Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

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Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
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Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
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Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
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Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

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Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

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Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

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Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

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Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

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There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
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Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
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Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
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Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
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Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

From the Vault- Russ Meyer’s The Seven Minutes 1971-

THE SEVEN MINUTES 1971

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The Seven Minutes 1971 is based on a novel by Irving Wallace. Directed by provocateur Russ Meyer (Lorna 1964), Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill! & Mudhoney(1965) with a screenplay by Richard Warren Lewis and an uncredited Manny Diez. This film comes on the heels of his hit at FOX with Beyond the Valley of the Dolls 1970. (Dolls with a screenplay by Roger Ebert) Meyer and Fred Mandl (Checkmate, The MunstersThe Twilight Zone, The Fugitive) create a great visual romp with the cinematography. The opening titles roll over the first almost seven minutes of the film as we hear the ticking of a clock…

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With a very unusual cast of character actors starring Wayne Maunder as Mike Barrett, Marianne McAndrew  (Hello Dolly 1969, The Bat People 1974) as Maggie Russell. Philip Carey (I’ve always been amazed at how much he reminds me of Charlton Heston) as District Attorney Elmo Duncan.

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Phillip Carey has always reminded me of Charlton Heston in stature and mannerism- great underrated character actor….

The awesome Jay C. Flippen as Luther Yerkes, Edy Williams as Faye Osborn, Lyle Bettger as Frank Giffith, Stanley Adams as Irwin, Jackie Gayle as pornographer Norman Quandt, Ron Randell, Charles Drake, Olan Soule and John Carradine as Sean O’Flanagan, Harold J. Stone and Yvonne De Carlo as Constance Cumberland.

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the ubiquitous John Carradine. I could watch him in anything… he tickles me…
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the beautiful Yvonne de Carlo here as Constance Cumberland movie actress.
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love love love that Yvonne de Carlo- a kindly beauty (I met her on the set of Laugh-In at the Westbury Music Fair in the 70s while taping the show live… She was an absolute gem, warm hearted and filled with tangible grace.)

Music by Stu Phillips (Quincy M.E.) with Lionel Newman supervising. BB King sings Seven Minutes.

‘The Seven Minutes’ refers to an artistically erotic banned book published thirty five years ago in Paris, that essentially opens up the floodgates for the public discourse about pornography, censorship, violence against women and the dual standards during a time when morality was ambiguous. You know, just like today.

the titles

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Argo Book Stores clerk played by Robert Maloney… arrested for knowingly selling smut… convenient scapegoat for the cause.
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Charles Drake plays vice cop Kellogg entrapping the poor Mr Fremont book seller for being a clerk where an allegedly filthy book is being sold.

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A bookstore clerk is indicted for selling the obscene material which leads to a court trial. There is also the question as to whether this licentious book actually led to the rape of a young girl. The film is part trial based as the defense lawyers try to hunt down any clues that would prove the author of the book was not a smut merchant but trying to express an artistic viewpoint which can not be silenced by censorship.

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Wayne Maundy as Michael Barrett defense attorney for bookseller Fremont

The author and the mystery surrounding their identity is key to the plot. Meyers does a high spirited job of developing this narrative with engrossing scenes that portray a society of zealots and self serving neophytes in turmoil with themselves. All amidst a groovy 70s palate that’s nostalgic and filled with a colorful verisimilitude.

The film opens with some great 70s devil may care by composer Stu Phillips. At first we see a beauty chasing her dog passed a small storefront. The story reveals that the vice bureau is staking out the ARGUS book store, as Sgt Kellogg (Charles Drake) walks in with his cigarette box tape recorder ready to entrap the clerk for selling smut. He asks the young bookseller for something ‘brand new -unusual, ‘something you wouldn’t find in an ordinary library.’ The clerk (Robert Maloney) just tells him to look around, the jackets tell the story pretty well.

Kellogg casually asks for one particular book on display The Seven Minutes by JJ Jadway and the bookseller repeats the title ‘Oh yeah” Kellogg remarks, “That’s a pretty sexy cover ain’t it?” As Kellogg ogles the pretty blonde talking to the young clerk who tells him she’ll see him later.

Sargent Kellogg (Charles Drake) “You read it?” Clerk -“The new addition at least… the first one was banned thirty five years ago.” Kellogg- “How come it was banned?” Clerk– “Cause it was considered obscene” Kellogg- “Do you think the book’s obscene?” Clerk– “Why don’t you buy the book and find out for yourself.” “How much is it?” ” $7.30 with the tax.”

“Wrap it up… You the manager around here?” Clerk-“yeah, the day manager.” Kellogg-“Who do I bring it back to if I don’t like it” the clerk answers– “Fremont, Ben Fremont.” Kellogg waves.

Kellogg’s partner is tape recording the conversation from the car. “Took you long enough.” “Literary conversations take a little doing, we better start comparing, same jacket same title, same publisher, same publishing date and copyright… Let’s pay Mr. Fremont another visit.”

They arrest him for knowingly selling obscene matter which is a misdemeanor in the state of California. And thus starts the ball rolling in this film. As the powers that be, seek out district attorney Duncan who feels that The Seven Minutes would be found obscene if taken to court.

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Mike and Faye Osborne are bed pals. She’s the spoiled daughter of an influential father.
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Cars the way they used to look… oh those were the days.
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never had one of these… but I know people who did! cool…70s memorabilia. Even the brown striped sheets.

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the hair and the groovy chick appear later on at a funky club but I couldn’t resist putting her in the visual time capsule with the volkswagon bug and the phone and Selleck…teehee
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Mr Selleck don’t you look fine! He plays the publishers son Phil Sanford of Sanford Publishing. 

Check out that cherry Volkswagon and Corvette, check out that cool 70s phallus phone, Check out that wild moppy fro..check out that really young Tom Selleck as the publishing guy… who calls hot shot attorney Michael Barrett (a very cool Wayne Maunder) who is representing the publisher Phil Sanford (Tom Selleck) who’s in a panic about the book clerk Fremont going to jail for selling one of Sanford House’s books.

The tower of self righteousness Elmo Duncan the D.A. (Phillip Carey) wants to be propelled into the Senatorial seat in California. The powers that be who want him to become Senator conspire to exploit this contrived issue of corruption & decency so Duncan has a powerful platform to run on. This elite cabal want to build a state wide case in which Elmo Duncan can fight the ‘Smut Merchants.’

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Defense Attorney Mike Barrett tries to appeal to district attorney Duncan.
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District Attorney Duncan looms large as the figure of ethical fortitude.
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the secret cabal setting up the scenario for Duncan to influence public opinion and win the election. Stanely Adams, Olan Soule & Jay C. Flippen

They have a political agenda to stamp all youthful violence incited by salacious material in reading matter and films, and so this cause has become the lynch pin with which they hope to win an election on, making ‘The Seven Minutes’ the subject of their campaign.

Meanwhile, a violent rape takes place involving the son Jerry (John Sarno) of a wealthy advertising tycoon Frank Griffith (Lyle Bettger) who owns a copy of The Seven Minutes and was present at the time of the assault committed by his psychotic friend, the one who actually commits the brutal rape.

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The rape scene is handled with quick cuts interwoven with Wolf Man Jack doing his thing on the air. It’s all very frenetic as the soundtrack “love train” is sung by Don Reed.

The prevailing secret surrounding pathetic Jerry Griffith (John Sarno) is that he’s been emasculated by his domineering father and now can’t get it up, so he’s impotent sexually and in helping Sheri Moore (Yvonne D’Angers) while she’s being attacked by his violent friend.

Jerry takes the blame for the rape, refuses to talk about it, there by implicating himself as an impotent sissy and allows the lynch mob and voyeurs to assert that Jerry would not have committed such an act if the The Seven Minutes hadn’t been available to him. Duncan is now convinced that a clean boy wouldn’t have done the crime if it weren’t for the availability of the dirty book.

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this is Shawn ‘baby doll’ Devereaux -well it sure ain’t Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan’s vision of Carroll Baker is it…

These hypocritical old cronies have young girls of their own on the side, watch pornography while salivating at the mouth. Yerkes has a girlfriend he calls ‘baby doll’ who dances provocatively for these guys. She’s got ample boobs (It is a Russ Meyer film after all) hanging out of her 70’s style yellow hot pants. Amidst the interesting subject matter Shawn ‘Baby Doll’ Devereaux gyrates and inserts herself into the frame so show us the hypocrisy of these old farts who condemn others for their own personal agenda all the while being the worst kind of purveyors of sinful behavior.

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the wealthy Frank Griffith that wants all this smut taken out of the reach of impressionable teens like his son. What’s carefully framed by Meyers playing in the background is a porn film that the men have been reviewing and enjoying way too much-we witness the HYPOCRISY

Russ Meyer had his own dealings with censorship so the subject is probably of very personal substance for him. He does a fantastic job of pointing out the duality of persuasions. And he builds the story really well here. Showing the belligerence by equal sides of the coin toward a moral center and a society ripping at the shreds of personal freedom to express, create and destroy.

Wayne Maunder The Seven Minutes

Whether you’re an avid Russ Meyers fan or just think you might like to venture into the complex questions the film evokes, presented in that real 70s style The Last Drive In weeps for most days, it’s a film worth watching, even just to spot the few character actors that pop up on the screen like baby doll’s and Faye Osborne’s (Yvonne & Edy) eh hems… well you know… the cleavage shot!

What appears on the surface as a controversy surrounding a banned book that contains alleged salacious material-The defense evokes some good examples of Henry Miller’sTropic of Capricorn’ or, D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ etc.

What manifests is an interesting commentary on censorship, masculinity and the spurious connection between perceived immoral content and violence in society..

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Manhood and masculinity is a texture that is not necessarily used as the theme in the story, but let me tell you it is all pervasive with images of Duncan heaving his heavy weights as he sweats and works out in front of Mike, spouting his holier than thou rhetoric. It was almost masturbatory.

He gave Michael that “politician’s holier than thou number” Duncan was hostile while he pumped weights in front of the intellectual Mike Barrett. A dueling of masculinity and the question of causality with pornography and violence against women.

Duncan talks to a church official about ‘freedom’ Duncan– “We only want to penalize those who would corrupt it.”

Duncan and his reprehensible comrades belong to a group called Strength Through Decency.

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The acronym STD... was this intentional? Probably. It’s hilarious as these types of organizations do spread like a social disease. They’re against lust, motorcycles, homosexuals and lesbians. All the factors that made the 70s so dangerous of course. Those lustful lesbians on motorcycles riding down 5th avenue in NYC wreaking havoc with our delicate morality. Why I’m surprised we all survived it…

So as much as the words “smut merchants’ are bandied around, and the question of censorship takes priority in full view, the underlying sub-context is the posturing of masculinity and the double standard of sexism & classism and who gets to play and who must obey.

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Marianne McAndrews is fabulous as Maggie Griffith. I really dig those orange orbs… truly the light fixtures I mean…

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I won’t get into story behind the mystery or the trial, the story behind Jerry’s impotence, the elitism, the ultimate reveal about the author of The Seven Minutes. The media frenzy that occurs which feeds on the sensationalism of the situation who condemn the book but want to hear about the details of rape victim Sherri’s violation.

Is The Seven Minutes a beautiful novel about a woman’s awaking or really filthy trash. You’ll have to find out… but I’ll say that Russ Meyer’s The Seven Minutes is a great addition to the social conscious sexually charged films of the late 60s & 70s like Roger Vadim’s Pretty Maids All In a Row, and Robert Thom’s  Angel, Angel Down We Go 1969…

Your ever loving MonsterGirl.