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.
The juvenile delinquency subgenre was one of the evergreens of exploitation cinema. Every generation thinks the kids coming up behind them are just the wildest, most wanton monsters that ever existed, and the subject makes for an easy mix of sensationalism and mildly taboo titillations. In a cinematic realm known to be boldly transgressive of social norms and mores, it is unfailingly amusing that the rather conservative “Get off my lawn!” was one of exploitation’s loudest and longest lasting rallying cries.
From 1935 to roughly 1965, a host of B movie producers kept cranking out films that were as identical as McDonalds hamburgers. The flavors of moral panic and the fashions would change (jazz and liquor giving way to hot rods and tight sweaters) but the films would always work on the same basic engine.
Teens (read: not a day below 25) would be tempted by some combination of forbidden things that dared look like they might actually be fun. Sex, drugs, queerness, multiculturalism, or music with a beat you can actually dance to were all on the permanent naughty list.
At least one character (usually the designated hero, but not always) abstains from the debauchery, but is such a sanctimonious prat it is impossible to root for them, even on the rare occasions they are right. The wayward and their exploits provide the more salacious content that actually got asses in the seats.
That brings us to today’s film. A tale of two sisters, one as pure as the driven snow, the other headed toward the slush of late nights and stiff drinks. Let’s get into Elmer Clifton’s 1944 melodrama, Youth Aflame:
This particular print is billed under the alternate title of HoodlumGirls. The film was shot in 1942, released in 1944. Amazingly, prints were still kicking around the bottom of double features 15 years later, as the copyright date for the retitling is 1959. Youth Aflame/Hoodlum Girls outlived its own director, as Elmer Clifton died of a brain hemorrhage in 1949.
Meet Katy White (Joy Reese). She has been lying in state at the Receiving Hospital of the Police Department (as per the prominently placed signage). In the innocent days of 1944, I suppose people believed the police would have actual reason to want to help someone heal.
In any case, she briefly comes to from her coma/shock at the wartime ban on nylons/whatever. She shrieks about someone having a gun. Katy then notices her sister Laura (Kay Morley) at her bedside,and mumblingly chastises her about being too pretty to do the things she did, whatever those were. Framing device established, Katy daintily passes back out to cut to our first flashback.
Laura sneaks through the girls’ shared bedroom window after a late night of dancing and drinks with Mr. Al Simpson. Katy promptly lectures her about staying out late, having a drink and accepting the gifts of liquor and the rather fetching slip Laura is currently wearing.
Laura wants to drop out of school and marry Al. Katy, greatly overestimating the job market for women once the war ended, thinks Laura needs a diploma so she can afford to buy her own things
Not only is she a scold, but Katy had it backwards. Laura could ONLY do what she’s doing because she’s so pretty. A full night of dinner, drinks and dancing, new lingerie AND home in time to not wake dear old Daddy? Well played.
After a few more of Katy’s parent defending bedside confessions of a terminal kiss ass, we cut to our next flashback. Katy and Laura are being raised by their bank guarding single dad. He has no issue brandishing one of his work guns at the table, but scolds Katy for picking it up because “guns aren’t for girls”.
Half the neighborhood shows up to interrupt the family’s breakfast, including Mr. Al Simpson (who is just as much of a sleazy lech as you’d expect), some random guy who likes to spout factoids, the student body president from school, and a policewoman following up on Laura’s report of a skirt being stolen from her locker. Mr. White is nonplussed by all of this, until the female police officer shows up, because “police work is a man’s job”.
When Mr. White wanders back off to the living room to make an itemized list of all the other things puny ladybrains can’t do, Mr. Simpson takes the opportunity to suck face with Laura, and inform her that if she REALLY loves him, she’ll steal one of Daddy’s guns for his unspecified “business”.
Katy and the wholesome jars of mayo she calls friends help Madame Policewoman set up a milk bar called the JIVE club to keep the local teens out of trouble and on their way to the appropriate calcium intake. Because B pictures always need some insulation to hit minimum feature runtime, we watch along with the squares as some dork in a car salesman sport coat drums tunelessly for 5 minutes out of a 57 minute film.
Laura steps in for all of us when she sneaks off to a real bar (smart), to pass on the gun to Al Simpson while trying to convince him to marry her (not so much). At least the filler entertainment at the real bar is three pretty ladies who do some legitimately impressive acrobatics in heels.
While Katy and her squad of suck ups butter up Ms. Policewoman with tales of how she saved them at a critical time in their lives, where their nerdier friends “could have gone either way”, the intrepid investigator notices Laura is not amongst her fawning fans.
Katy briefly redeems herself when she goes to the real club to warn her sister that the fuzz are on their way. She then ruins it immediately by switching back to her usual nagging. Now that Laura has committed to her plan of getting Mr. Simpson to marry her, Katy gives her a lecture that you “shouldn’t want marriage to get AWAY from home, but to build one”
In any case, Al Simpson is sick of Katy’s meddling, and he needs the gun still sitting in Laura’s purse. He spikes the punch at the JIVE ass club. Drunken fun ensues, and the squares even manage a jitterbug. Of course, the sound of joy means the cops come to shut it down.
Some more filler as we watch Laura and Al listen to a crooner that would embarrass Michigan J Frog. Meanwhile, one of Al’s cronies lures Katy into Al’s empty house, telling her that Laura is waiting for her there. Unsurprisingly, Al’s BFF is also what the parlance of the time would call a “masher”, and that I would call “deserving of a solid kick in the balls”.
Square jaw class president comes to save the day with some shadowboxing, followed by a perturbed Al and Laura. The exertion disrupts his Brylcreemed coif, but he manages to get both sisters out of the apartment.
Mr. White finally noticed his girls were missing, and Katy’s insurance salesman of a boyfriend gets a dressing down for the lateness of the hour and the proof of the booze.
The girls go to bed, and their usual bickering devolves into a catfight. In full coverage, borderline union suit style pajamas. This somewhat defeats the purpose of including a catfight that isn’t remotely necessary to the plot.
We’re coming in hot on the last of the runtime, and it won’t take much to resolve the main plot. Here comes the filler, where a girl we’ve seen for maybe 30 seconds in the whole film, gets a feature turn as a teen that attempts to attempt suicide for the guilt of imbibing. Dame Policewoman saves her with a lecture, and wore her best tissue ruffle, tear absorbent blouse.
She then has a roundtable discussion with all of the “good kids” about how it’s their civic duty to snitch on the person who had the shitty taste to bother making White Russians out of all possible cocktails. The JIVE club must reopen to provide “congenial social gathering places” for the youth to learn to eventually become good providers and happy housewives.
Girls like Laura who like glamour, excitement or the remotest possibility of sexual agency? If all girls were like them, “there wouldn’t be any homes!”.
Speaking of, Laura has dressed up in her best imitation of a frontier madam to run away from home for good, another one of Daddy’s bank guarding guns in her bag. If this caper doesn’t make that Al Simpson marry her, NOTHING will!
No one notices for quite a while, as the earth shattering revelation that it was likely SOMEONE OLD ENOUGH TO BUY LIQUOR that spiked the punch is reverberating in the goody two shoes and useless authority figure community.
As for Daddy? He’s too busy ripping Katy’s Milquetoast McHearthrob a new one, again. In a brilliant(-ly stupid) countermove, Potato Salad With Raisins asks for Katy’s hand in marriage.
Then and only then do they notice Laura’s hastily scrawled note on a paper grocery bag. Mr. White, being consistently characterized, complains immediately at the waste of time and money it was trying to educate her feeble femmechild mind, and he once again harrumphs off to the living room to contemplate female uselessness and smoke cigars.
Surprising no one…..Al reveals he had no intention of marrying Laura…….
…..but Laura finally lives up to that ridiculous hat and pulls the gun on Simpson to make it clear, wedding bells or ambulance sirens…….
……luckily Katy and Mr. Suave Sweatervest arrive in the nick of time…….
….only to find Katy passed out on the floor from the shock of none of this having sweet fuck all to do with her……
…..which explains all of her melodramatic swooning in the opener.
Once Mrs. Policewoman hands Laura, Al, and his flunky over to the jail wardens, she delivers quite the dressing down to Mr. White. Is it because of his blatant neglect of his own kids? The fact that not 1 but 2 unsecured guns got stolen out of his household? That he is clearly the worst security guard on the planet? His unbridled disdain for women?
Nope. She lectures him on his lack of understanding of modern youth, who need good clean social entertainments in addition to home life, in order for delinquency tragedies like this not to happen. What qualifies as a good, clean social entertainment? You guessed it. Her god damned milk bar.
Cut to credits on a cautionary tale that may as well have been brought to you by the Dairy Farmers of America and the local 4H. Milk, milk, lemonade….on Poverty Row the fudge is made.
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”