BluRay/DVD Reviews

PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW

By • Nov 11th, 2010 •

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The French director who launched Bridget Bardot’s career, directed BARBARELLA (1968, starring wife Jane Fonda and scripted by Terry Southern), and made one enduring poetic work that has yet to reach DVD – the Technirama (AR 2.35:1), Technicolor ET MOURIR DE PLAISIR (US theatrical release title: BLOOD AND ROSES- a vampire/lesbian flick from 1960 with a haunting score by Jean Prodromides and a sumptuous look courtesy of DP Claude Renoir), here shows many of his true and unexpurgated exploitation colors with a late-hippie-era murder-sex romp in which, of all the numerous and difficult elements we are forced to swallow, perhaps the most unwieldy is watching Rock Hudson appear to enjoy kissing and having sex with a bevy of female college students before (and this is easier to swallow) killing them without a trace of remorse or even much emotion.

Hudson, who looks great throughout, is half phoning in his performance, half good-naturedly into the camp vibe promulgated by Gene (STAR TREK) Roddenbery’s screenplay. Roddenberry also produced, so there’s no doubt this is close to the end result he was expecting. In fact, one of the minor roles – Girl # 1 – is essayed by Dawn Roddenberry, aged 18, who had previously played the Little Blonde Girl in the STAR TREK TV episode “Miri” in 1966, and appears never to have done any acting since this subsequent cameo.

Nominal lead John Franklin Carson’s mother was a fashion model who was elected president of the Mannequins Association of Los Angeles. It is that august association’s eponymous imitation of life, I suspect, that explains from whence his acting gene came. He emotes a kind of redundant wimpy quality that overshadows whatever other shadings he is called upon to deliver. Despite being teamed romantically in the film with Angie Dickinson, who is really terrific in her light-comedic role, he manages to slow the film down to a snail’s pace every time he’s on screen, which is unfortunate, because effervescence would have been the saving grace in this production.

Most of the nudity, which isn’t nearly as manifest as one might hope given the director and the poster art, has a disembodied feeling in the way it’s photographed, as if everyone were asked to leave the room except the director and the DP. The aura of an empty set comes across. The nude women are shot as if they’re posing for pin-up photos. Angie’s nude scene, however, feels much more lived in. I can’t say enough about her ability to prevail beyond the general tone of the piece. It’s almost heroic.

Also around, malingering, but compellingly odd nonetheless, is Telly Savalas. And Keenan Wynn, as a muddle-headed campus cop, is quite funny in his very few bits, with a whiff of STRANGELOVE still in his delivery.

This is a Warner Bros Archive release, so there are no supplementals. You want this title; you got it. Period! But it’s colorful, of its era, randy, and occasionally it rises to the level you hoped it would when you made the decision to pick it up. Incidentally, my noble webmaster, on viewing the DVD, remarked that the murder thread was really unnecessary, and that the film would have worked better just as a sex-romp. I hadn’t thought of that, but on looking back at the film, I agree. He, by the way, loved it. So might you.

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  1. This has long been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since I saw this and LORD LOVE A DUCK….since both films dealt to some degree with high school of a certain period of time….One of the more bizarre aspects of this film is John David Carson himself an actor who was plagued his entire career by gay men in the film business who wanted to sleep with him and made life very difficult when he chose to say no. He was since passed on and yet the real mystery in his life was the murder of his wife by persons unknown who broke into her home and beat her to death with a baseball bat. She had been the mistress of Alfred Bloomingdale and was just about to leak a video tape that was to in her words “blow the lid off the Reagan Whitehouse as well as the Bloomingdale marriage”

    I met Carson only once quite by accident as he was manageing an apt complex in West Hollywood that I happened to take a friend to looking for a place to live……He was still very handsome at that time and it was easy to see why so many guys wanted to have sex with im…..I recognized him of course and made a funny comment about EMPIRE OF THE ANTS…which he chose to ignore……so glad this is out there even though it will do little to build a case for Vadim as the auteur we had hope for after BLOOD AND ROSES…

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