Bite Size: The Playbirds (1978)

If you were going to make a hazard index for genre cinema occupations, models would definitely be near the top of the list, right alongside sex workers, camp counselors and babysitters. There is a certain amount of practical logic in this, as most audiences will read “model” as a shortcut to glamour and glitter, and it’s an occupation that requires little budgetary strain to convey onscreen. Some white backing paper, a few hot lights, and someone to announce “Beautiful!” or “Good!” while the shutter loudly snaps on the soundtrack is usually enough to establish the basic idea.

Additionally, there’s plenty of tried and true storyline possibilities for everything from sweet country girls corrupted by the big city, to catty backstage melodrama, or obsessive stalk and slashers of a wide variety of stripes. It’s also pretty easy to dial up the level of skin, sin and sleaze depending on if the model in question is a high fashion catwalker, a pin up, or an adult industry star. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the actress can actually pose, as the goal is not the still images anyway. It’s an easy win for all parties concerned.

This movie’s titular magazine (gifted with its own disco lounge theme song playing over the opening credits) is your typical sort of mainstream nudes, a touch naughtier than Playboy, but nowhere near as explicit as Hustler. It is the crown jewel of Harry Dougan’s (Alan Lake) smut empire, who uses the fortune he’s made from the skin business to live a leisurely life of casting couches, champagne, and horse racing. His idle rich routine gets interrupted when Playbirds centerfolds start turning up dead.

Grizzled Inspector Holbourne (Glenn Edwards), and his less cynical younger partner Inspector Morgan (Gavin Campbell) are assigned to the case, but the elusive killer leaves no clues aside from a rising body count. Desperate to find a solution before the case gets taken off their docket, the pair sends in Lucy (70s adult film queen Mary Millington) to pose as a centerfold, hoping the female officer can act as a deep cover honey trap to draw out the killer.

If The Playbirds rips more than a few of its plot beats from 1958’s The Cover Girl Killer, in practice it also has a lot of surface similarities to 1973’s Massage Parlor Murders!. There’s the disgruntled older cop not terribly receptive to his partner’s ideas. The fresh faced younger partner gets romantically involved with a lovely young lady important to the investigation. Tons of (likely permitless) footage provides a time capsule tour of sleaze epicenters gone by (London’s Soho instead of New York City’s Deuce), and the utilization of both a massage parlor and the pool at a swingers’ party to squeeze in some additional nudity.

If only the film had continued in Massage Parlor Murders!‘ cheerfully cheap vein, with Morgan blithely blathering about “the unholy trinity: sex, witchcraft and horses” and the choice of undercover cop being determined via superior officer sanctioned striptease. The procedural elements are pretty flat, with a sex offender jockey and a prone to temper photographer with a fondness for shooting occult themed spreads providing the required red herrings.

Yet for all of the familiar British television actors dotting the cast, the movie never manages to muster much energy, the celebrity names all clearly watching the clock. Mary Millington struggles valiantly to bring some life to her line readings as Lucy, but it is glaringly apparent her skills lie elsewhere.

In fact, it tends to play the giallo-lite contours of its plot for sex farce style comedy. The women in this film are perpetually naked, dead or both, and no one seems much bothered by it. The cops can barely bring themselves to grab printouts from their insanely retro wall of computers “lab”, and Dougan finds the whole thing a damper on his moneyed fuckboy antics. In fact, the film likes nothing better than to cut from the killer’s latest victim to Dougan’s endless runtime padding days at the Newmarket races (supplied by stock footage).

While never as violent or explicit as something like The New York Ripper or Giallo In Venice, The Playbirds coats itself in an oily sheen of sleazy misogyny that could easily rival either. Victims worry about turning the kettle off before being strangled to death, or in the film’s absolute nadir, cheerfully announce they’ve never been sexually assaulted before, as if it was just another experience to check off on a Bingo card.

What elevates The Playbirds from gross ineptitude to something truly baffling is that the entire film is basically product placement for a girlie mag. Producer David Sullivan had made a fortune in various pornographic endeavors, and Playbirds was one of the magazines he was publishing at the time. Alan Lake as Harry Dougan, smut peddling boy king, was basically a self insert. The character of Dougan is clearly written to suit what Sullivan thought was the height of suave swinger cool, but in actual effect comes across as the sort of self interested perfect suspect that likely would knock off his models for the sake of tawdry publicity and a bump in sales.

The fact that this portrayal was certainly approved by Sullivan to make the final cut hints at a startling level of narcissism. If that perhaps isn’t quite convincing enough, the pointless cruelty of the downbeat ending becomes even more vicious in light of the knowledge that David Sullivan and star Mary Millington were once lovers.

Sullivan had more than enough cash to throw around to fill his cast with well known actors who likely wouldn’t otherwise touch this sort of fare, if not for the need for a paycheck in a fallow period of their careers. Distributor Tigon Studios, once a respected producer of UK genre fare (Witchfinder General, The Blood On Satan’s Claw), was also in its twilight years. The in house film production had ceased some half decade earlier, and they had taken to distributing sex films and quickie schlock to keep the lights on a while longer.

As for Mary Millington, police raids on her sex shops and persecution related to her time as a porn star took their toll. Addicted to drugs and deeply in debt, she took her own life in August of 1979, roughly a year after the film’s release. Co star Alan Lake wasn’t far behind her. Relapsed in his alcoholism and still grieving the loss of his wife, screen actress Diana Dors, he also took his own life in the fall of 1984.

As for David Sullivan, he continued to profit off of Mary Millington, producing 1980’s Mary Millington’s True Blue Confessions, a morbid Frankenstein of a film pieced together from interviews, archive footage and unseen sex scenes she had completed before her untimely death. After a 1982 conviction for living off immoral earnings of prostitutes, he began to transition out of porn to more “legitimate” businesses, eventually becoming a billionaire.

The Playbirds isn’t particularly notable as a police procedural or as a sex film, but is one of the more readily available examples of an exploitation picture in both senses of the word. The meta aspects catapult what would be a forgettable bit of scuzz into far more disquieting territory, and not just because this depressingly cynical film is often listed as a comedy in online databases or when it pops up on mainstream streaming services. The Playbirds is a 94 minute testimonial to the shallowness of the personal freedom and anti censorship talking points that so many pornographers and exploitationeers make part and parcel with their public images. When it’s time to pay the crew what they’re owed, or when the women in those centerfolds part their lips to speak of desires that aren’t as easily commodified, it’s strictly business as usual. Silence is preferable to anything that might have an adverse effect on the bottom line.

Bite Size: All The Sins Of Sodom (1968)

Joe Sarno was a pioneer of sexploitation cinema, and his best works are engaging tightrope acts between the arthouse and the grindhouse, combining the forbidden content the sticky seat masses desired with a distinct minimalist aesthetic that those supposedly too highbrow for such lurid fare could use as the tailor made excuse to buy themselves a ticket.

After shooting proto softcore hit Inga in Sweden, Sarno returned to his native New York to lens his next few films. All The Sins Of Sodom was shot back to back with Vibrations, with both movies released in 1968. While the US was in the midst of the roughie boomlet, All The Sins Of Sodom‘s influences lean more toward European cinema of the same approximate period, with a protagonist and setting reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, and a bit of Ingmar Bergman’s (of whom Sarno was an admitted admirer) constant questioning of the complex mechanics of identity and desire. Livening up the cross continental reference mix is some biting dialog and a pulpy fixation on the creative professions as only a half step from vice dens, full of damaged, wanton seekers.

Henning (credited by IMDB as Dan Machuen, but uncredited on the print I saw, so proceed with caution) is a relatively successful (enough to go by surname only) photographer of cheesecake prints and art nudes, happy to live in his studio and draw from his models as single serving bed partners when the mood strikes. A fantastic session (in both senses) with the charmingly gamine Leslie (Maria Lease, see above) breaks the usual pattern, and the two begin what might be an actual love affair. However, his new muse is slowing his pace on paid assignments, and Leslie can’t quite emote what’s needed for Henning’s next project.

Protecting her 10%, Henning’s agent (Peggy Steffans, who was married to Sarno at the time, and fills in several roles behind the scenes) sends him a sultry brunette waif named Joyce (Marianne Provost, supposedly) who might better suit the brief. Henning is a preacher’s son, and full of the standard issue Madonna/whore complexes and sexual repression such an upbringing usually implies. He wants a model who can be the ultimate temptress, a Jezebel in high heels who embodies lust in its darkest forms. Joyce, with her jaded affect and free wheeling ways, has a dark carnality that Leslie lacks, and soon she’s making her home in Henning’s spare storage room and acting as his personal muse.

Deep in the throes of artistic obsession, Henning is the only one who doesn’t notice that Joyce’s libido fueled cunning goes farther than the photo series she’s posing for. Soon she’s woven herself into his personal life, driving a wedge between Henning and Leslie in the guise of assisting him in capturing his vision. Not content with her machinations, she also carries on a clandestine affair with one of Henning’s best models, a closeted (and obviously conflicted) lesbian.

It’s clear Joyce’s end goal is eventually to seduce Henning himself, and the closing in of a doomed love triangle is reflected in the sparse, claustrophobic nature of the production. There’s just a hint of ambient noise from the street below, the only music cue a rattling, rising heart of a drumbeat when things get steamy. Henning’s single mindedness in regards to his art, is capably echoed by set dressing that shows a living space that would better suit a monk than a swinging photographer.

Nearly the entire film takes placed in the cramped environs of Henning’s apartment/studio. Yet the tiny spaces feel distinct, with the studio lit hot and bright white, an empty canvas for Henning to fill with the models who act out the tableaux he conjures up. The photo shoots are expertly framed, and its one of the few instances in cinema (exploitation or mainstream) where you can see how the session as depicted would produce beautiful stills.

Meanwhile, Joyce’s storage room domain is an inky black underworld, like some shadow dwelling succubus for whom dragging someone into bed is only the first step in dragging them down, period. While there is a slight tentativeness in the sex scenes, it’s likely no coincidence that the stark lighting is focused on the faces, contorted in ecstasy that could also be agony, the literal translation of le petit mort made visual reality.

Despite the title, this isn’t as sinful or as overtly sexual as one might expect, with the sex scenes well integrated into the larger plot. There’s plenty of time to let each character expose their traumas and insecurities before all of these hurt people, hurt people. Sex is just another tool in the arsenal. While the ending of the film is predictable, the journey to that forgone conclusion is consistently engaging.

While there are definite moments of overacting from the less than experienced cast, all of them are far more capable than expected with oft barbed dialog. It’s Maria Lease’s Leslie who steals the show, full of spry sunshine followed by lovelorn fragility as she loses hold on Henning. In the film’s strongest scene, Henning directs Joyce to sexually stimulate Leslie as they shoot, and Leslie’s combination of arousal at the physical touch at odds with her revulsion for the conniving interloper is about as strong a performance as you are ever likely to see in this era of sexploitation film.

All The Sins Of Sodom, while not one of Sarno’s best known features, is probably one of the best arguments for his work being placed alongside with Radley Metzger’s in terms of erotica with ambition and style to spare, overdue for more mainstream reassessment and acclaim. Beautifully photographed in black and white, its a meditation on shades of gray, between love and hate, dedication and obsession, pleasure and pain. One definition of erotic is “to arouse desire”, and All The Sins Of Sodom is a tense, effective character study of the frustration it is to be driven by unquenchable need, sexual or otherwise.

Bite Size: Teenage Innocence/Little Miss Innocence (1973)

The raucous, independent environment of exploitation cinema, along with the early 70s rise of so called “New Hollywood” experimentation and porno chic allowed for the boundaries between categories of film to be far more porous. Actors and crew members could shift much more easily between standard issue theatrical features, softcore films and hardcore erotica, free to work in whatever niche was cashing checks in a manner that seems borderline impossible in the present day.

Director Chris Warfield was one of those cases. Having found modest success as a television actor through the 60s, the dawn of the new decade saw Warfield pivot to the other side of the camera. He made several sexploitation pictures under his given name, plus some well regarded early hardcore features (Champagne For Breakfast) under the pseudonym Billy Thornberg.

1973’s Teenage Innocence (US title, with most of the rest of the world preferring the snappier Little Miss Innocence) bears the mark of that wide ranging experience. The screenplay (co-written with E.E. Patchen) straddles the line between straight up sex film and erotic chamber drama. The movie’s three stars are pulled from both the porn trenches and the more lurid side of low budget films.

Wealthy music arranger Rick Engels (John Alderman, The Pink Angels) is cruising through Los Angeles on a sunny afternoon. On a whim, he picks up two pretty young hitchhikers. Brunette Carol (Sandy Dempsey, Swinging Cheerleaders) is brash and a touch brassy, while baby faced blonde Judy (Terri Johnson, The Cocktail Waitresses) is sweetly shy.

Initially demurring on his invitation to come up to his “neato” pad, the girls change their minds after they get bored of idly wandering in Rick’s pretty but far from swinging neighborhood. Before long, the girls are cozily curled up on his couch, and a bit of brandy makes things go way past the initial idle flirtation. After a few delirious days of assorted hedonism, Rick’s unbelievable luck runs out. The pair refuse to leave, their demands becoming much more all consuming and sinister.

The basic plot outline is very similar to Peter Traynor’s comparatively better known 1977 exploitation flick Death Game, but tonally the two films couldn’t be more different. Death Game plays its riffs fast and loud from the start, shooting straight for the lurid with a shriek and a green gel filter.

Teenage Innocence takes its time in its tonal shift, playing almost like an updated nudie cutie for the first half of the film, with unobtrusive cinematography and a much more naturalistic approach to dialog and the volume at which it is delivered. The wild weekend is all fun and games, until it isn’t.

All three leads put in above average performances, which helps push a concept that is pure male gaze wish fulfillment into a much darker realm. In the back half, Teenage Innocence is a low budget riff on the crimes of Leopold and Loeb, with a tiny dash of Le Grande Bouffe‘s criticism of bourgeoise assumed access to excess. Rick gets everything he had wished for in picking the pair up, and the fact that he then has to live with it is a special sort of Hell unto itself.

Teenage Innocence would pair well with Andy Milligan’s Fleshpot On 42nd St. It’s a ready made double feature of downbeat sexploitation that makes abundant displays of skin and sin decidedly unerotic, instead focusing on a weaponized sexuality honed through disappointment and trauma. Teenage Innocence‘s Carol is almost a kid sister to Fleshpot’s Dusty, with both women using the performance of eroticism to hide just how hard they’ve been faking it the entire time.


Bite Size: Ginger (1971)

Unexplained disappearances and kidnappings are on the rise in an upscale community on the New Jersey shore. Private detective Jason Varone (William Grannel) has been retained by some of the residents to crack the case. Unfortunately, his last two operatives have died trying. With the disaffected air of someone who has nothing of importance to lose, he hires a society girl named Ginger (Cheri Caffaro) to attempt to infiltrate the gang from the outside.

Despite the fact that she has zero relevant experience other than being just as idly wealthy, overly tan and casually racist as her targets, Ginger is provided a suitcase of spy tools, and official secret operative status. Armed with a kit that came straight out of the back of a midcentury comic book, she’s quickly dispatched to break up the gang’s business in both drug smuggling and prostitution, before she can change her mind.

This softcore sexploitation romp was the brainchild of a New Jersey theater chain owner, Don Schain. Having taken on writing and directing duties himself, he kept the casting close to home and put his (then) wife in the starring role. Cheri Caffaro had primarily worked as a model up to that point, other than a bit part in 1971 comedy Up Your Alley.

Don Schain had a keen eye what would get asses in the seats, and Ginger is structured to have some trailer ready moments for just about every flavor of sexploitation sleaze. In the course of busting boss Rex Halsey (a neckerchief wearing Duane Tucker) and his gang of assorted racist stereotypes, dumb pretty boys and prostitutes, Ginger’s investigative techniques seem to come straight out of an adolescent fantasy round of Truth Or Dare.

She earns her way into the gang’s inner circle by giving a member named Rodney (gay porn star Casey Donovan) a pole dance at a bar. A conflict with the gang’s angry girlfriends becomes a beach bikini catfight where the loser is stripped naked and bound with her own bikini. Her attempt to convince one of the prostitutes to go states’ evidence leads to a brief lesbian affair.

Of course honey trap isn’t always going to be the best tact to take when dealing with hardened criminals who have already committed multiple homicides, so Ginger spends a good portion of the runtime in bondage or handcuffs as she plots her escapes, culminating in a wince inducing assault straight out of the 60s roughie playbook.

Despite the copious amounts of nudity (including a relatively rare male full frontal in addition to the female), the softcore scenes are lifeless. It’s mostly just poorly lit people lying on top of one another. The actual plot doesn’t fare much better. Ginger’s action scenes and nominal fight choreography are unconvincing, and the movie’s biggest bit of violent vengeance (a piano wire castration) happens off screen.

The story beats move in a muddied motivation slog, with characters shifting in and out at random to better allow for the next salacious set piece to have its moment in the sun. While the highlight reel approach was enough to make Ginger a hit that spawned two progressively more competent sequels, it doesn’t make for much of a viewing experience over 90 minutes.

Ginger is a historical curiosity of note, in that it marks a notable sea change in the history of exploitation film. The Ginger series was one of the last gasps of the hard R/soft X style of softcore film that the arrival of hardcore essentially obliterated. It is also a transitional point between two distinct grindhouse modes,combining the fetishistic elements of the fading late 60s roughie trend with a more assertive female fronted action and revenge angle that would become more prominent as the 70s progressed.

Yet, for a film so utterly packed with sex, violence and general what the fuckery, Ginger desperately lacks any sense of energy or fun. What slight pleasures the movie has can be attributed to Cheri Caffaro. There’s a certain daffy delight in her obvious confidence that she is the most spectacular creature in the room, even when she delivers her lines like Bridgette Bardot on Quaaludes or is furiously dancing like a slightly misprogrammed sex bot (the clip I included above, as I could not locate a theatrical trailer).

That said, there are better showcases for her wacky camp charm in her filmography (1977’s Too Hot to Handle being my personal favorite), and the few moments of Ginger that manage to transcend their status as a good idea poorly executed are easily found on Youtube without having to subject yourself to the entire thing.

Bite Size: The Defilers (1965)

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.

Bite Size: Chatterbox! (1977)

In 1977, Tom DeSimone’s (Hell Night, The Concrete Jungle) main claim to fame was directing a string of successful gay porn features under the pseudonym Lancer Brooks. This makes AIP’s choice to place him at the helm of a silly softcore sex comedy about a girl with a talking vagina either a complete lapse in any discernible logic or a calculated exercise in economics. Porn directors were highly unlikely to be union talent.

Also, you absolutely read the middle of that paragraph correctly. Hairdresser Penelope (Candice Rialson) discovers her vagina can spout sassy wisecracks when it insults her boyfriend Ted’s (Perry Bullington) sexual performance. Even worse, Penelope’s lady parts also have a propensity for singing showtunes.

Fresh out of a break up, and at her wits end on what to do, she goes to see a psychiatrist, Dr. Pearl (Larry Gelman). Instead of helping, Dr. Pearl uses an AMA conference to launch Penelope and the newly christened “Virginia The Talking Vagina” into show business. As the pair’s fame grows and people increasingly forget the girl that surrounds the genitals, Penelope needs to learn how to live with her particular brand of female trouble.

All of this stress is because poor Penelope has a chatter….box. Get it? GET IT? Good, because that’s as sophisticated as the humor in this movie gets. At all times, Chatterbox! would like to remind you how WHIMSICAL! and NAUGHTY! it is, when in reality the content and the jokes land somewhere between the fantasies of a 12 year old boy who has no clue how sex works and a nudity dotted episode of The Love Boat.

Comedy castoffs Rip Taylor and Professor Irwin Corey both have bit parts to mug it up in, and there’s plenty of slide whistle music cues to maintain the air of forced cheerfulness. Even at a scant 73 minute runtime, the box puns and double entendres wear awfully thin. By the time Penelope ends up on a fictionalized version of The Dating Game to win a date with Dick, it feels like a step up in terms of one liners. Until the disco production numbers of “Wang Dang Doodle” and “Cock A Doodle Doo” show up. Then we take that half step right back down to a shitty issue of Mad magazine.

In between, we get a bunch of “wacky” hijinks that feel forced even by the standard of other silly sex comedies of the period. Virginia just can’t keep quiet, and soon Penelope is fending off aggressive lesbian clients at the hair salon, and being nearly cornered to play ball with an entire sports team. The lead actress spends a good portion of the runtime either topless or holding her crotch like a small child who really has to go pee. We get a lot of closeups of Virginia in the production numbers, or at least her bedazzled g-strings.

Candice Rialson was one of the most appealing starlets of the exploitation golden age, and likely could have had a mainstream career had the cards played just a few pair differently. A doe eyed blonde beauty with a light comedic touch and a knack for making the raciest of material look more nudie cutie than sticky floor sleazy, she lit up the screen in any film in which she appeared. It is only because of Candice’s charisma that all of this failed gaiety is even remotely watchable and only occasionally cringe inducing.

All things considered, she certainly deserved better than a movie where the happy ending is a suicide averted by the sudden appearance of a singing schlong. No wonder Candice retired from acting at the beginning of the 1980’s. The challenge of starting a family and raising a child must have seemed like a breeze by comparison to trying to make something entertaining out of material like this.

Bite Size: Fairy Tales (1978)



While not exactly a trend, the 70’s saw several scattered attempts at an adults only fairy tale musical. If Fairy Tales had been a one off, I could have easily shrugged my shoulders and blamed it on the era’s love of Quaaludes and poor life decisions. However, this movie is the last in a line of filmic lemmings freefalling off the same cliff. The Adult Brothers Grimm hit theaters in 1970, Alice In Wonderland in 1976, Cinderella in 1977, and finally Fairy Tales in 1978.

“Softcore musical sex comedy featuring storybook characters” is an oddly specific hill for multiple crews to box office bomb on, so let’s take a bite size look at a once upon a time turkey in a kingdom far, far away from anything that should have ever existed.

What plot there is concerns a Prince who is set to inherit his kingdom on his 21st birthday. The catch is that he must produce an heir by the following Thursday, because even stupid sex spoofs need some kind of stakes. A bouncing blonde birthday present fails to excite him, and he goes on a meandering hero’s journey to find a woman who can solve his fading flagpole issues in a pre Viagra era.

Despite the title, the characters are pretty much a mixed muddle of whatever could be found in a prefab bag at the local costume shop. The Prince is a dork in a bowl cut, last night’s make up and the outfit of a Shakespearean era extra in a middling high school musical.

In his travels, he meets a daffy Little Bo Peep in sheer panties, Mother Hubbard as the blowzy madam of a brothel in a shoe, a belly dancing Scheherazade and a Frog Prince that’s basically a confused dance student in a green velvet drape. While it is a thick drape, it fails to hide the actor’s obvious shame at the booming frog sound effects echoing from his crotch.

In between bumbling rejected Borscht Belt jokes about Venus and Uranus, we get musical numbers from a cast that performs with all of the acumen of a narcoleptic sufferer of St Vitus’ Dance. Snow White gets a pop tune about the joys of all 7 dwarves, 4 random nude women with floggers and gimp masks lip sync an Andrews Sisters style ditty about S&M, and the Prince gets a sad love theme. In all of this, there’s less skin showing than an average nudie cutie movie would have displayed almost 2 decades earlier.

By the time this movie introduces a bizarre subplot about a codpiece wearing Blaxploitation caricature of a pimp, and his love potion making Auntie Leveau, I barely had the energy to wonder how the legendary Motown singer Martha Reeves got mixed up in this mess. I was just thrilled to see a professional performer swing into a spooky fog filled disco number that actually would make a great addition to a Halloween novelty playlist. You can see for yourself in the video above.

Apparently, Martha was never told that the film was an adult movie, as her scene was shot outside of the main plot. Only after Fairy Tales was released, did she learn she was conned into making the only watchable sequence in this utterly juvenile “adult” film.

Despite all of its flaws, Fairy Tales does have a happy ending. Not for any of its characters per se, but for scream queen Linnea Quigley. Featured in a partially nude bit part at the end of the film (as the Princess the Prince has been searching for), she managed to springboard this small early role into starring in the much better movies we know and love her for today.

Bad Girls Go To Hell (1965)

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:

…..and Doris Wishman will still be making films there



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.

An expression familiar to any woman who has ever had to ride public transit alone at night.



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.

YASSSSSS BITCHHHHHHH SLAY (your rapist)



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?

If anything untoward happens this time, this lady has plenty of questionable decorating choices to pan to




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”