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HOSTED BY THOSE BRILLIANT, PROLIFIC & WITTY WRITERS- FRITZI FROM MOVIES SILENTLY, RUTH FROM SILVER SCREENINGS AND AURORA FROM ONCE UPON A SCREEN!
THE 60S:THE BOLD & THE BEAUTIFUL: 1960-1969
1 (of a person, action, or idea) showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous: a bold attempt to solve the crisis | he was the only one bold enough to air his dislike.
• dated (of a person or manner) so confident as to suggest a lack of shame or modesty: she tossed him a bold look.
“I am my own woman” –Eva Perón
(source edited)- by Jürgen Müller‘s for TASCHEN’s Movies of the 60s- “Like no other decade before or since, the 60s embodied the struggle against a jaded, reactionary establishment. As the Vietnam War dragged on, the protests grew in scale and intensity. Revolution ran riot, in the streets and on the silver screen. The movies of the epoch tell tales of rebellion and sexual liberation, and above all they show how women began to emancipate from their traditional roles as housewives or sex bombs…”
Drew Casper writes, “Some films still styled along classic lines while others simultaneously embodied both the old and new approaches… Stirred the placid waters of the classical with grittier degrees of realism with their accompanying darker sensibilities.” –Postwar Hollywood 1946-1962
Women like Jane Fonda, Anna Magnani, Simone Signoret, Audrey Hepburn, Ann Bancroft, Piper Laurie, Angie Dickinson,Bette Davis, Joanne Woodward, Patricia Neal and so many more became iconic for breaking the old mold and grabbing a new kind of individualism without judgement and new kind of self expression.
Barry Keith Grant writes in American Cinema of the 1960s-“The decade was one of profound change and challenge for Hollywood, as it sought to adapt to both technological innovation and evolving cultural taste.”
In the 1960s we began to see more films like The Group 1966, Valley of the Dolls 1967, Bunny Lake is Missing 1965, Who Killed Teddy Bear 1965, Mr.Buddwing 1966, Walk on the Wild Side 1962, A Patch of Blue 1965, The Explosive Generation 1961, The Young Savages 1961, Look in Any Window 1961, Pressure Point 1962, Claudelle Inglish 1961, One Potato Two Potato 1964, Lilith 1964, Butterfield 8,(1960), Cul de Sac 1966, The Pumpkin Eater 1964, Sanctuary 1961, Belle du Jour 1967, Lolita 1962, The Children’s Hour 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s 1961, Rachel Rachel 1968, Up the Junction 1968, Darling 1965, To Kill a Mockingbird 1962, A Rage to Live 1965, Kitten With a Whip 1964, The Naked Kiss 1964, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone 1961, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962 , Juliet of the Spirits 1965, Psyche 59 (1964) ,Lady in a Cage 1964. & Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte 1964
And of course the films I’m covering here. These films began to recognize an audience that had a taste for less melodrama and more realistic themes, not to mention the adult-centric narratives with a veracious Mise-en-scène…
PS: I would have included Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby but that is my favorite film and plan on doing a special post in honor of this brilliant timeless masterpiece… and Mia’s quintessential performance.
As a little glance into a portion of cinematic history over the decade of the burgeoning sixties -The following are particular favorites of mine… Bold & Beautiful ‘as is’ and Beyond need of Redemption!
ELMER GANTRY with JEAN SIMMONS as Sister Sharon Falconer & Shirley Jones as Lulu
Shirley Jones as good time girl Lulu Bains!
Elmer Gantry is always chasing dreams and always telling dirty stories is the smooth talking traveling salesman, brought to life by Burt Lancaster who portrays his character with a bit more sensuality than Sinclair Lewis‘ cold predatory con man. Gantry is a hard drinking provocateur and a lady’s man. Raised by a father who quoted verse, he has a swift grasp of the Bible and uses it to insinuated himself into Sister Sharon’s hell fire traveling road show. Though he is a skeptic, he sees a great light in Sister Sharon and the potential to fill the coffers with riches!
The sublimely beautiful Jean Simmons is as ethereally angelic as she is a pure sensuality. Sister Sharon Falconer is a young revivalist in the style of Aimee Semple McPherson. Sharon is at first righteous and unwavering in her convictions, she begins to awaken unto the spell of the charming and bigger than life Elmer Gantry. Elmer starts out poetically ruthless as he insinuates himself into Sharon’s life, until she loses her firm grip on her faithful mission and their attraction blossoms into a physical one.
One night he craftily sweet talks Sharon’s virginity away from her, though she is a very willing participant ready to be freed from the confines of her stifling religious prison.
Sharon struggles with her identity as a pious figure and a sexually aroused woman. Simmons is an actress of fine distinction who can work with that duality bringing to the screen a role with great complexity. She is also stuck in between the conflict that ensues between Elmer and her manager Bill Morgan (Dean Jagger) who doesn’t like nor trust Gantry’s influence over Sharon.
Sister Sharon created herself from nothing and is now pragmatic and independent with a vision to capture the world, by building a temple for the people so she can share the good word of God. No more traveling as a revival side show attraction. She is brave, dedicated and faithful to the end. And I won’t spoil the ending– at least I will say that she is a true believer and a real woman filled with passion on both sides of the coin. She allows herself to be seduced by Gantry, yet still is fiercely dedicated to building her own tabernacle so she may offer comfort and inspiration to those in need.
Shirley Jones is fabulous as Lulu Banes who was first seduced by Gantry while she was the Deacon’s daughter now…. a call girl from Elmer’s tawdry past, who tries to rake up a little gossip and cash as payback for Mr. Gantry ditching her. Okay, there’s some blackmail involved when she sees the opportunity because there’s sour grapes as Gantry left Lulu in the lurch, with a broken heart. But in the end, Lulu’s got integrity. She’s plucky, and has some of the best lines in the film and hey she’s not only a call girl… she a nice girl…
She’s so lovable that Shirley Jones won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress that year!
It’s interesting to hear that it took actor Author Kennedy to get Simmons potted on milk and gin before she felt comfortable enough to do the scene where the revival tent catches fire and flaming debris is falling around her head.
Both Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones caught the spirit in this film!
Elmer Gantry wound up being a very controversial film when it was released directed by Richard Brooks, adapted from the book by Sinclair Lewis with lush and pulpy cinematography by John Alton and a stirring score by the great André Previn. And terrific costume designed by the brilliant Dorothy Jeakins (The Sound of Music 1965, The Way We Were 1974).
THE FUGITIVE KIND with ANNA MAGNANI as Lady Torrance
“Let’s get this straight, you don’t interest me no more than the air you stand in.”-Lady Torrance to Val
Directed by Sidney Lumet, The Fugitive Kind is based on the play Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams who also penned the screenplay. At this point there’s shouldn’t be any doubt about my passion for Mr. Williams or Anna Magnani.
Anna Magnani is a primal force of sensuality winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Serafina Delle Rose in the marvelous, The Rose Tattoo 1955. (“A clown with my husband’s body!”)
The Fugitive Kind has a gritty, allure not only due to the level of acting by Magnani and Brando or the evocative material it’s partly due to Boris Kaufman’s (12 Angry Men 1957, On the Waterfront 1954) edgy cinematography.
Anna Mangani delivers another impassioned performance as Lady an equally potent role as a shop owner in Louisiana who is chained to a brutal marriage by her vindictive and dying husband Jabe (Victor Jory) when along comes Marlon Brando as Valentine “Snakeskin’ Xavier a guitar playing roamer who takes a job in the shop until Lady’s jaded loneliness and Valentine’s raw animal magnetism combust..
Brando plays the solitary Val, a drifter who’s presence is as commanding as a lion stalking. Val comes into the small town where Lady Torrance runs the shop, her husband Jabe is mostly bed ridden, dying of cancer, but also eaten up with jealousy and hatred toward his wife, foreigners and outliers. He’s vicious and controlling and Lady lives out her days caring for this angry and miserable man, until Val comes into her life, changing Lady’s stoicism awakening her heart releasing her desires.
Magnani gives a powerful performance of a woman starved from sexual pleasure, mentally abused by her husband and bemoaning the days when the wine flowed like a river at her father’s vineyard that was suspiciously burned to the ground.
Magnani manifests an authenticity that comes from a battered past and present, yet she exudes an enduring sense of love and passion. Lady dreams of fixing up the outside part of the store as a confectionery festooned with white lights and delicate atmosphere and Val can sing and play his guitar.
At first interviewing for a job is an awkward exchange. Once Lady and Val have a very intense and thoughtful conversation, she decides that she likes this strange talking boy and hires him to work in the store. The tension is visible even in the darkly lit scene and through the diffuse patch of light you can see their chemistry brewing.
Lady is taken with this strange talking boy who begins to tell her about people. “there’s two kinds of people in this world, the buyers and the people who get bought.” Then he tells her about a type of bird that has no legs so it can never land. It’s a meditative moment, and Brando is magnificent.
“…cause they don’t see ’em, they don’t see em way up in that high blue sky near the sun they spread their wings out and go to sleep on the wind and they only alight on this world just one time, it’s when they die.”
Val is pursued by Carol Cutere, (Joanne Woodward) the quirky local tramp from a wealthy family, who worships his snakeskin jacket as well as his incredible ‘hot’ body. But, Val finds himself drawn to the evocative and more complex Lady. They begin an affair, fall in love and Lady gets pregnant. Will they be like the bird that can never land, only sleep on the wind and the day they land is the day they die…
A COLD WIND IN AUGUST with LOLA ALBRIGHT as Iris Hartford
If you care about love, you’ll talk about a teenage boy and a woman who is all allure, all tenderness… and too much experience! – tagline
“What’s more I don’t like to work in New York. I never have. I live here. I like it. I like this house. I like eating at home, I like living like a human being. Why should I knock myself out. this is my retreat you know.”
Directed by Alexander Singer with a slick burlesque/modern jazz score by Gerald Fried.
Lola Albright stirs the libido as a very classy ex-stripper Iris Hartford a very intoxicating woman who seduces a naive and inexperienced working-class boy, Vito Pellegrino (Scott Marlowe) who falls deeply in love with her. Soon Vito begins to feel the disparate reality of their relationship. Once his reality is shattered, discovering that she is a stripper, Vito ends the affair with Iris, seeking out a neighborhood girl who is of his own age.
Lola Albright has a very sophisticated way of coming across on screen with a reserved yet palpable dignity. But Iris generates an undercurrent of provocative and alluring intelligence. Marlowe has always been great as a either a clever playboy or whiny young man, who isn’t quite getting what he wants.
A Cold Day in August examines an authentic journey for a young boy who experiences his first sexual awakening with an older woman. And their socially unorthodox relationship not only serves the film’s exploitative narrative it comes across quite genuine because of Albright’s very real sexual magnetism and the attraction by an impressionable boy.
Of course the film works on the level of titillation & taboo because Iris is not only older than Vito, she is ALL woman and then some for any man. She would be considered a tramp because she used to take her clothes off for a living. Her ex-husband comes back into the picture and pleads with her to fill in for a week in NYC, but that life was far gone by now.
When Iris first seduces Vito she feeds him a dish of ice cream after he fixes her air conditioner. It’s as if she’s rewarding a little boy for doing a good job. In the midst of these queer moments where she desires him yet infantilizes him, they do carry on a sexual relationship. Iris is a free sexual being who makes no apologies for who she is. It doesn’t take too long before Vito realizes that he’s way out of his league, but Iris does initiate him into the world of sex.
I have come to adore Lola Albright this year. In A Cold Wind in August she manifests a kind of existential sensuality as she can offer a nurturing kiss and then go on to take what she needs. She yearns for pleasure which is literally illustrated by her stripper costume of a sort of Queen of Outer Space gold lamé number complete with eye mask, it’s alluring and vulturous at the same time.
THE HUSTLER with PIPER LAURIE as Sarah Packard
Sarah Packard: How did you know my name was Sarah? Fast Eddie: You told me. Sarah Packard: I lie. When I’m drunk I lie. Fast Eddie: Okay, so what’s your name today? Sarah Packard: Sarah.
Robert Rossen (The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers 1946, All the Kings Men 1949, Billy Budd 1962 & Lilith 1964) wrote of all his films, they “Share one characteristic: The hunt for success. Ambition is an essential quality in American society.”
The Hustler is the story of Fast Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) who has a penchant for self punishment and self destructiveness and in his cockiness likes to take on high stakes pool games. He has a dream of bumping Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) off the pedestal of fame. Eddie and Fats meet up and by the end of a very long marathon, Eddie is wiped out and whipped, which doesn’t help his enormous ego.
Eddie meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a highly educated modern woman. She’s an independent loner, a bit morose, a bit jaded, but somehow she allows Eddie to work his charms on her until she is hooked. Still no matter what happens in the end, Sarah Packard speaks her mind and lives life on her own terms…
Sarah has a physical disability as she walks with a limp, and is referred to as a cripple.
Finally, as the film progresses, whether Sarah feels that she is perverted and twisted because she sleeps with the repugnant opportunist Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) or drinks too much, or has the need to be loved because of her physical disability, Sarah Packard is such a real character that it breaks your heart.
Tensions arise when manager Bert Gordon signs on to promote Eddie. He’s a shady predator who tries to drive a wedge between Eddie and Sarah, and takes advantage of her one night while Eddie’s away.
Sarah reads poetry and uses alcohol as a way to balm her loneliness, but there’s a strength in her honesty that is very endearing. Talk about guts, Piper Laurie wanted to get a feel of authenticity for her character and so she hung out at the Greyhound Bus Terminal at night.
IMDb fact: Piper Laurie didn’t make another film for the next 15 years, devoting the time to her marriage and raising her only daughter. She returned to the screen in 1976 in ‘Brian de Palma”s Carrie (1976), earning her second Oscar nomination.
And we all know how bold that performance was…. memorable & cringe-worthy!
At the party that Bert invites Sarah to come to, he whispers something in her ear that makes her toss her drink and run away in tears. The actress talked about this scene in her autobiography. She had met up with George C Scott many years later and “I finally asked him what he had whispered into my ear in the big party scene in The Hustler that elicits a violent response from me. We shot it perhaps three or four times and I could never figure out what he was saying… He told me he chose to use just gibberish, knowing he could never invent words or phrases as powerful as what my imagination could summon up. Probably true.”
That was a very cool approach to the scene which came off beautifully!
THE MISFITS with MARILYN MONROE as Roslyn Tabor
Roslyn: “If I’m going to be alone, I want to be by myself.”
The Misfits was initially written as a short story by Arthur Miller who was actually waiting for his divorce in Reno to go through before he could marry Marilyn Monroe. Based on a short story in Esquire Magazine, he specifically wrote it for his then wife Marilyn Monroe.
A beautiful divorcée Roslyn Tabor (Marilyn Monroe) who has been put through hell, takes up with a faded cowboy Gay Langland who is still strutting like a lady’s man in early-sixties Nevada. He’s a rugged individualist who wants nothing to do with earning wages. At first she meets up with Isabelle Steers played by the inimitable Thelma Ritter who can throw out a one liner like no one else, anything out of her mouth is gold.
Roslyn is in Reno to divorce her husband Ray. She meets up with Guido (Eli Wallach) who is building his ‘unfinished’ dream house for a wife who died during child birth years ago, yet he still holds a candle to her memory and suffers from WWII bombing raids He sets his sights on Roslyn but his friend Gay Langland (Clark Gable) a crusty old cowboy moves in first and the two start a tenuous relationship. Roslyn is kind and loves all animals, and still thinks kindness is always just around the corner.
Montgomery Clift plays an ambiguously sexual bachelor who drinks to try and take the pain away. All four are non-conformists who begin to form a type of family. Roslyn is thoughtful and sensitive and Gay is a typical male on the prowl. Along for the ride is Perce Howland (Montgomery Clift) who is the most trusting and kind. He is not committed to trapping the horses for pet food, and wishes to stop it too. The horses that roam free are symbolic of the beautiful spirit that Roslyn possesses. A bit sad but tender and kind. Roslyn tags along on a trip up in the mountains with Gable, Eli Wallach and Monty Clift much to Roslyn’s horror that they are capturing horses in order to sell them for dog food.
Marilyn Monroe later said that she had hated both the film and her own performance. I feel like she is selling herself short. She managed to navigate around the incredible testosterone on screen and off. Perhaps it was her innate sadness that shone through, but she brought a tremendous sensitivity that was an inner sort of beautiful… The Misfits is probably one of my favorite performances by Monroe, it seems like a close look into her sad yet dreamy soul.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN with RUBY DEE as Ruth Younger, CLAUDIA MCNEILL as Mother Lena Younger and DIANA SANDS as Beneatha Younger
Lena Younger crying “Oh God, please, look down and give me strength! “
Written by Lorraine Hansberry for the stage then adapted to film and directed by Daniel Petrie
Sometimes there are films and stories that I just immediately have to say “It’s some powerful good.” Maybe it comes from watching a lot of The Andy Griffith Show that has rubbed off on my conversational style. But regardless, A Raisin in the Sun is some powerful good! That’s what happens when an ensemble of incredible actors get together and tell a poignant story about family struggles, in particular, a Black family struggling in a privileged world that works very hard to keep Black people on the ‘outside’ of success, making them continually grasp at that mythical American Dream that just doesn’t exist, at least for most people.
Directed by Daniel Petrie a story about racial oppression and assumptions. Illustrated vividly in the scene with the marvelous character actor John Fiedler who plays Mark Linder. from the Clybourne park un- “welcoming committee.”
The woman form a strong wheel that keeps the family moving even when Walter Lee Younger (Sidney Poitier) takes his time coming to terms with his pride.
Mama Lena lived in a time where Black folk had fought so hard during the Civil Rights movement to witness a generation of young Black people to demand and obtain their rights. But there exists in the home a generation gap between her and her children. Walter Lee is a very proud young man who is frustrated with just being a chauffeur. When Lena’s husband’s insurance policy comes to the family, they each have ideas of how to spend it. Three very strong female characters satellite around one man whose identity rests on false notions of success reflected back at him through the lens of a white social class. But Walter Lee is continuously grounded by the strength of the women around him.
Beneatha is a progressive woman who railed against being a traditional wife and mother. She was way too independent and a strong female figure for 1962.
Cléo FROM 5 TO 7 with CORINNE MARCHAND as Cléo
Florence, ‘Cléo Victoire’: Everybody spoils me. Nobody loves me.
Cléo is a famous French Chanteuse awaiting the results of a biopsy. She is afraid that she will be told that she has cancer. We as are the spectators we watch Cléo spend two hours in her day until she finds out whether she is going to die. Sounds morbid, but director Agnès Varda (Varda herself was Bold & Beautiful– trained as a master photographer… and at the core or the soul of the French New Wave Cinema) weaves a whimsical visual dance as Cléo walks through the hours of her possibly tenuous life. The film is marvelous and Corinne Marchand as Cléo is a very captivating figure. In France it is said that the hours between five to seven are when lovers gather. Cléo wants to just keep moving in hopes of avoiding the results of her test. Throughout Cléo’s journey she is subtly restrained by the knowledge that she may be dying. Even as she sings torch songs, shops for hats and walks through the streets of Paris.
At 5pm she even visits a Tarot Reader. And just from experience, pulling The Hanged Man in a tarot reading is never really a good thing. And of course Death shows up as well. And the Death card should never be regarded as literal, but under the circumstances it would be frightening to a woman waiting for test results. She asks the woman to read her palm but she refuses, and so Cléo leaves frustrated.
Throughout Cléo wanderings, there are little interactions that lay on the periphery. Knowing that death could be looming overhead, Cléo seems to develop a heightened sense of awareness, even if the actions of unessential characters are truly incidental surrounding Cléo while she is walking through her two hours.
Cléo wanders through out the streets of Paris with her maid in tow or her friend the nude model. The next stop is at the hat shop, where she proceeds to try on many fashionable hats. Several mirror shots showcase the use of iconography of the female image as seen reflecting back. Cléo looks magnificent in even the most outrageous of hats.
Cléo and her maid come back to her apartment, that has a nice vast playful quality to it, with a piano, and a wonderful swing, and of course an opulent bed. Cléo reposes in her bed like royalty, as two fluffy kittens toss each other around. José Luis de Vilallonga credited as The Lover comes to see her. There doesn’t seem to be much passion between the two.
SATAN IN HIGH HEELS with GRAYSON HALL as Pepe
“You’ll EAT and DRINK what I SAY until you lose five pounds IN THE PLACES WHERE I SAY!” -Pepe
I couldn’t resist paying homage to at least one exploitation film seeing this is about the 60s! With a flavor and atmosphere of night club noir surrounded by decadence and the sordid lives of it’s inhabitants it comes across with a low budget appeal, Satan in High Heels was filmed in New York’s old La Martinique cabaret. This isn’t a film about immorality, it’s plainly just some high art sleaze that is so fun to watch, mainly because of Grayson Hall. Hall has a languid graveled voice that is almost intoxicating to listen to. Putting aside the other two leading ladies voluptuous Sabrina who plays herself, Meg Myles as Stacy Kane a second rate stripper whose wardrobe consists of various leather outfits and riding crop, it’s Grayson Hall (of Dark Shadows fame) that brings the story to a boil as the ultra domineering Pepe– as cool as the center seed of a cucumber.
She’s jaded and cynical and is a New York City kind of Marlene Dietrich with her quick asides and Sapphic strut. Even when she’s taking long drags of her cigarette she can deliver a curt line that cuts to the point, “Bear up, Darling, I love your eyelashes.”
After Stacy working the carnival circuit discovers her ex husband hanging around the dressing room with a load of cash, she grabs the doe and heads to New York City. Once she arrives she auditions at a night club as a singer, and is hired by the libidinous Pepe who wants to do a Pygmalion on the tramp. Belting out torch songs like “I’ll beat you mistreat you til you quiver and quail, the female of the species is more deadly than the male.” Neither Stacy (Meg Myles) or Sabrina (Norma Ann Sykes) Yikes get points for being buxom.
It’s Pepe who is sophisticated and wicked that makes you quiver & quail? Hmmm I need to look that up!
THE L SHAPED ROOM with LESLIE CARON as Jane Fosset
“Everybody can’t wait to help me get rid of it!”-Jane
When it’s Bryan Forbes (Seance on a Wet Afternoon 1964,The Stepford Wives 1975) directing you know to expect something deeper and quietly intense. In The L Shaped Room Leslie Caron plays Jane Fosset a melancholy unmarried woman who is pregnant and on her own. She takes a room in a boarding house in London. While there Jane meets all the inhabitants of the decadent house where there dwells a collection of various misfits and outliers of society. Two working girls of the night persuasion, Pat Phoenix as Sonia, the man-eating Landlady who isn’t quite friendly, and the lovely old lesbian Mavis (Cicely Courtneidge).
And then there’s the struggling on edge Toby (Tom Bell) who is a writer living on the first floor. The two strike up a relationship, as Jane decides whether to get an abortion or keep the baby. There’s also Johnny a black Jazz Musician ( Brock Peters) who gets upset when Jane and Toby start a sexual relationship. The story is human and moving and as deeply whimsical as the tenants who come and go. Leslie Caron is superb as a solitary girl with a serious dilemma, so much so that she was nominated for Best Actress. Caron is splendid as Jane who manifests a courage and striking dignity to live life on her own…
THE BIRDS with TIPPI HEDREN as Melanie Daniels
Mitch Brenner: What do you want? Melanie Daniels: I thought you knew! I want to go through life jumping into fountains naked, good night!
Alfred Hitchcock’s cautionary tale based on Daphne du Maurier’s best selling novel. The Birds was Hitchcock’s film , that not only demonstrated the precarious security of everyday life by contrasting a quaint California seaside town inexplicably besieged by angry birds. One of Hitchcock’s most frequent theme is the precariousness of social order and morality. And the introduction of Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels definitely shakes things up. There’s almost a supernatural connection, if not the mere symbolic one.
I couldn’t resist Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels who is no shrinking violet. She may be a relatively straightforward central protagonist – the rich spoiled girl from the big city whose complacency is then severely shattered. Melanie is still an independent woman who mostly keeps it together right up to the end. Okay once she’s trapped in the attic she sort of goes a bit fetal but come on people the natural world is attacking! –with beaks and claws!
Behind the scenes she might have had a mini melt down thanks to Hitchcock’s maneuvering to have her attacked for real. Melanie Daniels ascends into Bodega Bay like the birds, she is a warning of the dangers of strong, and non-conformist women, especially strong willed sexually free women. Are the people being attacked by just the birds or is the strength of Melanie Daniels presence to tear apart the claustrophobic relationship between son and mother and the quiet conventional community.
From Carol Clovers Men, Women and Chainsaws -Her Body, Himself.
in Poe’s famous formulation , the death of a beautiful woman is the “most poetic topic in the world.”
Hitchcock during the filming of The Birds said: “I’ve always believed in following the advice of the playwright Sardou”. He said ‘Torture the women.’
Clover comments that what the directors don’t reveal out loud about the women in peril theme is that “women in peril are at there most effective when they are in a state of undress” and assailed by a totally phallic enemy.
Melanie Daniels while trapped in the attic and justifiably shaken from the ordeal does not lose her ability to protect herself and give up and die.
In one of the most vivid and unforgettable scenes in film history (I would wager my one-of-a-kind Columbo doll that other people agree) is when Melanie is waiting outside the schoolhouse sitting on the park bench with the jungle-gym behind her. She sees a few birds gathering on it. As Hitchcock is known to do, he drags out the suspense until we are at the very edge. She sees a few more birds join in. She lights up a cigarette, as this extends the scene further. There isn’t the composed style of filming a scene where it would go right to the fright factor. Hitchcock manipulates Melanie and us the spectator. Once more she follows the movement of another crow heading toward the jungle-gym which now is revealed has hundreds of birds waiting to attack…!
HUD with PATRICIA NEAL as Alma Brown
“Boy… somebody in this car smells of Chanel No. 5, It isn’t me, I can’t afford it!”
Directed by Martin Ritt and based on Larry McMurtry’s novel. From -Drew Casper Postwar Hollywood from 1946-1962 “Ritt Caught the parched, circumspect, empty quality of a middle-class WASP life in a Texan cattle community.”
The raspy attractiveness of Patricia Neal can make any film worth watching. In Hud she conveys a weary yet wise housekeeper/mother figure for the elderly widower Rancher and the Bannon men Hud and Lonnie. She has to deflect all the lustful advances by Hud, but she has grown comfortable with the blueness of her isolation, and has made peace with her troubling past. She handles the volatile Hud (Paul Newman) and nurtures the impressionable Lonnie (Brandon deWilde)
Patricia Neal won an Academy Award for playing the housekeeper Alma in Martin Ritt’s Hud, although she only appears in the film for 22 minutes! James Wong Howe creates a desolate, moody sense of Americana with his cinematography and Elmer Bernstein contributes his magnificent score.
Patricia Neal was particularly proud of one unscripted moment that made it into the film. While talking to Hud about her failed marriage, a huge horsefly flew onto the set. Just as she says she’s “done with that cold-blooded bastard,” she zaps the fly with a dish towel. Martin Ritt loved it and printed the take.
Paul Newman is the cold blooded Hud Bannon. He’s a ruthless reckless cowboy and a heartless uncaring miscreant who hurts everyone in his life. He’s self confident, drives a pink Cadillac and when he’s not swaggering slow like he’s a meandering playboy, who still lives on the isolated farm with his elderly father and his nephew Lonnie (Brandon deWilde) who worships him, he’s sleeping around.
Melvyn Douglas plays Homer Bannon, his father whom he clashes with. His father is a righteous man, filled with principles but his son is a self-indulgent outlier of society who cares for nothing and no one. Life is just about having ‘kicks’ It was that time in film history that the youth archetype were all looking for those ‘kicks’
Hud’s amoral lifestyle and the struggle between the good people who satellite around him create a dismal world for everyone. Alma and Hud develop a sexual banter between them. She’s attracted to his prowess and his good looks, but Hud only sees her as the help. He want’s what he can’t have, so she is a challenge to him that’s all. But Hud is abusive to Alma, he even parks his Cadillac in her flower bed.
Alma has a hearty strength and takes all the masculine posturing with stride. She’s as laid back as a cat taking a nap in the sun. Alma too has a sensuality that lies open, on the surface as she flirts with Lonnie and is aroused by Hud’s beautiful torso. The theme that is underlying through out Hud or I should say Alma’s part in the narrative is that women like to be around dangerous men. Alma doesn’t expect anything from Hud, understanding his nature all too well. He possesses a merciless kind of sexual desire that cannot be satisfied. But Alma does create a conflict for him…
In his cynical exchanges with Alma, he is contemptuous toward women and boasts a sexual confidence, that makes him one cocky bastard. But Alma is not a child nor is she an inexperienced woman. she is equally world weary and is titillated by his sexual innuendos.
NIGHT OF THE IGUANA with AVA GARDNER as Maxine Faulk
Directed by John Huston based on the story by Tennessee Williams, Night of the Iguana.
John Huston loved placing a group of interesting people in a landscape that was inhospitable and sweltering.
Ava Gardner as Maxine Faulk is a sultry beauty that inhabits the tropical night like a panther moving through the brush.
A defrocked Episcopal clergyman the Rev. T Lawrence Shannon (Richard Burton) working as a tout guide in Mexico leads a bus-load of middle-aged Baptist women and a teenage girl on a tour of the Mexican coast. It is there that he wrestles with the failure and doubts that haunt his wasted life. While temporarily stranded he takes respite with Maxine who runs the small out of the way hotel. Ava Garner wields heavy dose of sensuality as she burns up the screen with her raw and unbound sexuality. Surrounded by young men whom she swims with at night. And not taking any crap from the busload of repressed Baptists and Sue Lyon as a young Nymphomaniac.
Shannon was kicked out of his church when he was caught with one of his parishioners, and now Charlotte Goodall (Sue Lyon) is a troublesome nymph chasing after him provocatively. Her guardian is Judith Fellowes (Grayson Hall) an uptight lesbian who seems to hate all men, bus rides and humid weather besides. When Fellowes catches Charlotte in Shannon’s room she threatens to get him in trouble, so he enlists the help of his friend Maxine Faulk, and leaves the group stranded at her remote hotel.
Once Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her elderly grandfather arrive, the atmosphere seems to shift and Shannon is confronted with questions of life and love. Everyone at the hotel has demons and the rich and languid air seems to effect everyone… Ava Gardner as Maxine waits patiently for Shannon to realize that they could have a passionate life together if he’d stop torturing himself..
From Ava Gardner: “Love is Nothing” by Lee Server
Ava Gardner loved the chance to work with director John Huston.
The play had opened on Dec 28th 1961 at Broadway’s Royale Theatre with Bette Davis, Margaret Leighton and Patrick O’Neal.
“A typical Williamsian study of desire, dysfunction and emotional crisis. set in a frowzy Acapulco Hotel where defrocked alcoholic horny minister now tour guide The Rev T Lawrence Shannon haphazardly battles for his salvation aided and abetted by lusty innkeeper Maxine Faulk and wandering spinster Hannah Jelkes.”
Producer Ray Stark regarded the film’s formula should be a “mix of soul-searching, melodrama and lowlife exotica” which would capture Huston’s imagination.
Ava was cast to play the ‘earthy widow’ Maxine- Huston considered Gardner perfect as she was a Southern actress with ‘feline sexuality’. perfect to play one of Tennessee Williams’ ‘hot-blooded ladies!’
Ava Gardner wanted the role to be really meaningful. She did have several volatile scenes, for instance when she is exasperated by Shannon, to spite him Maxine impulsively rushes into the ocean to frolic with her two personal beach boys.
According to the book, “Ava had become sick with fear— of the physicality of the scene (how could she not look bad falling around in the water with her hair all soaked?), the sexuality of it (the two boys roaming all over her body as the surf rolled across them). and the physical exposure (the scene called for her to be wearing a skimpy bikini) Huston told her in that case, kid they would rewrite and shoot the scene at night and with minimal lighting. As she got more uncomfortable Huston suggested that she simply go in the water in her clothes (Maxine’s ubiquitous poncho too and toreador pants). ‘It’ll look more natural like that anyway’- Huston said.”
Houston even waded into the water with her, they had a few drinks, he held her hand and waited til she was ready to shoot the scene. And it came out beautifully with one take!.
THE KILLERS with ANGIE DICKINSON as Sheila Farr
Johnny -“Pretty Cool aren’t you Miss Farr”
Sheila “Only when there’s nothing to be excited about”
Directed by Don Siegel This remake of Ernest Hemingway’s taut thriller has been given a 60s sheen of vibrantly slick color. In contrast to Robert Siodmak’s masterpiece in 1946. The femme fatale in this Post-Noir film is Angie Dickinson as opposed to Ava Gardner.
Don Siegel’s 1964 adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s short story The Killers is quite a horse of a different colour. first off the obvious is that it is not in haunting B&W… The double – crosses are still in the picture. the big heist and the hidden doe…
And we don’t have Ava Gardner, but we do get Angie Dickinson. Cassavetes is a race car driver Lancaster was a mechanic… we don’t have the primal sexuality of Burt Lancaster we have the pensive arrogance of John Cassavetes.
The viewpoint of the story is not seen through the eyes of the victim, but the Kiilers who want to understand why the protagonist just stands there and lets himself be gunned down in cold-blood “just stood there and took it.”
While Siodmak’s version is drenched in shadow and nuance, Siegel’s version is gorgeously played out like a taut violin string in the brightly mod colors of a 60s world. It was no longer the year of the dark and dangerous femme fatale that hinted at promises of a sexual joyride alluded to with suggestive dialogue and visual iconography. Now we have Angie Dickinson’s character Sheila Farr a modern sexually liberated woman who struts her stuff in the light of day.
In exchange for the two odd misanthropes —William Conrad and Charles McGraw as Al & Max who walk into the diner and make the first 12 minutes of the ‘46 classic incredibly memorable and a noir essential— now we have Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager as a snarling thug and a creepy neurotic. Henry Mancini scored the music for 1964 slick production which became a 60s cult classic and Miklós Rózsa scored the 1946 noir masterpiece
The two hit men Lee Marvin and Clu Gulager walk into a school for the blind and shoot down John Cassavetes. On the way back to Chicago Marvin’s character wants to know why he didn’t try to run when he had the chance. Also told in flashback, it pieces together the reason for him wanting to die. After Cassavete’s is washed up as a race car drive when he has a near fatal crash- he takes up with crime boss Ronald Reagan and tries to steal his woman- Sheila.
DEAD RINGER with BETTE DAVIS as Margaret DeLorca & Edith Phillips
Margaret: “Oh Edie I wanted to marry Frank so desperately” Edie “But you never loved him, you never made him happy… you ruined both our lives.”
Margaret “I’ll make it up to you. Remember remember when we were children? You were the one person I really loved.”
Edie–“LOVED!!!!! You never loved anybody but yourself. Margaret “You have all the time in the world to find happiness. You can get rid of this place. You can get rid of it and take a trip.” Edie-“To outer space!” Margaret- “Money’s no object. How much would you like?- “YOU haven’t got that much!” ( Edie smacks the money out of Margaret’s hand.)
I simply couldn’t choose the 60s and not include a little psycho-melodrama, a bit of Grande Dame Guignol–without including my favorite of all… Bette Davis. Directed by actor/director Paul Henreid this extremely taut suspense thriller starring Bette Davis in two roles is a captivating story that grips you in the guts from beginning to end.
It’s 1964 Los Angeles and Bette plays twin sisters Margaret de Lorca and Edith Phillips.The film opens at Margaret’s husband’s funeral. The two sisters haven’t seen each other in twenty years.
Margaret has married very rich, with the man that Edith had planned on marrying. Edith lives a modest life and is dating a very fine police officer Sgt Jim Hobbson played by the wonderful Karl Malden. He loves his Edie who has a little jazz bar, is kind and simple and doesn’t share the arrogance and ruthless nature like Margaret. Margaret tricked Frank into marrying her, claiming she was pregnant.
One night Margaret comes to visit Edie and insults her by offering her some cheap clothes as a hand off plus Edie learns from the chauffeur that the pregnancy was all a lie. That Margaret ruined her chances of happiness. Adding to Edie’s troubles the property agent has give her the boot, since she’s 3 months late with the rent.
In a moment of rage with several ounces of premeditation -Edie shoots Margaret, assuming her identity, hopping into her sisters chauffeured limo and moving into the great house with servants and wealthy snobbish friends. Unfortunately it’s only a matter of time before Margaret’s smarmy lover Tony (Peter Lawford) shows up and discovers right away about the masquerade. Of course he blackmails Edie for his silence. Also Detective Jim Hobbson starts coming around thinking that Edith’s death was suspicious and not a suicide. What makes the film interesting is how Jim is the one person who could recognize Edie behind the elegant clothing, and at times there is a spark of awareness, but it just might be too late for Edie playing Margaret to turn things around. One particular exchange that is wonderful is the unspoken sympathetic relationship between Edie and Henry the quintessential Butler played Cyril Delevanti who has the most marvelously time worn face.
Et mourir de plaisir (To Die of Pleasure)
European Director/Provocateur Roger Vadim (And God Created Woman 1956, Barbarella 1968, Spirits of The Dead 1968, Pretty Maids All In A Row 1971) adapts Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale of sensuality, jealous Obsession and Vampirism.
Carmilla’s fixation manifests itself in the form of a female ancestor who is a vampire, which possesses her thus beginning a siege of terror at the family estate, culminating in a surreal and stunning bloodbath.
Stumbling onto the ancestral tomb! Is it real or imagined?
This is a beautiful cinematic horror film… a surreal journey that is at times told in dream like sequences that are utter visuals feasts for the Gothic soul. Blood and Roses has some of the most memorable imagery, and tastefully lensed eroticism, especially for ‘Lesbian Vampire’ aficionados. One of my favorite classic Euro horror films of the 1960s.
“To Die of Pleasure”
Happy Trailers- MonsterGirl
Roger Vadim’s Pretty Maids All In A Row 1971
A Film about DUALITY….notice the split screen
A new era of free love ushers in an emancipated kind of woman. Betty Smith ready to try anything! The big red book or TANTRIC SEX…
Prelude to the grooming of Miss Smith: She’ll be ready to deflower Ponce
Tiger’s mock sexual overture toward the smitten Betty Smith…
Jealousy rears it’s ugly and dangerous head….A maid wonders…
The Garden of Earthly Delights
How fast would it take to carry a body up the stairs and through the hall in order to dump a pretty maid in the wash room, without being seen?
Deputy Grady carries Miss Craymire through the school to illustrate a point
The inept Chief Poldaski fouls up once again….Back on traffic duty….
Vadim’s tongue in cheek dark humor is ever present in the film….
Just adding insult to Betty’s frustrated sexual encounter with Tiger McDrew. The sexual double entendre appears to her in a sign….Put A Tiger In Your Tank!
Ponce discovers a truth about his mentor and hero. A picture says 1,000 words.
Male posturing…the subtle roll of the shoulders, the head tilted to one side, all to intimidate this young boy who has stumbled into the Tiger’s Den
The Night and Poldaski’s happy flashlight.
No matter how horrible the crime, the film never shows you the actual killings. It is only what remains after the murders have taken place. The violence is suggested.
Ponce discovers more about his hero… he’s not the good man he thought…
Let The Dark Side Come Over…
The lighting, using gobo filters that create these hazy psychedelic balls of light balancing on the pure blackness of the screen lit behind Hudson and Carson create a claustrophobic uncertainty, like spheres of menacing hostility, or the unknown drowning out the senses. Again a very interesting technique used in the 70s
Roger Vadim and A Few of His Women…
Vadim and Jane Fonda on the set of Barbarella
Vadim and Bardot
Bardot on the set of Don Juan (Or If Don Juan Were a Woman) 1973
A portrait of John Milton
In Pretty Maids All In A Row, Ponce and Substitute Teacher Betty Smith both read from Milton’s Paradise Lost. The telling of how Satan fell from grace, Adam and Eve were cast out of the garden, the angels fought amongst each other and innocence becomes sacrificed as just part of the epic tale.
John Milton’s Paradise Lost
Adam and Eve being cast out of the garden
William Blake’s painting depicting Paradise Lost
Bosch’s Decent into Hell, form the last panel of Garden of The Earthly Delights
Monsters yelling and gnawing at bowels…
Other Salient Points Of Interest:
Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin in Vadim’s 1973 exploit Don Juan (Or if Don Juan Were a Woman) 1973
Whether or not Vadim is a fetishizing, womanizing soft porn exploitation provocateur, it’s critical that people study his films regardless, because there in lies a lot of vital information that can be digested and used to further the discourse about sexism, misogyny and the social constructs of gender. Shutting down the conversation because we think he is objectifying the female body and perhaps glorifying the sexualization of young women stops us from even asking the questions.
Vadim had an obvious fixation with the Don Juan Mythos as he cast his ingénue Brigitte Bardot in Don Juan ( Or If Don Juan Were A Woman?) 1973. He seems to ponder the question of love and power. Bardot plays Jeanne a woman living in Paris who believes she is the reincarnation of Don Juan.
The most influential version of all is Don Giovanni, the opera composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, first performed in Prague in 1787
A young and handsome Rock Hudson….
There is much about the film that alludes to elements of Don Juan. Here is a little bit of extra info:
Molière’s & Byron’s Don Juan Mythos
While Lord Byron’s poem satirizes the dreaming romantic anti-hero, Molière speaks more to the heart of Tiger McDrew who does not believe in loving just one beauty, that it would be almost a crime against nature not to succumb to any beauty that presents itself.
Don Juan by Haidee: 1873
Errol Flynn as Don Juan
“The story of Don Juan first appears in an old Spanish legend concerning a handsome but unscrupulous man who seduces the daughter of the commander of Seville and then, when challenged, kills her father in a duel. In the original version, Don Juan mockingly invites the statue of the father to a feast; the statue appears at the banquet and ushers Don Juan to hell. There are many re-tellings of this story in drama and theatre; Mozart used the story for his opera Don Giovanni. (1787)”
A Little About Roger Vadim:
In Paris, Vadim attended the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt, there he met film director Marc Allegret. Because of his association with Allegret, Vadim wound up meeting various filmmakers and writers particularly the incredible Jean Cocteau (Beauty & The Beast 1946 and Les Enfants Terribles 1950)
as well as Jean Genet, and Andre Gide.Vadim was exposed to a very progressive salon of creative artists, musicians, bohemians, surrealists. An avant-guarde crowd of post modern intellectuals. Pablo Picasso, Erik Satie, Proust, Amedeo Modigliani, and Édith Piaf were among them.
Most notable is the fact that it was Allegret who introduced Vadim to sixteen-year-old Brigitte Bardot, who would appear in several of Allegret’s films before attaining stardom with the success of And God Created Woman in 1956 with Vadim. Bardot and Vadim got married in 1952.
Bardot dancing on the table in And God Created Woman
Before his divorce from Fonda, Vadim had relocated to Hollywood. He remained there so that he could direct Hudson in Pretty Maids All in a Row.
Vadim is considered an unapologetic womanizer. He spent the rest of the 70s writing two memoirs based on the infamous love affairs he had with Brigitte Bardot, Catherine Deneuve, Annette Stroyberg and Jane Fonda. Memoirs of the Devil and Bardot Deneuve Fonda.
Vadim fathered a child with Deneuve. Fonda eventually denounced their film collaborations, saying they were exploitative. Atroyberg appeared in Vadim’s adaptation of the Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu’s classic vampire story Carmilla, which he entitled Blood and Roses.
Both Fonda and Bardot appeared in Poe’s adaption of Spirits of The Dead, in which Vadim, Louis Malle and Fellini each directed the film’s 3 small vignettes.
Vadim was responsible for discovering Brigitte Bardot , casting her and her beautiful posterior in his 1956 sexually charged And God Created Women which was famous for the scene where Bardot dances barefoot on top of the table, showing little nudity, yet showcasing her sensuality.
The press became fixated on the sexual expressiveness of Bardot’s character which created the critical argument about what is art? and what is pornography? Of course like every good controversy, the debate that was sparked made the film an international success.
Interesting enough, as I make the correlation between Tiger McDrew’s character and Svengali, And God Created Women put Vadim on the defensive as a ‘Svengali’ who was exploiting the young naive Bardot. Perhaps, some of Tiger McDrew is Vadim working out his historical demons on film, as many artists are apt to do.
This is how Vadim responded to the allegations:
“I did not invent Brigitte Bardot. I simply helped her to blossom, to learn her craft, while remaining true to herself. I was able to shield her from the ossification of ready-made rules which in films, as in other professions, often destroy the most original talents by bringing them into line.”
One thing that Vadim is actually credited for at least focusing on Bardot’s natural beauty instead of relying on the dramatic artifices of fashion, hair styles and elaborate make-up or lighting to enhance a look that is unreal. It is this naturalism that directors like Jean-Luc Godard and other New Wave directors began to utilize in their films. Vadim is considered one of the primary explorers of the New Wave movement in film.
He had been married to Jane Fonda and was now crushed by their divorce also having directed her in the segment where Fonda plays the sensual yet cruel, Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the Poe adapted film Spirits of The Dead (1968), Pretty Maids was filmed just coming off the success he had with the kittenesque Fonda in Barbarella (1968), the cult classic based on the French science fiction comic strip by Jean-Claude Forest.
The dreamy danish beauty Annette Stroyberg
Vadim went on to do Une femme fidèle 1976 with the beautiful Sylvia Kristel (Emmanuelle 1974, another guilty pleasure of mine) and then he made a very obscure film in 1980, I remember it leaving an impression on me. The film was called, Night Games.
It was a time during the 80s where some of the sensuality in films was branching out into more of a mood that was stylistically slick, perhaps quasi pulp /neo noir & fantasy in tone. Night Games 1980 with Cindy Pickett, was a very mysterious, fetishistic and romantic piece of work.
The character Valerie is very traumatized by a past rape. She meets a man who begins to open her back up by wearing an erotically surreal bird costume, not unlike the French character that Georges Franju adapted to the screen in 1963 Judex.
George Franju’s hero Judex
I know a lot of people think that Vadim is a sexist bastard which he undoubtedly is, but his sense of erotic style touches me in a way not unlike Anaïs Nin if she had set out to be a film maker instead of a writer, perhaps she’d me more empathetic toward women in her treatment of their sexual identities, but she too objectified them one could argue just as lovingly, in her written work, which I am a huge fan of still. I wonder if any University film or literature professors have made any correlations between the eroticism of Nin and Vadim. I would be interested to know that. My first job was working in a library. I would sneak up to the stacks so I could privately read Delta of Venus and Little Birds. I later named a song Little Birds and Ladders To Fire
Interesting that Nin herself had an elaborate love life, where she set something up called The Lie Box, having been married to 2 men at the same time.
|“||[Anaïs] would set up these elaborate facades in Los Angeles and in New York, but it became so complicated that she had to create something she called the lie box. She had this absolutely enormous purse and in the purse she had two sets of checkbooks. One said Anaïs Guiler for New York and another said Anaïs Pole for Los Angeles. She had prescription bottles from California doctors and New York doctors with the two different names. And she had a collection of file cards. And she said, “I tell so many lies I have to write them down and keep them in the lie box so I can keep them straight.” FROM WIKI: personal life|
The explosion of the feminist movement in the 1960s gave feminist perspectives on Nin’s writings of the past twenty years, which made Nin a popular lecturer at various universities; contrarily, Nin disassociated herself from the political activism of the movement.
FROM WIKI: Later life and legacy
Anais Nin in the 70s NYC
There is a question as to whether or not the character of Tiger McDrew is a hero, or anti-hero?
Hero or Anti-hero
There is an aspect to Tiger McDrew where I’ve read that he’s a likable character. A sort of anti-hero. Although there was the potential for McDrew to be carved out of some depth, to me, he was never a likable character. He was opportunistic and a rampant narcissist who was completely motivated by self satisfaction and self preservation. He is neither funny, kind, nor can I relate to him. He is not a Hannibal Lecter.
Lord Byron’s poem begins “I want a hero”; that is, “I need a hero for my story.”
Is Don Juan a hero or an anti-hero? Has Byron changed him from the original Don Juan in the same way that Vadim has with his reworking of the original story?
What people say about Tiger McDrew is that he dares to do what he wants. He is a libertine. There is forgiveness for his infidelities, even though he is corrupting and despoiling young girls. I’ve also read that it’s one of the first funny serial killer movies, in a sense that’s very true. But I stop at the point where viewers describe their affinity to McDrew saying that they admire him. He is a sort of homicidal Don Juan who elicits not only sympathy but kudos for getting away with lechery and murder. Is it because he is a lone yet liberated thinking man who is only doing what other men would not dare do?
Byron’s Don Juan is possibly a parody of the romantic hero who is not the aggressor yet rather he is acted upon. He is merely clay in a wiley woman’s hands. He loses all his dignity and power.
McDrew is a type of hero at the end to be feared and respected, nevertheless yet pathologically compliant, which might create something attractive about him. And is he in part likeable for the very things that make him NOT a traditional hero?
The Educated Intellectual Woman
She tears away any symbolic remnants of her intelligence, in order to become the ‘object’ of sexual desire…
In terms of the Don Juan from Lord Byron’s imagination, he also satirizes the educated woman. Mary Wollstonecraft ‘Shelley’, whom the poem might have been based upon, after arguing for a better education for women, had to reassure her readers that they need not fear that women would then become “masculine.”
In Pretty Maids, the one intellectual woman in the film is Miss Betty Smith. She is also the one who seduces young Ponce. Is this Vadim’s view point also that by Betty being the aggressor, it gives her a certain power, which transposes her into a man?
Byron’s treatment of the educated woman could be perceived as hostile. Byron denied any connection to his attitude toward his wife Mary Shelley, from whom he separated after only one year of their marriage.
What is supposed to be satirical about Byron’s poem is the all too common assumption that the educated and intellectual woman will be aggressive and domineering. Look at how the press and mainstream media, treat Hillary Clinton. The focus is on her pant suits, not her critical thoughts.
In Byron’s epic poem Don Juan (1821) he presents a satirical young lover who is a romantic dreamer. Byron pokes fun at philosophical and metaphysical conceptions of life and love
Byron tells us that we would be better off living in our physical reality, not unlike McDrew’s mentality.
Byron also suggests that ‘Platonic idealism’ is not based in reality, advocating that physical pleasure is the only reality and that such idealized thoughts about of devotion to love are again hypocritical, leading to self-deception. Like a mask, you wear, in order to hide your true nature.
“Pleasures a sin…and sometimes sin’s a pleasure” – Lord Byron
Portrait of Lord Byron by Richard Westall
It’s a very cynical view of love. Perhaps Vadim too was counseling us much in the same way. That in reality love is just a diversion of mutual pretense, leading up to the one true objective, to pleasure one’s self. To feed one’s desire.
Byron’s poem might be commendable for the writer’s honesty, railing again false virtue and his perceived hypocrisy of fidelity.
Among the best known works about Don Juan are Molière’s play Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre (1665),
“Don Juan is a rogue and a libertine who takes great pleasure in seducing women (mainly virgins) Later, in a graveyard, Don Juan encounters a statue of Don Gonzalo, the dead father of a girl he has seduced, Doña Ana de Ulloa, and impiously invites the father to dine with him; the statue gladly accepts. The father’s ghost arrives for dinner at Don Juan’s house and in turn invites Don Juan to dine with him in the graveyard. Don Juan accepts and goes to the father’s grave, where the statue asks to shake Don Juan’s hand. When he extends his arm, the statue grabs hold and drags him away to Hell.”
Do we know where Tiger McDrew goes in the end? Is it Brazil or Hell?
Rebel Angels battling between Heaven and Hell…
Excerpts from:Roger Vadim’s autobiography entitled
Memoirs of The Devil when discussing the casting of the Pretty Maids,
Vadim recalls the casting of the students in Pretty Maids All in a Row: “…I had auditioned over two hundred boys and about the same number of girls. Most of the girls who applied in the roles of high school alumni were aspiring actresses, though some were local students who merely found the whole thing amusing.”
He also mentions that not one of the “pretty maids” wound up becoming a major star but a few went on to do several exploitation and cult films: Some below-
Brenda Sykes was in Black Gunn 1972 and Mandingo 1975, Margaret Markov wound up in Black Mama, White Mama 1972 and The Hot Box 1972, Joy Bang was in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam 1972, Aimee Eccles was in The Concrete Jungle 1982 (an favorite cult/exploitation film of mine) and Group Marriage 1973 and Gretchen Burrell, wound up being one-time girlfriend of recording artist Gram Parsons.
Aimee Eccles in Group Marriage Stephanie Rothman film
Vadim also specifically ordered the wardrobe department to dress the girls in micro skirts and tight fitting shirts. Mostly all were NOT wearing bras in Pretty Maids.
Vadim recalls again in his autobiography, “When I started shooting Pretty Maids All in a Row for MGM-
“There was not a single other film being made in any of the six main Los Angeles studios. It was a strange paradox that the only director working at that time in the legendary stronghold of the cinema was a Frenchman. The vast MGM studio complex was like some western ghost town. Three thousand people were still employed in the offices and in the workshops, but the famous faces that had set the world dreaming were no more than shadows, the machinery continued to turn, but to no purpose, like a train running along the track when the driver is dead…Apart from one or two television series, my film was the only production at the time and had three thousand MGM people working on it…Only in Russia have I seen such a cancerous bureaucracy.”
“[Misogyny] is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel for their own bodies.”
Michael Flood is an Australian sociologist at the University of Wollongong. Flood gained his doctorate in gender and sexuality studies from the Australian
Flood defines misogyny as the hatred of women, and notes:
“Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. […] Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males.
Also an easy correlation to be made is Tiger McDrew to that of Casanova…
Giacomo Casanova 18th century womanizer who wrote about his exploits
“I begin by declaring to my reader that, by everything good or bad that I have done throughout my life, I am sure that I have earned merit or incurred guilt, and that hence I must consider myself a free agent. … Despite an excellent moral foundation, the inevitable fruit of the divine principles which were rooted in my heart, I was all my life the victim of my senses; I have delighted in going astray and I have constantly lived in error, with no other consolation than that of knowing I have erred. … My follies are the follies of youth. You will see that I laugh at them, and if you are kind you will laugh at them with me”- Casanova’s opening memoirs.
While not killing his wives, McDrew does have a proclivity toward strangling his female lovers like that of the legendary Bluebeard….
John Carradine in Edgar Ulmer’s version of Bluebeard 1944
“Bluebeard” (French: La Barbe bleue) is a French literary folktale written by Charles Perrault and is one of eight tales by the author first published by Barbin in Paris in January 1697 in Histoires ou Contes du temps passé. The tale tells the story of a violent nobleman in the habit of murdering his wives and the attempts of one wife to avoid the fate of her predecessors. Gilles de Rais, a 15th-century aristocrat and prolific serial killer, has been suggested as the source for the character of Bluebeard as has Conomor the Accursed, an early Breton king. “The White Dove,” “Mister Fox” and “Fitcher’s Bird” are tales similar to “Bluebeard”.
Notice how all the nicknames for Bluebeard, bear the moniker of an animal, Fox, Bird, Dove, and of course there is our Anti-Hero, Antagonist ‘Tiger’ McDrew.
And of course, the idea that Tiger McDrew held sway over these young maids by power of persuasion as if by some gift of mesmerizing them into his bed, and under his control….Vadim was accused of being a Svengali when it came to his young bride Brigitte Bardot
John Barrymore & Marian Marsh in 1931 Svengali
SOME CRITICAL REVIEWS:
Roger Ebert wrote,
“One thing you can say about Pretty Maids All in a Row. Rock Hudson sex comedies sure have changed since Pillow Talk…The movie itself is, finally, embarrassing. It’s embarrassing because Vadim’s personal hang-ups don’t fit the nature of his material, and so he tries to bend things.”
David Thomson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, calling Pretty Maids All in a Row
“a film of disturbing insights in that its central character – an amused Rock Hudson (once all that Universal allowed to the lovelorn) – does not separate his f#cking of campus nymphets from his murder of them. Too unreal to know in bed, these chicks are plastic enough to be disposed of. The sexual idea in Pretty Maids All in a Row has become psychotic, acting out the dismissal of human reality that has always been implied in the method. And yet the film is tritely playful and the succession of postpubic children are gilded by the loving photography of that veteran, Charles Rosher, who once caught the rapture of Janet Gaynor in Sunrise.”
I also find a connection with certain aspects of Beaudelaire’s The Flowers of Evil
The Flowers of Evil
Spleen and Ideal, Part I
Excerpts from http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/flowersofevil in quotes:
I use this correlation to try and distill even more of Tiger McDrew’s character and what he might be thinking. How he sees himself in relationship to and his participation in the human condition.The reality of death, and who must be it’s sacrificial victim. Is he the arm of the devil, does he truly believe in ‘free love’, and free will or as duplicitous as he is, can it merely be part of the contradiction, that he feels trapped by role as family man. He has a voracious appetite for sex. I could make the argument again, that it is an addiction. Why else would he keep risking everything once the police are on the scene and investigating the first murder. He is a family man with desires that don’t fall in line with society’s rules. Therefore he must destroy the very thing that draws him in, and threatens his other life. His world is filled with sin, and beauty and evil. Is he not the calibrator of all three?Is he not the fine line between the contradiction?
“Baudelaire says “One side of humanity reaches for fantasy and false honesty, while the other exposes the boredom of modern life. ”
The film is a condemnation of modern life. The hypocrisy of ‘NORMAL’
Baudelaire famously begins The Flowers of Evil by personally reaching out to his reader as an accomplice to the evolution of his poetry:
“Hypocrite reader–my likeness–my brother!” In “To the Reader,” The narrator evokes a world inhabited by degradation and sin… hypocrisy, and decay. A world that is dominated not by God but by Satan.
Baudelaire, claims that it is the Devil and not God who controls our actions. That we are the puppets and Satan pulls the strings. That we have no free will of our own. That we are bound for hell, by our self destructive instincts.
(Is McDrew not a distorted arm of a vengeful law, that inflicts its judgement on the girls, because of their promiscuity and their threat to break up the conventional life he has with his wife? To reveal his false honesty, his boredom with modern life?
And that human beings are merely ‘instruments of death.’ “more ugly, evil, and fouler” than any monster or demon.”from the poem.
Tiger McDrew an instrument of death…an arm of the law that exposes the boredom of modern life?
“The narrator claims that he and the reader complete this image of humanity: One side of humanity (the reader) reaches for fantasy and false honesty, while the other (the speaker) exposes the boredom of modern life.”
(The albatross could be the girls, threatening to chain Tiger to a commitment. Yet they are things of beauty,at times)
“The speaker continues to rely on contradictions between beauty and unsightliness in “The albatross.” This poem relates how sailors enjoy trapping and mocking giant albatrosses that are too weak to escape. Calling these birds “captive kings,” the speaker marvels at their ugly awkwardness on land compared to their graceful command of the skies. Just as in the introductory poem, the speaker compares himself to the fallen image of the albatross, observing that poets are likewise exiled and ridiculed on earth. The beauty they have seen in the sky makes no sense to the teasing crowd: “Their giant wings keep them from walking.”
(I find yet another correlation between this piece of work by Beaudelaire, and the film. McDrew finds the girls beautiful to a point, yet he sees them as limited. Like ‘captive queens’, they are only good for that one moment in time, when they are having sex with him, or “the graceful command of the skies.” The girls are his Albatross.)
In the poem”Benediction,” he says: “I know that You hold a place for the Poet / In the ranks of the blessed and the saint’s legions, / That You invite him to an eternal festival / Of thrones, of virtues, of dominations.”
(Tiger has a sense of privilege to savor the secrets of the world in which he has created outside him marriage, and the tenets of society. He defines beauty, he chooses who he wants to sleep with. Who are the ‘exceptionally gifted’ Tiger has a God complex, and thinks of himself as God like.)
The divine power that Beaudelaire writes about in another of his poems as part of Flowers of Evil, called “Elevation,” has the narrator’s rising like a god to the throne of heaven.
“His ascendancy is compared to the poet’s omniscient and paradoxical power to understand the silence of flowers and mutes. His privileged position to savor the secrets of the world allows him to create and define beauty.”
(We know from his pedantic mentorship and the evidence of his philosophy documented on tape that McDrew considers himself a great thinker, social innovator and perhaps a sexual being like Beaudelaire’s poet, who’s aestheticism elevates him to levels of sensual ascendancy. The pretty maids are his flowers of evil, the temptations that will drag him to hell.)
” A MYTHICAL WORLD OF HIS OWN CREATION” ” LAND OF FREEDOM AND HAPPINESS” There, all is nothing but beauty and elegance, / Luxury, calm and voluptuousness.”
From “The Head of Hair and Exotic Perfume”
Baudelaire’s poetry has often been described as the most musical and melodious poetry in the French language.
“The Flowers of Evil evokes a world of paradox already implicit in the contrast of the title. The word “evil” (the French word is “mal,” meaning both evil and sickness) comes to signify the pain and misery inflicted on the speaker, which he responds to with melancholy, anxiety, and a fear of death.”
“But for Baudelaire, there is also something seductive about evil. Thus, while writing The Flowers of Evil, Baudelaire often said that his intent was to extract beauty from evil. Unlike traditional poets who had only focused on the simplistically pretty, Baudelaire chose to fuel his language with horror, sin, and the macabre. The speaker describes this duality in the introductory poem, in which he explains that he and the reader form two sides of the same coin.”
“Together, they play out what Baudelaire called the tragedy of man’s “twoness.” He saw existence itself as paradoxical, each man feeling two simultaneous inclinations: one toward the grace and elevation of God, the other an animalistic descent toward Satan. Just like the physical beauty of flowers intertwined with the abstract threat of evil, Baudelaire felt that one extreme could not exist without the other.”
(McDrew tries to draw out the animalistic in his male students. He is a man of ‘twoness’ his life is a paradox and his desire for beauty fuels a very realistic horror of sin and ultimately death. And as Beaudelaire adeptly points out, one extreme can not exist without the other.)
GENE RODDENBERRY by the Museum of Television. Includes an entire list of Television and Film Credits.
About Composer Lalo Shifrin
Film credits include: just to mention a few
CoolHandLuke Dirty Harry
Enter The Dragon
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Volume 2
Pretty Maids All in a Row
Telefon HideinPlainSight Starsky and Hutch
TheWrathofGod Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows
Lalo Schifrin (b. 1932) is an Argentinean-born composer, conductor, arranger and pianist who has contributed to various films and Television programs. He was the pianist and arranger for Dizzy Gillespie. Shifrin became one of the most notable film and TV composers of the 1960s and ’70s.
Peace- MonsterGirl (JoGabriel)
The film is bathed in hazy colors similar to that of Bosch’s epic painting.
This intricate panel of images appears in the film several times as a motif. Vadim knew exactly what he was informing us or leading us to think about. It goes to one of the chambers of the heart in the narrative, and bares no resolution for us the ‘voyeurs’ by the film’s end. Betty Smith (Angie Dickinson’s character has this painting in her apartment, we sit it in several sequences, even close up and studied by the camera)
Bosch’s painting serves as a prominent motif throughout the film.
Close ups in the film at varying viewpoints of Bosch’s painting
The painting depicts nude figures in the garden of temptation, at which ultimately sets them forth into an eternal dance with damnation.
The left panel depicts God presenting Adam to Eve, while the central panel is a broad panorama of sexually engaged nude figures, fantastical animals, oversized fruit and hybrid stone formations. The right panel is a hellscape and portrays the torments of damnation.
“Art historians and critics frequently interpret the painting as a didactic warning on the perils of life’s temptations. However, the intricacy of its symbolism, particularly that of the central panel, has led to a wide range of scholarly interpretations over the centuries. 20th-century art historians are divided as to whether the triptych’s central panel is a moral warning or a panorama of paradise lost. American writer Peter S. Beagle describes it as an “erotic derangement that turns us all into voyeurs, a place filled with the intoxicating air of perfect liberty.”
One could say that this suburban American High School Anywhere USA, acts as a similar landscape depicted in Bosch’s painting. The school is ripe for sexual and conventional anarchy, abound with young flesh, exploring a ‘perfect liberty’ flitting about in micro skirts and no bra, amidst the intoxicating air of youth and temptation.
Leaving them vulnerable to be tempted by demons like Tiger McDrew who come and prey upon their alluring innocence. As Beagle says about the painting, this film has a sense of erotic derangement that turns us into every bit the voyeur. The film acts as a composite of several questions that intersperse into a concoction of moral ambiguities and historically systemic hierarchical and hegemonic dilemmas.
Then add Vadim’s European self proclaimed Libertine sensibilities, his view of American culture and you get a psychopathic Don Juan, voyeuristic close ups of supposed adolescent young girls and a society that condemns and perpetuates both.-
An alternative title to this blog post could be “The Americanization of Debauchery, Perversion, Panties, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Hiernoymous Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights transfixed on the modern high school campus. Milton’s Paradise Lost, The Socratic Infusion of Free Love & the Sexual revolution. With traces of Bluebeard, Casanova. Sexism & Misogyny, the POV of the new wave European Aestheticism of the female body as Fetish. Pom Poms and The Cult of American Hero worship Molière & Lord Byron’s Don Juan with a smattering of Svengali, as a homicidal Pedagogue in a Nehru Jacket.”
PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW From the nursery rhyme, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary.
Rock Hudson romantic leading man of the 1950s and 60s
Pretty Maids All In A Row 1971 directed by Roger Vadim. (And God Created Woman, Blood and Roses &Barbarella)Written and Produced by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Film score by Lalo Shifrin
THE PRIMARY CAST:
Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas, Roddy McDowall, Keenan Wynn, introducing John David Carson as Ponce and William Campbell as Deputy Grady.
Director of photography Charles Rosher. Lalo Schifrin the original music song Chilly Winds music by Lalo and lyrics by Mike Curb The Screenplay by Gene Roddenberry based on the novel by Francis Pollini. Produced and Scripted by Roddenberry ( Star Trek, Have Gun -Will Travel )
Director Roger Vadim’s first motion picture in the United States.
Cinematography by Charles Rosher Jr.
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
MGM was trying to appeal to the “youth market”. The indie films of the late 60s and 70s were taking over, and MGM was in financial trouble , it would completely cease production by 1976 and by 1979.
Pretty Maids All In A Row was released on April 28, 1971 and did a Limited run In Theaters:
Rock Hudson is ‘Tiger’ McDrew
Telly Savalas is Captain Sam Surcher
Angie Dickinson is Miss Betty Smith
John David Carson is Ponce de Leon Harper
Roddy McDowall Is Principal Proffer
Keenan Wynn is Chief Poldaski
William Campbell is Sheriff Deputy Grady (Dementia 13 Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Best remembered by Star Trek fans as the Klingon commander in the iconic “The Trouble with Tribbles” episode.)
James Doohan as Follo best known for his role as ‘Beam me up’ Scotty on Stark Trek the original series.
Susan Tolsky is Miss Harriet Craymire
Barbara Leigh as Janet McDrew -She was cast as the original “Vampirella” and has done two Playboy celebrity pictorials (May 1973, January 1977) Also had affairs with Steve McQueen and Elvis Presley.
THE PRETTY MAIDS
Brenda Sykes: Pamela Wilcox
Joy Bang as Rita
With Peter Duel in God Bless The Children 1970 the pilot for tv series The Psychiatrist
Gretchen Burrell: Marjorie
Joanna Cameron: Yvonne Millish, actress Cameron played super goddess ISIS on the Saturday morning kid’s show that was part of the SHAZAM hour.
Aimee Eccles: Hilda Lee
in Little Big Man 1971
June Fairchild: Sonny Swangle, the always-laughing student
Pretty Maids, was the U.S. film debut of French New Wave director Roger Vadim, known for his sensually soft core eroticism My particular favorite of his is the beautiful “Et mourir de plaisir”or Blood and Roses 1960 Based on Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, starring Mel Ferrer, Elsa Martinelli, and Vadim’s first wife Annette Stroyberg. The film is a surreal masterpiece.
Pretty Maids was not received well upon it’s first release at the box office, however. The film reviews were fairly mixed. Part of the controversy not only for the film’s perceived glorification of underage girls having sex with a predatory adult. It was the inherent portrayal of misogyny that was repulsive to many viewers and critics and is still widely held by some reviews I’ve read.
I happened to catch it when it first aired on television in the 70s, as it was boldly slated for mainstream viewing. Apparently Vadim did not return to film another movie in the U.S. for quite a while after the initial reaction to this misunderstood film.
Laurence Harvey’s Sideburns Yay! Striped pants and turtlenecks.
It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, of those Halcyon days of film in the 1970s perhaps filled with a little kitsch, guys with ambitious sideburns and actresses in long leather vests seemed to have far more sublime sensuality than most today posses. And yet it seems to make other people just recoil at it’s misogynistic tone. Since I view everything now deriving a lot of insight from living with a sociologist, I experience a lot of things now vicariously through the lens of a let’s say ’empathy’ with the feminist theory my partner espouses.
Let me say this, the film does not offend me, yet does what a lot of good films should do, while Vadim himself bares the refuge of an affectionate exploitation of the female anatomy, some might think the script is salacious , rather I think it shines light on several themes using satire as a reflective weapon. Although there lacks Vadim’s trademark elegant decadence and art-house flavor such as his Les Liaisons dangereuses (1959) and La Ronde (1964), there is an Americanism that fluctuates between satire and plain cruelty, at times tactless and insensitive with a growing sense of disorder and I think that was the entire point which makes the film truly disturbing for it’s day. It is clear to me, regardless of his excusal of the fixation and fetishism he places on the female anatomy behind the camera and on film , that Vadim is a provocateur in every way.
At that time of Pretty Maids release, Rock Hudson’s career had sort of come to a standstill he hadn’t yet transitioned to television with his hit TV series McMillan & Wife. It was an interesting casting choice, and one against type for the Hollywood heart throb that once graced the screen with the lily white Doris Day. Considering this departure for him, he gave a really unselfconscious performance, looking almost sleazy and drained at times. The irony of him playing this sexist lady killer, is that with the exception of a few small Hollywood insiders, no one knew that Hudson was gay.
Pretty Maids is an obscure dark comedy, deviant piece of satire I would say slightly bedroom farce, light sleazy cult film thriller of the 70s. It fascinates me because it steeps in my brain, leaving a myriad of impressions. It’s not just a coolly directed picture with a quirky ensemble of glorious seasoned actors, it’s also filled with campy dialogue…
“I wonder why they always seem to die with a smile on their face?”- Officer Follo (James Doohan) asks the question.
…and gruesome and distasteful aspects to the narrative. And of course there’s the element of nostalgia for me, such as the beloved actors, in particular Angie Dickinson (probably one of my favorite roles was the lusty Sheila Farr in Don Siegel’s 1964 remake of The Killers with Lee Marvin)and her performance as Chris in the 1967 John Boorman film Point Blank again with Lee Marvin.
On the set of Siegel’s The Killers 1964
Great image from MGM promo shot from Point Blank (1967) via Cinema is Dope blog site:
The film also has the presence of a fantastic musical score and memorable theme song ‘Chilly Winds’. There is something brewing in the breezy Chilly Winds’ composition, part honey and part kerosene, that first goes down simply but disturbs in that really good way. The film leaves thoughts that keep bubbling up to the surface for me as I watched it again after so many years.
I just want to say briefly that Dickinson’s (“Pepper Anderson” on Police Woman (1974-78) role as Betty was one of the highlights of the film for me. Her decision to play this character was very bold, to be an older woman in the same position as Tiger McDrew, with a heightened libido, deflowering a virgin teenage boy. She was taking a risk playing the instigator of sex, where there is a power differential. Today, the same role would have branded her as perpetrator brought up on charges of statutory rape. Ponce initially calls Miss Smith ‘ma’am’ which also signals to us, that there is a power differential, as well as Ponce is still self identifying as a subordinate, pupil and under age young boy. His calling her ma’am adds a perverse standpoint to their impending sexual relationship.
So if we are to suspend our moralizing gaze and consider Angie Dickinson’s performance as just a kinder, gentler Mrs Robinson, she manages to balance her playful sex appeal, with a an elegant sexuality that’s charming, funny, awkward and yes intelligent. She does not play a dumb blonde but a highly educated teacher, who wonders about the number of stars in the heavens and reads Milton’s Paradise Lost like it’s foreplay.
At Betty’s tutoring session at her apartment. She asks Ponce to describes Milton. He asks “Milton who?” “John Milton” silly. Ponce fumbles around a summary “He describes the way in Heaven in which Satan was expelled and his evolution into the Devil…by corrupting…his most finest creation…Woman, uhm Mankind.”
Betty starts to slowly and methodically recite Milton herself. Rosher gives us a close up on her moistened full lips, she begins the passage.
“I fled but he pursued though more it seems inflamed with lust, than rage, and swifter far, Me over took his mother , all dismayed and in embraces forcible and foul engendering with me, of that rape begot these yelling monsters that , with ceaseless cry surround me as thou sawest hourly conceived and hourly born with sorrow infinite to me for when they list into the womb, that had bred them, they return and howl and gnaw my bowels, their repast (she pauses)…Isn’t this exciting!”
As Betty’s breasts are eye level with Ponce, he answers in a heightened level of sexual arousal slowly in a fevered groan, he moans, “oh yeah.”
As he slumps down in the chair, Betty asks “what’s the matter Ponce?” she says this reminiscent of an adult talking to a little child they’re telling a bedtime story to “You don’t think I”m going to eat you do you?” Ponce, sighs…looking up at her , his eyes begging ” Oh yes” , ah… no… Miss Smith.”
Any way you look at her, it’s Angie Dickinson’s blazing smile that gets me every time.
In part 2 of this blog post, I talk about Byron’s ‘Intelligent Woman’ in regards to his poem Don Juan as being that type of woman being feared as ‘masculine.’ You could make the correlation that Betty Smith is an educated woman who is acting as the aggressor, a perceived male function.
Angie in her role as Pepper Anderson on Police Woman
In April 1971 an issue of Playboy Magazine published an article about the movie co-scripted by Vadim himself. It included a nine-page photographic spread of actresses Angie Dickinson, and Gretchen Burrell, Aimee Eccles, and Margaret Markov, a few of the Pretty Maids.
Roddy McDowall lovable character actor as Cornelius in Planet of The Apes 1968
I also adore Roddy McDowall as well, he is one of my favorite actors. (Legend of Hell House 1973, Night Gallery 1969, Planet of The Apes 1968, Columbo (1971-2003) episode Short Fuse, too many roles in film and television to mention.) When he’s not playing a conniving prig, he’s got a urbane sexiness, that’s endearing. And you know I never realized how attractive Telly Savalas was until I started noticing how really sensual bald men are. Except for his role as the psychotic Maggot in Aldrich’s fantastic war film The Dirty Dozen 1967, Savalas was very androgynous in the role of Captain Sam Surcher, predating his iconic role as Kojak , with his orally fixated lollypop, here in Pretty Maids, it’s his cigarette and ever present sun glasses that are the props and projected appendage of his libido.
Telly Savalas as Theo Kojak
A Little Plot Summary:
Rock Hudson romantic leading man of the 1950s and 60s, invokes the character of sexy master manipulator, Michael Tiger McDrew, All American Football hero, faculty adviser, groovy high school guidance counselor/guru /Pedagogue at Southern California’s upscale suburban Ocean View High School. He’s a libertine and a veneered adoring husband and father, when in fact he possesses an aesthetic breed of misogyny. I’d even compare him to a Svengali, for his mesmerizing yet not obviously enigmatic, for he’s very cool and calculating to be that stand out and manifest.
He’s does have a discernible fluidity in his ability to control the situation. In particular the “Exceptionally Gifted” boys and girls he sets his gaze upon. McDrew’s got a Masters Degree in Psychology, which Surcher finds impressive as he lights his ever present cigarette. This signals to us that Capt. Surcher’s got his eye on McDrew for the murders.
He’s a modern day Casanova & Don Juan, a contemporary Bluebeardesque serial killer who’s mastered the art of seduction yet fiercely loves his wife, the primary woman in his world, and so will never kill her thus by nature of self preservation will untangle himself from any young nymphet from the collection of under age high school girls that have sex with him and then , threaten to expose his duplicity therefore ruin his ‘ideal’marriage.
Michael ‘Tiger’ McDrew dispatches of his victims, by strangling them. Leaving dismissive and cryptic notes with quips like “so long honey” & “keep cool, honey’, pinned on the pantied asses of the half naked bodies he dumps in plain site like fodder from his spoils. Honey a term used to depersonalize and dehumanized the girls, as they are merely objects for his pleasure only.
‘KEEP COOL, HONEY”
“POOR, POOR HONEY”
Coming out of the 1960s with Free Love and Flower Children, McDrew uses these images of the sexual revolution to reach out to his students. There are images of hip posters hanging on the walls of his office. He makes himself very accessible to all…but in particular a select group of kids. He’s turned down several jobs at Universities because “This is where it’s at.”
Tiger McDrew takes on a protégé in Ponce de Leon Harper (John David Carson who has a John Molder Brown baby face of innocence) a neurotic, naive yet very bright nail biting teenager who is probably the only boy in the school not having sex yet. He must hide his perpetual erections by shielding them with his clipboard and books.
Eventually Tiger sets substitute Betty Smith on Ponce to deflower the youth. This he does by demonstrating to Miss Smith how to make love in a mock session that drives the smitten Betty Smith to the brink, only to leave her frustrated and clumsy at the hands of his manipulation. A boy who by the start of the film sputters on his scooter, and by the film’s end is riding a motorcycle, the transformation into manhood is complete with chrome and sexy blonde passenger.
Dickinson is so adorable as Betty Smith in this film, which could have been humiliating to any other actress. Captain Sam Surcher is called in to investigate the murders of these girls, after Ponce discovers the first victim in the boy’s washroom. From the very beginning Surcher suspects that Tiger McDrew has something to do with the murders. The prim Principal Proffer (Roddy McDowall) is mostly preoccupied with appearances and utters the ubiquitous phrase through out the film “SHE WAS A FINE GIRL AND A REALLY TERRIFIC CHEERLEADER.”
The rest of Pretty Maids All in a Row reveals to us Ponce’s primal awakening into manhood, and the ensuing police investigation of the serial murders at the school conducted by Telly Savalas as State Police Captain Surcher. Aside from the assemblage of the various young actors and actresses, there is also the presence of Keenan Wynn who plays local Sheriff Poldaski, a bumbling hick who man handles the evidence and winds up being put on traffic duty. The film also co-stars Barbara Leigh as Tiger McDrew’s wife Janet.
As an aside, I believe Tiger’s wife Janet, knew on some level what he was up to by the end of the film. The narrative portrays her as possibly the only female he considers an equal, we are shown that she beats him at chess, an ‘intellectual’ game of calculation, which could be code for their matched wits, and his sexual maneuvering with the young girls as a side ‘game’ to their relationship.
During the chess match, the music underscores the mood with pared down single notes glistening from a Fender Rhodes keyboard reminiscent of the 70s ‘dreamy’ sound, Tiger says to Janet ” Guard your Queen”
It’s in her eyes…Janet McDrew
to me this is anticipates the future of things to come for Janet and ‘the family.”
Essentially Janet knows where her husband’s allegiance lies and the chess games shows her superior mind, the equally powerful one in the marriage thus the respect he gives her, also that she has a calculating mind, at the end being able to figure out the ruse for his possible escape.The film leaves us wondering about a lot of things.
There is the possibility that she is part of his sick game, allowing it and actually aiding him to allude the police. He respects her and is devoted because of this. There is something in her eyes. Plus it’s obvious Tiger and his wife have a fruitful sex life.While Tiger tries to prevent anyone from finding out the truth behind his ruse as hero, by the end, things unravel at a fast pace, and so I do believe that he ultimately allows Janet in on his secret.
This also speaks to something that started happening in horror films, which I think Pretty Maids could easily be tagged as a sub genre, the psychopathic serial killer. In the 70s, films started to portray the American family as not necessarily the sanctuary of wholesome goodness and normalcy.
Films started to blow the lid off the hidden fact that sometimes the monster came from within and not the invaders that were prevalent in the 50s and 60s which were really just code for fear of the bomb and communism.
The 50s gave us, Don Siegel’s masterpiece Invasion of The Body Snatchers 1955 Hysteria, losing your identity and the Communist scare. The Enemy from without.
Now it was a very personal expedition to flip the presumption of American family values and invert it into something nightmarish and threatening.
Not that Pretty Maids is by itself a family horror film, there is the framing of Tiger and his wife as the American family creating the axis of the McDrews (suburban) family which revolves around a series of deceptions and misconduct and crimes, ultimately effecting the entire community. It is this reservoir of depravity and indulgence that creates the story’s core narrative. That conventional society breeds monsters that are palpable yet unremarkable people.
Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates an All American Mama’s Boy
Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse, with Ruth Gordon. She’s going to have a baby!
From Hearths of Darkness: The Family in The American Horror Film by Tony Williams
From the introduction: Assault in the American Horror Film
“During the 1970s an unusual event affected Hollywood’s representation of the American family. Generally revered as a positive icon of ‘normal’ human society, the institution underwent severe assault. The antagonist was no external force such as the Frankenstein monster, Count Dracula or Cat Woman: instead the threat came from within. In Night of The Living Dead 1968 , a young girl cannibalizes her father and hacks her mother to death. In Rosemary’s Baby 1968 Satan decides to reverse two thousand years of Christian hegemony by sending his messiah to destroy American society from within. Polanski’s film anticipates an assault that continues in The Exorcist 1973 and The Omen 1976.” continued. ” In The Last House on The Left 1972 and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 1974 and The Hills Have Eyes 1977, typical American families encountered their monstrous counterparts, undergo ( or perpetuate) brutal violence, and eventually survive full knowledge of their kinship to their monstrous counterparts. All these depictions contradict normal idealized family images in mainstream American film and television. They disrupt the ideological norms of family sitcoms such as Father Knows Best, and Leave It To Beaver.”
Here in his Chapter Sacrificial Victims he writes
“Family horror films of the seventies reveal intense contradictions.” he continues by saying this very relevant piece.
” Michel Foucault’s definitions of discourse and power-knowledge formations, horror film monsters are defined according to a particular set of institutional guidelines as ” abject” due to their antagonistic protest against family restraint.”
Tiger appears to respect Janet. She can be considered the only Alpha female in the film, the only woman he is somewhat subordinate to most of the time. That is why she is the only one he would not kill the only one he can be devoted to. In this sense, he would always return to his domain, with her as the primary lover in his life. She has also bared his child. So no one must obstruct, threaten or invade his conventional strata with his primary mate.
When ever one of the girls demands more than just a secret liaison in his office, or who ever threatens the silent contract Tiger has with his wife, the sort of freedom, the secret indulgence he feels entitled to have, objectifying the girls he was meant to mentor, they have to be silenced, therefor killed. They are merely ‘honeys’ accessible for his sexual gratification only.
THE DEVIL”S SMILE….
To Tiger, women only excel as objects for sexual usage. Whereas, boys could expand their imaginations and flex their strengths in sports and intellectual endeavors. We see this in Tiger’s interactions with his students. It appears very black and white in Tiger McDrew’s fundamental understanding of gender roles and identity as he is an alpha male in a society of women who are starting to self express themselves all over the place. Coming of age in a post Free Love society, like the metamorphosis into butterflies. ‘Painted Ladies’ a certain variety of butterfly.
The most notable inception of the teenager having sex = death in film started with Halloween & Friday The 13th
What’s interesting to note is that the environment, the atmosphere of the high school campus with these young nymphets fluttering around gives the impression that Vadim is trying to expose the dichotomy of the male exploitation of the female body, and the girls themselves as the exploiters. It is an intricate system of archetypes. And not an easy one to disassemble as you cannot blame the girls for their own deaths. Can you blame the victims?
With the ensuing 80s slasher cannon, if you were a promiscuous teenager you automatically had to die. Are the girls the only victims in this film? Is the virginal Ponce a product of a careful framework of suggestions set up by society that he follow Tiger’s lead, and emerge an objectifying male himself. Ponce also starts out as an innocent (fountain of youth), a ‘Chrysalis boy’ before he morphs into a womanizing male by the films conclusion.
The film celebrates the glorious All-American past time of Pom Poms and The Gridiron. The sweat of heroic athleticism as patriotism, and the cosmetic appearances of morality of the middle class, while the hedonism left over from the sexual revolution of the 60s bleeds under neath the suburban pall. The uncomfortable friction and hostility of conformity vs freedom to express oneself, and the backlash of self indulgence in an unforgiving cultural undercurrent of conservatism.
The 60’s and early 70s was a time where there was an urge to ‘find oneself’ a period of societal change. Political and Social groups were trying to influence and shake up the ‘status quo.’
There was a ravenous appetite for autonomy. Kinsey, Masters & Johnson, the emancipating ‘pill’ and changes toward sexual attitudes created an environment for even more sexual exploration and indulgence. There was a dramatic shift in traditional values relating to sex and sexuality. Freud had already peeked into our bedrooms, even though sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. There were profound shifts in people’s behaviors and institutional regulations. People were just more expressive about their sexuality.
The institutionalization of young girls
Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s given the counter culture movements and availability of the birth control pill, women were offered a chance to shed their chains of moral confinement. Women had permission to seek sexual pleasure for themselves. Of course still within the parameters of the institution of ‘heterosexual marriage’ and the suburban conformist edict, in terms of what was expected from men and the male protocol.
A Metaphor: The Sexual Revolution. Sexuality& Modernity
“and the regulation of man’s sexuality in the public. D.H Lawrence may have shocked an earlier generation with Lady Chatterley’s extramarital sexual independence, but it was not until the 1970s that women’s sexuality outside marriage became widely accepted.” – From Sexuality & Modernity: The Sexual Revolution of the 60s
Goldie Hawn taken from tv’s Laugh-In
Also implicit in the film’s narrative is how Vadim extracts the satire by showcasing the insanity of putting sports before the safety of the girls and the slayings taking place at this upscale High School in suburban California. This is Vadim’s very obvious vilification of American customs and traditions. It’s a dark commentary on the priorities of American culture, the middle class, and the observances we honor while ruthlessly stabbing at the heart of humanity.
Vadim seamlessly weaves the eloquence of the classic suspense film, within the dark satire gearing up to it’s conclusion with a sangfroid and well humored calm that grows darker ever so subtly to the open ended question of male preeminence in society and the making of the mainstream suburban monster. Hudson’s comfortableness in the role lends to a realism that makes the film spare, at times sullen and capricious. I think of how the film also predates the revelations of a society that engenders a Ted Bundy or the BTK Killer.
The 70s was the time to subvert the American dream, and the ethics of the nuclear family, ripping the skin off the shiny surface exposing the dark underbelly of society and the not so family values. It was time for rebellion from the comfortable Hollywood cinema. After the 60s exploded with its ‘self hood’ back lash of Americana 50s values, which gave rise to the sexual revolution, and experimentation with drug use, The 70s was ripe for it’s exploration into and subversion of the ‘American Family’ and ‘The Family Man’, in the case Tiger McDrew.
Hudson‘s McDrew is shown as a family man only after we see him in the midst of having carnal knowledge of an underage yet highly developed young high school girl. Unlike Bluebeard who killed his wives, McDrew strives to balance his secret life of womanizing, with his being the devoted family man. Its only when one of his concubine reaches beyond seduction in order to grasp a commitment from him, does the feeling of being trapped and threatened, trigger his murderous nature.
In this way, he is a monster of convenience. A monster of necessity, like so many sociopaths to follow.
“The word “svengali” refers to a person who, with evil intent, manipulates another person. The Svengali may use pseudo-kindness, artfully or deceitfully, to get the other person to do what the Svengali desires.”
John Barrymore and his nose, in the 1931 film Svengali
There’s also a stripe of Svengali, (Svengali, a fictional character in George du Maurier‘s 1894 novel Trilby) to Tiger, who charms and lures these eager young maidens into his den of sensuality, lust and eventual demise. All the time controlling and manipulating their willful burgeoning womanhood. He moves about the high school like an erudite mentor, spouting intellectual ideas, secretly sending out pheromones to the pretty young maids.
He mentors the special boys who are meant for greatness in leadership, or show athletic prowess as Tiger reigns over the students as a self proclaimed Socratic mentor teaching them about sexual freedom, the boys to tap into their as he puts it ‘animal’ selves. The girls are merely chosen for one thing. The one thing they excel at, in his mind, that is in offering up their bodies for sexual nourishment.
The film opens with the breezy song, “Chilly Winds”, a deceptively whimsical piece with an underlying darkness to it. The music was written by Lalo Shifrin, lyrics by Christian songwriter Mike Curb, sung by the Osmond Brothers.
Yes I admit it. I had a crush on Donny Osmond and owned every 45 record and album of theirs. Saw them in concert at Madison Square Garden too. I played Chilly Winds over and over again on my little record player. Go ahead, have a good laugh. You probably still have some old Back Street Boys laying around in the back of the closet in a dusty plastic crate from Target.
As I’ve noticed about the film, one theme that pervades Pretty Maids, is not only a condemnation and backlash of the sexual exploration of freedom and promiscuity that lingered over from the 60s and evolved into a self absorbed, self submerged culture whose new exploration of sex and drug indulgence bled into the 70s. It also pokes fun at the educational system.
The film opens with our young protagonist Ponce riding his scooter to high school. He is bombarded with images of nubile girls, emerging into their ripening womanhood, wearing tight clad skirts, showing off their blossoming figures, full breasts and asses peaking out of panties that hem lines hardly obscure.
Ponce and we, are inundated with images of emerging sexuality, yet he is still quite a youngish milk fed boy, who cannot control what is happening to his body. The turbulent hardening of his penis at the mere sight of the opposite sex. He seems insignificant amongst these girls who are obviously in reality, older than high school age. He seems less apt to grab a young girls attention as he is clumsy, ambiguous, and lacking the necessary confidence so much so that he might just fade away in the throngs of students buzzing around him.
Vadim and Rocher’s fetishized camera close ups and perspectives are obsessed with breasts, legs and asses. We are being shown that these girls are ripe for the picking. Ponce, is an outsider still, on the precipice of manhood, with no sense of his own masculinity.
Interesting that the choice of name for our protagonist is Ponce bases on Ponce de Leon the Spanish explorer who was associated with the legendary Fountain of Youth. Ponce Harper does exhibit a certain perpetual innocence, or youth, amidst the rest of his class mates who are far more sexually energetic.
Ponce de Leon
Vadim’s tongue in cheek with the use of his character’s names is playful as it is obvious. Tiger is just that, a predator, and Sam Surcher is a seeker of the answers to the mystery of the killings. The only character asking the right questions. Even Angie Dickinson’s character Betty Smith, is the most mundane, and generic all American woman’s name, as she is representative of the growing number of women in the 70s who began the pursuit of their own sexual gratification.
Set the scene we are now in class. Substitute teacher, generically and innocuously named Betty Smith (Angie Dickinson) sticks her ass in Ponce’s face, then turns and asks what his report is on. He tells her John Milton. She is impressed “ah Paradise Lost” (further allusions to innocence dying ) just to further torture him, as she walks over to the next desk she bumps her breast into his face.
Ponce has troubles with constant erections, so we can see by his face that he is struggling. He excuses himself to go the bathroom, holding his notebook over his crotch to hide his bulging erection. While sitting in the stall we see his boots resting next to feet, the chalky white lifeless feet of a female.
He asks who’s there, and goes to investigate. The camera gives us a very depersonalized angle. This is not the intimate moment in a thriller one would expect, the shot is sterile almost austere, viewed from the ceiling showing us a girl with her dress hiked up, revealing white panties, face down, slumped over the toilet. In this way, it is almost more horrific, as it lacks a dramatic spirit. it is brutally real.
A single piece of paper is pinned to her panties..a sparse classical piano piece is setting the pace of the scene. Ponce opens the door to the adjoining stall, asks if she’s alright, removes the note, as the dead body of the girl slides to the floor. There’s the look of panic on Ponces face as he starts to stammer. He begins to call out for the school principal Mr Proffer, Ponce runs through the halls. It is only Ponce’s panic that flags the heightened tenor of the film’s veracity and ugliness.
Ponce keeps running thru the halls screaming for Principal Proffer. We see the Guidance Counselor’s office door, the orange/pink neon TESTING light is on. ( It might as well say FUCKING) Now we’re in the room, and there is a silken naked girl on top of Tiger McDrew. They are having sex.
Ponce barges into the principals room, where he is sitting at his desk. Ponce starts screaming.
“In our lavatory, she’s in our lavatory” pointing in ‘that’ direction. Proffer looks only slightly moved by this outburst. In McDowall’s inimitable snobbish manner he asks “Who?” “Jill Fairbutt, she’s up there in the boy’s lavatory” Proffer answers “That is very much against the rules!” “It’s not that sir, she… it’s nothing immoral…she’s dead.”
Now the mousy and fussy Harriet Craymire (Susan Tolsky) Proffer’s bespectacled secretary says to Ponce, “Mr Proffer That’s exactly how it started in other schools…a moral break down, values completely disintegrated”
Ponce keeps calling out to her until he gets her attention, “Miss Craymire it’s alright she’s dead…..”
The darkly funny yet ironic nuance of truth, making farcical the idea that it’s alright if she was immoral, because she’s paid the price…she’s dead.
Keenan Wynn who plays the bumbling simple minded local sheriff Chief Poldaski is on his way. The halls are buzzing with students. An entire crowd of people are now onlookers at the crime scene, as Principal Proffer looks inside the stall, down at the dead girl. Ponce is looking over the man’s shoulder. He says to Proffer, “This is my first murder, but should everyone be crowding in here?”
Proffer emits a response. At first you would think is one of concern but he follows up his confusion with one of the ironic gists of the film “I don’t understand this, we’ve always kept our academic averages so high.”
There’s a quick cutaway to the heavy breathing of Tiger still making it with a young girl. Back to the crowded hall way. and the appearance of Chief Poldaski on the scene. In a very telling scene, Poldaski grabs the first black male student he sees, and says, ” Just a minute you, not so fast!” The film has injected the idea of racial profiling and the law assuming that the disturbance must be related to a black man. Another student has to re direct him to the bathroom.
Again we see Principal Proffer, who looks upset yet void of compassionate , more disturbed by the nuisance of it all. He utters the words that reverberate thru the film.
“Uh…she was such a terrific little cheerleader”
Proffer moves as if to get sick in the sink. Ponce tells him please if there’s any evidence it’s being trampled by all the people in the room. The Chief comes in growling like a grizzly bear, ordering everyone to get back, as he approaches the stall. He pushes the door to the stall in such a clumsy bull in a china shop fashion that he lets it hit him in the face.
Proffer with the aide of Ponce tells Chief Poldaski “don’t you think there’s enough evidence trampling going on here” He picks up the cue and makes it his own idea. “Alright everybody stop tramplin’ on the evidence and that means everybody… so shut up!” The man is an idiot. Proffer closes his eyes as if pained.
Ponce begins to give the Chief an account of how he discovered the body. Poldaski walks over ignoring what he is trying to tell him and says “Aren’t you the football water boy? He tells him he’s the student manager. Proffer corrects Poldaski and tells him the assistant carries the water. Poldaski writes this down. The entire scene is a farce of mistakes, and carelessness amidst the seriousness of the situation. There’s a dead girl in the stall with a note pinned to her ass.
The idea of American Sports, in this case, Football, is invoked and all the concern goes out the window. We see that Vadim is telling us what the priorities are here. A school that only cares about it’s appearances as upholding moral values, reverence for athleticism, and the outward look of propriety.
Ponce continues to try and give information and is interrupted once again by the idiot Poldaski who asks how he thinks the team will do against Valley High. The Chief and Proffer talk about football while Ponce keeps pushing his voice thru the madness to tell his version of the events that led him to find the dead girl.
The naked Tiger McDrew framed from the knees down, while we see the languid nude girl lounging on the couch. The state police arrive. Tiger looks out the window through the blinds and remarks that he wonders what’s happened?
Telly Savalas as Detective Sam Surcher is cool, and as well oiled as his pre-Kojak enters the bathroom. We get a ceiling view of the room, as if looking down at a cubicle filled with mice. Again a very antiseptic point of view of the situation. Surcher asks to get a test for the presence of molestation and sperm sent to the lab. He is very serious, in the midst of the rest of the people who are trampling the scene with their passive ineptitude.
Surcher tells Ponce to go to Proffer’s office to be more comfortable when giving his account, but Chief Poldaski tells him he doesn’t need Ponce’s story he’s got it right there, and the note that was “pinned to her butt.” Surcher looks quietly amazed (with that sexy squint Savalas has) at the utter stupidity of this bungling law officer, who now pulls the note out from his back pocket. Unfolding it a little, rubbing his fingers all over it to clean it off from his pocket lint.
A SET OF MAZE LIKE SHAPES FOR LAB RATS
Handing it over to Surcher. who rubs his eyes and asks ” Let me understand this” He grabs a latex glove to handle the mangled note. ” You found this on the girls body” now laughing that classic sardonic cackle of his, “and you removed it” more jeering now ” and then you folded it” grinning widely “Carefully.”His voice trailing off into a caustic vapor.
Poldaski answers, “Otherwise you might have lost a very valuable piece of evidence…you know I’ve some very good ideas about this killing.” Surcher is mesmerized by this man’s ineptitude. He responds, “And I’m gonna need all the help I can get from you Chief” He chuckles to himself. “Starting right now.”
Quick cut to the little silver whistle being blown by the Chief as he is now assigned traffic detail.
Tiger McGrew is wrapping up his sexual encounter with the young girl when he gets the phone call from the principals office to come down. He acts surprised. Walking thru the halls the kids are asking him if he’s heard what’s happened. They are flocking to him like he is a patron saint. He heads into Proffer’s office as again we hear him on the phone saying, “She was a fine girl and a really terrific little cheerleader” Ponce is frustrated by all the inane, insensitive chatter about sports and the significance of cheerleading.
Now in Principal Proffer’s office
Tiger: “Yes we’ve had quite a run of exceptional young men thru here…and women (with a slight hesitation) Jill was one of the finest.”
Proffer: “She was such a terrific” Ponce interrupts, ” little cheerleader…dammit Mr Proffer don’t you think she’d want to be remembered for something besides leading a bunch of stupid yells” Proffer looks surprised.
Ponce is twisted into a pretzel of frustrations.
Surcher sees that Ponce is agitated and switches to asking about getting the time sequences straight.
“When you looked into the booth you recognized her…you turned and then you ran for help?”
Ponce: “Well actually I didn’t recognize her at first….( he shifts in his chair uncomfortably) we’ll I was facing her from sort of an unusual angle….and I didn’t recognize her, until after she toppled over.”
Surcher: ” Well how’d she topple over son?”
Ponce hesitating, scratching his chin, his body language gives away his skittishness. “I think I leaned on her.”
The camera pans to Proffer’s bewildered struck expression.
Surcher, his sunglasses poised atop his tan bald head, “You leaned on her…how?” he says with a curious and sarcastic air to the question.
Ponce rubs his legs with both hands. “When I bent over to read the note.”
Surcher leaning on Proffer’s desk, turns his body back in order to look at Tiger McDrew’s reaction, and then faces Ponce again. The camera pulls back to give us a wide angle view of this awkward interrogation. Surcher gets up from the desk and comes to lean in closer to Ponce, cupping his hands. “What are you, what are you so nervous about?” laughing, his question breaking away from his satyr like grin.
Now the camera frames a serious expression on Tiger’s face. His mind is waging an artful thought.
Ponce continues to answer, “Because I….keep wondering if….maybe I did it on purpose” He finally looks up into Surchers’ face, a childlike innocence washes over Ponce’s face. Like a little boy asking for his father’s approval.
Surcher calmly follows up, ” Did what” , but William Campbell as Grady, Surcher’s right hand man says, “Come on kid tell us what you did to the body” he says in a low, growling unsavory way.
Ponce gets more composed, ” I leaned my hand on her bottom, like I said….you think I’d do anything else to a dead girl?” he adds some forcefulness to his voice. ” I haven’t even had a live one yet” he laughs pathetically.
The scene ends and now we’re outside with Tiger and Ponce by the soda machines. Tiger asks “love life problems huh?”Ponce tells him, “What love life” he says acting angry and wounded by the pronouncement. “I’m 17 years old and I haven’t as much touched a girls breast yet.”
“Well maybe you haven’t found the right girl” Tiger asks if anything is bugging him. If he’s worried about acne or bad breath. Ponce begins to tell him about his trouble having constant erections. “Perhaps there is one physical thing I should have mentioned…I have kind of a problem with a…you know…erections…”
Just as he says this 2 leggy girls walk by, and Ponce moans in pain. “Is the problem constant Ponce or does it vary?”
“No, ah, it’s pretty constant” he crosses his legs. “Does anything seem to help?” “Yes they don’t seem to happen as often if I take cold showers.”
Tiger looks amazed, as Ponce continues, “When I’m with a girl the only thing that helps is if I do multiplication problems in my head…but that kinda of interferes with conversation” As Ponce is relating this to Tiger, we see Betty Smith walking slowing, a vision of pure beauty as she drifts into view.
Tanned and golden cleavage emerging out of a tight white blouse. She walks over to tell Ponce that it must have been terrible finding that poor dead girl, as she goes to shake hands with Tiger introducing herself, once again her breast pushes into Ponce’s face.
We see the wheels turning in Tiger’s head. As she walks away, and we watch her long legs in her short brown suede skirt carry her out of view.
The scene breaks and now we see the pink neon TESTING sign lit up again on Tiger’s office door.
Listening to classical music on the radio, representative of an intellectual mindset, the students are sitting at various desks. One young man gets up and tells Tiger he is done, handing him his paper.
Tiger tells him very good and begins to talk to the skinny young man in glasses.
“Incidentally…I’m putting your name down for track, next semester.” “Ah come on now Tiger, that sport scene is a drag” he says with indignation. “I don’t know how you got hooked on it”
Tiger answers him, “You can’t spend the rest of your life reading a book Harald.” The boy answers, “Ah geez.”
Tiger pats him on the shoulder ” The animal body needs animal exercise.” Harald says disdainfully, “right.” Tiger leads him out of his office with both his hands planted firmly on the boys shoulders now.
“I’m gonna teach you to feel man…to live” Harald leaves, as Tiger slaps his back heartily. Here is the indication that he is preaching to the male species to stake his claim as the sentient being, apt to conquer all. The physicality he preaches is a lesson in taking what’s rightfully his as a male animal.
McDrew is not only a misogynist but an Elitist who can afford to groom these young dissenters as they are from an entitles class.
Stripping away the intelligent shell of herself, paring down to just sexual object. Hair comes down and the glasses come off…she has deconstructed the intelligent girl symbolically.
He closes the door turns around and finds the other young girl left in his office is now starting to undress herself. Still wearing glasses herself, she is starting to shed her studious shell, and offers herself to this man who is old enough to be her father. The scene ends with her taking the last ounce of evidence of her intellect and studiousness away. She metaphorically is taking away her power and reducing herself to an ‘object’.
We are at a beach house, It is here that the polarity of Tiger’s nature is revealed to be that he is a “family man”. The dichotomous role as husband/lover -mentor/murder – inspirer/ destroyer.
Pulling up in his Mercedes Benz, a dog comes running up to him, barking happily. As he says hello to it, we are clued into this Southern California, American iconiclast’s separate life as a traditional white picket fencer.
As he is about to walk into the wooden door that leads to his back yard. Lalo Shifrin’s score is as easy breezy as a shampoo commercial for that Breck girl fresh beauty. A gay tune with a male voice sputtering la la’s all over the screen. Reminiscent of the typical 60s & 70s far out, pop culture mood. An almost Burt Bacharach thematic style that used the ‘la la’ as a musical phrase, and lots of flutes, shakers, and strummed guitar. In a word….groovy.
Perhaps Lalo Shifrin was giving a nod to his fellow composer because of the presence of Angie Dickinson who had been married to the songwriter at the time. Remember those Martini & Rossi commercials?
Just a note: Shifrin and Bacharach were huge influences on me as a songwriter.
The film now introduces Tiger’s wife, as stated like a Breck shampoo commercial, she comes swaying up the side walk. A buxom beauty, A brunette with shoulder length hair breeze blown and lips pursed. She looks at him as if she is a seductive stranger, and he at her as if he has never seen anyone as beautiful, emerging out of the blue. There is a moment, a flash of romantic mystery. Who is she? La la la…
They walk up to each other. As the music continues, the camera pans around. She looking at us, looking at Tiger sideways, sizing him up. we are circling the screen as she is circling. A camera technique often seen in films of the 60s and 70s.
“Hello, live around here…can I offer you a drink? the scene cuts quickly to a little girl who comes running over to them. We are now fully shown the other side of Tiger. The family man and the father.
The musical mood is broken as the little girl shouts Daddy Daddy. As he picks her up into his arms, they all smile, the American dream is realized. The duality is exposed. He hugs her. His wife asks about the murder. “What is school turning into?”, “You heard?” ” On the news it’s awful” he says dryly “shocking” then he tells her that he’s talked to the police, they never want to tell you anything, Just questions. He mumbles about it, as they walk off screen.
Now on the lawn of the high school the theme music Chilly Winds is playing. Students are lounging on the grass. It is the Garden of Earthly Delights in Southern California.
The camera once again focuses on bare legs, and panties, as Ponce is lying on his stomach, most likely holding back an erection, as he watches the girls walking by. One girl bends over, revealing her ass in skimpy panties, as she fixes her shoes, she says to Ponce, “Shopping?” She’s very aware that she is selling herself, using her tightly clothed barely covered body as a visual offering.
The girls are armed with provocative clothes and suggestive demeanors, all to titillate and tease, only to damn Ponce when he is drawn in by it. This also might suggest that the narrative is blaming the girls for the men objectifying them. While the extreme misogyny on Tiger’s part is reprehensible, the idea that the female body is seen as ‘object’ is not unfounded.
The bell rings, we hear non distinct laughter, the students still buzzing about, and then we are in a lab room, where one of the girls is being questioned. Hilda asks Detective Surcher in a very inquisitive tone, ” Was she raped Captain?” he tells the young woman that he’ll ask the questions, as he coolly lights up a cigarette. He’s got a very smooth air about him. Always collected and purposeful.
The criticism or I should say cynicism of the whole ‘feel good’ vibe of the 60s and 70s sexual revolution is apparent in this case where the girl spouts “I love you” to the Surcher.”
“I’m surprised that embarrasses you, well isn’t sex involved in some of the crimes you investigate?”
” Yes now and then….now about those boys, Jill used to date….were any of those boys in the habit of calling her Honey?” He turns around to show her the note, he is holding in his hand. She laughs “Yes, well, probably all of them.”
“See our generation is not afraid of feeling…affection….or expressing it. For example….I love you”
She looks up at him, with an innocence, smiling. She is an open flower, she is also numbing in her vapidness. Captain Surcher comes around her, takes his sunglasses off, and says “and I love you.”
He takes her by the hand, and leads her up out of her chair. He continues genuflecting up to the sky
“And the world must learn to love one and other” He grunts a laugh, and she chuckles a vacuous laugh to meet his grunt. Clueless that he is mocking her. He points her out the door as if he is a gay choreographer, lilting his hand to show her the way out. ” I’m afraid that will be all” He calls her by her last name, but she corrects him ” Hilda” he responds to her ” Hilda” She still laughing,while acting adult, progressive in her thinking she reveals herself as a silly vacuous child in terms of Surcher’s opinion. He responds in a mocking tone as she leaves, he puts the cigarette to his lips, still grunting and mimicking her simple minded intoxication with life.
Off screen we hear “next” as if it is a cattle call for wanna be starlets. As one beauty, or Pretty Maid walks out, another enters.
The camera watches her walk with precision. As if we are auditioning them. Again the camera assigns us the role of Voyeur. Every hip tilt, each swagger, her bare legs bringing her closer to us.
“Good afternoon Miss Melish” She corrects him as well. “Yvonne” both young girls are so hyper sexual toward this man who is much older than them. Foisting their first names on him, trying to personalize their encounter. They are being conditioned early to be the object. And Tiger is not the only one objectifying these girls. These girls are offering themselves up as well. As told through Vadim’s lens. End of scene.
Now in a classroom setting with Tiger leading a discussion. A student asks “Doesn’t every survey show that the police are oriented very conservatively?” Tiger answers ” So are many Americans”
A devious mind....
Ponce, “But if the police represent just one point of view…that could be very dangerous”
“Ponce hey come on, my dad’s dangerous, cause he’s conservative?” ” Your dad does have the power of repression” He says emphatically.
Tiger asks, “Do the Police repress us? The class sitting around in a circle, some playing chess. Tiger is clearly giving these kids the freedom to express themselves with a unconventional style of teaching.
Tiger enjoys the turmoil and conflict that he has stirred up in the class discussion, partly because he truly enjoys the critical thinking that he has engendered and also because of his egoism, it is the vast manipulation that he reinforces by planting ideas in their grasping minds.
There is also the aspect of his being a true believer in the freedom of will to do what one wants. His own philosophy that he is trying to impart to the males in particular, but the grooming of the girls to embrace their sexual freedom as well, so that they will be objects to be offered up.
The class empties out, flooding into the halls like worker ants out of the hill. In another satirical moment, Ponce has to squeeze between two girls, causing their breasts to squeegie him in the process.
It’s at this point in the film, while spying Betty Smith in the hallway, that Tiger conspires to set Ponce on her, as to deflower him, and his awkward virginity. Using his own charms to lure her into his plan, knowing that she is obviously attracted to him, he uses this to manipulate her into sleeping with this gawky young man. When he asks her to get together in his office, she obviously gets flustered. Tiger once again, is the master manipulator.
McDrew’s reel to reel tape recorder is on screen close up, and we hear his sagely voice spouting his philosophy on childhood development. This is where I believe we get a glimpse of genuine pathology behind some of his behavior. His tenets are legitimate to him.
“In a typical high school it would be difficult to invent a system more destructive of a child’s natural creativity.Only in the most backward penal institutions does one discover equally oppressive rules of silence, restriction of movement, constant examination of behavior.”
We see that it’s Surcher who is listening to Tiger’s voice on the reel to reel machine. Studying the message, developing ideas about this man in his instinctive bald head.
“A world in which one must learn to work, eat, exercise and sometimes even defecate by the clock”
As Surcher listens Tiger walks into his office and sees that his tapes are being listened to. His private world invaded.
Tiger mentions that Jill had a very good figure
At one point when the school staff headed by Principal Proffer is sitting around a table discussing whether or not to close the school, Surcher tells them all, that “the killer is part of the school, there isn’t anymore doubt about that” while McDrew starts to look pensive, almost silently hostile. Proffer starts to question whether or not they shouldn’t just close the school. One of the staff members says that they won’t win against Carverton anyway. Before adamantly adding his voice, he looks suddenly over at Surcher. It’s when McDrew chimes in “We play on Friday” that Surcher looks interested in McDrew. McDrew comments as if a warrior who will not let his men be beaten,
” Once you start retreating…life will drag you down.” Surcher looks over at him slightly stunned
Again, the football game is the primary consideration ,over the tragic killings of the girls, and the safety of future victims. And McDrew almost exposes his more brutal antagonism toward convention, referring to being dragged down could be an allusion to drag down to hell, as the painting would suggest.
MOLIERE’S DON JUAN and the correlation and emphasis the film puts on McDrew’s fixation with the Don Juan Mythos enacted in the scene where he has the students read a telling excerpt from the story…
Set the scene:
Under a tree , pretty maids lying around on the grass, Tiger reads from an author.
“Why would you have me tie myself down, for the first woman who comes along…give up the world for her and,,,,never…..look at anyone else, you see….what a fine thing that would be, to be tricked into fidelity …to bury yourself in one passion forever….and to blind from youth on to all the other….beauties” He looks at brenda sykes “That might catch your eye”
“Beauty delights me where ever I find it….
We hear Tiger still reciting n the background,from Moiliere’s Don Juan
“And I easily give over to the sweet violence which directs me. What ever happens I can’t refuse loving. What is lovable, and as soon and as soon as a beautiful girl asks for love, If I had 10,000 hearts I’d give them all to her. The act of falling in love has an undefinable charm about it. But all the pleasure in love lies in the fact that it doesn’t…….(There’s a pause, as he sees Surcher watching him recite from Don Juan,,,,,worried and sweaty, he says the last word, the pertinent word)…Last”
We are A Fetishistic Society & a society filled with Voyeurs and Voyeurism.
And of course, one of the other blaring themes, is the fact that American society is callous and uncaring about victimization. Everyone appears to be elated, euphoric, while all these girls are being killed. In the midst of this horrific reality, all the players, with the exception of Ponce at times, and Savalas’ Surcher are very dour and earnest about the situation. Whilst the entire school body etc, are celebratory and disrespectful. No reverence for the dead. Murder as spectator sport. Just like a football game with it’s cheerleaders.