Thursday, April 28, 2022

Fallen Angel / Ángel caído (Mexico, 2010)

It's been a long time (okay, maybe not that long a time) since the last time we felt justified to say it, but in the case of Arturo Anaya's Fallen Angel a.k.a. Ángel caído, we must warn you: "We've seen it so you don't have to." Not that you probably could even if you were a masochist who wanted to, at least in the English-speaking world, because it seems that the no sadist has yet deemed the film worthy of a dubbed English language version. Truth be told, no one probably ever will. Like Donald Trump — and so many of his proto-fascist acolytes — this flick sucks syphilitic elephant dick. 
Trailer to
Fallen Angel / Ángel caído:

In the wake of the mega-influential cash bonanza that was (and probably still is) Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), everyone and their uncle turned to this or that literary source (or their own imagination) in hope of producing the next big series. We know not whether Ángel caído is based on some literary source or simply pulled from director Arturo Anaya's butt, but what we do know is that the movie functions and feels like a roughly two-hour-long prologue to a subsequent film. But that film never came; it is as non-existent as Arturo Anaya's current directorial career — so Ángel caído remains little more than a painfully overlong and tiring piece of fumbled foreplay that leaves one screaming for anything but more. Numbingly disinteresting and often boring, the film could easily pass as a poorly stitched together film version of multiple television episodes of some second-rate, turgidly paced mini-series. Worse, it doesn't even feel as if the TV series was even aimed for an adult market but, instead, was meant for pre-teens and purity-ring wearers.
Temporal and narrative jumps are interspaced with laughably clichéd interludes of monastic life, the training of fighting and magical skills, the sheltered lad going to college and befriending the rich rake, the chaste courting of a beautiful woman conveyed in a manner that would make a Disney film relationship seem sleazy, and spectacularly few action sequences. (Imagine, the final scene, played for straight like the whole unluckily too-terrible-to-even-laugh-at film, even includes the rich [former] rake now amongst those dressed in monastery robes.)
As an added attraction to all the overly formulaic narrative, most of the actors — even those who actually have tried-and-tested careers in Spanish-language (or at least Mexican) film, like Daddy Monk Angus (José Alonso of El hombre desnudo [1976 / trailer] and Motel [1984 / trailer]) or school director with an agenda Mr. Cain (Humberto Zurita of Under the Salt [2008 / trailer],  El asesino del zodiaco [1993 / murder],  Propiedad ajena [2007 / trailer],  Persecución infernal [1992 / trailer] and El Lamento [2016 / trailer]) come across as less than gifted of any thespian aptitude: they under-act and over-act, and but with the possible exception of the actress playing main female character of Persefone (Laisha Wilkins of The Zwickys [2014 / trailer]), they universally come across as lay actors desperately in search of talent.
Nowadays, one is hard pressed to talk of "Mexico" and "fantasy film" without making some reference to Guillermo del Toro, Mexico's greatest import outside of Tequila, tacos and donkey shows El Santo. But to bring that obviously talented man's name anywhere near the name of the obviously untalented director of Ángel caído is possibly a greater sin and bigger insult than any cheap P.I. joke about Mexico and/or illegal, back alley, beast-of-burden shows. Sure, some of del Toro's films are better than others, but from his first feature film Cronos (1997 / trailer) onward, del Toro has revealed an aptitude for layered, well-paced and enthralling stories with well-executed special effects, tight editing and eye-pleasing direction, not to mention nuanced performances from his actors. One can only assume that Anaya lacks all these skills, or at least sees then as immaterial to filmmaking, for one and all they are missing in Ángel caído. True, on a rare occasion, the screen might now and then be suddenly, unexpectedly, miraculously, graced with an amazingly beautiful, almost painterly CGI visual, but such sudden visual glories are not only far between but also oddly out of place in a cinematic disaster as blatantly terrible as this one.
And what is this slop bucket of filmic incompetence about? The usual: good versus evil. And as is so often the case, only one man (whom we watch grow up) supposedly stands between the survival of our planet and its demise at the hands of a conquering Lucifer and his fallen angels. Never has there been a more ineffectual hero, or a more tedious coming-of-age tale, or a more aggravating non-ending. Let us turn, for a moment, to the macho asshole that was the talented Norman Mailer (31 Jan 1923 – 10 Nov 2007) and a statement of his about another talented author he did not like, Jack Kerouac (12 Mar 1922 – 21 Oct 1969), but tweak it to fit Arturo Anaya: "[Arturo Anaya] lacks discipline, intelligence, honesty and a sense of [film or narrative]. His rhythms are erratic, his sense of character is nil, and he is as pretentious as a rich whore, sentimental as a lollipop."
One can see that with Fallen Angel / Ángel caído the director was, despite the movie's probable (as in obvious) low budget, aiming for the epic. And in a sense, he did achieve something epic: the movie is an epic misfire and epic turd. Scout's Honor: "We've seen it so you don't have to."

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Short Film: Surrogate (1961, Croatia)

This month's short film is a somewhat forgotten blast from the past from Croatia, made at a time when the country was still behind the Iron Curtain and part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Surrogate is a cinema short, as in it was not made specifically for television screening. It tells the tale of a man visiting the beach whose inflatable life slowly but surely slips out of his control.
Nominated for an Academy Award as Best Animated Short in 1962, Surrogate became the first foreign film to win the award. In 2012, the Academy even saw the film fit for preservation. It was written by Rudolf Sremec (18 Aug 1909 – 16 Aug 1999), a man remembered in his homeland as a talented documentary filmmaker. The director of the film, however, is Dušan Vukotić (7 Feb 1927 – 8 July 1998), one of the founding members (in 1953) of Zagreb Film, a animated film studio still active today. In 1964, The Game, another Vukotić (partially animated) short was nominated for an Oscar but failed to get it.
Aside from animated shorts and documentary films, Vukotić also made occasional feature films, including the rarely screened and decidedly odd, Earth-bound science fiction parody (with a pace monster created by Jan Svankmajer) Gosti iz galaksije a.k.a. Visitors from the Galaxy of Arkana (1981 / full film). The poster below is from its DDR/GDR release.
 
Fans of East European shorts might want to check out the following Short Films of The Month:
 
Sept 2012: The Apple Thieves (Hungary, 1967)
Jan 2016: The Hobbit (USA/Czechoslovakia, 1966)
Nov 2017: Ego zhena kuritsa / Hen, His Wife (S.U./Ukraine, 1990)
July 2018: Left to Right (USSR, 1989)
March 2020: Darling, Get Me A Crocodile (Bulgaria?, 1960s?)
May 2020: A Very Lonely Cock (Russia, 2015)
March 2022: Labyrinth (Poland, 1962)

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Warbus (Italy, 1985)

Forewarned: A meandering, all-over "review" with spoilers and attitude.
A war film, and despite being an Italian-Philippine production, its tale is told, as normal, from an American perspective. And also, as is normal, despite all the possible aggressions/invasions/wars that the US of A supported and/or participated in between the Second War to End All Wars and 1985 (i.e., 1945, China; 1945-53, Philippines; 1946-49 Greece; 1950, Puerto Rico; 1950-53, Korea; 1953, Iran; 1954, Guatemala; 1956, Egypt; 1958, Lebanon; 1961, Cuba; 1961, Congo; 1961, Laos; 1963-73, Vietnam; 1964, Brazil; 1965, Indonesia; 1965-66, Dominican Republic; 1967, Greece; 1970, Cambodia; 1973, Chile; 1975, Cambodia; 1976, Argentina; 1976, Angola; 1980 till today, Afghanistan; 1980-88, Iraq; 1981-85 Nicaragua; 1981-92 El Salvador; 1983, Grenada...*), Warbus is set in the old faithful location, Vietnam.
* Interesting to consider in view of how many of those wars, supported by the Republican Party (and, admittedly, the Democratic one, too), were fought to end or prevent a "one-party system", many a contemporary Republican would love to establish a one-party system in the US today.
Okay, let us start off by saying that this film would have been indefinitely better had it unleashed some machete maidens (trailer), but it hardly even shows any real skin despite a sex scene or two. 
Danish trailer to
Warbus:

And so little nudity despite the fact that Warbus was written and directed by "Ted Kaplan", otherwise known as the not-too-obscure, lower-echelon, Italo-sleazester Ferdinando Baldi (19 May 1917 – 12 Sept 2007), the scriptwriter of Velluto Nero aka Black Emmanuelle White Emmanuelle (1976 / trailer) and director of such [truly] notable films as the odd Ringo Starr western Blindman (1971 / trailer), 3-D cult western Comin' at Ya! (1981 / trailer), and the violently sleazy George Eastman-penned cult flick, Terror Express (1979 / Italo trailer).*
* To give credit where credit is due, Baldi started his career a bit more upper-crust and even directed a rent-paying Orson Welles in the films David and Goliath (1960 / trailer) and The Tartars (1961 / trailer) before sliding, by way of numerous at-times really good spaghetti westerns, into trash and sleaze and Asia-set war films. 
But for all its lack of unclothed flesh, Warbus does have two heterosexual pairings, one of which is luckily not shown in too much detail as it is the kind that would probably meet the approval of Florida's Matt Gaetz in that the young lass looks to be a few years shy of legal. (But then, as some people might say, all is fair in love and war... and popular viewpoints regarding what is acceptable behavior were different in the days of the "crime without a victim". But the obvious age difference is grotty...)
But to get to the film that would have been better with some machete maidens. Or, for that matter, some Philippine monsters with funky teeth and guck glued to their faces. But no, instead we have two male models and an uncredited Italian cult character actor, the great Benito Stefanelli* (2 Sept 1928 – 19 Dec 1999). The last masculine specimen plays a gruff, manly, and enigmatic Australian (as in "mercenary") named Debrard — spoiler: he makes it. 
* Stefanelli, if you didn't know, is found in almost every Sergio Leonie film, including A Fistful of Dollars (1964) and the rest of Leonie's masterful westerns, and also graces movies as diverse as Castle of Blood (1964), Stuart Gordon's Pit and the Pendulum (1991 / trailer) Ruggero Deodato's The Barbarians (1987 / trailer, see: Richard Lynch Part II) & Phantom of Death (1988 / trailer), So Sweet So Dead (1972, see: Farley Granger) Umberto Lenzi's Ironmaster (1983 / trailer), and the fun western  Amigos (1968 / trailer). As one was once apt to say, "He's the shit, man!" (And sort of sexy in a gruff, dirty, DILF bear sort of way.) 
If you like explosions, you'll probably find Warbus just your thing, because it features tons of explosions. Indeed, whatever the budget was for the movie, most of it probably went for the pyrotechnics, as every hut gets blown sky high (as does a shoreline, numerous gun posts, cars and trucks, and diverse other things).* Not all that much blood, though, considering how many people get shot or blown away, but since when does anyone expect reality be echoed in movies? Give us the pyrotechnics! 
* "[Warbus] was cheaply made and we were paid cheaply for it. But it was a start." Gwendolyn Hung, 2012, @ Blood Brothers. 
As so often with Vietnam War films, Warbus opens with a credit sequence that is so stars & stripes & "Our Boys" that it comes across to the non-initiated as ironic, but despite the film being a Italo-Filipino production, it is doubtful that there is any irony intended behind the opening credit sequence. No, this is a serious, Americans-be-badass movie, which means that yes, Virginia, it's sort of fun to watch (once, maybe twice). The bronze statue memorial shown in the credit sequence, of three young soldiers, two white & one Afro-American, echoes the racial combination of the later trio of manly soldiers in the film, so you may or may not assume that Warbus tells their story.
Not that there is that much of a story, as the plot is minimal at best. Basically, it is video-game level: journey from Point A to Point B, avoid or kill all Vietcong along the way. But a plot like that naturally leaves a lot of room for explosions and shoot-ups, the real stars of the whole project, so once the credit sequence ends, the gunshots and grenades start falling. And while the explosions are real, the film, like so many war flicks, has one major flaw in its reality that is always hard to overlook: for all their firepower and numbers, not one of the Vietcong could hit the side of a barn if they were standing three yards away from it, whereas the imperialist good guys can hit anything they aim at. (Clearly, we should not have lost the war.) But numbers matter, and there are many more Vietcong than good guys, so the film does have its noble sacrifices.
Warbus proper opens with a missionary compound somewhere in Buttfuck, Vietnam, under attack by the Vietcong, and the escape of an amazingly tiny group of sundry people: a bordello mother and her daughter, Milo, (Zeny R. Williams & Josephine Sylva, but who know who plays whom); Anne (Gwendolyn Hung*) and Ronnie (Don Gordon Bell of Cleopatra Wong [1978 / trailer], Firecracker [1981 / trailer, see Dick Miller Part VI] and Raw Force [1982 / trailer], currently looking for backers for the movie  Chicken Zombies [2020 / "trailer"]), a missionary couple with a dysfunctional marriage; the previously mentioned enigmatic Aussie Debrard; and a good-guy Vietnamese, Major Kutran (played by the former Filipino mainstay character actor Ernie Zarate [d. 2017] of Caged Fury [1983/ trailer]). Grenades fly, guns shoot, everyone dies but our motley team of seven (counting the bus driver), who ride off on a big yellow school bus only to get intercepted by a trio of American soldiers, the hot-headed Gus (Romano Kristoff, born Francisco Xavier Garcia Peña & currently living in Phuket, Thailand, of Firecracker [1981 / trailer, see Dick Miller Part VI], Horror Safari [1982 / trailer] and Ninja Warriors [1985 / trailer]), the Afro-American Ben (played by the Afro-Swiss Urs Althaus, mildly famous as the first Black model to ever grace the cover of GQ [cover above] back in the day when no cis-gender read the rag, also found in Lucio Fulci's The New York Ripper [1982 / trailer], Warrior of the Lost World [1983 / trailer], and Name of  the Rose [1986 / trailer]), and handsome blonde Sgt. Dixie (New Jersey-born fashion model & D-actor Daniel Stephen, photo below, of Warriors of the Lost World [1984 / trailer] and 2020 – Texas Gladiators (1983/ trailer]).
And so it comes that the now-expanded team makes its way across enemy land to get to a location where they can get picked up and brought to safety. Of course, there is some friction along the way, but before long they all start working together to survive... and work together is more or less what they do to the end, even during the big final at the deserted camp where they have to wait until morning for the helicopters. Big show down time, noble sacrifices and all. 
* One might wonder why the Long Beach-born Elizabeth Gwendolyn Cook would give herself a stage name that makes her sound like the kind of transgender porn film star that would be fun to meet — but the fact is that she was supposedly married to a "Billy Pui Hung" at the time. Elizabeth Gwendolyn Hung still lives in the Philippines, but who knows if she still has long hair.
Speaking of the Philippines: we once knew a guy who blew Europe for the island nation. The 70-plus-year-old husband of the sister of the guy whose nephews were the sons of the secretary where our mother's daughter-in-law worked. One day the good soul cleaned out the family bank account and dumped his twenty-odd-year younger wife and two young-adult kids for a string of 18-year-old-or-younger girlfriends somewhere tropically pleasant. After he dumped his last 18-year-old receptacle, who swore she would make him regret it, he went to visit some other equally old, nubile-minded expat who was together with his latest ex's best friend and, while there, never finished the worst-tasting cup of coffee he had ever had, made by his ex's best friend. (You don't think old white men with barely legal receptacles make the coffee, do you?) It was his last cup of coffee, actually. He gave his brother a delirious midnight long-distance phone call that evening, screaming "She did it!" She did it!" in between babbling about coffee and that day's visit to his friend, until the line went dead. The next day his 18-year-old ex just happened to stop by and found: a very dead old man in filthy fruit-of-the-looms lying in the middle of a room smeared everywhere with shit and projectile puke. She called the police and then the one son in Europe that she had met, screaming at him over long-distance telephone that he should tell the police that the money in the safe and the car belong to her, but he didn't. Long story short: she got neither the car nor the money, and the autopsy report stated that the old guy had died of a heart attack. (Too much Viagra, probably.) 
When it comes to explosions and bullets, as previously mentioned Warbus has both in excess, to the detriment of more than one attractive natural formation. Character development is virtually nil or sudden — like when the Ronnie goes from duplicitous to a team player — but we do at least learn the backgrounds of the various characters along the way, which makes them a bit less one-dimensional. And their interaction also grows along the way, from fear and contempt to mutual responsibility and respect and even willy-wetting "romance". But War and Peace the film is not, it is Warbus, so stuff like that is quick and secondary to the point of the movie, explosions and bullets.
Of course, as to be expected the movie does have its action-scene gaffs, the scenes that are mean to be thrilling or even tragic but end up laughable. Our favorite is, of course, the old chestnut so common to this kind of films: when an unarmed Anne faces death (or maybe forced impregnation — after all, she's white and the bad guys aren't), Debrard bursts into the room from behind and machine guns down the two Vietcong without one bullet hitting Anne, who is standing directly in front of the bad guys. (Talk about amazing aim.) The later noble sacrifice of Major Kutran is also pretty funny, not to mention totally expected. And whatever you do, don't leave the star & stripes behind.
Face it, though: few people who don't like war flicks are going to bother watching a cheesy war flick like this. Indeed, they probably shouldn't. But if you're a fan of the genre, Warbus is more than watchable and has enough action to entertain, especially if you like explosions more than bare boobs. And the movie's lead blonde, Sgt. Dixie, will definitely appeal to your latent homosexuality because, well, he's a fit slab of good-looking young manhood with a flat stomach and arms that'll make your saliva glands work overtime who even looks huggable when wearing glasses. (Really, why no full frontal nude scene? No big guns anywhere?)
As obscure as the movie might be, Warbus seems to have done well enough that a few years later, in 1989, and even more obscure Afghan-set war movie, Afganistan – The Last War Bus / L'ultimo bus di guerra, got released. Directed by an even more obscure Italian director, Pier Luigi Ciriaci (4 Jul 1946 – 6 Mar 2009) as "Frank Valenti", the flick tried to hitch itself to the first film's tail by taking the a.k.a. title of Warbus II (Spanish trailer). Made the year after Rambo took on the Russians in Afghanistan (trailer), Warbus II was the final feature film of its "star", the hunky Italian non-thespian Mark Gregory (nee Marco Di Gregorio), an "androgynous heavy metal teenager with a love for bodybuilding [who] was ripped straight from his shoe repair shop and thrown directly onto the silver screen" [Worse Movies], whom some might remember from his illustrious acting turns in such fun stuff as Enzo G. Castellari's 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982 / trailer) and the sequel Escape from the Bronx (1983 / trailer), Blue Paradise a.k.a. Adam and Eve (1983 / trailer), as well as Thunder (1983 / trailer) and its sequels.
One thing that both Warbus and Warbus II do have in common is something they share with hundreds if not thousands of other movies out there: the great Italian master of poster illustration, Enzo Sciotti (24 Sept 1944 – 11 Apr 2021), did the original posters.
German Trailer to
Warbus:

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Babe of Yesteryear – Gigi Darlene, Part III: 1965 (Part I)

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 (s)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 trash classic 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?
Music not from the film –
John Barry's Swinging City with images from
The Curse of Her Flesh:
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
 
 
Music to Strip By
(1965, dir. Barry Mahon)
While we've been unable to find out who plays the Third Woman, the narrator of this short, we do know that the two dancing gals, "Cory" and "Maryann", are Darlene Bennett and Gigi Darlene, respectively. As does DVD Drive-in, which explains: "Music to Strip By stars Darlene and incredibly cute Gigi Darlene as two girlfriends who bring over a new stripping record album (!) to their girlfriend's house. Their girlfriend, a professional stripper with tons of eye makeup, teaches them how to perform a superb strip routine to the record's beats. The print is worn, but the two girls look great and this is a rare opportunity to see them together in color!" The images of Gigi below come from this Mahon short.
The image further above for the packaging of the short is actually taken from the cover of the LP the girls shimmy-shimmy-shake to in the short. The album, originally released circa-1955, is entitled — Surprise!Music to Strip By and is by Bob Freeman and Orchestra. Freedman (23 Jan 1934 – 22 Dec 2018) himself once said "that his low point came in the mid-1950s, when he arranged and played alto saxophone on Music to Strip By, a jazz album of bump-and-grind songs that included Night Train, Shangri-la and One Mint Julep. Even on such an album for Boston's Surprise label, which Bob said was owned by someone with a broken nose, the group was top-notch and included trumpeter Herb Pomeroy (15 Apr 1930 – 11 Aug 2007) and members of his band. [All About Jazz]" Available at fine thrift stores in your neighborhood — maybe.
From Bob Freeman and Orchestra's
L.P. Music to Strip By
Three for the Show:

 
Nude Scrapbook
(1965, dir. Barry Mahon)
We took a look at this "movie" in 2001 in our R.I.P. career review, Harry H. Novak, Part III: 1965 – 1966, where we cobbled together:
"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 [of] this, yet another no-budget nudie-cutie from fringe filmmaker Barry Mahon. The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures (Vol. 1, Pt. 1) calls the film a 'comedy': 'One of New York's most successful pin-up photographers (Bernie Allen) enjoys thumbing through his scrapbook of the world's most beautiful women whenever he has a few free minutes. As he reminisces, his vivid imagination brings his models to life again. At the same time, he maintains a busy schedule. Before he can steal some time with his scrapbook, he must photograph the beautiful pin-up models who wait in his studio.'"
Over at Something Weird, which sells the flick (and even has the trailer!), Lisa Petrucci might add: "The beret-wearing nebbish [photographer] with a heart of gold is [...] a stand-up guy who makes a living shopping his photos to various men's magazines, giving gals an opportunity to make some cash on the side. Why, even nudie vet GIGI DARLENE drops by for an impromptu photo shoot with an artificial snowman! Over the years, Bernie has compiled a scrapbook of his models — the titular Nude Scrapbook — and enjoys looking at and reminiscing about the lovely ladies he's had the opportunity to work with. [...] From the point of view of the protagonist, Bernie comes across as a decent guy who really, really likes his job! As, no doubt, did producer-director BARRY MAHON, who churned these things out the way lesser men make sandwiches. Mahon was a genius. An absolute genius."
As revealed by the advertisements above and further above, the movie even made it into cinemas outside of NYC. The Litchfield Drive-in, where it was screened with Mahon's Run Swinger Run (1967 / trailer below) in 1967, was in New Hampshire. The Compton, where it was screened with Society of Shame — either a forgotten a.k.a. title or a lost film — was in London, England. 5
Trailer to
Run Swinger Run:

 

The Art School for Nudists
(1965, writ. & dir. Barry Mahon)
Another nudie-cutie short from Barry Mahon with the usual suspects (as in Gigi and her best gal-pal Darlene) and others, like forgotten sex-pot Sharon Kent of The Sex Killer (1965 / trailer), who supposedly bared flesh for the nude inserts added to the American release of the tacky German crime cum musical revue film, Mädchen für die Mambo-Bar (1959).
Mona Baptiste sings the title track to
Die Mädchen für die Mambo-Bar:

While some most sources claim $100 a Night as an a.k.a. title for the US release of Mädchen für die Mambo-Bar, the poster below makes us think that they are actually two completely different films, as nothing shown on the poster happens in the film we saw.
Over at the imdb, Michael Elliott writes the following about The Art School for Nudists: "The setting is a nude camp where various women sit around nude all day as well as play some topless volley ball. Our story centers on one artist who enjoys drawing the women so we see her and two other ladies in a room doing some shots. The Art School for Nudists isn't a masterpiece or even a good movie but if you're a fan of the nudie cutie then there are certainly much worse out there. As with several of the Mahon shorts, this one here is good-natured about everything and it has a certain charm to it. The ladies are certainly extremely cute and on the whole this is good for what it is."


The Love Statue
(1965, dir. David E. Durston)
A.k.a. The Love Drug. Should the full version of the film embedded below be gone, we suggest you check out the version available at the Internet Archives.
Full film —
The Love Statue:
Gigi, credited as "Leonora Rhein", plays the pygmalianesque nude statue in a five-minute interlude in this curious, LSD-laced cross between beat sexploitation and noir scripted by an unknown Robert A. Poole, whose meager career includes being the producer of the later, sorely unknown horror thriller The Name of the Game Is Kill (1968 / trailer). Supposedly, the currently available version of The Love Statue no longer features some additional nude love scenes added by the movie producers prior to the movie's initial run.
Fans of "bad film" might know the director David E. Durston (10 Sept 1921 – 6 May 2010) from the trash classic I Drink You Blood (1970 / trailer far below); others might be familiar with his directorial pseudonym Spencer Logan, under which he directed two notable gay porn films, Boy'Napped (1975 / full film) and the 3-D Manhold (1978), both of which featured the once-ubiquitous (and obviously not so) straight porn actor Jamie Gillis (20 April 1943 – 19 Feb 2010) and one of our favorite bi-active but gay actors, Wade Nichols a.k.a. Dennis Parker (28 Oct 1946 – 28 Jan 1985) — a fact we mention so as to have an excuse to once again embed below Parker's time capsule of a disco song, Like an Eagle.
Dennis Parker sings
Like an Eagle:
Manhold (a.k.a. Manhole), possibly a lost film, supposedly "was not released because one of the cast members got a role in Escape from Alcatraz (1979 / trailer), and the association with gay hardcore would have been bad for this unspecified person's career, as well as for Clint Eastwood's blockbuster. [I Love Terrible Movies]"
Actually, however: the cocksucking and sucked "Eric Swenson", seen below from the film, otherwise known as DeVeren Bookwalter (8 Sept 1939 – 23 July 1987), was in The Enforcer (1976 / trailer), not Escape from Alcatraz, so that rumor is perhaps a rumor at best. Nevertheless, however, Manhold has seemingly become a lost film. (Both Manhold images, by the way, were found at Lost Media Archive.)
Movie World has the plot to The Love Statue: "Struggling beatnik artist Tyler (Peter Ratray) is on the outs with his dancer girlfriend Lisa (Ondine Lise, a.k.a. Beti Seay). Furthermore, his deadbeat sculptor friend Stan (Harvey Goldenberg) elects to flop at Tyler's rat-hole apartment for the time being. While at a nightclub, a sultry Japanese chanteuse (Hisako Tsukuba) offers him a tab of the latest kick, LSD. At first hesitant, Tyler pops the tab and goes on an extended three-day trip where he envisions being seduced by a nude sculpture (Leonora Rheine) at his apartment. Coming to, he discovers his girlfriend murdered. Is Tyler responsible for her death? Or did someone else kill Lisa? And how does this tie in to his crazy hallucination about making love to a statue?"
The Love Statue was the first and last English-language film of Japanese B-film actress Hisako Tsukuba, of Kaiteikarakitaonna / The Girl Who Came from the Sea (1959 / music), who stopped acting in general a year later, possibly with the release of the decidedly psychotronic kiddie film Ôgonbatto / The Golden Bat (1966 / trailer below). As "Chako van Leeuwen" she still produces an occasional film, like the Alan Smithee (!) flick Raging Angels (1995 / trailer) and — according to more than one online site — Piranha (1978) and Piranha II: The Spawning (1981 / trailer), not to mention Piranha 3D (2010) and Piranha 3DD (2012).
Japanese trailer to
The Golden Bat:

Noirsville, which calls the movie "a curious artifact", says: "The Love Statue is an interesting and curious mélange [...] capturing that curious fringe time between the end of The Beats and the beginning of The Age of Aquarius. A non-union film, The Love Statue was shot guerilla style on the streets of New York; it also captures nicely the Greenwich Village Art Scene and NYC circa 1965. [...] It's a 'C' picture throughout, showing some humorously pathetic attempts at some 'European' style but it's a film with a lot of heart. Some of the performances and sequences are well done, others are lacking in ability or clunky, but it's still a fun watch. [...] Hisako Tsukuba couldn't speak a word of English so her lines are all done phonetically, but it adds to the overall 'spaciness' of her character. Director Durston, in the extras on the DVD, tells us that he did indeed drop acid prior to directing the film in order to give it authenticity."
For that, in John Market's book Hooked on Film: Substance Abuse on the Big Screen, the author, who posits that "The Love Statue [...] may be the first to cinematically depict LSD on the big screen", also contends that "the cinematic depictions of the hallucinatory experience in this film are more reminiscent of the blurred vision of someone under the influence of alcohol." "And as film scholar Michael Bowen points out in his informative liner notes to the Retro Seduction Cinema DVD, it's the only known LSD film to have been shot in black and white! [Angels in Distress]"
"For a sexploitation flick, it just doesn't titillate very much and as an exploitation flick, it just doesn't go far enough. [...] But that's not to say there aren't some things that work in The Love Statue; quite the contrary. Even though it doesn't fit nicely within the niche that it's supposed to, there are some distinctive things going on that make it more noteworthy than you'd think. The first thing that really jumped out at me was the opening credits sequence, which features a silhouetted woman dancing to a Japanese pop song sung by Hisako 'Choko' Tsukuba [...]. The song sounds like it could have come out of any Kinji Fukasaku or Teruo Ishii flick and the scene itself would be at home in any of the early arthouse Pink films. This obviously piqued my interest a lot, and sets the tone of the film, giving it an air all its own. Director David Durston, fresh off of hobnobbing with Italian neorealism directors such as Michelangelo Antonioni, injects tons of symbolism and odd asides throughout that may not completely work, but again provides The Love Statue with a unique angle. The snappy dialogue, which is reminiscent of the excellent repartee heard in Russ Meyer films, is also a joy to listen to, although the delivery of it can sometimes be lacking. [Infini-tropolis]"
During its run in NYC at the Lyric, Sunset and Park, the "New York arthouse project filmed mostly with hungry young newcomers" [10K Bullets] was paired with the far more typically sexploitive and grim flick, One Naked Night a.k.a. The Long Hot Night.
7 minutes of One Naked Night
to some incongruent music:

One last familiar face but unknown name to be found somewhere in The Love Statue is David Roya,  whose limited list of credits includes Billy Jack (1971 / trailer) and The White Buffalo (1977): he may be an unknown, but his is a face that remains memorable to the point that if seen once, one always thinks "Hey, wait! Who is that again?" Odd that an actor with as much presence as he has never made it big, even if only in bad films.
But to return to The Love Statue's director, David E. Durston, whose real name could possibly actually be William Edward Duersten Jr. (See here.) We considered mentioning the rumors about his "links" to two mysterious deaths, but we here at a wasted life see the "links" as forced and fake — indeed, David E. Durston's name in the Wikipedia article on Diane Linkletter (status: 6 Jan 2022) is, at best, only proof of how unreliable Wikipedia can sometimes be. The 27-year-old Edward Durston present at Linkletter's suicide is/was close to two decades younger than David E. Durston, while the Edward Durston present at Carol Wayne's (6 Sep 1942 – 13 Jan 1985) death 16 years later in Mexico was a car salesman, not a film director. Time to get the story straight: Donald Trump killed them both.
In any event, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Durston's "sharp editorial skills brought him work as a 'film doctor' for numerous productions. He dubbed and directed insert sequences for the Turkish art film Dry Summer (1963 / trailer), later released on the fest circuit as Reflections. The movie won the Golden Bear for best film at the 1964 Berlin International Film Festival. Durston also supervised the dubbed U.S. version of Joe Sarno's The Seduction of Inga (1971 / trailer)." Interestingly if not typically enough, that very same Hollywood Reporter article, from 2010, also names David E. Durston's longtime companion (i.e., "significant other") Jack Damon, nee John Vincent DiBello (24 Jun 1942 – 13 Nov 2016), of such fine films as Larry Crane's Beware the Black Widow (1968) & Private Relations (1968) and Durston's own Blue Sextet (1971 / fragment) & classic I Drink Your Blood (1970 / trailer below), as Durston's surviving "nephew". (Well, as they were once apt to say, "Incest is best.")
Trailer to David E Durston's
I Drink Your Blood (1971):
The Love Statue is currently (12 Jan 2022) available at Internet Archives. Even if there is no way to be sure, we would guess that Gigi Darlene is also the unidentifiable woman dancing in the fog during the opening credits. As revealed by the newspaper clipping below, Dottie Stallworth, who composed and arranged the music to the film, became a music teacher and died in 1987. The artist who supplied the work for the movie, Stanley Sobossek (1918-1996), obviously never became famous but his work is still handled today.


Bad Girls Go to Hell
(1965, writ., dir. & prod. Doris Wishman)
Gigi Darlene's most famous film, and a cult masterpiece. Had David Lynch been a cheap sexploitation filmmaker in the 60s, he probably would have made movies like this one — or maybe even like Wishman's Indecent Desires (1967 / trailer).
Bad Girls Go to Hell is Doris Wishman's first roughie, and first misogynistic masterpiece — and also the movie that is the reason that most people who even know of Gigi Darlene even know of Gigi Darlene. She stars as Meg Kelton / Ellen Green.
Trailer to
Bad Girls Go to Hell:

Wishman, along with Roberta Findlay, was a rarity of her time: a female exploitation-film filmmaker at a time when female filmmakers were rare in general. And in her movies, like Findlay in her own, Wishman ladled out rape and violence against women in dollops that easily outdid many of her male counterparts. "To the alternative cineaste, Doris Wishman is somewhat akin to what Mary, the Mother of Christ, is to Catholics. She was a considerable influence on luminaries such as John Waters (see: Pink Flamingos [1972]), Roger Corman, and Quentin Tarantino. Like them, Wishman approached genre films with an idiosyncratic enthusiasm for the art and the business. Her films are sexploitation roughies, nudie-cuties, and precursors to the grindhouse films. Therefore, she also has her detractors, who compare to her to the likes of Ed Wood. Wishman was a true, self-taught outsider artist. And like most outsider artists, being a maverick had its advantages and disadvantages (she never had the budget she needed). Wishman was as tenebrous and quirky as her films. She often told elaborate lies about herself and remained defiant to the end, mocking conventional attitudes. 'I'll continue making films in Hell' she said, terminally ill, only days before her passing at age 90. If that anecdote doesn't endear her to you, well, you may have come to the wrong film site. [366 Weird Movies]"
The plot, as per The Reprobate: "Gigi Darlene (voluptuous and sexy and badass in a way that only sixties girls ever were) plays Meg Kalton, a housewife who finds herself in a heap of trouble. After hubby (Alan Feinstein of Wishman's Sex Perils of Paulette [1965 / trailer]) heads to work, she slips into her see-thru negligee and takes the trash out, only to be assaulted by the leering janitor (Harold Key). Although blameless, she is still somehow blackmailed by the janitor into visiting his apartment later on, where he again attempts rape — only for Meg to kill him with a handy ashtray. She flees to New York, hoping to start a new life, but is soon caught up with assorted unsavoury types — a man (Sam Stewert of Murder in Mississippi [1965 / scene]) who offers her a place to stay becomes a belt-wielding sadist after a swig of booze, a flatmate (Dawn Bennett) introduces her to the joys of lesbian sex, while another landlady's husband (Charles E. Mazin of All Men Are Apes [1965 / strip]) rapes her. The film ends with a bit of a plot twist that suggests there will be no end to this particular nightmare."
Cult Flicks, which thinks that there is no reason to watch the movie "other than the obvious reason of seeing a woman get repeatedly raped and beaten" suggests that one needs liquid assistance to get through the movie: "With its repetitive theme of rape and brutality, this is definitely a film to drink yourself into. Because of a nonsensical scene with a former alcoholic, Cutty Sark would be the liquor of choice. For fun, have a shot every time someone walks directly into the camera for a scene change."
Others would agree: "No amount of hipster laughter about Wishman's campy style can wash away this film's very real, and very disturbing, violence. In the 1950s and '60s, an offshoot of the disreputable genre known as the 'nudie cutie' was the 'roughie' — a grindhouse, drive-in picture that featured not just glimpses of nudity and simulated sex, but also brutal violence, almost always directed against women. Once the character of Meg kills the janitor (in self-defense, I need to point out) her life becomes an unending litany of awkward seductions and brutal beatings. Is Meg being punished for killing a man? Is this a cautionary tale to women who would take out the trash in inappropriate clothing? Is Doris Wishman catering to a sick clientele who are so sexually frustrated, they need to take out those frustrations on the seeming objects of their own desire? Any way you look at it, it's not pretty. [F This Movie]"
Available at Something Weird, which offers one possible interpretation of the movie: "Despite its crazed histrionics, there's a genuine subtext lurking deep inside (if you'll pardon the pun) Bad Girls Go to Hell — namely, is Meg a 'Bad Girl' because she has an active sex drive, and does she deserve to Go to Hell because of it? But if stuff like that makes your puzzler hurt, you can still enjoy the usual Wishmanisms that run rampant throughout — the tortured, guilt-ridden characters, the obsessive running-feet shots, and the urban nightmare settings. The perfect cherry-breaker for the Doris Wishman virgin in your life."
We here at a wasted life would hypothesize that had Doris Wishman actually been "Donald Wishman", he would long have been discovered and celebrated by the finer institutions of filmic culture and celebrated as a great filmmaker with an idiosyncratic artistic vision.
 
 
Nudes on Tiger Reef
(1965, dir. Barry Mahon)
A.k.a. Girls on Tiger Reef. Another Barry Mahon nudie-cutie non-masterpiece supposedly written — there was a script to this thing? — by his wifey, Clelle Mahon. The full film can be found at YouTube, not to mention diverse "free" NSFW websites. If the photo below of a lovely Gigi Darlene getting ready to scuba dive nude looks familiar to you despite never having seen the film, then perhaps you are a reader of the blog Divine Exploitation.
The AFI (American Film Institute) has the plot: "After the closing of a very successful Broadway play, the producer-director (Sande N. Johnson) and leading lady (Nadja Swensen) tell each other of their plans for the summer. She plans to work in summer stock in the Catskills, and he will make a film spectacular in the Midwest. They part, and the director heads instead for the exclusive Tiger Reef Nudist Colony, on an island off the Florida coast. Tiger Reef has been chosen by the Sunbathing Association as the setting for a documentary on nudism, and the camp manager (Ignacio Del Magro) is anxious to have the Broadway director, a nudist himself, make the film. The director is unenthusiastic because he would have no professional help on the island. The manager announces happily that a famous Broadway actress has recently become a member of Tiger Reef. The new recruit turns out to be the leading lady, who has not gone to the Catskills after all. There is some initial embarrassment, after which the two set out to make the movie. They film attractive camp members and the beautiful surroundings. With the film completed and the summer over, the team returns to Broadway together."
Something Weird, which naturally has the movie, writes: "Nude softball! Nude volleyball! Nude high kicks! Nudes on blankets, lawn chairs, and chaise lounges! All narrated in a droll monotone ('It was time to amuse Nadja, so Sande got the camp's pet monkey on the scene!') by a narrator who, oddly, doesn't comment on a muddy gun that's found on the bank of a pond, playfully pointed, then tossed into the water (!?!). [...] Then, after all the nudist-camp excitement, it's out to the ocean for some scuba divin' and skinny dippin' all crisply photographed beneath the waves — with Darlene, Gigi and the gang: 'The boat was full of eager naked bodies anxiously awaiting their first voyage to the open depths....'
Of course, like most nudist movies, there are no fat, old, or ugly nudists on screen. That's because models were photographed instead of real nudists. From a 1994 interview with Mr. Mahon: 'The people in the place didn't seem to mind because they got a kick out of seeing our broads naked. We even brought some of our New York actresses down there with us. There were certain ones I knew I could count on, and others who were willing to work because they wanted a Florida vacation.' Even Mahon's wife [...] is there, too, but Mahon wouldn't point her out: 'She doesn't want me to say!' Nudes on Tiger Reef. Half nudist camp / half nudes under water. Not for rocket scientists. Barry was a genius. An absolute genius."
The professionally laid-out newspaper advert above for the Ft Lauderdale Thunderbird Drive-in was found at Screen 13, which says "8-6-67 — Mitam Time with The House of Cats (1966). Thankfully Nudes on Tiger Reef was the cute film of the bunch. Reportedly, Take Her by Surprise (1967) was the original title of Violent Love." Edward L. Cahn's Dragstrip Girl (1958 / trailer) was "remade", to use that term very loosely, in 1994 (trailer) for Showtime by Mary Lambert. It features a very young and hunkadelic Mark Dacascos — a fact we mention only as an excuse to show some martial arts beefcake.
At (re)Search My Trash, Mike Haberfelner, one of the few who have seen Nudes on Tiger Reef, was moved to say, "For the most part, your typical early-to-mid 1960s nudist camp movie: You see plenty of naked girls, many nice asses and tits, but ridiculous (and hilarious all the same) attempts are made to show no full frontal nudity of the lower area, men are only naked when they're just allowed to sit around and hide their members and behinds. This is all set to a cheesy story about the joys of nudism with no real narrative structure or actual dramatic highlights, all carried by an off-screen narration (there is no on-screen sound) set to a jazzy easy listening score. What sets this film apart ever so slightly are the scuba-diving scenes which are very well-shot and show the girls (wearing bikini trunks in these scenes though) at their prettiest. This, though, is not enough to make the film anything special (even within the genre), but if you enjoy nudist camp movies as such for their cheesiness and campiness, this one is sure one of the better ones..."

 
Naughty Nudes
(1965, writ. & dir. "James Michael")

Don't believe that "James Michael" credit: Naughty Nudes is just another nudie-cutie written and directed by — Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! — Barry Mahon, with all the usual suspects involved, including Gigi.
Something Weird, which has the film and the trailer, also has the "plot": "When Miss Lamont (Miss Jackie Lamont), an eccentric art teacher at a prestigious college, takes her female students on location, it sets off one of the biggest scandals in the history of the school. Instead of visiting a gallery or museum, Miss Lamont makes arrangements for five of her most talented gals to go on a short trip to a beautiful private estate at the seashore where they can sketch to their hearts' content, with the fresh air and sunshine doing its best to inspire their creativity. And to save money on modeling fees, the gals cheerfully offer to pose for each other, for art's sake. Upon arrival, the frisky young ladies go for a dip in the swimming pool. And remove their swimsuits, of course. Miss Lamont immediately reprimands them: nudes in art are one thing; a group of silly girls cavorting around naked is quite another! Naughty Nudes, indeed! Unfortunately, a nosy old biddy in the vicinity (who happens to work at the school) gets wind of their antics and proceeds to spy on them and take notes on her observations. Miss Lamont rents a boat and takes the girls out on the high seas to a deserted island where no one will bother them. But the gaggle of pretty gals catches the eyes of several sailors working on the docks, who follow them in another boat — with binoculars! Once on the island, the gals get down to business — drawing in sketchpads and taking turns posing for each other in the beautiful setting. Meanwhile, Miss Lamont sets off to the other side of the island to take photos of seagulls (who later attack her like a scene out of Hitchcock's The Birds [1963 / original teaser]). On her return to the beach, Miss Lamont is horrified to discover the sailors coming ashore near her girls! She shoos them away in time for the young ladies to get some clothes on! Disaster averted! Later, the sailors come calling on the gals at the estate for an innocent get-together, which quickly escalates into a wild party when the punch gets spiked! Which, of course, is when the nosy old biddy returns and sees them doing the conga and carousing in the swimming pool! This shameful behavior is reported back to the school, thus explaining why poor Miss Lamont is under scrutiny...."
At Letterboxd, Michael Elliott was moved to write: "Naughty Nudes is yet another Barry Mahon film where there's [...] very little style and very little sense of any sort of direction. With that being said, much like the rest of Mahon's output this here is at least mildly entertaining in its own cheap little way. Is the film ground-breaking? Is it going to make you rush out and get every other Mahon film? Not at all, but there's certainly much worse out there. The one thing that has always impressed with Mahon's work is that he always managed to get attractive looking women for his films. A lot of times you watch these nudie cuties and you wonder how much the production had for casting. With Mahon films you get good-looking women and of course they're getting naked throughout the short 60-minute running time. Gigi Darlene and Darlene Bennett are two familiar faces for fans of Mahon. You've also got a lot of attempted comedy here that really isn't all that funny but for the film at least delivers what you would expect it to."
The newspaper advert above was found at the sorely missed (as in: not updated since 2020) blogspot Chateau Vulgaria, which noted: "The enticing ad for Barry Mahon's Fanny Hill Meets Dr. Erotico (1967) makes it that much more painful that a print has yet to resurface. Rounding out this March, 1968 triple-feature at Guilderland, NY's Carman Drive-in are the UK actioner Mozambique (1965 / trailer, yet to make DVD*) and Naughty Girls, which I'm assuming is a retitling of Barry Mahon's Naughty Nudes (1965, on VHS from Something Weird)."
* For more about Mozambique, we would suggest that you take a look at our R.I.P. Career Review of Maria Rohm.

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