Director: Lazarus L. Wolk & Doris Wishman
RetroSeduction Cinema

This is where it all began. Before she became one of the most unique sexploitation filmmakers, with her cute Miami nudist camp epics, noir-esque New York melodramas, and tacky 1970s trash, Doris Wishman’s film career began in 1960 with HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, a guns-n-girls nudist camp feature that beautifully illustrates her peculiar aesthetic to fans and newcomers alike. Unseen virtually ever since the film was originally theatrically distributed, HIDEOUT IN THE SUN has been one of the Holy Grails of 1960s sexploitation, and thanks to a complete fluke, it turned up among her belongings. Thankfully, this is a lost film that lives up to the anticipation of discovery, and RetroSeduction Cinema’s package is one of the most historically valuable releases of the year!

Small-time crook brothers Duke and Steve rob a Miami bank in the middle of the day, and plan on escaping to Cuba until their car breaks down and they must take beautiful Dorothy as a hostage when they steal her convertible. Learning their escape boat is being watched by the cops, they hide out at Dorothy’s favorite vacation spot, the Hibiscus Country Club. Little do they know that it’s a nudist camp, filled with beautiful people lounging around, skinny-dipping, playing volleyball, and walking around with strategically-placed beach balls over their naughty bits. While Duke stews over the plan going awry, Steve and Dorothy cavort in the sun and fall in love.

Doris Wishman begins her directorial career with a defining image: feet. Yes, after the credits and establishing shots of scenic 1950s Miami, we follow the feet of Duke as he stakes out the bank. You know you’re firmly entrenched in Wishman’s World of Wonder when you’re staring at feet for minutes at a time. Shot in glorious color for a couple grand borrowed from Doris’ sister Pearl, HIDEOUT IN THE SUN is a slightly amateurish, but still quite satisfying nudie cutie with no real indicators of this being a debut feature for Doris. To be fair, the directorial credit on the film goes to Lazarus L. Wolk (Larry Wolk, the man behind other nudist camp romps such as NATURE’S SWEETHEARTS and the late-in-the-game full-frontal-nudity-filled GIRLS COME TOO), and Doris even hired another man to fill the director’s chair at one point, but the direction of the film still feels much like her later work, such as DIARY OF A NUDIST and BLAZE STARR GOES NUDIST. The dubbing is atrocious, cutaway shots frequent, and the overwrought dialogue and abundant plot becomes more outrageous as the film progresses, all trademarks of Wishman cinema. But in attempting to ape the success of other nudist camp films of the era, Wishman succeeds in spades. The ladies are lovely (including female lead Dolores Carlos, a regular in Miami nudie flicks, and other gals borrowed from the Bunny Yeager portfolio), the men are muscular and tan, and as with most nudist camp features, while the nudity is quaint and innocent, the atmosphere is full of good-natured fun, sun, and smiles. This may be why though they are such an outdated genre of erotica, the nudist camp film still maintains a healthy following today. In 70 minutes, you get a cost-effective bank heist (in other words, off-camera), nude picnicking, plenty of great footage of 1950s Miami locations, nude volleyball, a Doris Wishman cameo (she’s the lady walking out of the bank), nude archery, hard-boiled gangsters out of a Cagney film, nude drinking from a water fountain, a half-baked love story with maudlin romantic dialogue, nude lounging around, and a climactic chase through the Miami Serpentorium (lots of snakes, komodo dragons, and alligators, no stock footage here!). What are you waiting for? This is a valuable historical curio and entertaining exploitation fare in one glorious package!

Considering the film was shot in Eastmancolor, a process notorious for turning red over the years, the full-frame transfer of HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, from the only surviving elements from Wishman’s estate, looks great. Skintones are accurate and reds and greens are very good-looking. While there are print jumps, black lines, speckling, and a good deal of debris, this is to be expected from a film of this vintage and from such rare elements. The mono audio mix is excellent!

The supplements on disc 1 kick off with an audio commentary featuring two of my biggest influences and personal friends, documentary filmmaker Ashley Spicer, serving as moderator, and Wishman/Sarno biographer Michael Bowen. In addition to discussing Doris entering the film business, financing the film, how tragedy in her personal life affected her filmmaking, the multiple production problems plaguing her first film, the shooting locations (it wasn’t a real nudist camp!), and fascinating behind-the-scenes tidbits about the various personalities involved in front of and behind the camera, Bowen also talks about his personal relationship with Doris during the last decade of her life. An excellent commentary that will leave fans salivating for Bowen’s Wishman biography!

Because this year marks the 5th anniversary of Doris’ passing (at the ripe old age of 90), it’s fitting that unused footage from her video interview for SCHLOCK! THE SECRET HISTORY OF AMERICAN MOVIES has been pieced together for this release. It’s a real shame Doris didn’t do many interviews or commentaries during her lifetime, because she was just as outrageous and entertaining as her films! I will never forget her show-stopping appearance on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”, raising the eyebrows of both Conan and fellow guest Roger Ebert (an admitted Chesty Morgan fan) with her incredible personality. Though the interview here is a brief 7 minutes, Doris discusses her entry into the film business with HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, the film disappearing for almost 40 years until she discovered film elements in her storage room, and her use of many pseudonyms. Michael Bowen also appears on-camera to discuss his relationship with Doris and why her films are so important in the world of sexploitation. One may wonder why Mighty Monarch of Exploitation David F. Friedman is interviewed here, but because of his incredible background and knowledge of his contemporaries of this period of filmmaking, he shares some great stories of meeting Doris while she was working for distributor Max Rosenberg, seeing HIDEOUT IN THE SUN for the first time, and the technical limitations of Doris’ work. It’s only 5 minutes but Friedman is always fascinating. An 8-minute news reel from 1960 (with a new video title) is an interesting artifact to put things into perspective regarding the year the film was released. Trailers for THE SEXPLOITERS, THE SEXPERTS, MOONLIGHTING WIVES, INGA, SEDUCTION OF INGA, and SWEDISH WILDCATS cap off the disc.

The second disc includes a 16x9 widescreen transfer of HIDEOUT IN THE SUN, which is admittedly pretty nice for those who want to watch the film on anamorphic television sets, but the film’s original aspect ratio is 1.33:1, so purists should just stick with the full-frame version. A bonus 27-minute featurette, “Postcards from a Nudist Camp”, looks like an unfinished European film of a visit to an island nudist camp. The elements apparently had no audio track, so RetroSeduction added video generated titles, new sound effects, and classical library music. It’s an interesting artifact, but would be better without the modern additions. Finally, a liner notes booklet contains a superb essay by Michael Bowen on Doris’ place in exploitation history and a lively print interview with Wishman that touches upon all aspects of her career in a nice sneak preview of his full-length tome on her life and films. With the release of Doris Wishman’s debut feature, I naturally must wonder when we can expect to see PRINCE AND THE NATURE GIRL, PLAYGIRLS INTERNATIONAL, and BEHIND THE NUDIST CURTAIN emerge on the scene??
(Casey Scott)