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Movies / TV
An Exercise in Poor Taste - The Beast that Killed Women / Monster of Camp Sunshine
Posted by Edward Robins on Feb 15, 2003, 22:26
|Brand-spankin'-new logo courtesy The Amazing Rando|
No way! Is like, Ed actually writing a column? Way! I’ve been meaning to write one for a while (a real one, not a “let’s paste a bunch of month-old mini-reviews together” one) – but wouldn’t you know it, I has to get edumacated. Boo!
Now then, I’d like to echo a statement made by Pop Culture Partner-in-Crime, Mr. Polk, when saying we pop culture peepz get’s no love. So, drop everything, and if you haven’t, read his latest DVD review of The Boondock Saints. Actually, ironically enough, I saw Boondock Saints for the first time then came home and saw his review, so I’ll throw in my two cents: Polk’s right on the money, as usual. I was bored to tears with this hackneyed Tarantino wanna-be, and had the “best part” spoiled for me by my friends’ actions in anticipation (one to say “This is the best part!” and the other to cover her eyes). Maybe it would’ve been more interesting if there was, you know, an actual adversary instead of this “anti-heroes so righteous and bad-ass that their ‘enemies’ all join forces with them” b.s. Oh, ummm… OMG SPOILERZ~? Sorry about that. Thank goodness for Willem Dafoe.
One can’t talk DVDs without talk of Jay Spree. I’m much too lazy to search for this news myself, and his Digital Versatile Dick is always an entertaining choice and reminder that, should I ever decide to pimp something other than Full Moon or Something Weird discs, there are plenty of b-choices available. Beautiful. Trivia: Jay Spree is actually the reason I write for this site in the first place.
Now that I’ve pimped my Pop Culture heroes, don’t forget about the rest of us: Danny “Kinetic” Gregory, Matt “Incandenza (1978-2002)” D, newcomer Tony Jaymz (who doesn’t have proper archives yet!) and little old me, me, E-D-W-A-R-D. Dr. Tom does reviews too, but he gets enough exposure already, so I won’t waste my collective pimping energy. Whoops.
You want a quick note of genre news? Kino’s authorized, restored edition of Metropolis streets next week; I broke this news way back in October, but news that good bears repeating. That’s also going to be my last new purchase until the longly awaited (though not as long as a good version of Metropolis) special edition of Troma’s epic Citizen Toxie! The reason I’m doing this… two reasons: one, I have to eat (which is rather difficult when I’m spending all my money on DVDs), and two, I’m soooooooo backlogged on reviews. Look at this - I own over a hundred DVDs, and I’ve written what, 15 columns? Considering three of those reviews aren’t even “An Exercise in Poor Taste” columns (rather, my rare excursions into “Smarksterpiece Theater” and even rarer “Exercise in
Poor Good Taste”), that’s a pretty piss-poor ratio right there.
Oh yea, and midterms had a little something to do with it as well; but now that that’s all out of my system, let’s get into monsters and nudists!
The Beast That Killed Women (1965) / The Monster of Camp Sunshine (1964) [Drive-In Monster Nudist Double Feature]
Something Weird Video
Film (complete with minor plot spoilers!):
Ahh, nudie cuties; in the days before pornography, this was how the bachelor survived. Sexploitation’s nicer little brother, a nudie cutie worked on the same principle – bare plot designed to fill the spaces between loops of topless (full frontal nudity was still shied from, although “ass men” got their fill as well) girls or simulated sex (besides being shied from, nudity presented in a sexual context was also illegal), but rather than use sexploitation’s more cynical and negative plots surrounding drugs, prostitutes, and other Main Street, U.S.A. nasties, nudie cuties were, to be redundant, “cute”. Their “plots” often featured comic circumstances, nudists (the majority of these loops are literally just everyday people doing everyday things, but OMG THEY’RE IN THE NUDE~!), and goofy monster costumes. It must be our luck day; both of the films on this double feature claim to offer all of the above.
|Simian Chippendale Harry N. Bigg shows what he can do with a bamboo pole|
First up is The Beast that Killed Women. For those that are wondering, it’s a gorilla (that’s later revealed to have broken out of some woman’s garage). What it has against women, I don’t know, but it’s lecherous and it’s on the loose! Unfortunately, the title is incredibly misleading: the beast only kills one woman throughout the course of the film, which, despite being only an hour long, is comprised almost entirely of filler such that it actually manages to make seeing topless women boring. The gorilla suit is awesome (albeit incredibly fake – one of the characters even ironically confirms this by asking a witness if she’s sure it wasn’t a man dresses as an ape), but the gorilla only shows up three times, once to kill a woman near the beginning, the second time to scare one woman and throw her husband into a lake (wait for it…), and once more to get killed. How disappointing. I could’ve easily had a ball with this if they’d have given the monster a more pronounced role or at the very least a higher body count. Topless women are a dime a dozen in the genre, but a gorilla that kills topless women? Now THAT’S entertainment!
|Well, there goes the "bulletproof ape" theory|
But hey, at least there are still topless women, right? Uhh… right. Despite the credit’s claim of “Miami Beach’s Most Lovely Nudists”, there’s a disturbingly high number of tan lines present (tan lines?! Does that mean they’re… gasp! not really nudists?), and the women are “normal women”, as opposed to the pin-up queens and starlets expected of these films (not that I have anything against normal body types, but if a film’s main selling point is its women, it should provide HELLA HOT GRRRLZ DOOOD~!). Besides their physical appearances, however, the nudists are just plain annoying. They wander around, play a game of volleyball, and go swimming, and then once the killings occur they all whine and complain about how scared they are and how they’re going to leave the camp. That’s it. With probably a maximum of five minutes of beast in the film, and one killing, that means you’re stuck with these annoying women for an hour (but OMG THEY’RE IN THE NUDE~!) and occasionally cutting back to the narrator, the guy thrown in the water by the gorilla, who’s “recovering from shock” and complains about hospital food. Lovely.
|Smarkboard member Angle-Plex deep in thought|
Monster of Camp Sunshine, on the other hand, is a much more entertaining experience. From the beginning, the film has an awesome cut-and-paste title sequence that presents its full title: Monster of Camp Sunshine: or how I learned to stop worrying and love nature (hmmm…), and is already much more engrossing than the entire previous film. In this film, its two main characters – a nurse named Martha and her roommate/model/narrator Claire – actually matter; unlike in Beast, they’re given an introduction beyond “I want to fix my tan, let’s go to a nudist camp!” (never fear, similar dialogue is still employed for “plot development” here). Martha works with experimental lab rats and dangerous chemicals, and although there aren’t any giant flea-bitten rat costumes, the chemical does unleash the “killer instinct” in rats. After a group of rats jump at her and knock her out a window (!), Martha understandably gets very frightened and Claire decides they should visit Camp Sunshine and frolic in the nude. At Camp Sunshine, Claire introduces Martha to Susan (the camp owner) and her brother Hugo, the shy, quiet groundskeeper who’s (thank God) “the only person still wearing clothing”. Meanwhile, Martha’s lab assistant disposes of the dangerous chemicals by putting them in a jar and throwing them in the ocean, whereby through a suitably wacky adventure they end up contaminating the waters of Camp Sunshine, where Hugo drinks them and goes crazy. Now looking like a demented tubby Stooge, and wielding an axe, Hugo begins his reign of terror as The Monster of Camp Sunshine…
Although Monster of Camp Sunshine actually has less blatant nudity (although Claire is a much better looking woman than those in Beast, not to mention the wonders black and white does to disguise tan lines) and NO killings (one of the few sequences the film does wrong is a dull and overdrawn chase scene with no climax and no murder), it’s still a better put-together film. As opposed to relying entirely on nudity to get over, this film has unique humor (both intentional and unintentional) that makes easy to sit through. Besides the opening sequence, the dialogue has a much more natural comedic flow to it, and the ending sequence must be seen to be believed. On top of that, there are tons of surreal gaffes where silent film title-cards are periodically inserted without rhyme or reason, and, despite the film being shot in English in America, the actresses have music and dialogue poorly overdubbed so their mouths move despite there being no conversation, and a full grassroots band comes out of a woman playing a beat-up old… well, I’m not sure what it is, but it sure isn’t a full banjo and violin string band! Trés bizarre, but it’s this quality that makes it much more watchable and interesting than the main feature; although it also has a fair share of the boring “everyday life… BUT OMG IN THE NUDE~!” sequences that kill the main feature, it not only has less, but it has the humor to make sitting through those scenes worth it. Not only that, but it wraps itself up nicely by showing “highlights” in a three-minute condensed version of the film before the closing credits. It bears repeating: trés bizarre.
|Which one o' you knuckleheads laid this here?|
Body Count (because every good movie has at least one death in it!):
The Beast that Killed Women - one woman (*cough*), one gorilla
The Monster of Camp Sunshine - one mutated groundskeeper
Wrestling Moves/References (because in the end, this IS a wrestling site):
The Beast that Killed Women - …still waiting… OK, remember that guy the gorilla threw into the water? He was GORILLA PRESSED~! Get it? LOLOLOLOL
The Monster of Camp Sunshine - none
ONE Redeeming Scene (SPOILER WARNING!!):
The Beast that Killed Women – Seeing as how there was only one kill in the movie, despite it being not a very good one, that wins by default. Boo!
The Monster of Camp Sunshine - The conclusion to this one is totally outrageous; Martha calls her lab assistant/boyfriend, telling him that Hugo ingested the chemicals and to bring an antidote he had recently (and conveniently) developed. While he’s on his way, someone calls the army, and military stock footage and airplanes appear as the screen turns dark and between stock footage, flashes are shown as the nudists run from dropped bombs and the army. It sounds like total cheese on paper, but it’s a convincing cut and paste job, and is another example of the bizarre imagery that makes this film a joy. Hugo, of course, gets blown to bits.
Both films are presented in full-frame, and they look gorgeous, particularly The Beast that Killed Women, which is shamefully given a totally flawless transfer with vibrant, shimmering color. The Monster of Camp Sunshine also looks great, however there are portions of the film where for a minute or so the image suddenly gets a much darker tint, thus suggesting that the remastering job wasn’t as careful as with The Beast that Killed Women. Sound is Dolby Digital mono (as usual), but both suffer from poor mixes, particularly The Beast that Killed Women. The first time I saw this film (and yes, for a fair subjective review, I watched it multiple times… grumble…) I literally heard the background music and bird sounds much more clearly than the dialogue. However, given that these were low-budget films made almost 40 years ago, with no concern for a lasting piece of art, just a cheap buck, I can forgive it. It’s not like there are any archival sound materials or Something Weird to work with anyway.
For those of you who couldn’t get enough breasts, there’s BOOBIES GALORE~! For starters, there are theatrical trailers for The Beast that Killed Women (that, if you’ll pardon my language, is cut off and beat the FUCK up, and really gives an appreciation for Something Weird’s remastered print of the real thing), Eves on Skis (doesn’t that get cold?), Goldilocks and the Three Bares (which Something Weird is releasing on a double-feature with Sinderella and the Golden Bra in May), Nudes on Tiger Reef, Nudist Life, and Pussycats Paradise (which is advertised as “In Color” on a black and white trailer… whatever, dude). There’s also a hidden egg trailer for Girls Come Too; featuring excessive male and female nudity; the trailer claims the film “could not have been made a few months ago” due to a decision by the Supreme Court declaring “nudity itself is not obscene” (I actually have to look this up for a research paper, so if anyone happens to know off-hand which case they’re referring to [the film was released in 1968], please e-mail me).
Then there are the archival nudist short subjects: “Bring ‘Em Back Nude” (from a 1920’s coin-drop arcade machine), “Expose of the Nudist Racket” (1938), “Nude Ranch” (not sure of the date on this one, probably ‘30s or ‘40s), “Beauty and the Beast” (which has to be from the ‘20s or ‘30s), “Back to Nature” (1954), and “Nudist Fashion Show” (a clip from the above-mentioned Girls Come Too). It’s fairly difficult to analyze nudie cuties, since they exist to provide two things: tame nudity and threadbare plot (if that).
“Bring ‘Em Back Nude” is by far the most interesting, although it also has the least blatant nudity; it’s an adventure to Africa, featuring stock footage of animals, a group of explorers, a gorilla kidnapping, two “white goddesses” and a “native guide” clad in black face and a top hat. I prefer this to the main feature, although at about 14 minutes (costing a total of 40 cents!), it’s a bit too lengthy.
“Expose of the Nudist Racket” starts out with a minute-long text introduction that compares different “ism’s” in a display of “witticism”, then becomes a short (9 minutes) pro-nudist film that talks about Lady Godiva, breaks down anti-nudist arguments, and makes fun of a fat nude woman (“she’d be better off giving the horse a ride so as not to break its back!”).
“Nude Ranch” is standard material, with a group of topless cowgirls dancing and playing tennis (AND badminton AND table tennis… damn these ladies are talented!), but has an interesting soundtrack of country/folk standards as opposed to “stock” burlesque music from the majority of shorts from the period. This runs for about six minutes.
“Beauty and the Beast” is an old burlesque skit where a gorilla (which happens to be the worst suit I’ve ever seen, looking less like a gorilla but more like a deformed acrobat) chases after a dancer, who instead of running, dances around him, only to have her skirt torn off by the gorilla, who, still chasing her, eventually tears off all her clothes, knocks her unconscious, and briefly mounts her(!) before carrying her away off stage.
“Back to Nature” is ten-minutes of jaw-dropping, spicy hot, nudist-campy color (although, unfortunately, the color fades after about a minute). This one features nude fencing, laundry-hanging, swimming, cooking, eating, and hiking. Being a portrayal of “everyday life” at the nudist camp, it also features children. Although, like all the other images in the film, this nudity is presented in an entirely non-sexual context, the producers of these films also knew at the time that the majority of their audience was watching such films for cheap sexual arousal, and that as such they were inadvertently exploiting nude children. If such a shot, even in non-sexual context and not showing anything, were put into a film today, it would probably make such a shot and film “controversial”, so it’s interesting to see this sort of innocence. Either way, I’m still surprised Something Weird left these frames on the DVD, since they’ve edited down these “short features” before.
The “Nudist Fashion Show” clip runs about two and a half minutes, and to answer the obvious question, it’s just nudists modeling minks and bad (though stylish at the time) haircuts. It’s a stupid concept (did/do nudist camps actually do this stuff?), and since the ladies aren’t as attractive as in the other skits, it doesn’t play out too well on the disc either.
|OK, I've heard of G, R, and X, but M? Where's M-13?|
Then there are three sets of drive-in intermission shorts. The first two are interesting pieces of nostalgia, since they feature mainly old ads (several of which are cartoons, including one where a pair of archaeologists search a pyramid just to find an old theater and say “Pepsi please!”) and spots for the snack bar (note to self: don’t watch on an empty stomach). What I found most interesting, however, was a spot explaining the MPAA’s system of movie ratings. The first two sets run about nine-ten minutes, with the third running only a couple of minutes, showing another food spot, an incomplete spot (which, if you’ll notice, utilizes the same background as the logo for horror DVD demi-gods Grindhouse Releasing. These spots’ age is apparent, as there are many lines, scratches, and “jumpy film” throughout, but no remastering is really necessary, since their appearance is simply to cement the drive-in aspect of the double feature.
Finally, there’s the interesting “Let’s Go to the Drive-In!” feature that Something Weird implemented on several of their “Drive-In Double Feature” titles such as Blood Suckers/Blood Thirst. This basically plays all the features on the disc in an order similar to that of an old drive-in. As far as I can tell, this is the order: Drive-In Supplements #1, The Beast that Killed Women trailer, Goldilocks and the Three Bares trailer, “Nudist Fashion Show”, Pussycats Paradise trailer, The Beast that Killed Women main feature, “Nude Ranch”, Drive-In Supplements #2, Nudist Life trailer, “Bring ‘Em Back Nude”, “Beauty and the Beast”, Eves on Skis trailer, Nudes on Tiger Reef trailer, “The Expose of the Nudist Racket”, “Back to Nature”, The Monster at Camp Sunshine second-billed feature (interesting, since it’s second-bill on the package, shouldn’t it have played “lower on the card” so to speak?), and Drive-In Supplements #3.
Although these nudie cuties have enjoyable moments, on the whole they drag too much for me to fully recommend. Personally, I’ve realized I’m not a fan of nudie cuties, on the basis that since these films have been made there’s been hardcore sexploitation and pornography that provides much better nudity and sexual appeal, and often better plots as well. As is, the nudie cutie is an interesting relic of a much more innocent time, and may be worth a bit of nostalgia, but other than that I can’t see any use for these films today. It should also be noted that I seem to be the only person on the whole Internet that not only likes Monster of Camp Sunshine period, but likes it more than The Beast that Killed Women.
Oh, I finally found out why my column output’s been crap since college. With the watching of each film/featurette multiple times (to insure a fair criticism of all aspects), typing up, and finding good screen caps, this column’s taken me probably around 9-10 hours spread out over three or four nights, and because of the subject matter only about five or ten people will read it, and most of those are probably just reading it because they’re my friends. Pardon the mini-rant, but I’d like to issue a hearty honest thank you to whoever does read my columns. See you in… at my current rate, around a month. Hopefully sooner, but who knows? Not me.
|What? Gotta pay for these tuition increases somehow...|
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