Joi imparted the following: "They were looking for a girl who was 6'2", so I walked in there wearing a pair of shorts and a little pink t-shirt. They said. 'You're not 6'2". I said, 'Yeah, but I can put on shoes and I got long legs and you can aim the camera up, can't you?' They said, 'Welllll... what about your chest?' I said, 'Here...' and I took off my t-shirt. 'There it is.' They said, 'OK, you got it!' (Laughs) That was when I was bold!"
Nurse Sherri
(1978, dir. Al Adamson)
A.k.a. The Possession of Nurse Sherri, Black Voodoo, Beyond the Living, Hospital of Terror, Killer's Curse, Hands of Death, Terror Hospital and probably more. Not exactly your typical nurseploitation film, but could anything else be expected of auteur anti-director Al Adamson? Instead of mining the typical sexploitation territory of the classic Corman production, Adamson turned to The Exorcist (1973 / trailer), or of the any number of possession flicks that came after Freidkin's hit, and came up with this schlocky, love-it-or-hate-it disasterpiece — classic Adamson, in other words.
Marilyn Joi may not be the titular Nurse Sherri, but it could be argued that she is the real heroine of the flick — after all, she is actually the one who saves as much of the day as can be saved. It was the last film she was to make with Adamson. As she mentioned in her interview with Shock Cinema, "I really liked Al. He was a very nice man, and nothing like the movies he made. I got my best review for one of his films, Nurse Sherri, either in Variety or Hollywood Reporter. They actually mentioned me in the review and wrote nice things about me! [...] It really hurts me to think about what happened to him. He was such a nice man." 
Trailer to
Nurse Sherri:

Fred Beldin at All Movie, who thinks "the film among Adamson's best work", agrees: "Drive-in director Al Adamson's last great film, this delirious possession picture circulated under a plethora of names, but stinks just as sweetly, regardless of moniker. Adamson was a canny repackager of his films, editing and re-editing them to ship out as brand new titles with new advertising campaigns. For Beyond the Living, that meant amplifying the horror elements to play out as the title Killer's Curse, adding extra softcore sex to create Nurse Sherri, and then accentuating a few African-American characters and calling it Black Voodoo, et cetera, et cetera. As a result of the constant scene jumbling, every version suffers from a choppy, confusing narrative flow and an impaired sense of logic. Early in the film, the surgeon reaches out to touch his fiancée — his hand still wet with the gore of a failed heart operation. Later, Sherri is found unconscious in the ladies' room with blood dripping from her mouth, leading her boyfriend to wonder if she's being faithful. Don't even try to figure out the timeline the film is following, as time seems to be a flexible element in the Adamson universe; it's hard to say whether hours, days, or weeks have passed between scenes. […] Beyond the Living [i.e., Nurse Sherri] is crude but energetic, a nonstop barrage of outrageous moments designed to hold an audience's attention, even with all the distractions of a drive-in theater. The viewer is treated to such ridiculous elements as a psychotic cult leader's ghost, a magical silver talisman, a bit of corpse burning, a blind football star with the power of voodoo, pitchfork-through-the-chest gore, a quick poltergeist episode, plus the requisite horny nurse and comic-relief patient. Everyone overacts their hearts out (except for robotically stoic leading man Geoffrey Land), often to comic effect, but the cast can maintain intensity when it counts and keeps the picture firmly in terror mode."
Somewhere along the way, as evident by the advert above, Nurse Sherri got paired with a 1974 Paul Naschy film, House of Psychotic Women, a.k.a. Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll, a fact we mention only as an excuse to embed that film's trailer below.
Trailer to
House of Psychotic Women:

In theory, Adamson came up with the initial idea, his partner Samuel M. Sherman with the story, and one-script-wonders Greg Tittinger and Michael Bockman with the script. (OK, Bockman wrote one other movie that we could find, that to his only feature directorial project, the never released Starving Hysterical Naked [2003 / fundraising short]).
Among the many versions, two main versions of the film seem to be currently floating around: the longer version has a subplot of a cultist trying to find the body of their leader, Reanhauer (Bill Roy), while the other, shorter version exorcises the subplot and replaces it with gratuitous sexploitation scenes.
The full narrative, as supplied by One-Sheet Index: "Sherri Martin (Jill 'Nice Wrack' Jacobson) is a 21-year-old nurse whose sweet disposition and even temper have made her hated by some jealous staff members in the hospital she works in. On the other hand, most of her patients find this quality just what they like about her. It is ironic then that Sherri should be fated to be the one chosen to be possessed by a strange and mystic power. Alone in her room she is seemingly 'raped by an invisible presence'. She struggles without success in a most horrifying and tormenting scene. After this possession her behavior changes strangely. Her attitude towards Dr. Peter Desmond (Geoffrey Land of Adamson's anti-classic, The Female Bunch [1971 / trailer]), her fiancé, also changes. Sherri, without warning, heads off on unexplained trips to murder people she hardly knows. One of these is Dr. Nelson (Clay Foster), former head of the hospital's surgical staff. Nurse Tara Williams (Marilyn Joi) has become friendly with one of the hospital's patients. He is Marcus Washington (Prentiss Moulden of Adamson's version of Uncle Tom's Cabin [1976, see Part III]), a tragically blinded black pro football star. Marcus senses trouble in the hospital through the extra sense his blindness has given him. That combined with a Hatian background leads him to suspect someone close of being possessed by something or someone evil. Nurses Beth (Katherine Pass of Kansas City Bomber [1972 / trailer]) and Tara discover the mutilated corpse of Nurse Gorden (Caryl Briscoe) and this leads them to suspect Sherri. Marcus explains to the two nurses that Sherri must be possessed and eventually the girls uncover the fantastic truth. Two years prior, a religious fanatic, Reanhauer (Roy), was forced to undergo an operation that he didn't want in the hospital. He later died on the operating table. His departed spirit has now possessed Sherri and he is having everyone who participated in the surgery killed in a most brutal manner by the young girl he has possessed. Tara and Beth find out that the only way to stop the possession is to prevent the undead spirit from coming to earth through the medium of travel — his 'last earthly remains'. Through great research the girls find the cemetery where Reanhauer is buried and attempt to unearth the coffin and burn his body. At the same time Sherri is preparing to kill Dr. Peter Desmond with a heavy meat cleaver. The girls in the cemetery are delayed by strange winds and forces that impede their destroying the body. Eventually their task is done and in time to prevent Sherri from killing Peter as she collapses when the body is burned. As Sherri has murdered several people, she is considered criminally insane by Dr. Andrews (Jack Barnes) who dismisses the real cause as 'utter nonsense'. An anguished Peter gazes into a padded cell where an obviously sane but bewildered Sherri sits, restrained by a straight jacket."
"Exploitation films were still filling the drive-ins back in the 1970s. Many of these titillating films featured beautiful nurses, and in the 1970s they were still clad in white. This was perfect as those white uniforms were slightly form fitting for sex comedies and a perfect background for red splattered blood in those slasher films. 1978's Nurse Sherri […] will show us many beautiful nurses, in those white get-ups or nude. Either nude, or in clad in white, many will die horribly at the hands of the title character. […] Nurse Sherri, directed by Al Adamson is fine 1970s horror/exploitation. Lots of pretty damsels and some nice gore highlight this tale of angels in white in much peril. [Z Emporium]"
"The highlight of the film is a hallucinogenic montage of twisted imagery that surrounds Sherri as she lays in bed and the demon takes her over. A low-budget green light special effect creeps into the room from under the door and swirls around her, depicting images of death and destruction, symbolizing the possession. The climax of the film is the bathroom scene when Sherri, in her blood-spattered white nightgown, is about to murder Desmond but the spirit leaves her body at that very moment when two local nurses exhume the body of Reanhauer and burn the grave. The score of the film is great, using eerie 70's synths and strings, and although not the least bit scary, it is an entertaining piece of horror history. Nurse Sherri isn't quite up to par with one of my favorite horror films of all time (Horror Hospital [1973 / trailer below]), but it is still a good watch. Hospitals are just a perfect setting for horror — almost as good as a circus with killer clowns . . . [Big Toe]" 
American trailer to
Horror Hospital, starring Michael Gough:

Nerdly, however, was less impressed: "[…] Unfortunately, Nurse Sherri is another jagged piece of rock with only but a few specks of [exploitation] gold. Aside from some nice pieces of gore and the odd bit of flesh on show, there's really nothing to shout about here. OK, there's a fairly well executed car chase, but that's all I'm giving you. When the story isn't jumping back and forth in a haphazard way, it's just bloody boring. The concept is cool, if not a bit contrived and familiar at times. Acting as you would expect (and want to be honest.) is a bit wooden at times, but not in that unintentionally funny sort of way. Speaking of funny, I have seen people talking about the comedic aspects of this film. What comedic aspects? It's about as funny as a John Oliver joke. I just didn't really get engrossed in to the film like you should. I mean, it's nursesploitation meets paranormal horror! That should be outrageous and silly! This is far from Al Adamson's most memorable outings. I can't even recommend Nurse Sherri in that 'Oh so bad, it's good!' sort of way.* That being said, the finale is somewhat memorable." 
* But Last Movie Review on the Left can: "Strangely entertaining in a campy sort of way. […] The phrase 'So bad it's good' applies."
And the acting? Well: "The acting is high school play level at best — Geoffrey Land as Dr. Peter is particularly atrocious — although Joi acquits herself the best of anyone, and Bill Roy is entertaining enough as the scenery-feasting villain. [Mad Mad Mad Mad Movies]"
The GIF above of Joi doing one of her prerequisite boob scenes comes from the Department of Afro-American Research Arts & Culture (DAARAC), which also supplies the interesting alternative to Dwight Graydon "Gray" Morrow's original poster art used on the VHS below: when Nurse Sherri became Black Voodoo, Sherri suddenly also became a Sister.
Gray Morrow (7 Mar 1934 – 6 Nov 2001), should you not know, was an illustrator and comic artist we best remember as the co-creator of Marvel's Man-Thing (film version: 2005 / trailer), a character that many think is a rip-off of DC's Swamp Thing, but actually first appeared two months earlier than the better-known humanoid swamp thingy (Marvel's B&W Savage Tails #1, of May 1971, versus DC's House of Secrets #92 of July 1971).

Blue Collar
(1978, dir. Paul Schrader)
The one that got away — or, rather, that got turned down. Paul Schrader's directorial debut, starring Yaphet Kotto, Harvey Keitel and Richard "Cokehead" Pryor (1 Dec 1940 – 10 Dec 2005), the last man at the pinnacle of his career (the poster above, you might notice, features his face twice and neither face of his costars). At the time he was filming this movie, Pryor was married to his third of five wives (his third of seven marriages), Deborah "SuperEula" McGuire (of Female Chauvinists [1975, see Uschi Part VIII], Supervixens [1975, see Uschi Part VIII], and Black Starlet [1974] at Marilyn Joi, Part II — where we don't mention her], pictured below, who left him after he emptied a gun into the side of her car [Jet, 12 Mar 1981]. (To paraphrase some famous graffiti, "Whatever happened to Deborah McGuire?")
Blue Collar, an above the board, Hollywood A-movie, was a commercial flop when it was released but is generally considered a great movie and is on many a person's "Best of" list, including Spike Lee's own extremely eclectic "List of Films All Aspiring Filmmakers Must See"... To put it bluntly, it would have been shining moment on Marilyn Joi's resume in regard to mainstream films.
Blue Collar:
But everyone has their own limits. Most Americans balk at nudity, and say yes to drugs. Marilyn Joi is cut from different stuff, as one notices by what she says in her interview with Shock Cinema: "I turned down a part in a Richard Pryor movie [Blue Collar] because I had to snort coke during a scene. I asked them, 'Do I die?' They said. 'No.' I asked, 'Do I have a good time?' They said, 'Yes.' I asked, 'Well, how does the scene end?' They said, 'We cut to something else.' I said, 'No, I can't do that! I'll strip naked and have sex in a film if you pay me enough, but I won't do drugs. I don't want to give people the idea that I do drugs, or that I think it's OK to do drugs.'* So I turned it down, but they called me again and said, 'Please do the part.' (Laughs) Why did they need me? So many other girls would've done the part. Me, I just couldn't."
* But: Yes, Virginia, it is OK to do drugs — just take the responsibility for what they sow.
On the other hand, maybe Joi was smart: the shoot was famously contentious and disharmonious, with thrown chairs and temper tantrums, and all three main stars walking off the set at one point or another.
From the movie:
Hard Workin' Man,
performed by Captain Beefheart (15 Jan 41 - 17 Dec 10): 

The plot, as explained by Lucia Bozzola at All Movie: "Surviving from paycheck to paycheck, Checker Cab assembly linemen Zeke (Richard Pryor), Jerry (Harvey Keitel), and Smokey (Yaphet Kotto) scrape by and take pleasure in a few rounds of beer or bowling (and occasional illicit amusements). But when their money troubles pile up, Jerry and Smokey join Zeke in a desperate plan to steal cash from their local union office. Along with a piddling $600, they unexpectedly swipe evidence of union corruption. Deciding to use it for blackmail, the men discover instead how powerfully malevolent the union can be in a system that counts on petty divisiveness to keep the larger power structure intact. Inspired by stories of real-life disillusionment […]."
If one is to believe imdb's trivia page for Blue Collar, Paul Schrader claims that when he pitched to an executive that the film was about two black workers and one white, the executive replied "You mean two white and one black, don't you?" If true, the fact makes the following bit of gossip found at AFI all the more ironic: "Writer-director Paul Schrader was inspired by the story of African-American screenwriter Sydney A. Glass, who told Schrader about his father, a lifelong Detroit automobile plant worker who committed suicide due to his involvement in a union theft. Although Glass expressed interest in writing the story, Schrader and his brother, Leonard Schrader (30 Nov 1943 – 2 Nov 2006), wrote their own script using the same subject matter. When Glass heard of Schrader's project, he protested to the Black Writers Committee of the Writers Guild of America, who ordered Schrader to resolve the matter before production began. This resulted in Glass receiving one-third of Schrader's screenwriter's fee and an onscreen 'suggested by source material by' credit." 
The early Leonard Schrader production,
the mondo documentary
The Killing of America (1981): 

"Even though it was made back in 1978, Blue Collar doesn't feel at all dated thematically. Dealing with crooked unions and frustrations with a job that never pays you enough is something many of us still deal with in this day and age. Watching it more than 30 years after its initial release makes me wonder how much, if any, progress has been made for any American workers. […] It is one of those movies from the 70s deserving of a big audience from one generation to the next. Watching it today is even more bittersweet as those auto factories in Michigan where the movie was shot no longer exist. It was tough for the people who worked there back then, but imagine what it must be like for them now. The movie ends in a freeze frame which brilliantly encapsulates how the union and those in power continue to stay on top of the working man. After all these years, it doesn't feel like much has changed, but anyone and everyone out there is welcome to prove me wrong. [The Ultimate Rabbit]"
"Blue Collar is an ugly film, thematically and in terms of the situations its characters are forced into. It shows personal economic freedom and progress as a never-ending cycle that results in nothing but further inequality and disenfranchisement from a country that allegedly fights against it. If a film like this came out in present time it would be a strong social statement, but its 1978 release date shows that little has changed in present time when it comes to the dealings of big business. [Steve the Movieman]"
The Great American Girl Robbery
(1979, dir. Jeff Werner)
"I'm going to give her my soul-lami!"
George Henderson (Anthony Lewis)
A.k.a. Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend, Cheerleaders' Naughty Weekend and, supposedly, Bus 17 Is Missing. Alongside Satan's Cheerleaders (1977 / trailer, poster beow), perhaps one of the deep points and most entertaining films of heyday the cheerleadersploitation genre — the movie's nominal "name" star, former Playboy covergirl Kristin DeBell, cover further below, famous for her debut film, the R-rated & X-rated musical Alice in Wonderland (1976 / trailer), generally likes to ignore this film when talking about her career. Oddly enough, considering how often she does full-frontal nude (and more) in Alice, she shows relatively little skin in this movie.
Down Among the "Z" Movies sees The Great American Girl Robbery as "a porn film without sex" that is "truly mindless and implausible, cheesy and silly" — in other words, a typical exploitation film. But even in exploitation, seldom has a cheerleader film displayed as much boobage as this one — and Marilyn Joi's are there as well, covered and uncovered, as belonging to the not-too-minor character LaSalle (for whatever reason, Marilyn is credited as Tracy King). Most of the cheerleaders, like Joi, are attractive but obviously a bit too old to be playing cheerleaders (unless they flunked at least a decade straight).
The Great American Girl Robbery is the directorial debut of Jeff Werner, "an award-winning director and editor of documentaries, feature films and motion picture advertising" [LinkedIn]. The script is credited to D.W. Gilbert, who disappeared thereafter, and Jason Williams, who coproduced the movie with the legendary Bill Osco and a then-unknown Chuck Russell (director of the 1988 remake of The Blob). Williams plays one of the lead bad guys in this movie, Wayne Mathews, and even acted with the Great Uschi in Tom Simone's 3-D Prison Girls (1972, see Uschi Part VI), but is probably best remembered for playing the titular character of the sexploitation classic, Flesh Gordon (1974 / trailer below), produced by legendary shyster Bill Osco.
Trailer to
Flesh Gordon:

Over at The Rialto Report, in their excellent article on Alice in Wonderland, Jason Williams speaks a bit about his experience as co-producer of The Great American Girl Robbery and working with Bill Osco: "Bill had brought his high school buddy out to Los Angles from Ohio. Bill had a limousine and this high school buddy was his chauffeur. It turned out the driver was one of the only guys who was actually getting paid every week. I owned about half of The Great American Girl Robbery […]. I ended up selling my percentage of it to the chauffeur! I don't know why I sold it to him but I just took that money and left. That was the only money I ever got… I had to sell my share of it to the chauffeur just to get any money out of it. […] But Bill was bad. He stole from everybody, never paid anyone, and it just became intolerable for everybody. In the end everybody had to sue him. […] I knew it wasn't going to do any good for me to sue him, so I just left and went on my own way."
DVD Drive-in, which says that "this late 1970s blend of sexploitation and caper film elements may not make for a great movie, but it's still hard to resist on a trashy level, especially with all the bare breasts and buttocks on display", has the plot: "Three different cheerleader squads from three different competing schools are traveling via school bus to a big state competition in Sacramento. Making it to their final destination is thwarted when their vehicle is obstructed by an odd assemblage, including bitter ex-footballer Wayne Mathews (Jason Williams), his equally distraught former teammates George (Anthony Lewis) and Big John (John Albert), his little brother Billy (Robert Houston of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes [1977 / trailer]) and a buxom, bra-less blonde lesbian (Courtney Sands). The abducted girls are brought to a cabin out in the woods, made to take off their shoes and sleep on bare mattresses as their five captors demand a $2 million dollar ransom for their safe release. A popular local disk jockey named Joyful Jerome (Leon Isaac Kennedy, here billed as 'Lee Curtis') is inadvertently brought in as the on-air middleman between the kidnappers and the police, as the cheerleaders cause mischief, stage various antics and attempt several escapes before a bag of cash is collected by the baddies."
Critical Condition — which says "this lighthearted film […] is a good bet" if "you don't mind a lack of violence (no one is killed), lots of naked women (and, really, who doesn't like that?) and a playful sense of humor" — supplies all the SPOILERS! you might need: "Not surprisingly (since this is a 70s cheerleader flick), the girls begin to like it until Big John tries to rape Lisa (Ann Wharton). Frankie saves Lisa, but she then puts the moves on her in the bathroom when Frankie cleans her up. The cops demand proof that the girls are OK, so Wayne picks Debbie (the lovely Kristine DeBell) to call into the radio station. Wouldn't you know it? Wayne and Debbie hit it off. One of the girls, Afton (Janet 'Janus' Blythe of C.B. Hustlers [1976, see Uschi Part IX] and Tobe Hooper's Eaten Alive [1976 / trailer]), unsuccessfully tries to escape (she holds George off with a chainsaw for a few moments). All of the girls put their differences aside and formulate a plan of escape. […] Using fire, cheerleading moves and a rope made from their panties (!), the girls overpower Frankie, Big John (who shoots himself in the foot) and George, throw them in the bus and drive off to the waiting police. The girls, led by Debbie, let Wayne and Billy get away with the ransom because they are basically nice guys, after all. […] Although most of the violence is implied rather than shown, there's more than enough action and female flesh on view to keep even the most jaded viewer occupied. The ransom drop-off is pretty amusing, especially when one of the cops (who says, 'Oh, bat shit!' a lot) describes a ransom plot he saw on a TV show a couple of months before and his partner then realizes that they have fallen for the same ruse. Wayne and Billy's final escape from the cops after getting the ransom is filmed like a football game, complete with passing, blocking, tackling and a Sousa marching tune on the soundtrack."
The Great American Girl Robbery a.k.a. Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend seems to be a love-it or hate-it kind of movie, in part due to its odd narrative structure. "A raucous and completely schizoid experience, […] the film fires in numerous directions at commercial targets right from the opening scenes featuring female cast members doing perky glamour poses accompanied by funky main title music, and the plot skids wildly from leering T&A fantasy to broad comedy to violent roughie melodrama, finally culminating in wild heist antics right out of a '70s Disney caper. Director Werner (who later helmed the weirdest Robbie Benson vehicle, Die Laughing [1980 / trailer]) certainly never allows the place to flag, but the brutal tonal shifts nearly knock the film off the rails over and over again. [Mondo Digital]"
"The shifts in tone seem to throw off some reviewers," says Marc Fusion, "but it's not like David Hess is here crushing the souls of the girls. A couple of scenes are tense and on the rough side, but it's infrequent. The idea of going from a wild strip show to near-rape is jarring, but its exploitation, so it's not unheard of. Things do take a more serious turn toward the end, but this is not a savage, rough picture. […] The film has some odd moments, but offers fun, drive-in style entertainment. Worth a look to those who appreciate cheesecake and exploitation cinema in general."
And Video Vacuum , who wishes that they "had the job of icing up the girls' nipples in-between takes", definitely appreciates the cheesecake but sees beyond the "naked women distracting motorists so they crash through fruitcarts, cheerleaders getting into catfights, naked beauty pageants, lesbian bathing, chainsaws, and lots and lots of nudity": "Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend is what it is. It's a drive-in cheerleader movie. It delivers on the T&A; which is why we're watching the damn thing. The filmmakers could've been content to just let it go at that but they actually managed to make a well-made movie here. The scripting is tight and the kidnappers' plan is actually rather clever. The acting is top drawer (for a cheerleader movie anyway) as hotties Kristine DeBell […] and Marilyn Joi turn in fun performances. The dudes in the cast are also good. Williams gives a multi-dimensional performance as the not-so bad guy and Leon Isaac Kennedy is solid in the critical role as the DJ who the kidnappers use to communicate with the cops."
Those with tastes that run less towards the exploitive might find the experience of The Great American Girl Robbery less enjoyable. Every 70s Movie, for example, which is not the most grindhouse-oriented site, definitely dislikes the "the icky spectacle of a row of half-nude girls gyrating on a makeshift stage at gunpoint" and says: "The Great American Girl Robbery is a hostage picture with the feel of a sleazy horror movie. […] There's also a catfight and various scenes in which cheerleaders try to screw their way to freedom. Boring, cheap, and exploitive without being titillating, The Great American Girl Robbery finally managed to kill the [cheerleader exploitation genre]. Good riddance."
By the way, the fine piece of literature the two cheerleaders (to the left, "Hana Byrbo", otherwise known as Lenka Novak) are seen perusing above is nothing less than that classic volume of erotic literature "involving a sexy and seductive girl, full of sexual adventures, surprises and twists" credited sometimes to Martin Tcaza and sometimes to Sand Wayne but, when first published by Stag Books, was credited to Roger Tigger (cover further below). Games Neighbors Play can be found in full here, but let us present the book's first and last paragraph: "Susie felt it happen as she slipped off her dress, sheer magic warmly enveloping her flesh, softening it to the bone. Her movements slowed. She dropped the dress on the bathroom laundry hamper and felt her face, her throat, her bra stretched by suddenly swollen breasts. Her nipples were hard. She slid a hand down her belly, over her panties to her crotch. It was moist. […] She climbed off the banister, smiling broadly as she climbed the stairs toward Nick."
Although we have no way to prove it, and have yet to find supporting evidence online, we here at a wasted life suspect the book's cover art, supplied by an un-credited but regular cover illustrator of Stag Books, might be the legendary John Severin (26 Dec 1921 – 12 Feb 2012).
Trailer to
Cheerleaders' Wild Weekend:

(1980, writ. & dir. William Sachs)

 "The year is 3008. Space travel is now routine. As new galaxies were explored and more civilizations discovered, the traffic in space increased. The United Intergalactic Federation was called upon to create a police force and soon a fleet of ships was patrolling the far reaches of the known star systems. This is the story of one of these ships police cruiser, Number 308, The Infinity. It is also the story of the ship's crew and the ship's robot. She was no ordinary robot for in the 31st century man finally created a machine with feelings, and her name is … Galaxina." 

The creative force behind the movie, William Sachs, is perhaps best known as the writer and director of the disasterpiece The Incredible Melting Man (1977 /
trailer), but he is also the anti-auteur behind the mildly amusing teen cruising flick, Van Nuys Blvd (1979 / trailer). Galaxina itself is best remembered today for being one of the few as well as the final film shot with Dorothy Stratten, the Playboy Playmate of the Year for 1979 (she was the Aug 79 centerfold) who got shot for real and to death on 14 August 1980 by her estranged husband Paul Snider, whom she had left for director Peter Bogdanovich.
Eight years later, by the way, Bogdanovich went on to do the totally normal thing and marry Dorothy's younger sister, Louise Stratten (they divorced in 2001); Louise makes occasional minor appearances in movies, like in Ninja Cheerleaders (2008), where she plays Monica's mom. 
Trailer to Bob Fosse's
take on the Dorothy Stratten story,
Star 80:
Let's go to It's a Man's Number for a moment, where the Man says: "[Galaxina] is a low budget film, and does very little to hide that fact. In fact, it almost revels in its cheapness, without ever seeming lazy or completely inept. And I know that people will be rushing to tell me that I'm wrong, that the film is almost completely inept, but I'll still refute that charge. It works. It works for me, and that's all that I need sometimes."
Well, we here at a wasted life saw Galaxina years ago on DVD with some non-grindhouse fans and ended up thinking it shite — among other reasons: though a comedy it wasn't funny*, the pace was glacial, there was a notable lack of any nudity, and although Stratten looks hot she is as stiff as a board — but we would be willing to give it a second shot with some bad-film fans some day in the future.
* "The name of one of the major characters in this film is Captain Cornelius Butt. Does that make you laugh? If it does, then you are the kind of person for whom Galaxina was intended. This is supposed to be a sci-fi comedy, but no one bothered to write any jokes. [Stomp Tokyo]"
We here at a wasted life would have to agree with Stomp Tokyo that despite all the blather after Stratten's tragic death about how she "could/would have" been a star, "the fact that Stratten was murdered around the time the movie came out [may have] increased her legend to some degree, [but] this film wouldn't have moved her any closer to mainstream stardom even if she had lived."
But then, perhaps we were/are simple immune to that special something that William Sachs saw when he cast Dorothy Stratten in his film: "We looked at so many people and there were many that were truly beautiful but they all seemed to look the same. They lacked what I was looking for but I couldn't tell you what it was that I wanted. I just needed to see it. Anyway, outside the office was the work pool with secretaries and people, like twenty people at desks. For months we had people walking through there. When Dorothy Stratten came in and walked through, every single person, male, female, everybody stopped working and stared at her. It was right then that I knew we had found her, because the secretaries and workers had been seeing people come through for months and had never even looked up. [Nerd Rage News]"
In any event, Marilyn Joi is there as the Winged Girl, seen above having a drink with a winged guy. 
Trailer to

Crown Pictures reduces the plot to a terse minimum, saying "A sexy, intergalactic robot helms a spaceship crew in search of a mystical gem known as the 'Blue Star'."
Zisi Emporium for B Movies, however, offers much more detail: "In the year 3008, an inter-galactic police cruiser is patrolling the outer reaches of the universe. Its captain is Cornelius Butt (Avery Schreiber [9 Apr 1935 – 7 Jan 2002] of The Silent Scream [1979 / trailer]), and his right-hand man is Sgt. Thor (Stephen Macht of Amityville 1992 [1992, with Dick Miller]). Galaxina (Stratten) is a robot on the vessel and she acts as a maid, waitress, and sometimes a power source for their force-field. The stunning robot also has a defense feature, if touched by a human, that poor sap gets a stiff jolt of electricity (sort of a futuristic chastity belt). Galaxina is all robot and doesn't speak until one day Thor cannot resist her beauty and braves the electric shock and plants a big kiss on her. Though a very painful endeavor on his part, Thor tells her 'It was worth the pain.' This also does something to Galaxina as she experiences emotions for the first time. […] Meanwhile, the crew is given orders to retrieve 'The Blue Crystal'. You know, the proverbial crystal that all who possess it may have rule over the universe. To get to the planet where it is located, the crew must spend 27 years in cryogenic sleep. In those 27 years, Galaxina reprograms herself so when the crew wakes, she can talk and seduce. When Thor awakes, Galaxina has no problem getting him to fall in love with her […]. As the cruiser is attacked by the evil Ordric (who also wants the crystal), they crash land on the planet. Because of the planet's atmosphere, only Galaxina can venture into a town populated by aliens who eat humans and retrieve the crystal. Galaxina will come face to face with the evil Ordric (actor, Ronald Knight; voice, Percy Rodrigues [13 Jun 1918 – 6 Sept 2007] of Come Back, Charleston Blue [1972] and Brain Waves [1983]) and attempt to use her seductive powers to defeat him. She will also be captured and tied up by a 1950's type motorcycle gang who worships the god Harley Davidson. Will Galaxina escape her bondage and return to the spaceship with the crystal? Will her romance with Thor get past some obvious technical issues […]?" (If that plot synopsis isn't detailed enough for you, then we suggest the blow-by-blow account found at the AFI Catalog.)
Werewolves on the Moon is "sorry to say it [is] not a particularly good film. […] Stephen Macht (the prototype Kevin Sorbo) is mediocre as Thor, the space cop with a boner for a robot and a fetish for his rowing machine, and Avery Schrieber is not too annoying as Butt. Dorothy Stratten […] is clearly an ex-playboy model acting for the first time. As this is her debut film, I'm sure she would have improved with time, but this isn't the most auspicious debut — although she does fill out a jumpsuit nicely. The writing, on the other hand is shit. It's just not anywhere near as funny as it thinks it is, consisting of lame puns, irritating sight gags, unlikely and crappy pop culture references […]. It's just pun-tastic and for the most part completely unfunny. One joke in particular really got on my last nerve: every time someone says 'Blue Star' there's a big choral 'Aaaah-HAAAAAA!'. This is done about 10 times, and gets less and less amusing every time. […] The pacing is all over the place — a prime example being the end — it literally just crashes to a halt. There's no really satisfactory conclusion, and the film feels cut short.* […] Oh, and that poster is a complete fucking misrepresentation. Lying bastards."
* Little does he know, it was: La La Land was plagued by rains during the shoot, which caused the film to fall behind schedule, so the producers literally pulled pages from the script to come in on time and budget.
But in defense of the film comes Rock! Shock! Pop!, which says: "At any rate, with that said, Galaxina is a horrible film but it's one worth seeing for anyone with an interest in cinematic cult oddities, which it certainly qualifies as. Good? No, not by any stretch, but rather interesting in its own horrible, super cheap drive-in sort of way."
Final stuff 1: The classic poster above, flipped for the DVD use, of a hot sci-fi Amazon toting a sci-fi gun amidst a spacey landscape ("a complete fucking misrepresentation") was created by Robert Tanenbaum, an artist who excelled in poster art.
Final stuff 2: The movie-within-this-movie in Galaxina is the Polish-East German sci-fi film directed by Kurt Maetzig [25 Jan 1911 – 8 Aug 2012], Der schweigende Stern a.k.a. First Spaceship on Venus (1960 / trailer below), for which Crown International Pictures owned the American distribution rights. You can find the whole film at YouTube.
Trailer to
First Spaceship on Venus:
A little more Joi is still to come...
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