All jerks and no play make Linda a very dull movie.
Some of the other titles of the West German sexploitation flick Linda are Captive Women, Naked Super Witches of the Rio Amore, and Orgy of the Nymphomaniacs. Those should tell you everything about the content of this movie. Plotwise, it involves a woman forced to work as a prostitute at a bdsm brothel on the island of Madeira, Portugal. How that actually happens doesn't much matter. The circumstances are ridiculous, and not at all the point. The point is nudity, which is delivered often and steadily. Characterwise, almost every man in the film deserves to be drawn and quartered, which makes it too bad that doesn't actually happen. It's actually a scorpion that turns the tide and allows the heroine to finally escape.
The movie is notable really for only two things: it was one of more than 100 productions helmed by Jesus Franco, that misunderstood genius, and it features 1979 Playboy centerfold Ursula Buchfellner, billed here as Ursula Fellner. Three things, actually: it's as humorless a sexploitation flick as we've ever seen. Even Katja Bienert in the title role can't save it. No way we can recommend this one, but we wanted to show you the Italian promo poster. It has the look of pieces painted by Mafé, but he signed all his work, as far as we know, so this must just be a convincing imitation. Linda premiered in West Germany for the first time today in 1981, and don't say we didn't try to steer you away.
Bonus material: just for the hell of it, just because they exist, we've uploaded a couple of promo shots of Bienert and Buchfellner below. Their names together sound kind of like a cop show, like a prime time drama where every problem is solved within an hour. We think it would have been a hit, because they've solved our problems in just a couple of minutes. But our previous advice holds true: don't watch the movie.
Nobody gets out of here alive.
We wrote about Spanish director Jesus Franco not long ago. Sort of. When we noticed another premiere date approaching for one of his films we thought we'd check it out. El reformatorio de las perdidas, originally titled Frauengefängnis, and called Barbed Wire Dolls in the U.S., is a nearly plotless exercise in sadism featuring Lina Ronay, Monica Swinn, and other overheated female convicts dealing with predatory guards and an evil wardeness. There's an escape, as usual in these Franco films, and as usual it fails. That's giving nothing away because the escape isn't the point—the nudity and sex are. Last time we discussed Franco we made a joke of it without really talking about the quality of his films. So here's the deal—they range from the arty to the ridiculous to the outright terrible. This one falls unambiguously into the latter category. That is all. Hey, but you gotta love that Spanish poster. Frauengefängnis premiered in West Germany today in 1976, and hit Spain and other countries in 1977.
For some directors pushing the envelope comes naturally.
Picture the scene: It’s 1978 and sexploitation director Jesús Franco, who has redefined sleaze cinema for the masses with fifty movies, including several in the women-in-prison genre for the West German market, is chilling on his terrace in Malaga, Spain soaking up the sun. He’s chatting with his frequent collaborator, producer Erwin Dietrich, about the next project, which they’re calling Frauen für Zellenblock 9.
Jesús: "We can probably save money by using the old costumes from Frauen im Liebeslager. Same idea, right? Women all sweaty in some godforsaken prison."
Erwin: "We left those in Cyprus. Did I mention there’s a Frauen im Liebeslager theme restaurant where the old set used to be? I hear it’s real classy. Anyway, it would’ve cost too much to have that clothing shipped out here."
Jesús: "What about the things from Das Frauenhaus or Frauengefängnis? Where’s all that? And Frauen ohne Unschuld. That stuff too."
Erwin: "Warehouse fire. Suspicious circumstances. Insurance paid off, though. But shit, Jesús, why give the girls costumes at all? Just have them be naked the whole movie."
Jesús: "What? Are you nuts?"
Erwin: "I’m just saying—why bother? Audience wants skin, give them skin. Keep the girls chained up naked the whole time. And that escape scene of yours? Just have them do it naked."
Jesús: "They all get shot in the end. I can’t have them shot naked. That’s… I don’t know… eew."
Erwin: "They can be shot naked, trust me. We make it sexy. They get shot, lay them out like centerfolds."
Jesús: "Erwin, cut it out. I mean, I admit I’m intrigued by the idea artistically, but I don’t think the girls would go for it. It’s a little too crude."
Erwin: "Oh, and I suppose all the muff-diving scenes are Shakespeare? What are these girls—aspiring Catherine Denueves or something? Isn’t one of them a porn actress?"
Jesús: "Karine? Sure, but she’s hoping to go mainstream. Anyway, it’s the fucking jungle, Erwin. There are all kinds of thorns and sharp rocks out there. Spiders. Ticks. I can’t have them running around in all that with their great big bushes out. I mean…lice…you know? Although I am intrigued. Artistically, I mean."
Erwin: "Exactly. It’s art. Last Tango in Paris, right? Bertolucci has Brando shove butter up a girl’s poop chute and the critics go bananas."
Jesús: "That’s funny." *sigh* "But I’m no Bertolucci."
Erwin: "You’re right. You’re better. One day you’ll get a lifetime achievement award for all this filth, trust me. You’ll be remembered. The crazy risks you and the girls took will seem amazing to later generations."
Jesús: "You think so?"
Erwin: "I know so. In your own twisted way you’re a genius. So anyway—naked the whole movie, okay? Or at least the entire second half. Oh, and lots of sweat. And a shower orgy. And some torture. And some pee."
Kill her and she’ll kill you back.
Jesus Franco’s Paroxismus was an Italian erotic mystery known in the English-speaking world as Venus in Furs. Basically, an American jazz musician in Istanbul goes to a party and there sees a woman involved in sadomasochistic sex. Later he finds the same woman’s body on a beach, and at that point flees to Rio de Janeiro. In Rio he plays with a jazz group, but one night sees the dead woman from Istanbul walk into the club where he’s performing. Or is it her? Whoever she is, she seems intent on exacting revenge against those who killed her. Or didn’t. Jesus Franco is a polarizing filmmaker, but if you’re ever going to like one of his films, this may be it. It’s dark and surreal, beautifully shot, has an interesting score, and a compelling cast that includes James Darren, Maria Rhome, and the always arresting Klaus Kinski. The late-1960s hepcat dialogue may amuse or repel, depending on one’s sensibilities, and those hoping for a linear plot or Hollywood ending should give up before even settling into their seats, but as a whole we thought it was quite entertaining.
In terms of understanding the film, it helped when we learned that a chance comment by the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker had been the inspiration for the script. We also discovered, on an unrelated note, that the lead as originally written was supposed to be a Miles Davis type guy, which is to say black, but Franco was shot down because American audiences were thought to be unready to see a black man and white woman in bed together. This led to the ethnic reversals of the lead role into a white jazzman and the character of Rita into his black girlfriend. Too bad for Franco he wasn’t allowed to make the film the way he wanted, but it’s impossible to be bummed with the casting of Barbara McNair as Rita, despite the circumstances. Impossible to be bummed about the art, either. The above promo poster was painted by the awesome Mario De Berardinis, who signed his work MOS, and we also have an ultra-rare alternate poster below, painted by unknown. Paroxismus premiered in Italy today in 1969.
Exploitation king Jesus Franco visits Africa for his 1971 zombie spy flick.
El diablo que vinó de Akasawa, for which you see the great poster above, is a Jesus Franco flick, so you know to expect sex, action, and dubious technical values. The film is about a detective investigating the disappearance of a professor in the fictive African land of Akasava. The sleuth discovers that the mystery revolves around a mineral that can turn metal into gold and men into zombies. Of course, everyone wants control of the substance and pretty soon spies are crawling out of the woodwork and wah-wah guitar is swelling on the soundtrack. All very fun. We're also appreciative of the art, which is based on a promo shot of star Soledad Miranda, aka Susann Korda. The progression from photo to photo-illustration to painting is similar to the one we showed you for Death Is a Woman, but with more skin. And uh, more muff. Hope we brightened your day. Now for the not-so-wonderful part—Soledad Miranda died in a car crash in Portugal in 1970, aged 27. Her fame was achieved mainly after her death, as B-movie fans rediscovered her extensive shlock catalog thanks to VHS. You can get a full idea what sort of cheesefest El diablo que vinó de Akasawa is by viewing an original trailer here. It opened in Spain today, after she was gone, in 1971.
Was Dorothy Stratten really a superstar in the making? Her only film offers few clues.
The sole film foray by oft-eulogized Playboy model Dorothy Stratten, Galaxina is a low budget sci-fi farce that is to space operas what Steven Wright once was to stand-up comedy—which is to say, it presents the absurd with an utterly straight face. If not for Stratten it’s safe to say this film would be entirely forgotten by now. She plays the icy android caretaker of a deep space cruiser who reprograms herself so she can experience physical love. But this is no Just Jaeckin or Jesus Franco sex romp—director William Sachs plays it coy, and Stratten’s form-fitting jumpsuit stays firmly zipped throughout. Perhaps that is a sign of how seriously people took her talent—though she had already been nude for all the world to see, her handlers didn’t want to make the sexploitation flick everyone expected. How much of Stratten’s star potential is spun from thin air by Playboy’s aggressive self-promotional machine is difficult to say, because Galaxina is itself too thin to offer much evidence either way. But if we imagine for a moment that she had not been shotgunned to death and this film had been followed by a successful Hollywood career, Galaxina wouldn’t have been an embarrassment for Stratten to look back upon. Some of the greatest actors of all time can’t claim the same. Galaxina opened in the U.S. today in 1980.
Rosanna Yanni and Janine Reynaud are the kiss of death in Jesus Franco’s campy spy thriller.
If we had to select our favorite sexploitation director, guys like Russ Meyer, Italy’s Mario Bava, and France’s Just Jaeckin would be in the running, but the top dog might possibly be Spain’s Jesus Franco. Franco has helmed an unbelievable 190 movies, including the one accompanying this fantastic poster painted by Macario Gomez—El caso de las dos bellezas, aka Rote Lippen, Sadisterotica, aka Two Undercover Angels. The camp factor is high here. The heroines are the Red Lips, two ultragroovy superspies played by Rosanna Yanni and Janine Reynaud. The villains are a sadistic artist and his henchmonster, Morpho the werewolf, who are killing girls and taking photos to use as inspiration for paintings. If you haven’t seen a Franco movie, this is a good one to start with. Several shots of Jägermeister are a helpful viewing aid, but aren’t required. El caso de las dos bellezas was released in Spain today in 1969.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Martin Luther King Buried
American clergyman and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is buried five days after being shot dead on a Memphis, Tennessee motel balcony. April 7th had been declared a national day of mourning by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and King's funeral on the 9th is attended by thousands of supporters, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
1953—Jomo Kenyatta Convicted
In Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta is sentenced to seven years in prison by the nation's British rulers for being a member of the Mau Mau Society, an anti-colonial movement. Kenyatta would a decade later become independent Kenya's first prime minister, and still later its first president.
1974—Hank Aaron Becomes Home Run King
Major League Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th career home run, surpassing Babe Ruth's 39-year-old record. The record-breaking homer is hit off Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and with that swing Aaron puts an exclamation mark on a twenty-four year journey that had begun with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, and would end with his selection to Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame.
1922—Teapot Dome Scandal Begins
In the U.S., Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall leases the Teapot Dome petroleum reserves in Wyoming to an oil company. When Fall's standard of living suddenly improves, it becomes clear he has accepted bribes in exchange for the lease. The subsequent investigation leads to his imprisonment, making him the first member of a presidential cabinet to serve jail time.
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