After his wildly successful adventures in gore horror with Herschell Gordon Lewis, producer David F. Friedman saw the writing was also on the wall for the relatively innocent days of the nudie cutie. Sexploitation fans were also ready for something more shocking, box office receipts declining by the minute for playful peeping and nudist frolics.
A very young Lee Frost (still credited under his “respectable” documentarian guise of R.L. Frost) signed on as director. The production’s budget was a minuscule $11,000. Friedman wrote the script himself, and The Defilers was cranked out in just 5 days.
The film starts out pretty firmly in juvenile delinquent territory, with the affluent Carl (Byron Mabe, director of She Freak) picking up his best friend Jameison (Jerome Eden) and a bevy of beauties for a day at the beach. Carl is quickly bored with bikini babes and booze, and soon he’s pontificating in the way only the entitled idle rich can. The only thing that matters in this “crummy, square infested life” is kicks, and he’s not getting any out of this incredibly long game of beach blanket bingo.
Turns out the real hep cats get their kicks out of taking their girlfriends to daddy’s empty warehouses that double as secret sex dungeons, peeping on their best friend’s sexual conquests, or idly burning their beach companions with cigarettes just to watch them flinch. Every woman in the film points out that Carl is a maximum overdrive creeper, but Jameison staunchly defends his best buddy in a way that is either sheer stupidity or a borderline homoerotic infatuation.
Picking up some weed from blowsy madam imported from a different movie connect Mrs. Olson (Mimi Marlowe), they meet her new tenant, the fresh off the farm Jane Collins (Mai Jansson). Trying to cover her drug dealing tracks, Mrs. Olson pretends it’s a social call and volunteers the boys to give Jane a ride out to the valley for her acting lessons. Like every other busty blonde in Hollywood, she left her family and friends back home in Minnesota to try to break down the pearly gates of the movie studios.
Stoned out of his mind and pissed he had to waste gas he probably didn’t even pay for, Carl cooks up a plot to kidnap Jane, and keep her in his dirty mattress rape den as a personal sex slave. Jameison resists for all of 5 minutes, but the risk of being caught and the sheer vileness of the plan are nothing in the face of being called a chicken by Carl. The pair lure poor Jane into their lair with the promise of a party, and a film that had already rounded the corner into bleakness goes pitch black.
While a lot of the New York City shot films of the period are so inept they almost become comical, The Defilers is shot in an effective bargain basement noir style, with a slick jazz soundtrack and some decently accurate hipster slang. Byron Mabe and Jerome Eden are fairly credible in their sociopathy and spinelessness, respectively.
It’s just professional enough to hold your attention as a narrative film, but just grungy enough that you have reason to be suspicious of the fact that the majority of the female cast never made another movie. When a single tear rolls down Jane’s face in close up as she is being assaulted, its disquietingly real looking.
Both David Friedman (Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS) and Lee Frost (A Climax of Blue Power) moved on to make much bigger, more explicit cinematic provocations. With its depressingly matter of fact treatment of male entitlement and the violence as money shot roughie template it helped originate, The Defilers has a uniquely grimy power entirely its own. There are plenty of films more explicitly violent or sexual, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything much sleazier. The Defilers is just as dark and nasty as the sticky seat adult theaters it played in.
Jade Cochran (Claire Brennen) is a diner waitress with a terrible Southern accent and an even worse boss. When an advance man for a traveling show stops in for lunch, Jade leaves the greasy spoon behind for an exciting job at the carnival…..as a waitress.
Jade’s wonder at her new home allows director Byron Mabe (The Acid Eaters) PLENTY of time to linger over every detail of the shooting location, and there’s actually a pretty decent industrial/time capsule of carny life in all the meandering. Set up, tear down, hand painted banners, the actual mummified corpse of an Old West outlaw and accurate explanations of the snappy slang of showfolk are all present and accounted for with a 60’s lounge pop soundtrack.
After 20 minutes of grab ass at the greasy spoon, and a solid half hour of Jade’s day at the fair, the film suddenly remembers the framing device at its opening and gets into its actual plot. That plot being a half cooked knock off of Tod Browning’s 1932 classic, Freaks, give or take the actual sideshow performers and a burlesque style stripper.
Jade is our ersatz scheming acrobat, character actor Bill McKinney is the sweet natured sucker, and the firing of a little person ever so cleverly named Shorty (Felix Silla) is the catalyst for the unseen freaks’ revenge. Gorgeously tense avenging angels advancing in the rain, a few extras lit with color gels holding prop knives in their teeth, what’s the difference? You say potato, David Friedman and crew say po-tat-o.
The final transformation of Jade manages to be campy, crepe-y and cleavage-y all at once. Unless you are a sucker for circuses, carnivals and other old fashioned American amusements, its a bit of a slog to get to the reveal the movie sets up for in the opening sequence. If you have particularly fast fingers you can freeze frame the trailer above and catch the monster. Those with poor twitch reflexes can check out the poster art. Either way, you’ll have seen enough of this She Freak to to get your ten cents worth and make haste for the egress.
Doris Wishman was a suburban housewife who picked up film making as a hobby after the death of her husband in 1958. A failed actress and former secretary for a film distributor, her hobby bloomed into a 40 year exile into the heart of lowbrow film making. Brassy, ballsy, and barely five feet tall, she self financed over 30 films, that spanned every major niche of exploitation as the first (read: only) lady of the genre.
That said, the story of Doris Wishman as a person, is far more cinematic than her actual output. Her films are bargain subbasement affairs, with all of the technical acumen of your cousin Henry manning the camcorder at your other cousin’s Bar Mitzvah. Lamps are always ready for their close up. Stock footage and poorly framed location shots run amok, inserted at random. Any resemblance between the audio dialog and the movement of the actors’ lips is entirely coincidental. Join me for this spectacularly titled bit of Sixties sleaze, and brace yourself for an intro into the wild(-ly inept), weird world of Ms. Doris Wishman:
Stock jazz putters over the opening credits as we see a couple resting in a rumpled bed. Beautiful blonde Meg would prefer her husband Ted stay home with her, rather than heed the alarm clock and head to work on a Saturday. Being as the camera cuts away at the slightest hint of sound that might need to sync up, let’s assume this conversation happens telepathically.
When bickering fails to do the trick, Meg joins Ted for a brief make out in the shower (and inexplicably emerges in full make up). She struts around both nude and in a rather fetching lace nightie. In an odd choice of last resort, she decides to wage war over the value of a balanced breakfast rather than a quick coffee. Ted placates her just long enough to physically toss her back into bed. He then hauls ass out of the apartment faster than you can say “three martini lunches”.
Down but not out, Meg ties up her hair in a scarf, puts on some panties beneath her sheer nightgown, and steps into her marabou trimmed housework heels.
As Meg goes to take out the trash, the building’s knuckle dragging janitor gives her a distinctly predatory leer. The hulking mass of hydrogenated oil and hubris blocks the hallway, undressing Meg with his eyes. Greased lightning goes from zero to sexual assault in about 15 seconds. My joy at the stock music finally changing is promptly ruined by his revolting pig grunting as he rapes our heroine. The visual of the wide polyester plains of his Dockers clad posterior rippling as he vigorously ruts like a farm animal will haunt my nightmares more than “Cannibal Holocaust” ever could. Hearing someone coming, he lets Meg crawl back to her own apartment. He also chases after moose & squirrel threatens her not to tell as she leaves.
The respite is short lived. Meg barely has time to cry before he slips a blackmail note under her door, demanding she come to his apartment. Otherwise, he will tell her husband everything. Poor Meg tries to bribe him, but all Lardy Mc Lecherous wants is to finish what he started in the hall. Rather than be victimized again, Meg bludgeons him to death with an oversize ashtray. I love you, Phillip Morris.
Knowing no one will believe her if she tells the truth of what happened, Meg runs away to New York, hoping even a rape revenge murder will be treated with indifference, as long as it wasn’t committed by someone from the bridge & tunnel commuter suburbs.
Meg does get lost in the big city crowd, as the camera settles on the feet of the passerby for a period of time that would make even Quentin Tarantino go vanilla. Just feet, Folgers Crystals music and my regret at asking just how much one can pad a movie with an already scant 63 minute runtime.
Sadly, the newly minted “Ellen Greene” of “Chicago” doesn’t fare much better than poor old Meg. Geography doesn’t change the fact that you need more than backcombing and big sunglasses to start a new life.
The mild mannered man who takes her in when he finds her crying on a park bench? A recovering alcoholic. Ellen/Meg savagely misses his various hints, serves him a cocktail as a misguided thank you, and gets beaten senseless with a belt for her trouble.
Tracy, the seemingly nice woman Ellen/Meg meets while window shopping? Has an identical cousin Della who does indeed need a roommate. Tracy just neglects to mention than any roommate of Della’s won’t need to sleep in a separate bed. Given that this is 1965, Ellen/Meg takes likely statistic over happily Sapphic.
(Surprisingly, Doris Wishman shelled out for twin actresses Darlene and Dawn Bennett to play Tracy and her cousin Della. Had I not double checked IMDB, my bet would have been it was the same person wearing a blonde wig. I suppose this movie really was her magnum opus)
Ellen/Meg finally decides that renting a room would be superior to the explosive unkindness of strangers. The wife of the couple she rents from gives her no more stress than some questions about Chicago. The wife just has no clue her husband is yet another rapist. He waits until everyone is asleep and beats Ellen/Meg into unconsciousness. Silence secured, he assaults her, muffin top spilling over his hideous gingham boxers in the process. Where the fuck is the cutaway to a random piece of home decor when I actually need one?
Just in case the point was not clear, this film pads like a drag queen. Every one of these upheavals means more street feet, trees and soft jazz as Ellen/Meg travels from place to place. I wanted to do the same timestamped review format as “Death Drug” , but the sheer amount of nothing happening made that an impossibility. Instead, I made an editorial photo gallery of all of the vintage lingerie and loungewear looks in the film for this week’s Bonus Round, as I had tons of time to kill. Seriously, I would have done less waiting for the Rapture or Godot, whichever suits your ideology.
Ellen/Meg answers an ad for a paid caretaker, and it’s a Mrs. Thorne. A kindly elderly lady with plenty of tchochkes. Will the lambs finally stop screaming? Or will Mrs. Thorne’s son the private detective figure out “Ellen’s” true identity? The tension ratchets up when he arrives for a visit, and just as he has sussed our protagonist as murderous Meg………….
…….she wakes up in her own bed in Boston, with good old no breakfast, body slammer Ted to comfort her after her terrible dream. He heads off to work, she tidies up the apartment. Meg opens the door to take out the trash, just as she had in her dream……..
Hell really IS other people…..particularly filmmakers who reuse the first 10 minutes of their own film to avoid the expense of writing or shooting an actual ending.
Bonus Round: The Lingerie Of “Bad Girls Go To Hell”