Tag Archives: Doris Wishman

NUDE ON THE MOON (1962)

It’s 1962. You are a producer/director who, admittedly, makes films for the primary purpose of turning a profit. Now, you only have a budget of about fifty bucks. So, what’s the best way to turn a profit? Skin, of course. There is, however, a bit of an obstacle. The obscenity laws prohibit nudity. Of course, that is hardly an obstacle if your name is . Doris was well aware of THE BIG LOOPHOLE. Nudity on film was permissible IF it was confined to a nudist colony, because we all know there is, indeed, educational value in filming naturists. And if you really want to double your potential profit, you take that nudist colony and put it on the moon for the sic-fi kids. Amazing, but true!

Our space adventure begins with a 7th grader’s lame drawing of outer space accompanied by an endlessly lame theme song sung by an equally lame crooner. Jeff (Lester Brown) wants to go to the moon. But, poor Jeff does not have the funding. Even worse, Jeff can’t seem to get aroused by his horny , buxom secretary, Cathy. The Professor (William Mayer) is also in a predicament. In addition to having about five gallons of shellac in his hair, he is stuck listening to Jeff’s money problems and to Cathy’s confessions about her pent-up desires. Time to smoke a pipe.

Lo and behold, Jeff’s uncle dies and leaves Jeff three million bucks. To heck with the government, we are going to the moon ourselves! Come on professor. Let’s go! Space makes the boys a tad sleepy, and somehow they wake up after having landed somewhere. Maybe it’s the moon. Maybe it’s not.

Nude on the Moon posterOur dynamic duo jump into their red and green power ranger suits and discover, you guessed it, a nudist colony. But, this is not just any nudist colony. Actually, it’s just a topless colony. Oh, and the topless Martians all have antenna through which they communicate. This, of course, makes dubbing a heck of a lot easier. Jeff and the professor, being hu-mans, do have to chat, so there are plenty of shots from behind so we won’t see their lip movements are out of sync with the sound.

This must be the dark side of the moon, with plenty of lush vegetation and a volley ball court. The Queen (Marietta) looks an awful lot like Cathy (Marietta), except Queenie’s allergic to blouses. There are a few moon men too, pulled from the list of rejects from Tarzan casting calls.

A few light taps on the head from a moon chick’s abracadabra viagra stick and suddenly Jeff’s noticing boobs. Now Jeff’s happy! For the first time in his life, Jeff is as giddy as a school boy. But, gosh darn it, Jeff’s gonna run outta oxygen. Goodbye boobs. Back in the space ship, back home, and, hey Cathy looks just like the Queen! I’ll bet Cathy has boobs too, thinks Jeff. After an excessively long panning back and forth between Cathy clothed and Jeff’s eyes trying hard to bug out, Cathy loses her blouse and, yes, she has boobs just like the Queen! Jeff is happy again, despite having received a call from the government. They don’t believe Jeff and the professor went to the moon! Who cares? Jeff now knows that, to find boobs, he need not look any further than his own back yard.

There’s no place like home.

LET ME DIE A WOMAN (1978)

In a round table meeting with a couple of editors, I was discussing a proposed documentary (which we abandoned). As we were dialoguing, I mentioned a scene which would require green screen. One of the editors stopped me short and said: “This is a documentary. You do not do green screen shots in a documentary.” When I explained that the scene was meant to be poetic and dream-like, which did pertain to the subject at hand, my editor persisted: “You still cannot do that. That’s against all the rules of documentary filmmaking.” I ended that with: “So who made these rules?” If I had thought that argument through, I probably would have tied the editor down and shown him two documentary films, which break “THE rules.” One would be Guy Maddin‘s My Winnipeg (2007) and the other would be ‘s Let Me Die A Woman (1978).

Doris Wishman’s documentary about sex change is cinema’s closest cousin to Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda (1953). Like Wood, Wishman cannot refrain from coating the subject at hand with her own idiosyncratic sheen. So much the better, because like the Wood film, personality is the most salvageable quality of Let Me Die A Woman. Ed Wood was supposed to make a film about a sex change but he turned his opus into a delightfully desperate, personal plea for acceptance of transvestism. Narratively (ahem) Wishman’s film does not divert quite so far from the topic. Visually, now that’s a different story altogether.

Shots of monstrously thick, red shag carpet (which would look so at home on the set of Trinity Broadcast Network), a “what the hell is that doing there?” Siamese cat and the standard Wishman shots of feet scurrying across a dark red floor are among the countless surreal cut-aways. If Wishman’s wandering camera frequently provokes dumbfound amazement, here the cut-aways interrupt poor Leslie with callous abandon. Leslie methodically applies her lipstick, straps on her garter, looks directly at the camera and tells us: “Last year, I was a man!” Cue in cheesy music. Leslie is the attractive, post-op transsexual star who introduces the viewer into the world of “gender dysphoria.” She is candid, expressive, and the only genuine human in the entire film. Unfortunately, whenever Leslie begins to hook us into her personal story, Wishman swings her goddamned camera into WTF land!

Still from Let Me Die a Woman (1977)No one familiar with Wishman’s body of work would be naive enough to expect a sympathetic treatment of the subject. Pornographic actors Harry Reems and Vanessa Del Rio provide cameos, just to make sure we know it’s a freak show. Like we need the proof. Gratuitous sex scenes, the lamest drag queens ever captured on celluloid, and Dr. Leo Wollman each have their own tent on the carnival grounds. Wollman  serves as the downright creepy ringmaster, acting as if he belongs in one of those wretched Faces of Death videos. He lectures us from a hideously decorated office. It is blatantly obvious Wollman is reading off cue cards when he gives us details aplenty about the SEX CHANGE OPERATION! Whether we want the details or not is a moot point. Actual surgical footage, brought to you in all the ghastly glory of 1978 color, accompanies Wollman’s monotone narration. Where are the horror horn and fear flasher when you need them?

Flopping penises, dildos galore, and Dr. Wollman’s fingers probing a vagina are the visual highlights (!) brought to you by Madame Wishman. Do you really have to ask why  is in love with this mondo trash mutant of a film?

Regardless, Wishman does it her way, God bless her!  Next week, we will wrap up our series on the films of Doris Wishman with Nude On the Moon (1961)

THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

Of course, , the self-taught, innovative grand dame of sexploitation and grindhouse films, personally stamped everything she did. Wishman’s repeated focus on inanimate objects is her most infamous trademark. Hideous wallpaper, repeated shots of feet, and dirty floor tiles were favorite concentrations in some of the most outrageous compositions ever filtered through a lens. All of those abound in The Amazing Transplant (1970), but there is an additional focal point here: a giant moose head hanging on the wall. I have no idea what the hell it means, if anything. It is tempting to say that, perhaps, it’s a symbolic joke at the expense of male testosterone, except that this may also be Wishman’s most misogynistic film—which is saying quite a lot.

The Hands of Orlac (1924), Mad Love (1935), The Beast With Five Fingers (1946) and The Hand (1981), all dealt with with hand transplants resulting in murderous hands. Most of these films at least had an iota of style, and two of them starred the iconic character actor Peter Lorre. In this film, Doris Wishman gives us her take on a transplanted member. Naturally, no Wishman film would dare to tackle something so acceptable as a hand. No, Wishman’s raving lunatic has a newly-grafted penis. Lest one be tempted to conjure up the image of David Cronenberg’s vampire phallus growing from the armpit of the late porn star Marilyn Chmbers (Rabid-1977), I lament to report that The Amazing Transplant is nowhere near as anatomically outrageous. That is simply because we never see the Edward Hyde anaconda of poor Arthur (Juan Fernandez)—which is probably a good thing. Perhaps the hanging moose head is a sufficient avatar for all things phallic after all.

Still from The Amazing Transplant (1970)Wishman usually dubbed her films, which led her to focus the camera on anything but the actor speaking. Here, Wishman did her audience a commendable service, despite the fact that the dubbing is atrocious. The acting here is possibly the worst found in any Doris Wishman film, and not seeing her amateur thespians mouth their dialogue may actually make the film more bearable.

Arthur was never too adept with women, at least not until his late bosom bud Felix, a Casanova Continue reading THE AMAZING TRANSPLANT (1970)

DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

‘s Deadly Weapons (1973) and Double Agent 73 (1974), both starring 73FF(!)-32-36 Chesty Morgan, makes for a bizarre double feature, and a bizarre Something Weird Blu-ray release. This set (entitled “Chesty Morgan’s Bosom Buddies”) also includes a third feature The Immoral Three (1975), which does not include Morgan (who had, remarkably, taken the star bit between her teeth and was promptly sacked by Wishman). We focus on the first two features starring Chesty.

 had the incomparable Divine. Wishman had the incomparable Chesty Morgan. The big difference is that Divine could actually act. Morgan, an exploitation freak of nature, was the energizer bunny rabbit to Wishman’s directorial enthusiasm.

Wishman’s influence on John Waters cannot be underestimated. Her films are a visual smorgasbord of bad taste with attentive detail. Wishman’s nonsensical lens focus is so mercurial it brings to mind ‘s frozen camera in Three’s A Crowd (1927). Repeated, dumbfounded concentration on queer inanimate objects disrupts the narrative flow and coats Wishman’s films in loving disjointedness. Cut-away shots of hedges, a repellently hued yellow-ochre telephone, the most beautifully ghastly wallpaper ever captured on celluloid, and nonsensical extreme close-ups of Morgan’s 73-inch fleshbags creates a visually surreal train wreck of a movie.

Morgan’s voice is dubbed in both films. Apparently, her polish accent was so thick as to be indecipherable. Unfortunately, her acting range is nowhere near as mammoth as her breasts. Morgan begins with leathery boredom and ends with celluloid sleep walking. Now, dress this big breasted zombie up in bad wigs and garish clothing to enact a zany plot!

Well, yes, there is a plot of sorts to Deadly Weapons. It has something to do with Morgan as an office manager (!) wearing 8-inch platform heels and a blouse at least two sizes too small. She has a Continue reading DEADLY WEAPONS (1973)/DOUBLE AGENT 73 (1974)

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965)

To the alternative cineaste, Doris Wishman is somewhat akin to what Mary, the Mother of Christ, is to Catholics. She was a considerable influence on luminaries such as , Roger Corman, and Quentin Tarantino. Like them, Wishman approached genre films with an idiosyncratic enthusiasm for the art and the business. Her films are sexploitation roughies, nudie-cuties, and precursors to the grindhouse films. Therefore, she also has her detractors, who compare to her to the likes of Ed Wood. Wishman was a true, self-taught outsider artist. And like most outsider artists, being a maverick had its advantages and disadvantages (she never had the budget she needed). Wishman was as tenebrous and quirky as her films. She often told elaborate lies about herself and remained defiant to the end, mocking conventional attitudes. “I’ll continue making films in Hell” she said, terminally ill, only days before her passing at age 90. If that anecdote doesn’t endear her to you, well, you may have come to the wrong film site.

For the Wishman newcomer, Bad Girls Go To Hell (1965) is probably the best entry point. This film, her first real “roughie,” inhabits an expressionist, subconscious world that Luis Buñuel, Franz Kafka, and the aforementioned John Waters might recognize (and yes, I am being serious). Indeed, protagonist Meg (Gigi Darlene) might be soulmate to Kafka’s Josef K, moving numbly through an inverted, anti-fairy tale nightmare told by John Waters at his copping-an-attitude best.

Meg’s husband goes to work, after he has made love to her in their Boston apartment. Meg showers her husband off, slips into a sheer nightie and begins to obsessively clean the house, purifying herself and her surroundings from the taint of sex. Shots focused on Meg’s hands, feet, knees, the shag carpet, and an ominous ashtray compose a queer dreamscape. Meg literally takes out the trash in her life, only to be raped by the apartment janitor. When he comes back for seconds, Meg whacks him to death with the ashtray and in a downright bizarre cut-away composition the ashtray is seen from the dead janitor’s perspective.

Still from Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965)Meg is unable to fully comprehend what has occurred, let alone deal with it. She escapes the confines of her apartment, almost sleepwalking through the violent New York City like Minnie the Moocher gliding through an animated apocalypse. She has moments of sexual tranquility, but, alas, they are short-lived. The abuse cycle continues, so does the purging and the incessant shifting. The closest she comes to achieving something is in a short-lived lesbian relationship. Yet, this time, Meg willingly flees potential happiness.

The film becomes circular, as dreams often are, but Bad Girls Go To Hell has its cake and eats it too. There is a comeuppance to such a lifestyle of ill repute, BUT, like Wishman, Meg personifies defiance in the face of recompense. Bad Girls Go to Hell is a serious contender for this site’s coveted List. Doris Wishman has yet to receive her 366 crown, but I will go with my instincts here and leave further discussion of this film to other hands.

In the meantime, we will revisit Doris Wishman in next week’s review of Deadly Weapons (1973) .