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‘Suicide Is Painless’ (AKA the theme from ‘M*A*S*H’)—the disco version


 
Not much to say about this one. If you’ve ever wanted a reason to picture Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III doing the Hustle, here’s your chance.

In Tom Moulton’s “Disco Mix” column in Billboard of March 5, 1977, he wrote, “The strongest [of three recent singles from FARR Records] is ‘Song From M*A*S*H’ by the New Marketts. Here is a beautiful and well-orchestrated melody featuring guitar and synthesizer playing the melody line and pleasing synthesizer solo in the vamp. The record was produced by Joe Saraceno.”

It’s well known bit of movie-making lore that the lyrics of the song were written by Mike Altman, the son of Robert Altman, director of the original movie. Appearing on Carson in the 1980s, Altman stated that his son had earned more than a million dollars for his part in writing the song, while Altman himself made just $70,000 for directing the movie.
 

 

 
via Ken Levine’s blog

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
John Waters calls ‘Fuego’ ‘a hetero film for gay people to marvel at’
01.27.2015
10:13 am

Topics:
Movies
Sex

Tags:
John Waters
camp
Fuego


 
From the Dangerous Minds archives: For those of you snowed in today, here’s a sizzling hot cult film to keep you warm. Highly recommended!

I first heard about Armando Bo’s lusty 1969 Argentinian sexploitation film Fuego (“Fire”) due to John Waters championing of the film, but I didn’t actually get to see it until last night. I’m always interested in seeing something that John Waters is enthusiastic about and I reckon that quite a few of you feel the same way. If so, then you need to watch Fuego toot sweet.

It does not disappoint.

Fuego stars the outrageously hot, extremely well-endowed Isabel Sarli, who has the sort of “brick shithouse” build that Russ Meyer was so very fond of. Fuego and Meyer’s Vixen would make a great “ants in her pants” double bill, but a more appropriate match-up would be Female Trouble and Fuego, which now that I’ve seen it, was obviously a big influence not only on John Waters, but also on Divine. Much of Dawn Davenport—the character’s fashion sense, walk and bouffant hairdo—would appear to be closely modeled on Isabel Sarli. Sarli was also an outrageously hammy actress and Divine just took her already over-the-top “undulating” acting style and turned the volume up to 11.

Sarli plays the insatiable, irresistible Laura and in this role, lemme tell ya, she is perfectly cast. Laura is a complete uninhibited and naturally this gives Sarli plenty of excuses to doff her duds, which she does constantly and we see her engaged in trysts with both men (any man seems to do, her catchphrase—normally screamed—is “I need men!!!”) and with her older, lizard-like lesbian maid. A wealthy businessman named Carlos (director Armando Bo, who also wrote the script and the insanely incessant music) sees some girl-on-much-older-girl action on the beach and later attends a party at Laura’s boyfriend’s house. Soon Carlos is seeing Laura, but he has no idea what he’s gotten himself into. She roams the streets flashing her tits and he is constantly catching her in bed with other dudes. It happens a lot.
 

 
The first part of Fuego is where most of the skin is shown, whereas the later half is talkier, more melodramatic and way more nuts. Laura realizes that her uncontrollable urges are causing her husband grief when he nearly kills an electrician he catches her bonking. They go to a “sex expert” to discuss what can be done about her “condition” (a Pocket Rocket might help...) During a gynecological exam, Laura has a thundering orgasm. The pair travel all the way to New York where Carlos is told by a doctor there that the only thing that can save Laura is his unwavering love.

I won’t tell you how it ends, but when you know in advance that Armando Bo and Isabel Sarli made 27 films together—with her rolling around with little to nothing on in every single one of them—and that they were famously lovers for years (although he never left his wife for her), you can start to project all sorts of psychological things onto Fuego. First off, Bo wrote the script and so he therefore wrote the cuckold role for himself. There’s also the voyeuristic aspect of Bo arranging to see his woman getting her tits out for so many other guys.

There’s a certain “subtext” to Fuego, let’s just say.

Waters calls Fuego: “A hetero film for gay people to marvel at” and truly, it’s a movie that covers all the bases. I’d recommend watching it in a group, like Birdemic or something like that. It’s enjoyable no matter what, but like most “so bad that it’s good” movies, experiencing it for the first time with other people is the way to go. I also recommend the dubbed version (below), the actors obviously had fun with it.

Armando Bo died in 1981 and Sarli stopped making films. She is now a cult figure with a devoted following. Sarli was feted at Lincoln Center in 2010.
 

 

 
The NSFW trailer for Fuego:
 

 
In the clip below from his John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You show, the Fellini of Baltimore waxes poetic about one of his favorite films, admits that he “stole” a lot of stuff from Fuego and you can see some of the opening titles:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Apparently David Cronenberg is a huge ‘Dilbert’ fan
01.26.2015
03:29 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Art
Movies

Tags:
David Cronenberg
Dilbert


 
I just wanted to collect a few related data points here on the theme of David Cronenberg and Dilbert, the comic strip.

Cronenberg has probably directed more impressive and awesome movies than any living English speaker. Let’s list a few of the standouts, of which there are many: Rabid, Scanners, The Dead Zone, Videodrome, The Fly, Dead Ringers, Naked Lunch, Crash, eXistenZ, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Cosmopolis, and Maps to the Stars.

From there we pivot to Cronenberg’s interest in Dilbert—indeed, intense appreciation of Dilbert. The evidence is incontrovertible.

First we have this item from the November 24, 2014 issue of New York Magazine. The heading reads “The Best Gift I Ever Got Was a….” Cronenberg’s answer went like this: “Every year, my kids get me a ‘Dilbert’ calendar. It’s extremely funny and sophisticated and accurate—very philosophical for a daily cartoon. I really need that calendar every year. It keeps me going.”
 

 
In this recent interview with Scene Creek, Cronenberg mentioned Dilbert in a positive way. Deflecting criticisms that Maps of the Stars is an “attack” on Hollywood, Cronenberg insists that he did not think of it that way, then says, “That’s not unique to Hollywood. Any human endeavor has those aspects. Look at various forms of pop culture that can skewer any business, be it Wall Street, or Silicon Valley, or Dilbert, the cartoon.” Hmmmm.

Then, just about a year ago, Cronenberg accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Canadian Screen Awards, and in his speech, he related the entire content of a Dilbert strip that first ran on February 15, 2001. Here is that strip:
 

 
You can watch a clip below of Cronenberg accepting the award—unfortunately, it’s a phonecam video of the user’s TV set, but you can still make it out. After introductions from Jay Baruchel and Viggo Mortensen and a three-minute montage of Cronenberg’s movies that WILL make you want to watch one of his movies, Cronenberg took the stage and eventually mused on the possibility of an Afterlife Achievement Award, and then said this:
 

So as I would always do in a situation like that I turned to the comic strip Dilbert for guidance. Dilbert has an evil, vicious dog named Dogbert. Dogbert says to him, “The key to happiness is self-delusion, so don’t think of yourself as an organic pain collector racing to oblivion.” And Dilbert says, “Well, actually, I hadn’t had that thought until just now.” And Dogbert says, “Don’t blame me. I said ‘Don’t.’” And suddenly I thought, yeah, if it’s human delusion that allows you to think that there’s an afterlife, well I’m human and I’m certainly deluded.

 
So David Cronenberg loves Dilbert. I honestly don’t know whether this changes my perception of Dilbert or my perception of Cronenberg…..
 

 
via Waxin’ & Milkin’

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Records Collecting Dust’: New doc on collecting vinyl with Jello Biafra and other fanatatics


 
As record collecting’s resurgence continues to grow, so does the sub-industry of proffering opinions about the phenomenon. Annual pro- and anti-Record Store Day think pieces seem to proliferate at a faster pace than vinyl sales themselves, the photo book Dust & Grooves is slated for a third printing this summer, and documentary films on the vinyl collecting hobby are growing in number, as well. That micro-genre’s 21st Century godfather is 2000’s Vinyl, noteworthy for predating the vinyl renaissance by several years, also noteworthy for painting a dismal picture of record collectors as sad old men who, having failed to connect with human beings in their pitiable lives, turn to hoarding media to fill an emotional gap or grasp at a sense of purpose. I frankly and flatly reject the implication that a love of collecting music lumps one in with doleful and socially isolated alterkakers who need suicide watch more than they need turntables. In mitigation, Atom Egoyan and Harvey Pekar are among the collectors interviewed, and that’s damn cool. Watch it here, if you like.

A more recent offering, 2008’s I Need That Record! offers a view of the obsession from a different sociological perspective, looking at the thinning of ranks in indie record stores (that retail niche has obviously rebounded since), seeking input from indie-famous crate diggers like Ian MacKaye and Thurston Moore, with a helping of righteous corporation-slapping from Noam Chomsky. And it offers a much more upbeat view of the collector.

And there is a new contender: Riot House has released musician Jason Blackmore’s (Sirhan Sirhan, Molly McGuire) hour-long Records Collecting Dust, which asks a laundry list of punk and indie luminaries questions like “what was the first record you bought?” “What was the last record you bought?” “If there was a gun to your head and you had to pare your collection down to five albums, what would they be?” It’s a really fun watch, and not just for the trainspotting. It’s a gas to see Keith Morris extol the virtues of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, to see Jello Biafra wax rhapsodic about Space Ritual, Mike Watt raving about American Woman, and David Yow talking about baffling his teacher and fellow schoolkids when he brought the Beatles’ trippy, bluesy b-side “For You Blue” to show and tell. One truly wonderful sequence joins Rocket From the Crypt/Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes guitarist John “Speedo” Reis in showing off his favorite children’s LPs on a toy turntable, and there’s even a segment with Dangerous Minds’ own Howie Pyro. I always enjoy tales of musical discovery, all the more so when they’re told by people who’ve made the music that warped me, and Records Collecting Dust is FULL of that, plus live performances by Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine, the Locust, and Big Business.
 

 
Though enjoyable, the film has its imperfections. It suffers from an abiding and ultimately irritating L.A.-centrism. I’d love to hear more tales of life-changing finds from people who hail from more culturally isolated areas, and so couldn’t just go to someplace like Wherehouse or Licorice Pizza whenever they felt like it, and had to really work for their scores. One other thing screamed out at me, though it’s not a flaw in the film as such, but more a consequence of the hobby’s demographic: the levels of vinyl-stockpiling depicted seem overwhelmingly to be a male phenomenon, so out of 36 interviewees listed in the credits, exactly two women appear, namely former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler, and Frontier Records’ Lisa Fancher. Roessler makes one of the funniest observations in the whole doc when she describes how record stores magically cause men to shop in a manner stereotypically associated with women.

Another of the film’s truly brilliant moments is this fabulous sermon from Jello Biafra, which I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing in its entirety, because I 100% agree with every damn word of it:

I think part of the magic that vinyl, and records, and blundering into cool music you never knew existed still holds for me. I’m still a fan, and keep in mind “fan” comes from the word “fanatic.” I love to keep exploring, and even though I’ve got way too many records, I never buy one unless I intend to listen to it when I get home—I don’t always have time to listen to ‘em all now, but that’s the idea. I don’t buy it to scam or speculate, I buy it to listen to it. And there, that way, I never run out of cool music to listen to. I have no patience for these people who say “Oh, the whole scene died when Darby Crash died,” or “yeah, there’s no good bands anymore.” WROOOOOONG. Good sounds are where you find it so start looking, OK? Don’t be afraid to blunder into something cool. You never know what it might do to your life, or even your own music, or your band may finally start sounding different from all the other bands you like.

Records Collecting Dust began screening in California this month. Remaining showings though March are listed on its web page . If you’re on the fence about checking it out, perhaps these trailers will help nudge you one way or the other.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Mickey Rooney was a FREAK! His EXPLICIT stories of Ava Gardner, Lana Turner & Judy Garland


 
I have such fond memories of Mickey Rooney—or rather, I had such fond memories of Mickey Rooney. Whether it was his understated performance in The Black Stallion or his maniacally enthusiastic chemistry with Judy Garland in Babes in Arms (Hey gang, let’s put on a show!), his work left an indelible mark on my childhood. However after reading excerpts from his biography Life Is Too Short, I want nothing more than to scrub that horny little perv from my brain. The book (which was written right as he coasted into his 70’s) isn’t exactly “tell-all”—and it’s certainly not mean-spirited—but man, does it have an air of “inappropriate grandpa” to it! We get it Mickey—you got a lot of tail! But why did you have to put it like this?!?

[Lana Turner] wasn’t the kind of girl who had much to say or had to say much. Her body said it all, and I got the message, loud and clear. Her auburn locks, her deep green eyes, her long lashes, the tip of her nose, her pouty lips, her graceful throat, the curve of her shoulders, her tiny waste, and, yes, the nicest knockers I have ever seen. When I first saw her at the malt shop on Highland Avenue, she was not wearing a tight pink sweater; this was before her Hollywood handlers put her in sweaters—and I thought, Here is a woman.

My fantasies about her soon came true. When I asked her to go out with me, she said yes. And I soon found out that she was as oversexed as I was, warm, passionate, soft, and moist in interesting places. You may wonder what she saw in me. I don’t know. You’d have to ask her. I do know that on a dance floor I could make her breathless.

I don’t want to ever hear the phrase “moist in interesting places” from anyone that isn’t describing a steak. Also, I understand there’s a temptation to take artistic license recounting one’s own sexual history, but that little humblebrag is fooling no one. Mickey also doesn’t quite get Judy Garland right.

[Judy] always idolized her own charming father—only to learn, after she’d grown up, that he was a homosexual. She couldn’t accept that in him. And then, she had an even harder time accepting a trace of that in herself. She had an affair with a female singer and, caught up in the guilt, couldn’t accept herself. So she tried to lose herself in a never-never land where reality faded and her dreams drifted, just out of reach.

I still think I could have helped Judy, but she kept dodging me. I guess she felt guilty about her addiction. She should have known that being hooked on barbiturates didn’t mean a damn thing to me: after all, I ad been there. I understood what she was feeling. So, in fact, did many of her fans. They, too, would have understood. And they would have been far more loving with her than she was to herself.

Oh come on, Mickey! As studious Tumblr fact-checkers have already pointed out—Judy Garland knew her dad was gay from a pretty young age, and while she was conflicted and confused, it was no great source of guilt-ridden anguish, nor were her her (alleged!) lesbian affairs. This is just bitchy, speculative gossip, Mickey—for shame! But the absolute nadir of tawdry is his account of Ava Gardner—do not read further unless you are prepared to have your idea of a lovable old Hollywood icon sullied beyond repair.

We were both athletic in bed, and pretty verbal, too. Once Ava lost her Southern reticence, she seemed to enjoy using the f-word. And I didn’t mind a bit, when, for example, she would look me straight in the eye, raise a provocative eyebrow, and say, “Let’s fuck, Mickey. Now.” Some years later, Hedda Hopper would say of Ava, “That girl was made to love and be loved.” I had to agree with that judgment.

Oh, we told ourselves that we were very much in love, and our sex life helped us in that particular piece of self-deception. Once Ava got into the spirit of things, she wanted to do it all the time. And she quickly learned what it was that turned me on about her. Let me count the ways: a smoldering look, a laugh, a tear, kicking off her shoes as soon as she got in the house, getting all dolled up, not getting all dolled up, coming down to breakfast in a pair of shorts—and no top at all. In bed, let’s just say that Ava was…well, she had this little rosebud down there at the center of her femininity that seemed to have a life of its own. I am not talking about muscles. One gal I knew had trained her muscles, so that she could snap carrots in her pussy, not hands. But Ava had something different. She had this little extra—it was almost like a little warm mouth—that would reach up and grab me and take me in and make my, uh, my heart swell. She also had big brown nipples, which, when she was aroused, stood out like some double-long golden California raisins. And I sucked those warm breasts, I did taste her mother’s milk.

Ewwwwwwwwwww!!!

Mickey Rooney’s sex life is explored in this marvelous animation from new Dangerous Minds contributor Cris Shapan:
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
CGI versions of classic film trailers: ‘Grease,’ ‘Apocalypse Now,’ ‘Alien’ & ‘The Big Lebowski’

apocbrananima.jpg
 
A crack team of second year Character Animators and CG Artists at The Animation Workshop/VIA UC in Viborg, Denmark, were given the task of producing 30-second trailers inspired by classic movies. The animators produced a selection of beautifully executed work which included trailers for Francis Ford Coppola’s last great movie Apocalypse Now, Wim Wenders’ cult hit Paris Texas, everyone’s holiday season favorite Casablanca and the rock ‘n’ roll musical Grease—which has been made into an interesting hybrid using elements from Tron and Blade Runner.

Previous trailers made by the workshop include Alien and The Big Lebowski (which has hints of Kung Fu Panda in it)—all of these and others can be viewed here.

The Animation Workshop is considered to be “one of the most dedicated animation institutions in the world,” and you can have god look at their back catalog here.
 

Apocalypse Now
 

Paris Texas
 

Casablanca
 

Grease
 
Bonus trailer for ‘Alien’ and ‘The Big Lebowski,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Forty glorious minutes of seedy footage from Times Square in the early 1980s
01.21.2015
11:51 am

Topics:
Crime
Drugs
Movies
Sex

Tags:
Times Square
Charlie Ahearn


 
Everyone agrees that the changes that occurred in Times Square during the early 1990s were emblematic for the city, regardless of what you make of it. For tourists and the local suburbanites, cleaning up Times Square was a prerequisite to visit. For many Manhattanites, the signs portended a neutered, sterile city geared to the wealthy and lacking all noteworthy spark or grit. The best treatment of the changes in Times Square is most likely Samuel Delany’s 1999 meditation Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, a book that my friend Lawrence Daniel Caswell has urged me to read but I haven’t gotten around to yet. (Do check out Caswell’s account, told in comix format, of the meaning of Delany’s book as applied to Cleveland, courtesy of that city’s Scene alt-weekly a couple weeks ago.)
 

 
Those who are old enough will remember the enchantingly seedy—and dangerous—Time Square of the Mayor Koch years (ahem, that’s the 1980s in case you didn’t know). I barely caught the tail end of it, starting to hang out in Manhattan in a serious way in 1988, when I was a teenager. But college and travels abroad intervened, and by the time I came back for another look, it was 1995 and Times Square was very, very different. (The vast majority of the shuttering of the smut shops and sex cinemas took place in a matter of months—with movie marquees that had once advertised Cannibal Holocaust and Inside Seka turned over to artist Jenny Holzer for her brand of signature sloganeering. It was not a long drawn-out process.)
 

 
Doin’ Time in Times Square, which we found courtesy of Gothamist, is an artful montage of footage that movie director Charlie Ahearn took from his apartment building on 43rd Street. This footage was shot between 1981 and 1983, the exact period during which Ahearn was working on the groundbreaking hip-hop classic Wild Style featuring Fab Five Freddy, Lady Pink, the Rock Steady Crew, and so on. In between the surreptitiously recorded scenes of religious freaks, cops, and a handful of epic, er, disagreements of a physical nature, Ahearn throws in some moments from inside the apartment as his family members celebrate birthdays and the like. A godforsaken New Year’s Eve gets its due as well, no worries.

Doin’ Time in Times Square has been dubbed “the home video from hell” for a reason. It appeared at the New York Film Festival in 1992, and you can get it on DVD here.
 

 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Watch ‘Mia and Roman,’ an insufferable 1968 mini-doc on the making of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’
01.21.2015
09:10 am

Topics:
Movies

Tags:
Roman Polanski
Mia Farrow
Rosemary's Baby


 
My love for Rosemary’s Baby is a paradox I navigate deftly, considering how much I loathe both Mia Farrow and Roman Polanski as human beings. With Polanski, my complaints are predictable, but Farrow is a far less frequent object of scorn, so I’ll just say I find her support of Polanski hypocritical, her kid-collecting a tad excessive, and her acting often cloyingly twee. I’ve long suspected the canned ingenue thing is really just an extension of her own affected persona; the woman makes Godard’s female characters look like Sarah Conner. Still, I’d argue that Mia Farrow’s simpering sweetness and Roman Polanski’s predatory instincts are exactly what make Rosemary’s Baby work so well—who better to paint a nightmarish situation in which women are repeatedly victimized and never believed? The 1968 mini-documentary on the making of that masterpiece—Mia and Roman-pretty much confirms my instinctual distaste for both of them.

Polanski’s pretentious and macho, driving race cars and callously expounding on how Farrow was not his first choice for the lead—“I saw a more healthier, more stronger maybe a little more sexy girl in the beginning.” Farrow—just back from the infamous trip to India where she meditated with The Beatles—fawns breathily and paints her trailer with flower-power schmaltz. Even Polanski admits there is something contrived about her public face. Perhaps portending of her future child menagerie, Mia goes on about her extensive pet collection.

I think the worst part is the charts they both make—Mia for the crew, and Roman for Mia—that attempt to measure the “good behavior” of their subjects. I’m not sure exactly what made Mia Farrow think this was cute and not crazy diva bullshit (Obliviousness? Did she think her unintimidating haircut inoculated her from accusations of prima donna eccentricity?) and Polanski’s elaborate revision of her original design has the additional feel of a creepy paternalism. I cannot imagine working with two such insufferable people. I checked though—Rosemary’s Baby? Still an amazing movie.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Iggy Pop reunites with director Alex Cox for ‘Bill, the Galactic Hero’
01.21.2015
06:10 am

Topics:
Movies
Music

Tags:
Iggy Pop
Alex Cox
Bill, the Galactic Hero


 
Good news for fans of the Repo Man soundtrack: Iggy Pop, who wrote and performed the song “Repo Man” (with help from Sex Pistol Steve Jones), has also contributed the theme song to Alex Cox’s latest movie.

Cox made the Kickstarter-funded Bill, the Galactic Hero with his film students at the University of Colorado Boulder, where the movie premiered last month. It’s adapted from the 1965 book of the same name, the first in a series by author Harry Harrison. The director describes Bill as “a classic anti-war science fiction novel” and a “counterblast to STAR$HIP TROOPERS.” I haven’t read the book, but Cox sure makes its prole’s-eye view of war sound timely:

It’s told not from the flight deck but from the engine room: or to be more exact, the fusebays, where ranks of expendable Fusetenders Sixth Class wait to replace burned-out fuses, or die.

You can hear about a minute of Iggy’s theme song in the movie’s latest trailer. Apparently, life has a lot in common with pizza.
 

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘How to Undress in Front of Your Husband’: The exact opposite of a feminist film
01.19.2015
07:10 am

Topics:
Feminism
Movies
Sex

Tags:
John Barrymore
Dwain Esper

How to Undress in Front of Your Husband
 
The short film you’re about to take a look at is more than just a cheap, extraordinarily sexist exploitation film from 1937. Indeed, How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is most certainly that, but if you can put the stupidity of the attitudes expressed in the film aside momentarily, you’ll notice that it also happens to be surrounded by a bunch of weird, perhaps even interesting facts. Case it point: It involves the huckster distributer of Reefer Madness and his salacious screen writing wife, the film bears a mysterious similarity to a LIFE magazine article featuring photos of ex-burlesque stripper, June St. Clair made in the same year, one of the lead characters (such as there are characters) is the fourth wife of John Barrymore and the other lead character was an ahead-of-her-time suffragette.

I’m not a big fan of Internet lists, but I’m presenting the following one as a matter of expediency. Believe it or not, there’s a lot to cover here for a smutty little fourteen minute film.

1. How to Undress in Front of Your Husband is an exploitation film: To cut right to the chase, this movie is about a lecherous, camera-wielding Peeping Tom and two different women taking their clothes off in preparation for bed. According to the film’s male narrator, there is a right way and a wrong way for a woman to do this if she wants to properly entice her husband, and each woman demonstrates her pre-bed ritual as the narrator looks on through a key-hole. It’s really an awful flick, but notable if you’re interested in this particular fringe nook of filmmaking, truly the bottom of the creative barrel.
 
Reefer Madness Poster
A reproduction of an original Reefer Madness poster.
 
2. The Reefer Madness connection: How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was directed by Dwain Esper, the same fiendish mind who brought us everybody’s favorite joint-sploitation film, Reefer Madness along with Maniac, Sex Madness and Marihuana. Esper was a sleazy but fascinating persona. A serious snake-oil-salesman-type, he traveled around the country “four walling” his racy films in rented tents and theaters in order to work his way around the 1934 Production Code that wouldn’t allow his work to be distributed through conventional channels. In fact, the very title of the film may very well have been part of what was a typical strategy for Esper to get around movie censorship. By billing his screenings as “educational,” as in WE’RE HERE TO EDUCATE YOU ABOUT THE HORRORS OF OPIUM!!!!, he and others like him could attempt to pass off their salacious materials as important public service announcements. After taunting entire towns with tantalizing “Adults Only” promotions, Esper would screen whatever piece of smut he was pitching for a few days, count his money, pack up his gear and get himself the hell out of Dodge, preferably before the town’s morality police could do it for him.

Esper’s wife Hildegarde Stadie, herself an ex-carnival performer who in her younger years often posed nude with a python around her neck to entice people into buying her Uncle’s cure-all tonics, wrote How to Undress in Front of Your Husband as she did many others in the Esper repertoire. Neither of them actually wrote Reefer Madness, by the way. Esper simply bought the film, originally funded by a church group with the intention of legitimately steering people away from the deadly smoke. Esper realized how much of exploitative payday would come from screening the very bad but very “shocking” movie. You can read three Esper screenplays in Marihuana, Motherhood & Madness from 1998.
 
Dwain Esper
Cinemaniac Dwain Esper
 
3. The LIFE article: Interestingly, an article, also from 1937, appeared in the February 17th issue of LIFE magazine depicting almost the exact scenario of the Dwain Esper film and pictures from the article have circulated around the internet over the past few years. Promoting one Allen Gilbert who was ostensibly trying to get the word out about his “Manhattan School of Undressing,” the article shows two different women in the act of preparing for bed, one clumsily, the other, ex-burlesque stripper June St. Clair, gracefully. The conceit of the article is that because of rising divorce rates, women needed to place to go where they could learn to be more sensual when getting ready to slip into bed with their husbands. No mention is made of the husband’s role in the pre-bed ritual, although, due to reader demand and, in some cases, outrage, a subsequent issue of LIFE included an article with men in the same scenario. It seems almost impossible to imagine that the article and the film below weren’t somehow related, although I can find no evidence to substantiate that claim.
 
How to Undress
The right way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
 
How not to undress
The wrong way for a woman to undress in front of her husband according to a 1937 article in LIFE magazine.
 
4. John Barrymore’s fourth wife: Yes, the lead role the film went to Elaine Barrie, alcoholic actor John Barrymore’s fourth wife at the time. Famously, a youthful Barrie (she had the last name of Jacobs at this point) kindled her relationship with Barrymore through a letter asking for an interview with the aging Svengali actor who was in the hospital attempting to dry up at the age of 53. Barrie continued to “interview” Barrymore, and the two eventually married in 1936. Their relationship was a press free-for-all (Barrie was 30 years younger than Barrymore and their relationship began when Barrymore was still married to his third wife) and the Espers were almost certainly capitalizing on her new-found national attention when they cast Barrie in the roll of the ideal wife in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband. The film’s narrator vocally ogles and hubba-hubbas his way through Barrie’s downright scandalous-for-1937 appearances in the film as she sensually quaffs her hair, applies pre-bed perfume, rolls down her stockings and shimmies out of her clothing while strategically never becoming completely nude. The purveyor of the pervy voiceover is of course pleased. “She not only knows how to get a husband, but how to keep him,” he says.

5. The suffragette: Last but not least, one of the most interesting things about this weird little piece is the appearance of former stage and vaudeville actress, Trixie Friganza. She plays the role of the not-so-sensual clothes remover; the representative of “how not to undress in front of your husband,” and the narrator says some truly vile things about her while she goes through her supposed pre-bed ritual. Really, it’s cringe–inducing and mean-spirited. Friganza, a large woman, seems to have made career out of poking fun at her own size, but she was also an outspoken women’s rights activist often using her public notoriety to speak about the arts and for economically downtrodden. She was progressive for the time, even keeping her maiden name and continuing to work after marrying in her early life, a fairly bold statement in the early 1900’s. Friganza’s on screen appearance in How to Undress in Front of Your Husband was one of her last, as she ended her film career in 1940 due to complications with arthritis. After a long career she died in relative obscurity in 1955.

So there you have it, everything I know about the oddball film. For better or for worse, here’s How to Undress in Front of Your Husband in all its schlocky glory.  It skips just a tad at the beginning, but extensive Internet searching yielded this as the best copy. 
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Leave a comment
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