Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Little Caesar (USA, 1931)

(Spoilers!) The film that made Edward G. Robinson (12 Dec 1893 – 26 Jan 1973) a star, and one of three classic pre-code, talkie crime films which, with notable debt to the great Josef von Sternberg's silent Underworld (1927 / full film), helped set the template for the traditional gangster film, the other two being The Public Enemy (1931 / trailer) and the original Scarface (1932 / trailer). The last film, like Little Caesar, was directed by Mervyn LeRoy (15 Oct 1900 – 13 Sept 1987), a varied director whose oeuvre includes such fun stuff as The Bad Seed (1956 / trailer), I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932 / trailer), Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933 / trailer) and more.
An acknowledged cinema classic, in 2000 Little Caesar was finally inaugurated into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and recommended for preservation (alongside such other feature films as Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song [1971], A Clockwork Orange [1971 / trailer], Buena Vista Social Club [1999 / trailer], Shrek [2001 / trailer] and The Dark Knight (2008 / trailer]). But even that honor and the fact that the movie is on untold "Best Of" lists cannot undo the fact that the movie is dated in appearance and style, something that renders too many film unpalatable to so many people. Not us, though. 
Based on the eponymous novel by W.R. Burnett the 2nd (25 Nov 1899 – 25 Apr 1982), screenwriters Francis Edward Faragoh (16 Oct 1898 – 25 July 1966) and Robert N. Lee (12 May 1890 – 18 Sept 1964) are credited as having adapted to the material for film — despite the fact that Burnett was an accomplished screenwriter in his day. (His screenplay projects include the classic This Gun for Hire [1942 / trailer], the uninteresting Background to Danger [1942], and more.)
Trailer to
Little Caesar:

But it is in all likelihood that Francis Edward Fragoh, the co-scripter of James Whale's classic Frankenstein (1931 / trailer), added an obvious today but perhaps once subliminal detail lacking in the novel: Fragoh, who was married and had kids, is claimed by some to have been gay, made Little Caesar, otherwise known in the film as Enrico 'Rico' Bandello (Robinson of Soylent Green [1973]), a repressed if not at least unspoken homosexual obviously in love with his former pal and small-time criminal partner Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr. [9 Dec 1909 – 7 May 2000]). In turn, if one assumes the relationship was in any way sexual off-screen, Joe is perhaps one of cinema's earliest bisexuals,* as he basically rejects his own criminal past as well as Rico for a woman, Olga Stassoff  (Glenda Farrell [30 Jun 1904 – 1 May 1971] of Mystery of the Wax Museum [1933 / trailer]). Thus Little Caesar is very much a milestone of early queer cinema.
* On the other hand, perhaps he simply prefers the closet and a marriage of convenience and, like Fragoh, the joys of the lifestyle you were supposed to have those days. Wouldn't be the first: back when we were exploring options in D.C. at the tender jailbait age when we still needed a fake I.D. to get to such places, we were surprised how many fathers of classmates we ran into. (Andy, Peter, Pat — we be talkin' to you.)
As mentioned, the filmic technique of the movie is a bit dated and a far cry from today's thousand cuts a minute and continually in-action camera. The opening gas station robbery,* shot from the distance and basically in one unmoving longshot, already reveals the old fashioned, at times stodgy directorial style of the movie. But LeRoy, unlike so many of his contemporaries at the time, at least normally has a good concept of balance, depth of field and use of shadow, so even when his film occasionally moves into stageyness, it usually remains visually appealing. The guy was not above the occasional odd visual as well, which is definitely eye-appealing.
* Had the movie been made after the introduction of the Hayes Codes in 1934, this scene, in which the unseen gas station attendant is obviously shot (probably dead), would have dictated that both Rico and Joe would have to be "punished" by the film's end. In that sense, Little Caesar retains a sliver of reality in that not everyone pays for the crimes they may have committed.
The next scene, of Rico and Joe both eating and establishing an alibi at a diner, quickly reveals the respective characters of the movie's key players: the rougher, tougher and violent Rico, who dreams of "being somebody", and the younger, softer pretty-boy Joe, who dreams of dames and becoming a dancer. Moving to Chicago, the two hoods pursue and achieve their dreams quicker than in a Horatio Alger book: Joe couples up with Olga to become a successful nightclub dancing duo, and Rico climbs the gangland ladder ever higher and higher. But while Joe would like to leave the life of crime behind him, Rico is not prepared to let his former partner leave crime, or him...
Much is made of Edward G. Robinson's acting in this movie, and when watching the movie the fuss is easy to understand. As Rico, he delivers a powerhouse performance that outshines (if not simply overpowers) everyone onscreen without ever coming across as overly forced or overbearing.* It is an interesting foil to the performance of Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who is surprisingly weak and unmemorable as Joe — but then that is exactly what Joe is as a person: he may be good-looking, but he's pretty much a follower who is first at the beck and call of the mighty Rico, and then very obviously abdicates wearing the pants to the more decisive and proactive Olga. In both relationships, there is no doubt about who's pegging who.
* Interesting is how the look and style of his characterization, which by now has become such a stereotype that it is almost camp when quoted or imitated, retains a freshness in the original.
Not that all the acting or characterization in the movie is so great. The cops are a pretty uninteresting folk, of the type that sit around in the office reading newspapers unless called or that magically show up now and then just to remind Rico his days are numbered, like some chorus of a Greek tragedy. The main policeman, Sgt. Flaherty (character actor Thomas E. Jackson [4 Jul 1886 – 7 Sept 1967] of Doctor X [1932 / Trailer from Hell], the sorely unknown proto-body counter Terror Aboard (1933 / full film), the film version of The Lady in the Morgue [1938 / full film], It Conquered the World [1956, with Dick Miller] and so much more), has a weird accent and doesn't exactly display much gravitas in what is basically a one-note performance, remaining memorable only because of all the cops he is the man in charge and is always at the forefront. For much of the movie, Flaherty remains less a force of action than inaction, biding his time looking constipated. He knows that Rico is going to fall as quickly as he has risen, all he has to do is wait — which he does.
And indeed Rico falls: by the end of the Little Caesar, his inability to kill his heartthrob Joe leads the former high-living teetotaler to an inglorious alcohol-soaked ending at the hands of a machine-gun toting Flaherty. (Remember, size matters: real men have big guns.) The representative of the law goes all personal at the end, taking a machine gun to do some machine-gun overkill in the final scene, which ends with Robinson's truly effective, and believable, presentation of one of filmdom's most famous final lines, "Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" A scene that wonderfully and ironically underscores the different trajectories of Joe and Rico by transpiring in front and in back of a huge billboard advertisement of Joe & Olga's latest dance engagement.* 
* As wonderfully ironic and trenchant as the ending of Little Caesar is, no gangster-film ending yet has ever quiet matched the brutal hardness of the unexpected final scene of The Public Enemy and its accompanying "Thump". That is an unforgettable  ending.
Whatever age-related "flaws" Little Caesar might have, the movie remains a compact and riveting experience that foregoes any excess flab or flash, though more than one scene does owe a nod to the German expressionist films of the previous decade, if only due to the stage design, use of shadow or camera placement. The movie is a bit more than just visually static at times, with the interior scenes often displaying a somewhat stage-like appearance, but there are occasional flashes of visual brilliance, like the shooting death on church steps that has been visually cited in untold other movies. A certain dry humor also infuses more than one scene, perhaps most strongly at Rico's big party where his minions present him with a diamond-studded pocket watch they supposedly "bought" as a present. And for anyone who doubts that the "subliminal" queerness of the movie might be unintentional, we would draw attention to the scene of Rico lying on his bed with his obsequious underling Otero (George E. Stone [18 May 1903 – 26 May 1967] of The Vampire Bat [1933]) staring at him with starry-eyed adoration, a scene that infers — despite the clothed status of both men — either post- or pre-bonking bliss. Otero remains faithful till the end, finally undone by Rico's inability to do away with his first (and far more handsome) object of desire, Joe.
Contemporary viewers, particularly those whose cinematic diet is by preference mainstream Hollywood, will find Little Caesar difficult. It is old and creaky, and technically rather primitive. But other folks, those who can look past the age of the product to the finer points that shine beneath, will find Little Caesar an extremely watchable and enjoyable movie whose teeth might be long and loose but still retain a bite. You know who you are, so make your decision accordingly.
We, in any event, would watch the movie again; something we can't exactly say about a lot of other films we talk good about.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Short Film: Tango (Poland, 1980)

Two months after Labyrinth (1962), our Short Film of the Month for March 2022, we
once again turn our attention to the land of Rainbow Mary and to a short film introduced to us in February by way of one of favorite time-wasting online sites, boingboing: Zbigniew Rybczyński's experimental short film, Tango
As boingboing explains, "Tango by Zbigniew Rybczyński, a 1980 avant-garde film, was the first Polish film to win an Oscar. During the 8-minute film, a room that starts out empty gradually fills with more and more people. Each person repeatedly performs an action on a loop; a boy climbs in and out of the window to fetch a ball, someone does a handstand on a table, a woman paces back and forth with a crying baby, and so on. It seems that everyone is focused on their own actions, with no awareness of anyone else in the room. This causes a brilliant scene of chaos." 
"Thirty-six characters from different stages of life — representations of different times — interact in one room, moving in loops, observed by a static camera. I had to draw and paint about 16,000 cell-mattes, and make several hundred thousand exposures on an optical printer. It took a full seven months, sixteen hours per day, to make the piece. The miracle is that the negative got through the process with only minor damage, and I made less than one-hundred mathematical mistakes out of several hundred-thousand possibilities. In the final result, there are plenty of flaws: black lines are visible around humans, jitters caused by the instability of film material resulting from film perforation and elasticity of celluloid, changes of colour caused by the fluctuation in colour temperature of the projector bulb and, inevitably, dirt, grain and scratches. [Zbigniew Rybczyński in "Looking to the Future - Imagining the Truth," in Cinema& Architecture (1997), by Francois Penz & Maureen Thomas]"  
As we once mentioned on this blog way back in 2015, in Misc. Film Fun: Otres Aires — Milonga Sentimental, tango and milonga are faves of ours, so Rybczyński's titular choice of music, a piece composed by the Ukrainian-Polish composer Janusz Hajdun (25 Feb 1935 – 12 Sept 2008), already warmed our heart. (Though, admittedly, it sounds as if the record player's belt is loose.) The once technically advanced, now somewhat aged-looking visuals, along with the oddly meditative state of mind the short puts the viewer in, sealed the deal: here is a film, "for adult intellectuals only," worth presenting.
Tango
 by Zbigniew Rybczynski:
As mentioned further above, Tango even won an Oscar (for Best Animated Short Film in 1983). A night, much like that with Will Smith (and his "Slap Heard only in America"), didn't quiet go as the awardee perhaps hoped: "Winning an Oscar is supposed to be a night you'll always remember. For Polish animator Zbigniew Rybczynski, it was a night he'd rather forget. In 1983, he earned the dubious distinction of being the only person to win an Academy Award, and within minutes, arrested and jailed. [Cartoon Brew]" Basically: he went outside for a smoke and the overzealous guard wouldn't let him in, even though he was still holding his Oscar. Needless to say,Rybczynski threw a fit — and got arrested.
Not that it hurt his career: he went on to long career in music videos and has founded or headed or worked at numerous schools and institutions. (Check out Wikipedia if you want the details.) A low resolution example of a music video directed by Rybczynski: 
Art of Noise's
Close (to the Edit):
While Rybczynski has yet to direct a feature film, he has occasionally done the cinematography on other people's feature-film projects. For example: in 1983, the same year that he won the Oscar, Rybczynski did the cinematography (and co-wrote) Garald Kargl's horror film Angst, an Austrian production a.k.a. Schizophrenia. The plot, as found at Bloody Disgusting in the article 10 Great Horror Movies Based on True Crime Horrors: "A troubled and unnamed man gets released from prison and immediately sets out to indulge his sadistic fantasies. He comes across a secluded house and spends the evening tormenting the family that lives there. Artfully directed by Gerald Kargl, this Austrian horror film only refers to its villain as K., The Psychopath (Erwin Leder of Taxidermia [2006 / trailer]), but he's loosely based on mass murderer Werner Kniesek. The movie's extreme violence* resulted in a ban all over Europe, which helped relegate Angst to obscure status." Music by Klaus Schulz (4 August 1947 – 26 April 2022) of Tangerine Dream.
Trailer to
Gerald Kargl's Angst (1983):
* "The gruesome scenes were filmed with the best cinematography possible, implying the director wanted to emphasize the gore. It is difficult to find any valid reason in this film for dwelling on the killings and the murderer, other than simple exploitation for a better box office take. [All Movie]"

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Red Sonja (Italy / USA, 1985)

If we are to believe the popular press, when Red Sonja was released, Arnold Schwarzenegger's then wife, Maria Shriver, supposedly told him, "If this doesn't kill your career, nothing will." Well, she was wrong, his career survived and flourished until he went into politics and became California's Governator. Now a retired outsider of the morally corrupt fascist-wannabe party that is the GOP, Arnie still churns out the flicks but most — regardless of how interesting* some are — don't make the waves they used to. Not that Red Sonja made many waves when it came out, either: the movie flopped big time.
* American English interesting, not British English interesting.
Trailer to
Red Sonja:
In theory, Red Sonja isn't even a full-blown Arnie flick. Back when it was made, he had already done two successful barbarian movies for producer Dino De Laurentiis, Conan the Barbarian (1982 / trailer) and Conan the Destroyer (1984 / trailer). In this movie here, based on a character from the Marvel Comics Conan universe,* he had initially signed on for a lengthy cameo but, by the final cut, the footage he had shot was used in a way that expanded his mini-part into a co-starring role. Copyright reasons dictated that his character not be named Conan, which is why his sports the name Kalidor. Thus, depending on one's own penchant, Red Sonja can be viewed as an independent tale set in the fictional Hyborian Age or as a semi-direct sequel to Arnie's two earlier and better barbarian films. 
* Mama's boy and proto-incel Robert E. Howard (22 Jan 1906 – 11 June 1936), world-renown author of the Conan tales, also created a red-headed gunslinger character named Red Sonya, but her few tales were set in the 16th century. The red-heading sword-slinger known as Red Sonja was actually created by writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith in 1973 for a two-parter ("The Shadow of the Vulture" and "The Song of Red Sonja") in comic book Conan the Barbarian issues 23 and 24. She eventually was given a series of her own (first issue cover below), where the great Frank Thorne (16 June 1930 – 7 Mar 2021) gave her massive boobs and established her prototypical look, which has pretty much remained unchanged to date but was not reflected in the movie.
Just over a decade ago, in 2011, the Comics Buyer's Guide ranked Red Sonja first on its list of the "100 Sexiest Women in Comics". How she beat Power Girl [#9], Storm (#30) and Starfire (#20), we know not, but what we do know is that when the popularity of a comic character heavily involves sexiness, it would be advisable, when bringing that character to the big screen, to at least hire an actress that is somewhat sexy — or, should that not be possible, then at least an actress with a limited amount of thespian prowess, if not simple presence. In that sense, Red Sonja starts off on a bad foot by having a relatively unsexy slab of wood in the lead role: pre-boob job Brigitte Nielsen in her feature-film debut. Her lack of presence, physical or screen, is matched only by her lack of basic thespian skills.
But then, one is hard placed to claim that anyone in this movie does a good acting job, so her total inability to emote any emotion convincingly should not be held against her. If anything, it blends in well with the general incapability found throughout the film, and is actually somewhat outshone by the even more wooden turn of Sandahl Bergman (of Ice Cream Man [1995 / trailer], Fred Olen Ray's Inner Sanctum II [1994 / trailer], and Hell Comes to Frogtown [1988 / trailer]) as the movie's main villain, the insanely power-hungry Queen Gedren.
The plot is pretty much rote, but at least the opening scenes more or less follow (if laughably unconvincingly) Red Sonja's original tale of origin: her family slaughtered and she herself raped and left for dead, a magical goddess appears and gives her warrior strength and fighting skills. In the movie, however, and unlike in the literature, it is not a group of mercenaries that does the nasty to her, but the soldiers of the spurned lesbian Queen Gedren. (Yep, this movie uses the ol' evil lesbian stereotype.)
As chance would have it, Sonja's sister Varna (Janet Agren, above & not from the film, of Eaten Alive! [1980 / trailer], City of the Living Dead [1980 / trailer], Rat Man [1988 / trailer], The Killer Reserved Nine Seats [1974 / trailer] and Panic [1982 / full film]) belongs to a religious order possessing a mighty artifact of untold power. When Gedron decimates the order and gains the talisman, the dying Varna, thanks to the timely intervention of the muscular Kalidor (Schwarzenegger, below, not from the film), manages to survive long enough to tell Sonja that if the talisman is not destroyed, it will destroy the world. And thus Sonja sets out for Gedren's kingdom, slowly and unwillingly collecting a motley crew of allies: the hunkadelic Kalidor, the annoying young Prince Tarn (Eddie Reyes Jr.), and his bodyguard, the portly Falkon (Paul L. Smith [24 Jun 1936 – 25 Apr 2012] of Haunted Honeymoon [1986 / trailer], Gor [1987 / German trailer], Crimewave [1985 / trailer] and Caged Fury [1990 / trailer]).
Director Richard Fleischer (8 Dec 1916 – 25 Mar 2006), son of the great master animator Max Fleischer,* was in his day a tried and true professional and handicraftsman of all genres with many a good to great to terrible films to his name, among others: the big budget craptastic exploiter that is Mandingo (1975 / trailer) and could never be made today, Soylent Green (1973 / trailer), See No Evil (1971 / trailer), 10 Rillington Place (1971 / trailer) and Compulsion (1959 / trailer). But in the case of Red Sonja, as in the case of his Amityville 3D (1983 / trailer), he seems to have been only half there. The film itself may actually look beautiful, and it is paced well enough, but aside from his failure in gaining a good performance from any of his cast, he never gets a solid grasp of the material: suspense is non-existent, the narrative never truly jells and seems more like a string of separate scenes in search of a logical progression, and one almost never feels that any of the humor is intentional.
* See, for example, our Short Film of the Month for January 2013, Bimbo's Initiation (1931), or October 2021, Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party (1933).
That said, the visuals look good enough that one might prefer to lay the blame of the movie's failures on the "script" supplied by George MacDonald Fraser (2 Apr 1925 – 2 Jan 2008), which, as previously inferred, even has the even-outdated-in-1985 audacity to present Gedren's lesbianism as yet another aspect of her evilness. (If a woman don't like dick, she gotta be bad.)
Red Sonja had a budget of almost 18 million dollars, and as cheesy and silly as the movie is, it does at least look as if the money was actually spent on the film. The costumes and sets and special effects range from laughable to great, but across the board they are also eye-catching. But the movie is never truly involving, and is always anything but thrilling. It is easy to see why the movie was such a flop and why, even today, almost 40 years after its initial release, it has yet to gain any cult respect: it is a truly "bad" movie.
Age may have bestowed Red Sonja with a limited patina, but that patina does not shine enough to make the movie anything more than a minor guilty pleasure.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Babe of Yesteryear – Gigi Darlene, Part IV: 1965 (Part II)

Photo above not found at Pulp International. Photographer unknown.
Blonde Babe of Yesteryear Gigi Darlene (4 Mar 1943 – 1 Jan 2002) was one the multitude of attractive, intriguing actresses of New York's low budget exploitation film scene of the sixties. We would hazard to say, at the risk of offending many, that her thespian skills were definitely less impressive than her knockout figure and alluring presence.* That said, her vacuous sexiness is a perfect fit to the classic, surreal roughie to which she perhaps owes her lasting appeal: Doris Wishman's Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965).
* To present an opposing view, the Rialto Report is of the opinion: "Occasionally an actress was noted for her looks. Less frequently she was notable for her acting ability. Gigi Darlene had both. She was a star. She was blonde, beautiful, and expressive. A pouting, petulant kitten. She combined an unexpected innocence with a knowing and sultry confidence. The monochrome screen lit up with her feline presence. Her talents were in demand and she made regular appearances in New York sexploitation films."
A ubiquitous presence in NYC sleaze films from around 1962 to '67, she seemingly disappeared overnight. Something that the sexploitation film-makers of the time noticed enough that amidst the opening credits of Michael Findlay's 1968 roughie The Curse of Her Flesh (trailer), which are presented in the form of graffiti scrawled on a filthy restroom wall, and between all the other crude comments, a simple question is scrawled: "Whatever happened to Gigi Darlene?" It was a question that became a cult question, but also long remained a rhetorical one. The latter, at least, until 11 May 2014, when the fantastic sleuths of at the Rialto Report finally answered the question of "Whatever Happened to Gigi Darlene?"
The bio at imdb is based entirely on their research: "Gigi Darlene was born Heli Leonore Weinreich on March 4, 1943 in Berlin, Germany. [...] After threatening to run away from home at age sixteen, Gigi in 1959 was allowed by her mother to immigrate to Flushing, Queens, New York City, where she lived with a couple of family friends. [...] Darlene eventually moved to Manhattan; she lived on West 43rd Street and began posing for photo shoots for various men's magazines. Gigi branched out as an exotic dancer making the rounds at clubs in New York, New Jersey, and Long Island. While dancing at clubs Darlene met and befriended future soft-core movie actress Darlene Bennett.** [...] Darlene started acting in assorted low-budget sexploitation features that were made throughout the early to mid 1960's. [...] She often co-starred with Darlene Bennett in these films. [Heli's acting / dancing / modeling pseudonym, Gigi Darlene, was inspired as much by the 1958 film Gigi (trailer) as by her good friend Darlene Bennett.) Gigi was working as a featured dancer at a club in New Jersey when she first met her future husband Edwin Greal, who did a stage show as a hypnotist using the pseudonym Charles Lamont. Darlene and Greal got married on August 29, 1966. Gigi moved to Fort Lee, New Jersey after marrying Greal and agreed to stop acting in movies. Greal and Darlene eventually formed a stage act together and went on the road. [...] They resided in Vegas for five years [as of 1975] and continued to do stage shows before eventually moving to South Florida in 1980. Alas, shortly after moving to South Florida Greal died at age 56 on December 18, 1980. [...] Gigi in 1981 went on to obtain a Real Estate license in Fort Lauderdale and sold time-share apartments on and off for twenty years. Moreover, Darlene was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and worked as an extra in movies*** that were shot in South Florida. Gigi died from stomach cancer at a hospice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on New Year's Day in 2002. She was 58 years old. Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered off the pier in Deerfield Beach, Florida into the Atlantic Ocean."
** On 11 April 2021, the fantastic sleuths of at the Rialto Report also managed another scoop with their online article "Black and White Dreams of Darlene: Looking for the Bennett Sisters."
*** None of which are listed on any filmography of hers that we could find.
 
 
Go here for:
Gigi Darlene, Part I: 1961-63
Gigi Darlene, Part II: 1964
Gigi Darlene, Part III: 1965 (Pt. I)



Rent-A-Girl
(1965, writ. & dir. William Rose)
Gigi Darlene has another major appearance (Not!) as the "Blonde on Couch at Party" in her second William a.k.a. Werner Rose (3 Jul 1932 – 16 May 2019) movie, the first being 50,000 B.C. — see Part I. You see Gigi in the "trailer" at Something Weird, but not in any of the three scenes cut together below, which we found at the Internet Archives.
Three possibly NSFW scenes
from Rent-A-Girl:
But speaking of Something Weird, about Rent-A-Girl they write: "[...] One of the most popular plots in cinema history is that of the Good Girl being corrupted by the Big Bad City. Specifically, in the case of Rent-A-Girl, it's a Good Girl — though a thoroughly stupid Good Girl — being corrupted by the lure of modeling, who quickly learns that sex is something best done in a sewer. And though Rent-A-Girl never gets as extreme as we'd like it to, it's still a worthwhile piece of filth that's not only sprinkled with some of our favorite sexploitation starlets, but packed a wallop way back in 1965. [...] Though Rent-A-Girl's blend of S&M kink may seem mild (and often downright silly) [...], it was strong stuff indeed once upon a time. So strong, in fact, that Rent-A-Girl fell victim to local censorship when it was banned in Chicago in 1967! Yup, the Chicago censors declared both Rent-A-Girl and Michael Findlay's Body of a Female (1964 — see Part I) as obscene, and the Circuit Court of Cook County promptly prohibited the films from being shown theatrically. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed: 'Our examination of the films shows that they deal not merely with sex, but with sexual deviations which can only appeal to those with a shameful and morbid interest in nudity and sex... which clearly goes beyond the customary limits of candor in this country.' However, in a blow against human decency and basic conservative values, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the decision a year later, and Chicago perverts with a shameful and morbid interest in nudity and sex were free to join the rest of us in ogling Miss Bennett being hosed down."
DVD Drive-in took a look at the Something Weird DVD of the flick, on which the movie is part of a triple feature with Aroused (1966, trailer below), a well-known roughie with which Rent-A-Girl seems to have often been screened with back in its day, and the far less well-known John Hayes' exploiter, Help Wanted Female (1968 / spoilers). The Drive-in was moved to write: "Welcome to New York City, boys and girls, and prepare to be filthified! [...] Hopelessly naive Karen (Barbara Wood) foolishly tells her cad of a boyfriend (Jack Damon — see Part III:I — of I Drink Your Blood [1970 / trailer] and Roller Blade Warriors [1989 / scene]) she loves him and doesn't get the correct response, so to cheer herself up, she dumps out all her sugar and knocks on the door of her mysterious neighbors upstairs, Adam and Evelyn Marshall. Evelyn entices Karen to begin modeling for their photography business, and everything seems to be looking up for our dear Karen. Even though they may seem sweet and charming, they are actually the ringleaders of a girl-for-hire business, leasing out girls as escorts, prostitutes, and for all manner of depraved kinky behavior! Their #1 client is Harriet Grant, a rich socialite who invites over her high society friends for sordid parties, with husband-swapping, whipping, lesbianism, and torture, and of course some wild frenzied go-go dancing! Artists paint posing models all over their bodies and a sadist in a top hat photographs nudie cutie favorite Darlene Bennett, then sprays her with seltzer water (!). Karen discovers the dark side of her modeling career when she becomes the guest of honor at one of Ms. Grant's parties...and is branded!!"
Trailer to Anton Holden's
Aroused (1966):

While Sandra Brennen flippantly dismisses the movie at All Movie as being "about as good as it sounds", the now-defunct website 10 K Bullets found Rent-a-Girl more intriguing: "This particular excursion into sleazy NYC roughie territory is played much more tongue-in-cheek than most of its ilk, though the humor is strictly deadpan and infused with tension and sleaze factors that are both diminished and enhanced by the sometimes frivolous soundtrack. [...] Many of the segments / vignettes are not necessary to the plot but do contribute to the ambience of the overall product and proffer some of the most iconic actresses in the NYC underground 'roughie' film scene. Darlene Bennett has a delirious segment where her customer binds her in a garage and hoses her down via a standard garden spray nozzle. June Roberts appears with other two other starlet models of the era in a game of strip pool (billiards), one dude against three girls [...], but in this male fantasy come to life the dude never even has to remove his tie. It even brags a glimpse of Gigi Darlene as a party guest sitting on a couch during the mind boggling grand finale party. This film is obviously a labor of love by producer / writer / director William Rose. [...] He no doubt had quite a big say in all aspects of production including cinematography which is sometimes excellent. He realizes solid performances from the entire cast."
"The sometimes frivolous soundtrack" includes, if we are to believe imdb, the Syd Dale Orchestra's version of The Hell Raisers, which once upon a time was the theme to the now mostly lost British TV series, Orlando (1965-68).
Syd Dale Orchestra's
The Hell Raisers:

For all the problems Rent-a-Girl had getting screened in Chicago, it played in numerous other places, as the diverse adverts below reveal.
The advert above is for the Fox California, and like the two other adverts below, it was found at Screen 13, which enthuses: "William/Werner Rose's smut classic Rent-A-Girl [...] is now a favorite with classic sexploitation fans. The [...] whole film seriously works as a nudie-roughie case-history movie, one [...] which unfolds into a cool film. The fact that Barbara Wood is a very presentable actress is a major plus, and the presence of other New York faces on the scene like June Roberts give it more to look at while the jealousy and anger between members turns into a punishment feast at the end. [...] The film seriously lived up to its sleaze quotient with the addition of some good dramatic bondage initiation and punishment scenes, especially near the end."
On planet Texas, at the Co-ed Drive-in, Rent-A-Girl got teamed with The Thrill Seekers (1963 / music), a UK exploiter written by Derek Ford originally titled The Yellow Teddybears. And in Kansas City, where it played at the Strand Art Theatre as Hire-a-Model, it got screened with the Spanish exploiter The Unsatisfied (1961), which we looked at in Part I. Other a.k.a. titles include Rented and Escort Girl.
In his later years, director William L. Rose (3 July 1932 – 10 Feb 1987) appeared (as "Notary") in the background of Fitzcarraldo (1982 / trailer) and co-wrote and co-directed the noteworthy Italo (!) horror flick The Girl in Room 2A / La Casa della paura (1974, with Rosalbi Neri, of Lady Frankenstein [1970], and Brad Harris,* of The Mutations [1973] and the cheesy Terror! Il castello delle donne malesdette / Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks [1974, with Gordon Mitchell of Metropolis (1960)]).
* That is a young Brad Harris (16 Jul 1933 – 7 Nov 2017) at the bottom of this page to the left, revealing to Jane Russell that he is as much of a grower as a shower.
Trailer to
Frankenstein's Castle of Freaks:

 
 
The Very Naked Canvas
(1965, dir. Jerome Jacobson)
A.k.a. The Naked Canvas. Gigi Darlene, once again credited as "Leonore Rhein", is amongst the numerous women showing skin in this super-obscure movie. Assuming that the name of the movie's director, Jerome Jacobson, and scriptwriter, Manuel Roth, are real, neither seems to have ever made another movie after this nudie-cutie "comedy". In any event, we assume the Jerome Jacobson who made this movie is not the same Jerome Jacobson that scammed McDonald's...
Pretty much like we assume this film is in no way based on either novel of similar title, Warwick Scott's Naked Canvas (1955 cover above) or William Arnold's Naked Canvas (1952 cover below). Nice cover art in both cases; Arnold's cover is by George Gross. Warwick Scott is perhaps better known under his "real" name, Elleston Trevor (17 Feb 1920-21 Jul 1995).
William Arnold is perhaps not all that well known under any name, but his book seems to have had more reissues. The two for one Lancer addition has particularly appealing art, which does well to reflect the concept of a naked canvas as representing the tradition of naked decadence that the male artist and his female model apparently share.
AFI has the plot to the movie: "Greenwich Village artist Otto Franz Krone receives an assignment from a popular 'nudie' magazine to make a series of sketches of beautiful nudes for publication each month. After some initial difficulty — one model, Darlene Hall, is rejected because she has appeared previously on a competitive magazine; another woman disappears before Otto can finish his sketch — Otto finds a suitable first model, redheaded Ellen Simms, winner of a beauty contest at a nearby nudist camp. At the suggestion of the magazine's publisher, Ellen dyes her hair blonde, and Otto's drawing of her is accepted. The film's ending finds Otto chasing after a ravishing brunette."
The "nearby nudist camp", by the way, was just across the river in the Millstone Township of New Jersey: Sunny Heights Lodge, a now long-gone nudist colony used earlier for the "documentary" Nudist Life (1961) as well as in Doris Wishman's The Prince and the Nature Girl (1965).
 
Trailer to Doris Wishman's
The Prince and the Nature Girl:
Otto Franz Krone, a.k.a. Eugene W. Hahn (22 Feb 1927 — 24 Aug 2005), appears to have been a real artist, not mention an interesting character. The photo of him below was taken from his now apparently dead website, where nary a mention of the movie is made. But then, perhaps it was not a memorable experience for him, as seems to be the case with one of the many actresses found in the movie, Natalie Rogers. In an interview at Cinefear, when queried about The Very Naked Canvas, she responded: "No, I don't remember that one. It might have been a one day gig. Some of these jobs didn't pay, you did them for exposure." (We don't think she was being ironic about the last bit.)
Lewis Arquette (14 Dec 1935 – 10 Feb 2001) of Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town (1991), the patriarch of the Arquette clan of Hollywood (as in Rosanna [of Voodoo Dawn [1998], Patricia, Alexis [of Bride of Chucky (1998)], David [of 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001)] and Riding the Bullet (2004)] and Richmond Arquette [of The Tripper [2006 / trailer]) made his film debut in this forgotten film, and although we don't know whether he met his wife Brenda Denaut (21 Aug 1939 — 6 Aug 1997) there while filming, she too is among the gals of The Very Naked Canvas.
Brenda Denaut's big scene from her most famous film, 
Olga's House of Shame (1963):

While this obscure nudie cutie could now well be a lost film, it did indeed make it to select cinemas when made, as the advertisement below reveals. The Sun Art Theatre is now long gone, too, as St Petersburg, Fl., probably eventually will be due to global warming.


The Beast that Killed Women
(1965, dir. Barry Mahon)
Yet another non-masterpiece directed by Barry Mahon and written by his wife, filmed on location at some nudist camp in Florida and in NYC, and with Gigi Darlene in one of her typically important uncredited roles as the "Blonde on Lower Bunk". To give credit where credit is due, the plot of this nudie cutie — which more aptly should be titled The Beast that Killed One Woman — is a little bit more out there than found in the average boob festival... not that Mahon had the talent to do anything with it.
Way back in 2014, we took a look at this movie in the R.I.P. Career Review of Harry H. Novak, Part III: 1965 – 1966, where we cobbled together the following:
Great poster! Personally, we here at a wasted life have our doubts that Harry H. Novak had anything to do with this movie, as there is only one source, an online magazine called Funhouse, that claims he (in the form of Boxoffice International Film Distributors) had his fingers in the pie this, yet another no-budget nudie-cutie from fringe filmmaker Barry Mahon.
Bloody Disgusting explains the movie: "It's a nudist's nightmare as naked terror runs amuck in this delirious horror film [...]! Unable to get an even tan, wife (Delores Carlos) and hubby (Byron Mabe) scurry off to a Miami nudist camp at precisely the same moment the camp is invaded by the Beast that Killed Women, a goofy-looking gorilla with an appetite for the ladies. Murder and panic quickly spread before a pretty policewoman (Juliet Anderson [23 July 1938 – 11 Jan 2010]) volunteers to enter the camp as ape bait."
The Beast that Killed Women has the distinguished honor of being one of the first films to ever feature cult fave and future suicide Janet Banzet (17 May 1934 — 29 July 1971) as well as future Golden Age porn star Juliet Anderson (23 July 1938 — 11 January 2010), the latter better known as "Aunt Peg". The Smart Marks, which had possibly never before seen a nudie-cutie, complains that: "Despite the credit's claim of 'Miami Beach's Most Lovely Nudists', there's a disturbingly high number of tan lines present [...], and the women are 'normal women', as opposed to the pin-up queens and starlets expected of these films [...]. Besides their physical appearances, however, the nudists are just plain annoying. They wander around, play a game of volleyball, and go swimming, and then once the killings occur they all whine and complain about how scared they are and how they're going to leave the camp. That's it. With probably a maximum of five minutes of beast in the film, and one killing, that means you're stuck with these annoying women for an hour [...]. Lovely."
The Beast that Killed Women
reviewed in a foreign language:

To add to the above, Mondo Digital is definitely more hip to the allure of a movie like The Beast that Killed Women: "The Beast that Killed Women, a senseless delight from exploitation legend Barry Mahon, the guy behind such diverse brain killers as Cuban Rebel Girls (1959 / full movie) [...] and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972 / full disasterpiece). This time he gives the raincoat crowd a rampaging gorilla terrorizing the grounds of a Miami Beach nudist camp. Basically it comes out at night and either carries a girl off or tosses her in the swimming pool, but the residents are only mildly fearful. Instead they spend their time playing nude volleyball, hanging out in the sun, and even having a round of bare-ass square dancing. Seriously. The girls don't even bother to put on nightgowns when they sleep; they simply bunk up together to protect each other from the scary gorilla, which will look less than threatening to eagle-eyed viewers who have ever seen a furry ape suit. Throw in a scared suburban housewife (Delores Carlos) newly awakening to the joys of nudism, her husband played by sleaze master Byron Mabe, a lot of bored looking guys in boxer shorts, and one stunning Sherilyn Fenn lookalike, and you've got the recipe for a junky good time."
Something Weird has it on DVD, of course, "from the original 35mm naked-ape negative": "Another fun, brain-dead El Cheapo from Barry 'Mr. Minimalist' Mahon and featuring a cast of sexploitation all-stars like Darlene Bennett, Gigi Darlene, June Roberts, Roy Savage (see Crazy Wild and Crazy [1964] in Part I for more on him), and Sandra Sinclair (the gal who gets her leg cut off in Blood Feast [1963 / trailer]). Byron Mabe (10 Apr 1932 – 13 May 2001), of course, eventually left Miami for L.A. where he starred in Dave Friedman's The Defilers (1965 / trailer) before directing films for Dave like She Freak (1967 / trailer), Head Mistress (1968 / trailer), Space Thing (1968 / trailer), and The Adult Version of Jekyll & Hide (1971 / trailer). Miss Carlos, a veteran of numerous Florida nudies, got to play a victim again in both Mundo Depravados (1967 / scene) and Herschell Gordon Lewis's A Taste of Blood (1967 / trailer). The post office should put them both on stamps. [Frank Henenlotter]"
The Something Weird DVD release was a double feature, and they paired The Beast that Killed Women with the equally inane The Monster of Camp Sunshine or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Nature, which didn't hit discerning theatres a year earlier in 1964. The directorial debut (and only known film) of "Ferenc Leroget", the movie seems to have never been officially released. "It's the touching story of a nurse and a model who take time off to go to a nudist camp — the nurse has had a hard week after she was attacked by jumping white lab rats — only for the retarded camp groundskeeper to turn psycho after drinking toxic chemicals from the creek. [Constant Bleeder]
Trailer to
The Monster of Camp Sunshine:

Further trivia about selected cast members of The Beast that Killed Women: Judy Adlar ("Girl on Phone") is found alongside Yoko One — remember her? — in Roberta Findlay's roughie Satan's Bed (1965 / full movie). Undercover cop Juliet Anderson didn't make another movie for roughly ten years, at which point she returned to gain fame as Aunt Peg. Future suicide Janet Banzet can also be seen alongside Sylvester Stallone (seen below, not from The Beast that Killed Women, in his DILF age) in the abysmal The Party at Kitty and Stud's aka The Italian Stallion (1970 / trailer). Allison Louise Downe, who plays the woman that the beast kills, "was Tom Savini before Tom Savini" and probably doesn't get all the film history credit she is due. (She's a woman, after all.) The redhead on the eternal run found further above is, of course, Delores Carlos.
Somewhere along the way, possibly San Francisco, The Beast that Killed Women was screened alongside the 29-years-older road-show exploiter Hell-a-Vision (1936) "directed" by Louis Sonney (1888 – 25 June 1949), a man we mentioned briefly in R.I.P.: Harry H. Novak, Part XV – Other People's Films & Addendum, while looking at Dick Crane's Mr Peters' Pets (1963 / some scenes).
Basically, sleazemonger begets sleazemonger: "[Mr Peters' Pets] was produced by sleazemonger Dan Sonney (23 Jan 1915 — 3 Mar 2002), David Friedman's partner at Entertainment Ventures Incorporated, who once co-owned the mummified body of Elmer McCurdy — it was bought by Dan Sonney's father, 'policeman-turned-showman' Louis Sonney, in 1922 and belonged to the family business. Louis Sonney is often claimed an uncredited co-producer of the great Dwain Esper's classic roadshow exploiter, Maniac (1934). [...]" In 1921, while still a cop, Louis Sonney gained renown by capturing the then well-known criminal "The Smiling Bandit" Roy G. Gardner (5 Jan 1884 – 10 Jan 1940) and soon realized that showmanship brought in better bucks than policework. "Initially, Sonney produced movies depicting and re-enacting the criminal exploits and capture of Gardner, even featuring the incarcerated convict in a few scenes. Through these interactions, the two men became friends, with Sonney remaining an advocate for Gardner until his release from prison in the late 1930s. The former cop secured employment for the ex-con, including a couple more film roles (as himself). Meanwhile, Louis Sonney was broadening his offerings of other kinds of exploitation flicks, including pioneering 'nudie' films. [McMenamins]" Hell-a-vision, which like so many films of the roadshow exploitation circuit never had a definitive cut, mixed nudity (edited in from the silent Italian classic, Dante's Inferno [1911], the first known film to show male frontal nudity) with scenes from The March of Crime (1936 / Part I / Part II / Part III).
Full film –
Dante's Inferno (1911):

 
Lust and the Flesh
(1965, writ. & dir. Tony Orlando)
Gigi Darlene and her gal pal Darlene Bennett show up in this movie as "Girl(s) at Party" — snooze, and you'll miss them.
Trailer to
Lust and the Flesh:

Does anyone remember Tony Orlando and Dawn? Of course you do: they're responsible for that shit song embedded directly below.
Tony Orlando & Dawn —
Tie a Yellow Ribbon:
We are tempted to lie here and say they are one and the same guy just to see how long the "fact" would take to show up somewhere like Wiki or imdb, but truth be told: the writer and director of Lust and the Flesh is a different Tony Orlando. (For some trivia about Dawn, however, take a look at Film Fun: Music from Movies — The Devil in Miss Jones.)
The Tony Orlando behind Lust and the Flesh was "a small-time theatrical agent" from Philadelphia. His first film, which he also wrote (with Ron Collier) and directed, was The Block (1964), a now lost low-sex crime flick that featured "Lillian Reis [24 Mar 1930 – 10 Dec 2009], who'd been a well-known showgirl under the name 'Tiger Lili'. She was in the news a lot at the time because she'd got married to a mobster called Ralph Staino [25 May 1932 – 3 Oct 2015], and the two of them were arrested as the main suspects in a violent robbery of a coal baron in 1959. Two witnesses were killed in the aftermath. Lillian insisted she had nothing to do with it, but straight after the robbery she bought a nightclub called The Celebrity Room with cash — about the same amount that had been stolen! She claimed that the money was just her savings but nobody believed her. [...] Another of the film's stars was [the tragic] Joan Weber (12 Dec 1935 – 13 May 1981), who'd had the biggest selling U.S. single of the year in 1955 with Let Me Go, Lover. She was only 18 when her song became a national sensation, and she was expected to become a huge star like Doris Day. But then she got pregnant... and the record company dropped her, and her career crashed overnight. The Block was meant to be part of her comeback. [C. Davis Smith [18 June 1930 – 20 Sept 2017] at The Rialto Report]"
Joan Weber singing
Let Me Go, Lover:
The failure of that low-budget, low-sex film had a direct impact on Tony Orlando's next movie, as he and his associate producer C. Davis Smith "decided to make sex films... and the first was Lust and the Flesh!" (We definitely recommend that you check out the C. Davis Smith interview at the Rialto Report for all the amazing details to the film and their partnership.) The change in orientation was smart: Lust and the Flesh did well enough to pay the [unwitting] financers back — budget: $5000 — and pay for the next flick, Hot Nights on the Campus (1966), which we look at in Part V as it also features Gigi Darlene. Tony Orlando died soon after the completion of Hot Nights during open-heart surgery.
Pre-credit sequence to
Lust and the Flesh:

Interestingly enough, when Lust and the Flesh was screened in Orlando's hometown of Philadelphia, the film got busted: "[...] District Attorney James C. Crumlish, Jr., petitioned Judge Raymond Pace Alexander to issue warrants for the seizure of the film, Lust and the Flesh, which was playing at the Art Spruce and the Devon, and for the arrest of the owners and managers. Before issuing warrants, the judge saw the film and termed it 'scandalous and raw' and 'calculated to arouse people's emotions.' [...] At the theatres, another film was hastily substituted for Lust and the Flesh, which was said to be 'a second-rate movie involving mate switching which comes as close to showing the actual sex act as a smoker film.' [...] County Detectives could not seize the film when they later visited the theatres, since the prints had been removed. District Attorney Crumlish said he is making arrangements to get the films wherever they are and preparing warrants for the arrest of persons accused of showing the picture. [Motion Picture Exhibitor Apr-Jul 1965 @ Internet Archives]"
And the plot? The description found at imdb is as good as any: "Myra (Maureen Conway), a shy and sensitive young woman, loses her virginity to a rapist on her wedding night. Afraid to tell her husband, Mark (Louis Martini), she grows to fear all sexual contact. On an island vacation they meet Bob (Joseph V. Perry), an artist who has been forced into marriage with Helen (Georgetta Giles), a nymphomaniac. Myra and Bob are drawn together because of their unhappy sexual experiences while Mark, sex-starved, finds release with the insatiable Helen. Helen arranges an orgy and, to distract Myra from Bob, introduces Myra to Corrina (Doreen Michaels), a lesbian. Meanwhile, Mark meets Ilsa (Marlene Eck) and is invited to her cottage; and Bob, hoping to persuade Myra to go away with him, tells her that Mark is unfaithful. Myra turns instead to Corrina for comfort. The two women die tragically in a fire, and Mark comes to his senses and sets out to find true happiness with Ilsa. Bob leaves Helen, and he remains alone and disconsolate after Myra's death."
"[Lust and the Flesh] is quite downbeat and lacking in any positives, but marked by excellent Gothic photography by NYC stalwart C. Davis Smith. I haven't seen this many shots of waves crashing on the shoreline rocks even in vintage horror films. [Lor @ imdb]"
Of the cast, Joseph V. Perry (13 Feb 1931 – 23 Feb 2000) was already a steadily employed TV actor when he appeared in Lust and the Flesh. His extremely rare feature film appearances tend to be blink-and-you-miss-him, as in The Freeway Killer (1989 / trailer).
The always intriguing Scene of Screen 13 located the ad above of a 1966 screening of Lust and the Flesh, retitled Cry of the Flesh, at the Pussycat in LA, where it was shown with Slaves of Chinatown (1964), a film in which Gigi Darlene had a big role as Frenchy (we looked at the movie in Part II).


The Sexploiters
(1965, dir. Al Ruban)
"A seemingly free-form look at various nude models and fetish roleplay-for-hire girls. The film is a series of unconnected vignettes, ranging from photoshoot sequences to some heavier bits involving femdom. The girls all work for the same agency, covering the various licentious activities. Long considered a lost film, this was the sole directorial effort from Al Ruban [...]. This is a standard NYC nudie flick with some mildly rougher moments. The most notable cast member is Gigi Darlene. [Teenage Frankenstein]"
After this relatively unsuccessful directorial effort, Al Ruban, who began his film career by producing the nudie-cutie The Beautiful, the Bloody, and the Bare (1964 / 15 minutes), went on to produce a number of John Cassavettes movies, including The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976 / trailer), which we looked at in our R.I.P. Career Review of Haji. Ruban also appeared in small parts in an odd film or two, including Wes Craven's Swamp Thing (1982), with David Hess.
Trailer to
Platinum Pussycat (1968)
& The Sexploiters:
Over at the Rialto Report, in the entry C. Davis Smith and Charles Lamont: One Life Behind the Camera — Part 1, they quote Al Ruban explaining how he became a "serious" producer: "[...] I met a couple of aspiring film guys named Jerry Denby [8 Feb 1931 – 24 Oct 2001] and Sande Johnsen. Eventually I said to them, 'What's the point of struggling and doing this for somebody else when we could struggle and do it for ourselves?' So we formed our own production company — JDR (after Johnsen, Denby and Ruban). We made a few sex films like The Beautiful, the Bloody, and the Bare (1964 / trailer) and The Sexploiters (1965). One day, I was finishing up The Sexploiters, when John [Cassavetes] stopped by wanting to see what I was working on. I showed it to him, and he couldn't stop laughing all the way through it. He asked me how to make a film on such a low budget. He was putting together Faces (1968 / trailer), and wanted some help because he didn't want it to cost much. I told him how to do it because this was second nature to me by now — because of the sex films. And that's how it got started."
At Something Weird, which has the film, Lisa Petrucci has the "plot": "Lynn (Terri Steele) is a bored suburban housewife with very expensive taste. To afford luxurious niceties, Lynn works as a call-girl for a high-class 'modeling agency' in the big city, where she set up with a variety of oddball clients who pay her to make their bizarre fantasies come true. Lynn's first john of the day [...] a dangerous-looking Neanderthal [...] wants her to wield power over him, and actually begs her to whip his sorry ass with a lash of leather! At the 'modeling agency,' men rent cameras so they can 'photograph' scantily-clad gals in a studio Mr. Smith, a nebbish of a guy, hires Suzy (Jackie Miller, above) [...] to pose for him. But they're not alone. Also in the room, is a classy-looking broad in a fancy hat who takes pictures of a bearded muscleman in tiny swim trunks. And he hams it up by proudly flexes his big pecs! [...] In another studio, an enthusiastic filmmaker shoots a 16mm nudie-cutie [...]. The eager exhibitionists eventually strip down to their birthday suits and smile oh-so pretty for the camera. Adorable Gigi Darlene poses for an amateur (Jerry Denby) in an intimate setting...well, actually, a broom closet. She coyly leans against a stool, then performs naked acrobatics for the appreciative shutterbug. He rewards her with an ice cream which she ravenously licks and sucks with glee. Lynn asks for another assignment and is sent to a frat-party-turned-orgy complete with middle-eastern music and an exotic belly dancer. [...]. At the end of the day, Lynn takes on one last client who has written her some very strange instructions. She's asked to wear black lingerie, long black gloves, and a black veil, then to assume the role of a grieving widow for a gentleman who, apparently is pretending to be a corpse! In a very bizarre scene, said 'deceased' doesn't move a muscle while Lynn has one 'last' go at him inside a closed coffin..."
"The Sexploiters is a soft-core romp made in the mid-1960s before hardcore adult cinema invaded the mainstream and all but made soft-core cinema obsolete. The plot is very basic every few minutes we are introduced to a new girl who struts her stuff in lingerie or even topless. The bulk of what is going on is narrated and very little dialog is actually spoken. For its time some of its themes like using a bull whipping for pleasure or housewife's leading secret lives may have scandalous. Now the film really shows its age, and even though it is filled with a bevy of beautiful women most of the scenes lack the eroticism they once sparked. The narrative flow, if one could call it that, felt more like a collection of disjointed tales instead of one cohesive story. The ending was all too predictable and downright silly. Ultimately The Sexploiters fails to arouse with its mundane plot and tame scenes of erotica. [10K Bullets]"
F this Movie, however, sees some positive aspects to the movie: "Every time The Sexploiters steps outside its own cramped, dingy, under-lit sets and shows us the outside world, it becomes a fascinating (though skeevy) portrait of the real, unvarnished world at the time: how people drove and what the cars looked like, how people tended their lawns, how dirty New York was, how many women wore scarves, and other fascinating ephemera." They also point out something that makes Ruban's sexploiter somewhat different for its time: "Many of these nudie-cuties reveal barely hidden contempt for their featured attraction — namely, the women who were broke or brave enough to strip for the cameras. It is novel that the women in The Sexploiters are not victimized; they are in control of every situation and enjoying what they do. We can argue about this, but I believe that we live in a male-dominated society.* To continually see films made by men, explicitly for men, in which women are humiliated and abused is very disturbing. It is refreshing in a film from this era and from this genre that Lynn beats the be-jesus out of her client in the first ten minutes of the film and NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND."
* Why argue about a fact of life?
 
Gigi in
The Sexploiters:

"The Sexploiters [...] feels like a long-form variation of the Irving Klaw fetish and erotica loops and vignettes. Klaw doesn't actually pop up by name, but the filmmakers clearly knew the format of standard erotic loops and concocted a threadbare narrative for their film [...]. Whether it's whipping an over-anxious masochist or climbing into a coffin for a client with a necrophilia fetish, it's all very, very silly, and occasionally a narrator offers a few quasi-journalistic factoids and observations to give the film a documentary feel. [...] Any dialogue was mostly recorded wild (and very poorly), and the soundtrack mostly consists of snappy small jazz combo music by Steve Karmen that evokes a burlesque feel than actually evoking any dramatic sensibilities. [...] Probably the most famous among the cast is Gigi Darlene, aka The German Bombshell, who appears in most competent episode of a model undressing to her birthday suit for a photographer [...]. It's arguably the most erotic of the multiple episodes, and uses dramatic lighting to capture the model's extraordinary physique. [KQEK]"


International Smorgasbroad
(1965, dir. Barry Mahon)

Yet another non-masterpiece directed by Barry Mahon, probably written by him, too — or maybe his wife Clelle — and filmed on location at some nudist camp with the usual suspects, including Gigi Darlene as "The German Bombshell". Or at least the names of the usual suspects: we've not seen the movie, but some who have say that Gigi's pulchritude is not amidst all the pulchritude.
Way back in 2014, we took a look at this movie in the R.I.P. Career Review of Harry H. Novak, Part III: 1965 – 1966, where we cobbled together more or less the following:
Yet another Barry Mahon nudie-cutie [...]. Assuming that a Something Weird double feature of Harry Novak films would, in turn, present trailers to more Novak films, [...] let's take a look at International Smorgasbroad (1965), yet another low-class product from the ever-productive Barry Mahon.
TCM explains the "plot": "Every time gourmet chef Bernie Allen looks at food, he is inspired by visions of beautiful, nude women. Two cantaloupes, a can of sardines, and a mold of shimmering jello are among the foods which evoke mental delights. Since Bernie is a man of conscience, he tries instead to think of his librarian girl friend, or of the upcoming Sunday school picnic, but he is powerless in the face of the beautiful visions that grip his imagination as he works."
Among the jiggling boobs are not those of "the Swenson Twins" (aka Darlene and Dawn Bennett) — like Gigi, some claim they appear in credit only, but the photo below from the movie proves that at least Darlene Bennett is there — Delores Carlos, and Herschell Gordon Lewis's then-wife, Allison Louise Downe, seen above from behind in Goldilocks and the Three Bares (1963 / credits). As 'Louise Downe', she is credited as having written the scripts for the HG Lewis classics Blood Feast (1963 / trailer), The Gruesome Twosome (1967 / trailer), She-Devils on Wheels (1968 / trailer) and others." And as we mentioned [...] in the entry to Barry Mahon's The Beast that Killed Women (1965), Allison Louise Downe "was Tom Savini before Tom Savini" and probably doesn't get all the film history credit she is due.
But to return to International Smorgasbroad, which is still available at Something Weird (which in turn lends support to the argument that Novak did NOT have his fingers in this pie), Lisa Petrucci writes: "More mind-numbing madness from director BARRY MAHON.... Rotund [incel] BERNIE ALLEN (who also stars in Mahon's Nude Scrapbook [see Part III]) is an inept cook obsessed with the ladies he sees in a nudie calendar. [...] Melons, jello, shrimp cocktails, fried eggs, scoops of cottage cheese, sardines, even smoked salmon and crackers (?!) all summon visions of nudes. Nudes on beds, nudes on boats; nudes on carpets, couches, and chairs; nudes swimming in a pool; nudes talking on the phone; nudes polishing glasses; nudes turning on the TV; and on and on, over and over.... No plot, no acting, and not even much of a premise. Just lots and lots of naked women. And when Bernie isn't daydreaming, he's constantly propositioning the waitresses: 'Hey, you're the prettiest girl in the place! How about a date tonight? Tomorrow night? The next?' And, quite reasonably, they routinely reject him. Bernie even has the nerve to imagine them roaming around nekkid! Ai-ei-ei.... [...] Some of the nudie clips appear to be random snippets that Mr. Mahon probably picked up off the cutting room floor and pieced together into a figurative smorgasbord of nudity. Many scenes are vaguely familiar and may very well be from Mahon's other color nudie-cuties but, hey, Mahon's nudie-cuties all blur together anyway so, what the hell, sit back and enjoy the scenery. [...] This may well be the ultimate in brainless nudie-cuties. Mahon was a genius. An absolute genius."
As late as 1969, International Smorgasbroad was still being screened: the advertisement above is for the former Fine Arts Drive-in in Texas, where it was screened with the lost Paul Hunt exploiter, You (1968).
 
More Gigi Darlene to come...


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