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Patty Hearst sexploitation films were a ‘thing’ in the 1970s
12.14.2016
10:41 am
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Patty Hearst sexploitation films were a ‘thing’ in the 1970s


‘Patty’ poster available at WestgateGallery.com
 
Although the notion of rushing a “cash in” product to market to capitalize on a story or scandal in the headlines isn’t exactly a new thing, even in the more freewheeling 1970s a porno “cash in” was still, historically speaking, a fairly novel phenomenon. Case in point, when publishing heiress Patty Hearst was abducted by the left-wing terrorists known as the Symbionese Liberation Army.

If you weren’t around then or need a refresher course, on February 4th, 1974, Patty Hearst, then a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley was abducted from her apartment by the SLA, a radical leftist urban guerrilla group led by escaped convict “Field Marshal” Donald DeFreeze. She was raped, beaten, constantly threatened with death and basically brainwashed/coerced into participating in various highly illegal activities, including an infamous April 15, 1974 San Francisco bank robbery, helping to make improvised explosives and driving a getaway car.
 

 
Hearst was arrested in a San Francisco apartment with another SLA member on September 18, 1975. At her police station booking she listed her occupation as “Urban Guerilla” and asked her lawyer to “Tell everybody that I’m smiling, that I feel free and strong and I send my greetings and love to all the sisters and brothers out there.” Hearst was just 87 pounds when she was apprehended, and despite being described by the prominent psychologist Dr. Margaret Singer, who examined her, as “a low-IQ, low-affect zombie” and clearly having suffered psychological and physical trauma, she was convicted by a jury of several crimes and sentenced to decades in federal prison. Jimmy Carter commuted her prison sentence after 22 months served and Bill Clinton gave her a full pardon in 2001. Hearst appeared in two John Waters films and has been active in charity fundraising, concentrating her efforts towards pediatric AIDS.

The Hearst story was quite a big deal in the mid-70s, daily frontpage news, on the cover of TIME, Newsweek, the Saturday Evening Post and People and the subject of frequent TV news stories. You could buy “special edition” magazines devoted to Hearst’s travails next to the TV Guide and Reader’s Digest at the grocery store checkout line. And there were two, arguably three, exploitation films made about her at the time.
 

 
The most curious of the three was a film simply called Patty (no last name is ever mentioned) a mockumentary that came in hardcore XXX-rated, softcore X-rated and R-rated versions. The only “star” worth mentioning was 70s porn stalwart Jamie Gillis and the film was directed by Robert L. Roberts the same low budget sleaze auteur who gave the world Sweet Savior, the 1971 “love-thrill murders” Manson Family-themed exploitation film starring former teen heartthrob Troy Donahue as a shaggy hippie cult leader.

Essentially Patty seems like it was a bunch of sex scenes with various pairings (group sex, lesbian, interracial and even a little girl-on-snake action according to a VARIETY review) held together with a framing device of “a Freudian psychologist and four of his colleagues” (along with the director himself) conversing about “Patty.” The film’s tagline was “The story of a revolutionary, told in highly erotic terms.” NY Times film reviewer Vincent Canby dubbed it “a frisky romp.”

According to the Temple of Schlock blog, the film had been considered “lost” but that:

The negative for all three was rescued from a condemned movie theater in New Jersey almost seven years ago and sold on eBay to a DVD company on January 14, 2008. A DVD/Blu-ray will hopefully come out sometime soon.

(Apparently a 2017 release has already been announced by Synapse, but with no further information available.)
 

 
And then there is Tanya AKA Sex Queen of the SLA a comedy directed by one “P. Duncan Fingersnarl” (Nate Rogers) in 1976. Here’s what one reviewer on IMDB said about it:

This film is a fun spoof, based on the real-life 70s Patty Hearst kidnapping. In the movie, a young affluent woman named Charlotte Cane, is kidnapped and held for ransom. Her kidnappers are a group of radical revolutionaries, who are holed-up in a grungy hideout, in the Oakland ghetto.

They’re a mixed-race bunch, who are committed to camaraderie, and saving the ‘people’ from the oppressive ‘insect pig’ capitalists. This band of freedom-fighters, are also dedicated to having lots of sex with each other. There’s plenty of juicy sex scenes, including both interracial and lesbian trysts, between the group members. The sex in this film, is very graphic indeed, including showing lots of male full- frontal nudity.

Charlotte gets caught-up in the lustful antics of her kidnappers, and has marathon sex sessions with them all. She enthusiastically enjoys her newly uninhibited sexuality, that the kidnappers have awakened in her. Charlotte also becomes sympathetic, to the radical extremist cause of the group. She even renounces her name, choosing to be called Tanya instead. So, Tanya has to decide if she really wants to return to her former affluent, sheltered existence, when she gets the chance to do so.

 

 
And then lastly, there was the R-rated Abduction, directed by Joseph Zito who went on to make The Prowler, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter, Invasion U.S.A. with Chuck Norris and Red Scorpion with Dolph Lundgren. This film had a rather odd pedigree:

Again from IMDB:

The film is based on a book named Black Abductor written by Harrison James. Black Abductor is a book about a political kidnapping; and it’s interesting that a year after the novel was released, the story actually happened as Patricia Hearst was abducted for political reasons. The plot follows a political group who kidnap the daughter of a politician and want the destruction of a building for the ransom. At first the girl is afraid of her kidnappers, but soon she warms to them and even decides to dedicate herself to their cause.

The existence of the Black Abductor book mentioned above prior to the events of the Hearst case was the cause of some fascinating conspiracy theorizing by Mae Brussell. Leif Erickson and Academy Award-winner Dorothy Malone played the parents in Abduction.

Over the summer CBS announced that there was a Patty Hearst mini-series in development. There have been several documentaries made about her over the years as well as a TV movie about one of the FBI agents who rescued her (played by McCloud actor Dennis Weaver). Probably the best film to be made about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst was Paul Schrader’s harrowing, masterful, highly-stylized 1988 biopic starring Natasha Richardson.
 

 

Guerrilla The Taking of Patty Hearst

Posted by Richard Metzger
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12.14.2016
10:41 am
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