All hail the saints of exploitation film, the final installment of the OLGA series hits DVD! Something Weird Video unleashed their triple-feature disc of the remaining OLGA films (save MADAME OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR, the long-lost Holy Grail of the series) back in 2004 and it's been a long wait for Synapse's release of OLGA'S GIRLS. Licensed through Radley Metzger's Audubon Films, the wait was well worth it. Fans can now own the entire official Audrey Campbell trilogy on the digital format, and this is possibly the best of the lot.
Stone-faced Audrey Campbell returns as Olga, the sadistic European bitch who rules the roost in her Chinatown den of prostitutes and drug traffickers. Working for "The Syndicate," a faceless organization who relishes her bloodthirsty torture techniques, they put her to work ferreting out an informant among her girls who's been squealing to the cops. Olga and her trusty dungeon of degradation provoke screams of agony and pain as each girl is interrogated with blowtorches, chastity belts, electrical currents and one girl even has her tongue sliced out! With her work done, Olga relaxes in the embrace of her lesbian henchman, but a troika of the abused gals have decided to start their own crime organization and give Olga a taste of her own medicine! However, it didn't dawn on them that they can never escape the clutches of Olga...
Produced in 1964, the OLGA series began as the brainchild of producer George Weis (GLEN OR GLENDA?) and director Joseph P. Mawra, who were influenced by the photographic work of infamous bondage man Irving Klaw. Beautiful Cincinnati model Audrey Campbell was given the part of Olga, a ruthless butcher who got pleasure from giving other girls pain. This collaboration resulted in WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN, a film whose title provoked pickets by angry Asian New Yorkers which changed the moniker to OLGA'S WHITE SLAVES. The film became a monster hit and very quickly was followed by two sequels, both starring Audrey Campbell once again as the unstoppable Olga, before Campbell called it quits before 1965's MADAME OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR. She also did not return for the unrelated OLGA'S DANCE HALL GIRLS, but all are classics of their own kind and have rightfully developed a fervent following since their theatrical releases.
It's hard to decide which of the three Audrey Campbell OLGA's is the best. WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN features snowy street scenes in the Big Apple, that catchy Chinese stock music track, was more of a docudrama, and starred Gigi Darlene; OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME took place in upstate New York, with lots of great outdoor photography (the chase scene is unbelievable), live on-set recorded sound, and Audrey's SIN IN THE SUBURBS co-stars Alice Linville and W.P. Parker. But there is something special about OLGA'S GIRLS. Perhaps it's a semblance of a plot that makes it the favorite among fans of the series. This one was also good enough to be picked up by Radley Metzger's Audobon Films for re-release after American Film Distributing Corp. had finished with it. The film opens with a dark, shadowy walk down a hallway before a lady of the evening opens a door and blinds the screen with light. This scene out of a film noir is a great introduction to the black-and-white roughie world of New York City sexploitation. Director Joseph Mawra (later Joseph Pietro of FIREBALL JUNGLE and SHANTY TRAMP) has a great eye for visual composition; gritty hand-held camerawork collides with poetic shadowy tableaus of torture and grue. As low-budget as these films were, they were very technically well-made and this can't be denied. Audrey Campbell of course turns in another tour-de-force performance as the titular queen of the dungeon; many shots capture her tombstone teeth in a horrific smile. The final twist ending with her hair in a tight bun and drinking a glass of booze through clenched teeth is very effective. This is also the only OLGA film where the villainess is tortured herself (!). As with the other films, there is lots of heroin use (one girl OD's and is dismembered and thrown into a furnace!), go-go dancing, a pot party, lesbianism, black fishnets and lingerie, plenty of ass shots, and of course the pretty disturbing torture scenes which border between campy and repulsive. And a quite memorable catfight with both girls visibly exhausted by the conclusion!
Going back to the original black-and-white negative, Synapse has done a gorgeous restoration for OLGA'S GIRLS. There are very few moments of dirt and debris at reel changes, but are negligible. The sharp image makes every strand of the girls' wigs crystal clear (!). The mono audio is also incredibly strong, with the infamous "Night on Bald Mountain" by Stravinsky and narration by Audrey Campbell and Joel Holt (director of KARATE: HAND OF DEATH) coming through loud and clear for all to hear. As a whole, I would venture that this disc looks slightly better than SWV's OLGA disc and sounds much better, too.
In addition to the fantastic theatrical trailer, there is a much-anticipated audio commentary featured on the disc! Unfortunately, it is a bit of a letdown. "Olga" herself Audrey Campbell sits down to chat with Filmmaker Magazine journalist Andre Salas about the film! Moderator Andre Salas tries his best to keep the talk going, but Campbell shot these films over a matter of days and remembers very little about the actual shooting of them. It would have been wiser to have discussed her entire life and career during the commentary, with a few nuggets about OLGA'S GIRLS thrown in at appropriate times, but unfortunately there is a lot of description of what's happening on-screen, silly questions like "Did they design that leather costume for the film?", and out-of-place naiveté about Olga's lesbianism and sadism. There's also way too much analyzation of the character of Olga and the inner meaning of the film. A few errors pop up, such as the fact that Joseph P. Mawra is deceased (he's not, he lives in Jersey), but the commentary isn't a complete washout. There are enough fascinating revelations to keep fans of the series and New York exploitation in general interested. Campbell reveals that some of the girls were school teachers (!) and often suggested their own methods of torture, there were never any full scripts to any of the OLGA films, Glenda Jackson recognized Campbell from these films when working with her in a stage production, explains some of the torture techniques, and there is some brief mention of Campbell's previous and later work. She points out George Weiss and Stanley Borden's cameos and mentions Darlene Bennett, too! Campbell sounds almost identical to her 60s persona, and her smooth speaking voice is enjoyable to listen to. A booklet of liner notes by Salas is actually more informative than his work on the commentary, and is a nice sum-up of the film.
There is no
reason for you not to pick up this disc. Even if you've never seen the other
OLGA films, it won't make a difference as this is a good warm-up for the curious
and if you like what you see, pick up Something Weird's OLGA TRILOGY and complete
collection! Highly recommended! (Casey Scott)
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