Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Shades of exploitation ...

THE UNHOLY WIFE – Here’s a thing: in 1956 England’s J Lee Thompson directed the gritty drama YIELD TO THE NIGHT with blonde bombshell Diana Dors in her best role as the woman facing the death penalty for shooting her lover, while John Farrow was directing BACK FROM ETERNITY with Rod Steiger and blonde bombshell Anita Ekberg. Fast forward to 1957 and now its Farrow directing Steiger and Dors as another blonde bombshell who ends up facing the death penalty… Diana went to America in the mid-50s and made a few movies there before returning to become an esteemed character actress and all-round tv personality in the UK – here she almost literally glows in the dark in those skintight costumes with that mane of blonde hair in lurid Technicolor. She seems curiously impassive at times as the femme fatale but is never less than sympathetic as the blonde picked up by wine maker Steiger. Diana and pal Marie Windsor make a great pair of dames on the make –
soon though she is bored back in the wine country as Steiger leaves her alone a lot (he has a 'Korean war wound' too….). Why did he marry her? Well she has a young son, and he needs an hair for his vinery…. Diana takes up with lunk Tom Tryon while being observed by interfering mother-in-law Beulah Bondi who is very annoying here. There is a murder, Diana is in the dock, will she get off? Did she do it? Its intriguing and nicely exploits Diana at the height of her looks, before gravity and weight took their toll, and its perfect 1957 from RKO.

NIGHT OF THE QUARTER MOON - Of course, when you put schlockmeisters Albert Zugsmith and Hugo Haas together as producer and director, you aren't going to end up with something approaching A-list quality but this 1959 shocker provides some amazing viewing now. It is another of those race relations dramas of that year – IMITATION OF LIFE was the successful one, one of Sirk’s best melodramas that’s still marvellous now, and Basil Dearden’s SAPPHIRE was a neat British twist on the same, but this one somehow got backed by MGM! John Drew Barrymore is the spoiled high society playboy Chuck meets and falls for Ginny (Julie London) on a vacation down south. She, it turns out, has a quarter Portuguese-Angolian blood which makes her a ‘quadroon’ as the newspapers gleefully headline when they are back in San Francisco. Nat King Cole and Anna Kashfi are Julie’s relatives who run a night club (Nat gets to sing) and Agnes Moorehead scores as Corneila, the overbearing mother who tries to break up the marriage.Turned out of their hotel, harassed by neighbours, and treated harshly by police, the couple are separated by Cornelia who uses drugs and brainwashing to bring about an annulment on the grounds Ginny concealed her heritage from Chuck. During a sensational courtroom trial with everyone against her, Ginny is forced to strip before the judge to see if she's tan all over...

Julie London was not very animated in those westerns she did – MAN OF THE WEST with Gary Cooper and SADDLE THE WIND with Robert Taylor – but she is a revelation here and plays with passion as she struggles to get her husband back. It has a cheap and tawdry feel rather like a superior B film, but quite interesting to see now even if it is a sordid exercise in exploitation.

GIRL OF THE NIGHT - This film, directed by Joseph Cates, tells the story of a girl (Anne Francis) who becomes a high priced call girl. She is exploited by her pimp (John Kerr) and madam (Kay Medford) until she finds a tough yet caring therapist (Lloyd Nolan) and straightens herself out. Probably considered very daring in 1960, this film offers a prostitute as the main character and it really does not judge her and that lovely actress Anne Francis is quite convincing as the vulnerable Bobbie caught up in a sleazy, ugly, sadistic world . Lloyd Nolan is effective as the shrink, while Kerr in a change from those bland leads whines as the worthless pimp. Kay Medford looks like a painted gargoyle in that nightclub scene. Bobbie is finally able to walk away from her sordid past. The movie draws upon Film Noir for much of its atmosphere shot in real locations, Francis and Kerr were also teamed in 1960 as air hostess and co-pilot in that good “doomed flight” drama THE CROWDED SKY. A more sanitised look at prostitution was provided by Paramount’s A HOUSE IN NOT A HOME in 1964 where Shelley Winters was a very jolly madam, as reviewed on here a while ago (Shelley Winters label). 
Prostitution was big in 1960: Liz in BUTTERFIELD 8, Melina in NEVER ON SUNDAY, Gina in GO NAKED IN THE WORLD, Nancy Kwan in THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG, Shirley Jones (best supporting actress) in ELMER GANTRY, and Anne Francis here..

THE DETECTIVE – the late ‘60s saw exploitation taken to new levels with the new freedoms on offer as cinema could finally get to grips with more adult themes. This hard-boiled detective drama by old hand Gordon Douglas finds Frank Sinatra at the detective seeking promotion and finds it in convicting the wrong man for the murder of a prominent gay figure. Frank impassively watches the unstable suspect fry in the electric chair...
‘One Take Frank’ strides through it without much emotion – the real performance is by Lee Remick as his wife, creating a real person from the under-written part of the discarded wife who it seems is a nymphomaniac in her desires. The very cool Jacqueline Bisset (replacing Mia Farrow) is the boyish wife of a man who commits suicide who asks the detective to investigate the cause of the suicide.
It turns out the two cases are linked and there is wholesale corruption at the police department. Good roles here for Ralph Meeker, Jack Klugman, Al Freeman Jr (who strips suspects naked like those Nazis did!) and homophobic Robert Duvall. Frank’s investigations takes him into the gay underworld – those trucks down by the harbour! – and that gay bar (perhaps the first since ADVISE AND CONSENT?) and that pick-up that turns ugly. Gays are routinely described as “fags” and are presented as sad lonely individuals who lead loveless lives, outcasts from society – the killer would rather be considered a murderer than a homosexual! This is all rather tame now but was considered racy and gritty at the time.

3 IN THE ATTIC - A modern Don Juan pays the price when he two-times three different women. Christopher Jones is Paxton Quigley the campus Casanova who sleeps with Caucasian co-ed Tobey (Yvette Mimieux), the black beauty Eulice (Judy Pace) and the Jewish hippie Jane (Maggie Thrett). The three women discover Paxton’s extra-curricular activities and they seek revenge by locking him in an attic where they try and kill him with sex! Soon Paxton goes on a hunger strike as maybe his sexual desires may lead to his downfall, or even death. What a way to, eh! Chad and Jeremy provide the music which includes the title track with lines like “Is it possible for a woman to be Jewish and psychedelic at the same time?”

It’s a companion piece to American-International’s WILD IN THE STREETS, also 1968, and reviewed here recently. Chris Jones is quite animated here and it caused some attention at the time in being one of the first mainstream movies to feature male nudity (see also Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET and Clive Donner’s HERE WE GO ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH). Its quite amusing actually – with that nice late ‘60s preppy look [as in THE STERILE CUCKOO (or POOKIE as it was called in the UK) or LAST SUMMER]. AIP were of course exploiting the youth explosion and the new freedom of the counterculture era, but here its nicely played out, as directed by Richard Wilson.

DE SADE - One can hardly say the same for their DE SADE in 1969, American-International’s foray into costume drama, an odd mix of arthouse and expoitation – well the costumes don’t stay on very long as that orgy sequence seems endless as De Sade (Keir Dullea) romps with those strumpets in various states of undress. One trusts Lilli Palmer collected a large paycheck for her icy Madame de Montreuil making that marriage contract with De Sade to marry her daughter.
Keir thinks he is getting luscious Senta Berger but finds he has to marry her sister, English actress Anna Massey! John Huston though has a whale of a time as the decadent Abbe de Sade. Directed by reliable Cy Endfield and scripted by Richard Matheson but its just dull dull dull with the hilarious mix of psychedelia and costume drama, very 1969! As for Keir at least he had just finished 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY which will play forever while this has sank without a trace.

No comments:

Post a Comment