CAPSULE: THE BEST OF DORIS WISHMAN (2021)

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DIRECTED BY: Anonymous

FEATURING: Archival footage

PLOT: This odd little disc is a collection of segments and trailers from Doris Wishman movies, along with edited footage from other psychotronic films set to swinging vintage catalog music.

Still from The Best of Doris Wishman (2021)

COMMENTS: If you’re anything like me, you’ve been searching for a compilation of the sleazy strip-club jazz music featured in little-old-lady-cum-disreputable-pornographer Doris Wishman’s offbeat 1960s and 1970s exploitation movies for years. Having actually looked at that sentence typed out, it occurs to me that you are almost certainly nothing like me. But please read on anyway.

Something Weird’s “The Best of Doris Wishman” advertises itself as a soundtrack (your choice of CD or vintage vinyl) with an accompanying DVD “filled with Doris’ outrageous oeuvre!” Since this is a movie site, we won’t be delving deeply into the aesthetic qualities Wishman’s music. The original songs commissioned especially for her early nudist movies are pure kitsch (“I’m moonin’ over you, my little moon doll,” croons Ralph Young in the theme to Nude on the Moon.) The library music  selected to accompany Wishman’s roughies are often surprisingly competent, if not always germane to the onscreen action—as if the director were picking at random from a stack of nearby 45s. But again, we’re not here for the music.

The ad copy doesn’t really explain what part of “Doris’ outrageous oeuvre” is on the DVD. If you guessed “trailers,” you’re mostly correct. The video content is synced to the accompanying soundtrack, to the point where you are offered a countdown so you can drop your needle on your record at the appropriate start point (I believe only the LP syncs up, as with bonus tracks the CD has a slightly longer running time). Although the content is mostly trailers, for several segments—mostly the early naturalist films—the original tunes play over scenes of nudists frolicking in the nudie pool, using beach balls to carefully cover up their pubic hair. Sprinkled throughout the assembly you’ll find audio cues of Wishman caught on tape, usually to embarrassing effect (she forgets which partner was on top when blocking a love scene; her cameraman yells at her to get out of the shot). Nineteen of Wishman’s thirty-one movies are represented here in some form, including both Indecent Desires and Bad Girls Go to Hell (in trailer form only, although the soundtrack has an additional cut for each). For a fan, it’s a fine trip down memory lane, and it’s unlikely that any but the most dedicated Wishmanites will have seen all these movies.

But that’s not all! The real surprise, and an unexpected treat, is a collection of bonus content that’s almost as long as the feature. You see, the soundtrack music was remastered by an outre audophile company called Modern Harmonic, in collaboration with Something Weird (who own Wishman’s movie catalog). After the feature presentation ends, Modern Harmonic throws in an additional 25 minutes of musical highlights—ranging from early soul to jazz to rock n roll—scored to edits of various other Something Weird titles. These are taken from other LP/CD releases, either “Something Weird Greatest Hits” or individual soundtrack releases. Some of them are just clips or trailers, but others are edited experimentally: action sequences from Doll Squad are rejiggered to make the actors dance to a funky bongo-riffic groove; a cute-but-spiteful 50s brunette from Fuzz Box gets trapped in a loop enviously checking out a blonde rival, serenaded by a psychedelic band who wouldn’t rock out in their garage for another decade and a half. And a crapsetrpiece like Dracula (The Dirty Old Man) doesn’t require fancy tricks to hold its own: just show an abridged version of the film, with Dracula and his press-on goatee spying on and abducting swinging sixties maidens with the help of his werewolf companion while a sax and organ combo vamps for five minutes.

The Wishmania was welcome, but Modern Harmonic’s bonus material makes this an unexpected, if minor and very particular, pleasure. Try serving this campy retro buffet at your pad for your next psychedelic sex party, and you might be surprised at how well you get on. If nothing else, you’ll be one step closer to being like me.

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