Part I (June 2022), The non-babe of note of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Princess Livingston
Part II (July 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Jacqulin Cole
Part III (Aug 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Bebe Louie
Part IV (Sept 2022), Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls: Trina Parks...
Fifty-two years and four months ago, on 17 June 1970, Russ Meyer's baroque masterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls hit the screens in the US of Anal. One of only two movies Meyer ever made for a major Hollywood studio (in this case, Fox), Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is without a doubt one of the Babest movies ever made.
"Using unknowns you avoid highly exaggerated salaries and prima donnas."
While we have yet to review it here at a wasted life (if we did, we would foam at the mouth in raging rave), we have looked at it before: back in 2011, in our R.I.P. Career Review of Charles Napier (12 Apr 1936 – 5 Oct 2011), and again in 2013 in our R.I.P. Career Review for the Great Haji (24 Jan 1946 – 10 Aug 2013) — both appear in the film.
"This is not a sequel. There has never been anything like it!"
In Haji's entry, we wrote, among other things, the following: "Originally intended as a sequel to the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's novel Valley of the Dolls (trailer), Meyer and co-screenwriter Roger Ebert instead made a Pop Art exploitation satire of the conventions of the modern Hollywood melodrama, written in sarcasm but played straight, complete with a 'moralistic' ending that owes its inspiration to the Manson-inspired murder of Sharon Tate and her guests on August 9, 1969. Aside from the movie's absolutely insane plot, the cinematography is also noteworthy — as are the figures of the pneumatic babes that populate the entire movie. For legal reasons, the film starts with the following disclaimer: 'The film you are about to see in not a sequel to Valley of the Dolls. It is wholly original and bears no relationship to real persons, living or dead. It does, like Valley of the Dolls, deal with the oft-times nightmare world of show business but in a different time and context.' [...]"
"Any movie that Jacqueline Susann thinks would damage her reputation as a writer cannot be all bad."
Russ Meyer films are always populated by amazing
females sights, but this one literally overflows its cups in an excess of pulchritude that (even if somewhat more demurely covered than in most of his films) lights the fires of any person attracted to women of the curvaceous kind that preceded today's sculptured plasticity. The film is simply Babe Galore — and so, for the year to come, we are looking at the film careers of the women of the Babest Film of All Times, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The size of their breasts roles is of lesser importance than the simple fact that they are known to be in it somewhere, so we will look at the known unknowns in the background and the headlining semi-knowns in the front. That is, but for one notable exception: the National Treasure that is the Great Pam Greer. Though she had her film debut in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls somewhere in the background, and therefore should be included, we feel that a Wonderment of her caliber deserves an entry all of her own — a Sisyphean task we might one day take on...
In any event, for however long it takes, Babes of Yesteryear will look deep into the
cleavages eyes of the various women known to be in the movie, although one or two might barely register. They were all date material (barring, perhaps, the ethereal-looking one, now dead, that ended up murdering her husband). Going alphabetically (last name) for now, let us now take a look at another still-active actor who has had a long if primarily under the radar career:
Background Babe of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
Lavelle Roby, Pt. I (1968-76)
Born 17 March 1941, Lavelle Roby (a.k.a. Lavelle Robey & Lavell Roby & Lavell Ruby & even "Lavelle Toby") came to Los Angeles in 1960s, eventually landing her first screen credit in a Get Smart (1965-70) episode, A Tale of Two Tails (1968). From there on Lavelle Roby has acted ever since, in roles varying from relatively large to un-credited background. Roby might no longer maintain an active website, but as late as 2021 she was still acting in an occasional film project. The blog Miss Meyer has a pleasant but above all oddly shallow interview with Lavelle Roby in which it is pointed out that Roby was possibly the first Afro-American actress Russ Meyer ever hired, to which Roby responds, "I never gave any thought to being the 'first' other than the first woman Russ had hired who didn't have big breasts. I was just proud that he had hired me for my acting ability rather than my body." In Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, she plays Vanessa, the personal assistant of the music producer extraordinaire Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell (John La Zar).
Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!
The poster above is for the original German release, and surreally enough the German title is a play on "Null Null Sieben", a number better known as "007".
Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers! is generally considered one of Russ Meyer's lesser movies, although everyone seems to love the opening credits sequence. Lavelle Roby (above and below from the film) makes her feature film debut as Claire, a hard-as-nails brothel owner who is up to no good and, as typical of Meyer's morality plays, pays the price for it.
"After the more restraint and teasing Common-Law Cabin (1967 / trailer) and Good Morning... and Goodbye! (1967 / "info" video — see: R.I.P. Haji), Meyer returns to what [made] him famous and his movies hits in the first place: gratuitous nudity. The big-bosomed starlet this time is Anne Chapman, who not only possesses a nice rack, but also has a very nice 'ghetto booty' she gets to flaunt on several occasions. With her Meyer also pushes the limits of what he's showing on screen. In all of his other movies he only shows the women topless and sex is shot in such a way we mostly see people's faces, but in Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers! [he] takes it to another level. Nothing too extreme compared to what we have gotten used to today but he inserts close-ups of butt-shots and during the topless dance scene of Chapman he even made some crotch-shots taken between her legs. Everything is covered, but never was Meyer this explicit. A sign of the changing times as the sexual revolution of the 60s was in full swing. [Mikey Mo]"
Swimming pool sex:
The plot, as given by Fred Beldin at All Movie: "Paul (Paul Lockwood) is a strip club owner, with a sexually repressed wife, who has been fulfilling his needs at the local brothel. Main madam Claire (Lavelle Roby) hatches a plan to keep him busy with whiskey and sex while a pair of thugs (Duncan McLeod [26 Jul 1918 – 25 Nov 2005], of Sweet Trash [1970 / trailer] and Garden of the Dead [1972 / scenes] and Robert Rudelson [16 Oct 1935 or 36 – 29 Nov 1997]) hide out in the men's room after closing time to try their luck at cracking the safe. Paul gets a little out of hand at the whorehouse, so he's knocked out and dragged back home to his disgusted wife, Kelly (Anne Chapman of The Blue Hour [1971 / dance scene]). Meanwhile, the club's main attraction quits and bartender Ray (Gordon Wescourt) calls up, prompting the frustrated, confused Kelly to try her hand at the striptease herself while her drunken husband sleeps it off. She's a hit, with Ray at least, who seduces her and takes her back to his swimming pool, leaving the safecrackers free to ply their trade. When Paul sobers up and finds that his wife is missing, he heads for the club, not realizing the danger that awaits him."
"The intercutting between bodies furiously grinding in a hot tub and stock cars slamming at a demolition derby is just one of the juxtapositions in this crotch-angled stroll in nocturnal Los Angeles: The elegantly deceitful madam (Lavelle Roby) climaxes to Beethoven-scored visions of ejaculatory fountains, the tavern's impregnable money box is equated to the conflicted heroine's 'treasure chest', a bloody robbery turns into a grueling session of marital therapy. Ever the self-policing lecher, Meyer orchestrates a swinish exhibition only to freeze on the uneasy smile of Chapman, a Vargas pin-up with sad Keane eyes. [Cinepasssion]"
"This is what I think of when I see or hear Russ Meyer's name. The plot was a little more complex on this one, with all of the characters interlocking in some way. [...] My favorite scenes for creativity were the credits being on liquor bottles and pool sex cutting to a destruction derby. [...] Overall, I think this is one of Russ' better films. I rate it good for sex and violence. [Psychostasy of the Film]"
Over at Miss Meyer, Lavelle Roby says: "I don't really remember how I first heard about the film, however, when I called my agent to ask him to submit me for the role of the madam, my agent laughed at me and told me that Russ would never hire me because Russ only hired big-breasted girls. Since my breasts were only a small B cup, he didn't want to submit me. I pleaded with him to give it a try, because if Russ would only let me come in to read for the part, I would surely convince him that I could handle the role. Indeed, I read for the role, Russ loved the reading and hired me. According to Russ himself, I was the first actress he had ever auditioned that had not had to show her breasts to audition for a role! [...] Russ had been famous for travelling the world over to find women with the biggest and best breasts. He was very careful in shooting me and not revealing too much flesh. And, while Anne [Chapman] was not a great actress, she did have a great set of tits! Working with Russ was a great pleasure. He was respectful, hard-working, and had a great sense of humor."
House of Zodiac
(1969, dir. Jack Starrett)
The second directorial project of the great Jack Starrett (2 Nov 1936 – 27 Mar 1989), who went on to direct such fun stuff like Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Race with the Devil (1975, see: R.G. Armstrong Pt. I). Unluckily, House of Zodiac is a lost film (so check your attic). Scriptwriter Gary Crutcher also wrote a few grindhouse cult favs: The Name of the Game is Kill (1968 / trailer, poster further below), Stanley (1972 / trailer) and Superchick (1973, see: Uschi Part VII).
Over at Shock Cinema, actor Paul Koslo talks about House of Zodiac, the movie in which he made his screen debut: "It had a couple of titles [including FLUX] and it was made by Jack Starrett and Richard Compton (2 Mar 1938 – 11 Aug 2007). Jack bet some guy from Vegas that he could make a two-hour, 35mm film for $15,000! He was one of those pug-nosed kind of guys in a bar in Vegas, and he said 'You're full of shit. Nobody could do that.' Jack said, 'Gimme the damn money!' 'All right!' So they got fifteen grand together, they got a script, and they shot this movie in six days, over three weekends. [laughs] Oh, it was quite a movie! It was about this guy in a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Hollywood somewhere who knows thirteen girls who represent the twelve signs of the zodiac — Gemini being twins, right? — and for different reasons, and through different relationships that he has with them, he decides that they're not fit for human life, so he does away with them. It didn't say much, and if you tried to figure it out, you wouldn't have the foggiest idea what it was all about, but it looked good and it sounded good. I don't think it ever got released [...]."
As reported in 2009 by the Temple of Schlock, where the image above was taen, "Our friend Gary Crutcher is offering a $5,000 reward for the negative and/or a print of House of Zodiac, the unreleased, long-lost psychedelic nudie that Jack Starrett directed in 1969 based on Gary's original screenplay. 'House of Zodiac was the biggest cinematic disaster next to The Red Badge of Courage that ever occurred,' Gary says with a laugh. 'It was based on a five-day bum acid trip I had taken, about the same time Nicholson wrote The Trip (1967 / trailer — see Dick Miller Pt II). We had thirteen beautiful girls in it, including Rita Murray and Lavelle Roby, each one representing a sign of the zodiac. Craig Rumar, Jack Starrett, Richard Compton and I were all involved as producers. We shot it on weekends for very little money and we were stoned out of our heads, but we did get the film made. There was an answer print and I saw it at a screening room on the Sunset Strip with Paul Koslo, who was the lead, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, who were going to do the music. But we ran out of money before we could finish it, and the story goes on and on and on from there. If anyone can find a print of it for me, they got $5,000. I really would love to see it again, and I could probably get it out on DVD."
The announcement apparently brought no results, and the film is still considered lost.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
As mentioned before: Roby (below, from the film) plays Vanessa, the personal assistant of the music producer extraordinaire Ronnie 'Z-Man' Barzell (John La Zar). She isn't present during the final bloodbath, so one assumes she survives the film.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls:
The plot, as found at AFI: "Tired of playing to high school audiences, Kelly (Dolly Read), Casey (Cynthia Myers), and Pet (Marcia McBroom), members of a rock trio, travel to Hollywood, California, accompanied by Harris Allsworth (David Gurian), the band's manager and Kelly's lover. There, they are befriended by Kelly's Aunt Susan (Phyllis Davis), an advertising executive, who, despite the misgivings of her lawyer, Porter Hall (Duncan McLeod), decides to share with Kelly the family fortune. At an orgy the band is discovered by the effeminate entrepreneur host, Ronnie "Z-Man" Barzell (John La Zar), who rechristens them 'The Carrie Nations.' Among lovers quickly acquired at Ronnie's party are Lance (Michael Blodgett, below from the film, of The Velvet Vampire [1971 / trailer]), a boorish gigolo, who enters into a liaison with Kelly; Emerson (Harrison Page of Carnosaur ), a law student who wins Pet's love; and Roxanne (Erica Gavin), a lesbian designer who captures Casey's heart. As the celebrated trio perform on national television, Harris, distraught by Kelly's infidelity and Casey's impregnation by him, hurls himself from the catwalk. He is rushed to the hospital, where Dr. Scholl (Dan White) informs Kelly that Harris can look forward to life as a paraplegic. Realizing that Harris is her true love, Kelly devotes herself to his care. Touched by Casey's plight, Roxanne arranges an abortion. Ronnie invites Lance, Roxanne, and Casey to a private party, at which costumes are distributed. Dressed as Superwoman, Ronnie attempts to seduce Lance, who is attired in a loin cloth. Rejected, Ronnie binds the gigolo. After revealing that he is, in fact, a woman, Ronnie bears her breasts, brandishes a sword, and chops off Lance's head. She then plunges a gun into the sleeping Roxanne's mouth and fires. Terrified, Casey phones her friends, who rush to her rescue but arrive too late. As Emerson and Kelly attempt to subdue Ronnie, the gun discharges, killing the transvestite. During the fray, however, the crippled Harris is miraculously cured. In a triple wedding ceremony, Kelly and Harris, Pet and Emerson, and Aunt Susan and an old love are united."
From the film –
Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls:
The Peace Killers
Lavelle Roby even gets credited on the American poster: "Lavelle Roby as Black Widow". The German poster drops any mention of her at all. She sports a pretty cool Afro in this one.
The Peace Killers:
Grindhouse Database — which says "The movie just KICKS ASS!" — has the plot: "Kristy (Jess Walton) is on the run from her evil biker boyfriend, Rebel (Clint Ritchie [9 Aug 1938 – 31 Jan 2009]), who's the leader of the 'Death Row' biker gang. She ends up seeking shelter and protection in a hippie compound led by Alex (Paul Prokop [28 Jul 1938 – 4 Sept 1980] of The Velvet Vampire [1971 / trailer] and Dream No Evil [1970 / full film]), and believe me, this guy is super hippie! But it isn't long before Rebel and Death Row finds out where she's at. From there they terrorize the hippies, crucify Alex on his large, home-made peace symbol and brutally have their way with Kristy, which includes drugging her up, raping her and dragging her with their motorcycles. Barely conscious, Kristy escapes and is picked up by a mostly-black biker gang who have a female leader named Black Widow (you gotta see this chick [Lavelle Roby] to believe it!). Come to find out, Black Widow and Rebel go way back....and they aren't friendly! So a re-cooperated Kristy once again is back at Alex's hippie farm, but Black Widow warns the hippies that Death Row will come back for Kristy. The hippies ain't taking this shit no more and are gonna team up with Black Widow's gang to turn their peaceful playground into a bloody battlefield! But will Mr. Super-Hippie, Alex, finally muster up some balls and join in on the carnage?"
The Peace Killers:
"A relentless brew of sex and violence from start to finish, this one was designed to bring down the house and certainly delivers all the way to the big climactic brawl. There's also an interesting ongoing theme of pacifism versus violence, which ties in to the heavy focus on sexual assault that may seem far afield of today's cultural climate but at least serves as a major plot point (and provides Ritchie with some genuinely repugnant dialogue). The scar-faced, wild-eyed [Lavelle] Roby is really something to behold here, too, and the soundtrack is a snappy concoction of funky grooves and sentimental strings that supports the action well. [Mondo Digital]"
The "sentimental strings" included songs by the forgotten "singer-songwriter folkie" Ruthann Friedman, like White Dove...
Ruthann Friedman sings
Click an of the linked titles to read our review of Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, a Blaxploitation masterpiece and slice of its time that was (deservedly) selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" in 2020.
You see Roby screaming, pissed as shit, in the trailer. About her experience of working on that movie, over at Miss Meyer Roby says, "[...] For the role in Sweet Sweetbacks Baadasssss Song, I had no script. I created the dialogue myself. Melvin told me what he wanted and it was left up to me to create that. It was improvisational. We shot until he got what he wanted. [...] I worked with Van Peebles on Sweetback as a favor. It was my only experience working with him and it was a frustrating experience. I am proud of the role I created, but much of the anger and frustration came out of the moment. There was nothing comfortable about the experience. But perhaps that's what it was supposed to be. Sweetback was 'raw'." And directly below: a circumcised Mario van Peebles in the raw, from the film.
The score was supplied by an at-the-time totally unknown band called Earth, Wind & Fire; interestingly enough, Melvin van Peebles (21 Aug 1932 – 21 Sept 2021) received a $50,000 loan from everyone's favorite serial rapist, Bill Cosby, to complete the project.
Earth, Wind & Fire — Theme to
The Seven Minutes
Okay, where and in what form Lavelle Roby appears in this movie is unknown, and it is not generally found on any of her online filmographies, but over at Miss Meyer Lavelle Roby says, "I had the fortune to work with Russ on Finders Keepers, Lovers Weepers!, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, [and] The Seven Minutes..."We looked at The Seven Minutes over at Babes of Yesteryear — Uschi Digard, Part IV: 1971, Part I, where we [as always] went verbose:
"As anyone who's halfway into bosom-mania or classic sexploitation movies knows, the great Russ Meyer had a brief sojourn into mainstream filmmaking at the beginning of the seventies. The results were a decidedly mixed bag of only two movies, both of which are nevertheless intriguingly 'Russ Meyer'. The first and most successful is of course his classic satire of sexploitation and Hollywood, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970 / trailer), in which he managed to maintain all his signature features: beautiful and bountiful babes, violence, excessive melodrama, outrageous characterization, quick editing, eye-catching camera angles & blocking — everything you know and love in his best films, but clothed in a hint of respectability.
The Seven Minutes:
"Then came this baby, what was to be the second of three films for 20th Century Fox, a firm that never knew why they signed him in the first place, was for years [apparently] ashamed of the success of Dolls, and was happy to let him go after this movie, The Seven Minutes, flopped. And that it flopped is hardly surprising: it was neither a Meyer film, nor was it not; instead, it was some sort of oddly anemic creature that you can't take your eyes off even as it makes you want to watch something else. The little flesh here discrete, the satire and melodrama barely visible — but, Wow! Did Russ Meyer ever go so overboard in the editing room with any other movie of his? No. And that alone makes it an interesting watch, even if it does almost leave you dizzy by the end of the movie: few shots last longer than four seconds. That, combined with Meyer's traditionally odd viewpoints and catchy blocking, makes for some pretty odd visuals in a movie whose only other true saving's grace is a huge cast of familiar if (in the case of many) no longer remembered faces.
"Russ Meyer shows up for a few seconds in the background wearing a red sweater; the great Uschi likewise flits by (un-credited) as the 'Very Big Brunette with Gorilla'.
"Despite the fact that The Seven Minutes is hardly a horror cult film, the website Horror Cult Films, which notes 'there's lots of big-breasted women in tight tops in this movie', has the basic plot setup of this, a film version of Irving Wallace's eponymously named best seller (paperback cover below): 'A sting operation occurs where two detectives enter a bookstore and purchase a copy of a book called The Seven Minutes so the seller can be prosecuted. Behind the operation is prosecutor Elmo Duncan (Philip Carey [15 July 1925 – 6 Feb 2009]), who wants to become a senator and feels that campaigning against pornography will give him votes, backed up by a group who wish to stamp out all youthful violence incited by salacious material in books and films. The publisher calls hot shot attorney Mike Barrett (Wayne Maunder [19 Dec 1935 – 11 Nov 2018]) to defend the book and he sets about uncovering the mystery of its true author, but at the same time, a teenager supposedly commits a rape, and his father owned...a copy of The Seven Minutes...."
"There are those who find this Meyer oddity oddly interesting, and it is, even if it is also, well, somewhat boring despite the idiosyncratic touches. Most people, however, tend to think like The Video Vacuum, which says, 'Basically, the whole thing feels like an overlong episode of Matlock (1986-95) with a couple of titties tossed in. It's hard to understand why Meyer would want to make this movie. I'm sure the subject of free speech spoke to him, but he really is the wrong director to tackle the subject. Luckily for us, he quickly returned to his drive-in roots with his next picture, Black Snake (1973).' Black Snake, by the way, is a.k.a. Sweet Suzy."
(1971, dir. Richard C. Sarafian)
Lavelle Roby appears, uncredited, as "Super Soul's Wife" (pictured below) in this classic cult film directed by Richard C. Sarafian (28 Apr 1930 – 18 Sept 2013), which was pointlessly and poorly remade as a TV movie in 1997 (trailer).
"[The original] Vanishing Point (1971) is one of the great existential counter-culture films of the 1970s. Like the similar-minded films, most notably, Easy Rider (1969 / trailer) and Two-Lane Blacktop (1971 / trailer), this car chase movie features an anti-hero protagonist who equates the open road with freedom and staying in one place for too long with death. For years, it has quietly amassed a devoted cult following and several high profile admirers, chief among them filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and musicians like Primal Scream and Audioslave [Radiator Heaven]." Indeed, in 2004 Audioslave used clips from the film as well as the basic plot for the music video to their song Show Me How to Live.
Show Me How to Live:
The plot, as found at Every 70s Movie: "Barry Newman stars as Kowalski, a drifter who makes his living delivering cars across long distances. After accepting a job to ferry a hot rod from Denver to San Francisco, Kowalski jacks himself up on speed and blasts down open highways with legions of cops in pursuit. Meanwhile, an enigmatic, blind radio DJ going by the handle 'Super Soul' (Cleavon Little [1 June 1939 – 22 Oct 1992] of Cotton Comes to Harlem [1970 / trailer]) narrates Kowalski's journey for his listeners, framing the driver's ride as a principled fight against the Establishment. The sympathetic reading of this material, of course, is that Kowalski just wants to be free, man, so when society tries to trap him with laws and rules and speed limits, he strikes a rebellious blow on behalf of rugged independence. And if you can't anticipate how a story comprising these elements will end, then you haven't seen too many counterculture flicks — as the song goes, freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose."
Super Soul Theme
composed & played by "The J. B. Pickers":
"Quite possibly the quintessential movie about car chases, rebellious freedom, naked biker girls, and more car chases, Vanishing Point entertainingly echoes the lost art of the road action film. As a cult classic and source of cinematic inspiration (most recently for Quentin Tarantino's portion of Grindhouse [2007 / trailer]), director Richard C. Sarafian's asphalt-scorching extravaganza thoroughly amazes with continuous high-octane stunts and a bevy of bizarre personas. As the enthusiastic omniscient in the picture notes, audiences aren't likely to see another 'free spirit fighting the evil of the blue meanies' as memorable as Kowalski, the last American hero. [Gone with the Twins]"
Among the "bevy of bizarre personas": two stereotypical gay hitchhiking thieves, Charlotte Rampling (in the European cut of the movie) as death in the form of a hitchhiker, and Gilda Texter as the naked biker girl who spends 100% of her screen time completely nude.
Trailers from Hell — George Hickenlooper
on Vanishing Point:
"Richard C. Sarafain's direction and John Alonzo's cinematography are the real winners here. In fact my favorite scenes from this film are the long distance shots capturing the car driving along the lonely highways to the backdrop of the stunning western skies and its rugged, sandy landscape. This is a movie that will appeal to one's emotional senses and bypass the need for logic. Certain things aren't fully explained particularly Kowalski's past, but the fact that it isn't makes it more enjoyable. It's the connection with his need for speed, escape and non-conformity that attracts us and it's the adrenaline that propels the movie and viewer's interest forward thus making this one of the quintessential road movies from its era or any other. [Scopophilia]"
(1972, dir. Robert Hartford-Davis)
From the director that brought you that nasty slice of British exploitation, Corruption (1968), featuring Kate O'Mara and a murdering Peter Cushing. Generally not considered one of the better Blaxploitation films out there, Black Gunn was an international production and British exploitation filmmaker Robert Hartford-Davis's next to last film prior his death in 1977. (Interestingly enough, it was also the last feature film appearance of William Campbell, who shows up to play a bad guy named Rico.) Lavelle Roby plays Jane, seen a bit further below on a motorcycle next to Jim Brown.
Blaxpoitation.com has the plot: "This film was backed by a British consortium; it was originally set in England. The finished movie is set in Los Angeles, where Gunn (Jim Brown, seen below showing his gun, not from the film) owns a nightclub. Gunn's brother Scott (Herbert Jefferson, Jr.), a Vietnam veteran, is part of the Black Action Group (BAG) who rob a Mafia-run gambling shop in order to finance their operation. Mob leader Capelli (Martin Landau) sends his top man Ray Kriley (Bruce Glover of Popcorn ) to recover the essential stolen ledgers while the police try to nail BAG for the theft. Gunn refuses to help the Mob. His brother is killed the next day. Gunn, set on revenge, tracks down his suspects to a party hosted by a wealthy socialite (Luciana Paluzzi of 99 Women [1969, with Herbert Lom & Maria Rohm], Tragic Ceremony [1972 / Spanish trailer] and Umberto Lenzi's The Manhunt , and The Green Slime ). Her boyfriend Winman (Keefe Brasselle [7 Feb 1923 – 7 Jul 1981], director of If You Don't Stop... You'll Go Blind , with the Great Uschi) provides the vital information linking Capelli to Scott's death. Gunn enlists the help of BAG and police Lieutenant Hopper (Julian Christopher) and corners Capell's crew at a waterfront warehouse, where, despite being injured, he kills Capelli."
"[...] Sure, the story is cheesy and director Robert Hartford-Davis is a total hack, but the flick makes up for it with a tough veneer, eye-popping fashions (check out Gunn's red and black tux!), and loads of whacked supporting actors. We get throwaway appearances from sports pals Deacon Jones and Vida Blue; babes Brenda Sykes and Luciana Paluzzi; and Bernie Casey as a maxi-afro'ed militant. Martin Landau even turns up as gangster Riff Capelli, and as if being a sadistic mob boss wasn't a sleazy enough occupation, he's also a used car salesman to boot! Then there's Bruce Glover, playing one of the craziest honky weasels in Deuce history — threatening to send one Brother to 'the great Watermelon Patch in the sky' and proving he's twice as nuts as his son, Crispin. Meanwhile, Jim is so fucking cool that you can ignore the fact that nobody north of 110th Street should give a rat's ass about his pampered, mansioned lifestyle. And when was the last time you saw a high speed chase featuring a white Rolls Royce? It's these touches that make this otherwise predictable actioner worth searching out. [Shock Cinema]"
Martin Landau car commercial from
Comeuppance Reviews is less thrilled by the movie: "Black Gunn is a typical example of the Blaxploitation of the time, so much so, it seems to be one of the main templates for parodies such as I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988 / trailer), which also starred Bernie Casey, and Black Dynamite (2009 / trailer). Jim Brown is beyond low-key as our hero Gunn. He whispers all his lines, but he always looks cool in his fly threads. He even makes bowties look stylish and not nerdy. Martin Landau should have been in the movie more, [...] but for most of the movie, we actually forgot Landau was on board! He kind of shows up, then goes away and shows back up at the end. Landau should have gotten more screen time. Highlights include the funky soundtrack by Tony Osborne, the classic evil whiteys, its total lack of political correctness, including racial slurs you could never do today, and some cultural references: there are numerous allusions to Vietnam, and certain characters coming back from that conflict. Additionally, there's the line 'It'll make Watts look like a Saturday night in Disneyland!' — indicating some of the tensions of the time. But the problem is the movie as a whole is too long and has too many extended, pointless scenes. Yes, it does have some gunplay and explosions, and maybe a few fights, but Black Gunn could have reached a much higher level if the whole thing had been streamlined: shorter running time, more action. Not that the movie is bad, really, but there's a bit too much fat. And the ending is lame."
Stand Up and Be Counted
(1972, dir. Jackie Cooper)
The same year as Black Gunn, Lavelle Roby showed up un-credited as a factory worker in the dated but well-intentioned womin's lib dramedy, Stand Up and Be Counted (1972). Blink and you miss Roby — heck, don't blink and you miss her — but to reduce everything to purely objectifying level, for that you have a young Jacqueline Bisset (Airport [1970 / trailer], The Mephisto Waltz [1971 / trailer] and Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe [1978 / trailer]) and the great Stella Stevens (The Poseidon Adventure [1972 / trailer], Chained Heat [1983 / trailer], The Manitou [1978 / trailer], The Mad Room [1969 / opening credits], The Terror Within II , Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold [1975 / trailer], A Town Called Hell [1971 / trailer], Arnold [1973 / trailer] and so much more) a lot of the time. That's Stella below, a good 12 years before she appeared this film.
Much like so many white men wrote and/or directed those now cherished Blaxploitation films of yesteryear, this "womin's film", was produced by a man, Mike Frankovich (29 Sept 1909 – 1 Jan 1992), was written by a man, Bernard Slade (2 May 1930 – 30 Oct 2019), and directed by a man, Jackie Cooper ([15 Sept 1922 – 3 May 2011] of Chosen Survivors [1974 / trailer]) 'cause, well, women were just starting to learn to roar.
Helen Reddy - I Am Woman
(Ending credits from Stand Up and Be Counted):
Over at Every 70s Movie, Peter Hansen, who mentions that "there's a reason Stand Up and Be Counted is not remembered as a milestone in Equal Rights Amendment-era propaganda", has the plot to a movie about which he also says is "one of those bad movies that isn't really a bad movie": "Jacqueline Bisset stars as Sheila, a fashion reporter assigned to do a magazine story on the burgeoning women's movement. To do so, she flies to her hometown of Denver. [...] During the flight, Sheila rekindles her romance with an ex, Elliot (Gary Lockwood of Bad Georgia Road [1977 / trailer] & Survival Zone [1983 / trailer]). In Denver, Sheila discovers that her mother (Anne Francine [8 Aug 1917 – 3 Dec 1999]) is part of a 'Senior Women's Liberation' organization, and that her ultra-feminist younger sister, Karen (Lee Purcell of Necromancy ), wants to hire a man to impregnate her. Torn between new and old ideas about gender roles, Sheila moves in with Elliot, only to discover he's a patronizing chauvinist. Other threads involve a housewife (Loretta Swift of Race with the Devil [1975 / trailer]) rebelling against her domineering husband (Steve Lawrence), and a trophy wife (Stevens) demanding respect for the work she does at her husband's bra factory."
Full movie —
Stand Up and Be Counted:
The only feature film directorial project of Jackie Cooper, and the film debut of both Meredeth Baxter (Ben [1972 / Michael Jackson sings] & Jezebel's Kiss [1990 / trailer]) and Jennifer Rhodes (Sketches of a Strangler [1978 / trailer], Night Creature [1978 / trailer], The Baby Doll Murders [1993 / trailer], Night of the Demons 2 [1994 / trailer], Slumber Party Massacre II [1987 / trailer] and Heathers [1988 / trailer]), Stand Up and Be Counted could have been a lot worse than it is.
At Cinematic Revelation, Athanasios Jonacas does a nice job of placing the film in historical context with earlier movies dealing with womin's lib and paints the movie in a relatively good light: "Mr Cooper has made an entertaining, thought-provoking film about the women's liberation movement, with events occurring at a good pace, and a smoothness overall to the movie. He deftly presents both sides of the equation, exploring his characters' feelings, and making these palpable to the audience. One can easily comprehend the viewpoints of both his male, and female characters. Stand Up and Be Counted is a movie, though, that does not purport to be deep, or too heavy. The director has maintained the film as light and bright throughout, but with some touching, and telling passages that provide balance. [...] While the film has definite assets, it also possesses lapses and omissions which would have turned it from a good film, into one much better. [...]"
Way back when the film came out, over at The New York Times A.H. Weiler (10 Dec 1908 – 22 Jan 2002) mentioned: "[...] In Stand Up and Be Counted [...], the women's justifiable push for parity with males is merely good for some pithy, explicit dialogue, a few gags and giggles and fewer constructive answers. As an examination of current revolution, Stand Up and Be Counted erratically skips between comedy and serious causes with somewhat less than impressive impact either way. The hearts and the causes of all concerned appear to be in the right places. [...] The disturbing issues are still disturbing. As a fashion magazine writer sent to cover the lib scene in Denver, her home town, Jacqueline Bisset is decorative but as unbelievable in the role [...]. And her unresolved liaison with Gary Lockwood, as an airline pilot, is not an endorsement of the movement either. Lee Purcell, as her militantly feminist sister [...], and Anne Francine, as their wise, indulgent mother, do have some incisive moments. [...] However, an outspoken gab fest among the dissident distaffers and several demonstrations do more than family strife to dispel a remark in the film that lib is simply 'seven women with hairy legs and a genius for getting on the Johnny Carson Show.' Unfortunately, the good fight still needs fighting after everyone here has been counted."
At Letterboxd, Juli M. Kearns, who suggests that "anyone interested in feminism and labor rights [should] watch it [as] the two subjects are indivisible in the film", points out that: "This is a peculiar film as it's resolutely 1970s television grade [...], but the material wouldn't have ended up on prime time the way it kept hammering at masochism and sexism, feminist arguments going up against patriarchal conceits that were so adamantly 'This is the only sensible thing and you know it' status quo it sometimes felt like the movie was going to flip and reveal itself as anti-feminist, which didn't happen. [...] What's interesting about this film is how it keeps threatening to flip on the women and make them out to be too confrontational and absurd, which may be how it would have played out on television, the women seeing they needed to soften up, the men acknowledging where the women may be right on this or that issue, happy endings for all with the battle of the sexes ending with bedroom reconciliations. But it refuses to go there. As much interested in waking up women to their situation, the movie never relents on its demands for equitable opportunities, pay, and social status."
Not from the film but from 1972 —
The Equals' Stand Up and Be Counted:
The Laughing Policeman
Does she have any lines? We don't know, but "Lavelle Robey" is seen somewhere in this movie as a "Receptionist". Director Stuart Rosenberg (11 Aug 1927 – 15 Mar 2007) is perhaps best known for his film Cool Hand Luke (1967 / trailer), whence the GIF (of Joy Harmon) below comes. Cool Hand Luke itself was selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant in 2005.
The Laughing Policeman is loosely based on the fourth of ten novels written by Swedish novelists Per Wahlöö (5 Aug 1926 – 22 Jun 1975) & Maj Sjöwall (25 Sept 1935 – 29 April 2020) about Martin Beck, a police detective in Stockholm, published between 1965 and 1975. Among the many changes, the setting was changed to San Francisco. The book's title, Den skrattande polisen (The Laughing Policeman), was derived from a very terrible 1922 British song of the same name.
A version of
The Laughing Policeman:
"In the early 1970s Walter Matthau (1 Oct 1920 – 1 Jul 2000), at that time perhaps best known as a lovable grouch in a series of comedies, reversed character and reeled off three crime movies in a row including The Laughing Policeman. [...] Dour plain-clothes cop Jake Martin (Matthau) responds to a brutal massacre of all aboard a Muni bus and is shocked to find his partner amongst the victims. Martin, new partner Leo Larsen (Bruce Dern of The Glass House ), and fellow plainclothesman James Larrimore (Louis Gossett Jr. of The Punisher [1989 / trailer]) begin a dogged but convincingly realistic investigation that twists, turns and dead-ends before they finally get their man. [Reel SF]"
The Laughing Policeman:
"[...] An absorbing mystery directed by Stuart Rosenberg that offers an outstanding supporting cast for Matthau to play with. Robert Altman seems to have been an influence on Rosenberg, who amps the realism by casting actors who don't look like movie stars and having them talk over each other. [Johnny LaRue]"
"An interesting, ironically titled cop movie [...] that doesn't get talked about all that often. [...] Of all the cop movies of the late 60s and early 70s, this might just be the grimmest, most dour of the bunch. It's almost as if these cops are just shy of being driven insane by their job. [...] It certainly shows how dangerous the job can be, as there's plenty of bodies on both sides of the law here [...]. The opening in particular is quite bloody and memorable, but here even the suicide jumpers follow through on their plans (which never happens in these sorts of movies). Even for 1973, the violent content must've been quite startling for some audiences. But the film also shows how dull, dry, and draining police work can be. Boy are these some seriously burned-out cops, and perhaps the film will be too slow and low-key for some, but I rather liked its more realistic approach. [Shameless Self-expression]"
"Body Count/Violence: 18. While not a thrill-ride a minute [...], TLP has some fine set pieces that include some gory shooting. A fight or two is accompanied by a decent car chase & a woman jumping out of a window.
"Sexuality/Nudity: There's a shot of a topless stripper, as well as a shot of a topless performance artist whose [sic] ... very rotund. The subject matter tends to be fairly lurid, tackling homosexuality, S&M, prostitution, etc.
"Language/Dialogue: With a few F words, the language gets salty on occasion. Let it be known I would follow Dern around & pay him $5 every time he would call someone a 'fruiter'. [Action Mutant Reviews]"
(1976, dir. John G. Avildsen)
John G. Avildsen (21 Dec 1935 – 16 Jun 2017), we would hypothesize, never made a movie we here at a wasted life liked (though we would like to watch his first two, Turn on Love [1969, with Sharon Kent* & possibly lost] and Guess What We Learned in School Today?  before writing that statement in stone).
We are sure, however, that Lavelle Roby is proud to be in this film, albeit uncredited, as Mary Anne Creed (Apollo's wife), so thus its presentation here.
* Whatever happened to Sharon Kent?
The plot? Who cares? But let's listen to Ms Roby's insightful comment about her role in Rocky over at Miss Meyer: "I was never asked to come back to play Mary Creed. I think Apollo Creed was based loosely on Ali. Ali married several times. I knew the woman who played the second wife (Sylvia Meals). We often competed for the same roles, especially in commercials. She passed away recently."
Now go to:
The Women of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls Part VI,