Something Weird Video has had some hot property titles that since they entered the DVD scene have been missing in action. Hardcore SWV fans have their wish lists of titles they hope Image will allow them to release on disc. Alongside Michael Findlay's FLESH trilogy, Audrey Campbell's OLGA films were most probably the most wanted titles on DVD. Quite possibly the first roughies ever made (they predate David F. Friedman's THE DEFILERS by a year), director Joseph Mawra and producer George Weiss created a she-beast to be reckoned with in the character of Olga, played to icy perfection by Cincinatti-born model Audrey Campbell, who also post-synched all her own dialogue and narration. Finally, SWV has unleashed their three OLGA films on DVD: two are seedy classics of the grindhouse era, one is a misunderstood bastard sister of Mawra's masterpieces. Combined with all of SWV's other OLGA-related material, this is one must-have disc and so far one of the best they've produced this year!
For some reason, the films are presented on the disc in non-chronological order. I'll be reviewing them in the order of their release and I would suggest watching them in this order, too, for the full impact. To start with, WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN (a title that incited enough protests by Chinatown residents to warrant a brief title change to OLGA'S WHITE SLAVES) was the first in the official trilogy and is my personal favorite of the films. The time: 1964. The place: New York City, a cold, snowy winter. Olga Petroff (Audrey Campbell) makes her living picking up wayward women just out of the womens' discipline centers and forcing them to become prostitutes and drug dealers! If they refuse, there'll be Hell to pay! Olga has her own private torture dungeon, which she frequents brandishing a maniacal smile and her trusty whip! She employs various torture racks and the old favorite, spinning women upside-down! For a film that's only 70 minutes long, a lot happens: Frenchie (gorgeous personal fetish figure Gigi Darlene of BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL) is a diplomat's daughter whom Olga tortures so her father can send her money to fund Olga's drug trafficking; Olga falls in love with one of her innocent captives; Olga's female henchman helps one girl try to escape with dire results. And I didn't even mention the women shooting up heroin or the back alley abortion (with George Weiss as "the filthy old butcher"!)!! It may sound like these are filthy misogynistic smut movies, but the camp levels are through the roof! None of the violence has dated well, and none of the actresses display fear or pain realistically, so never fear, anything disturbing about these atrocities has been erased. Which can't be said for the ILSA films, direct descendants of Mawra's trilogy. The film is entirely narrated, with no post-synch or live dialogue, and the melodramatic narration by Joel Holt is a real hoot, especially when he imitates dialogue by the characters when their mouths don't even open! Audrey Campbell narrates her own inner monologues with plenty of gusto, with some choice nuggets of dialogue ("That's it...I want a man... Want a man...I NEED a man!!"; "Two-bit whore! I'll show you what we do to tramps like you!"). Exploitation films shot in New York City almost always show location footage of the Big Apple pre-Disney and WHITE SLAVES offers plenty of glances at Chinatown 40 years ago, including peeks inside shop windows and along food stands. The requisite library music is on-hand, including familiar Michael Findlay cues, a repetitive catchy Oriental theme, and best of all, an overworked record of Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," the use of which was put into overdrive as the series progressed! As a side note, the newspaper headlines flashed at the start of the film are recycled from old 1930s roadshow attractions!
"I can keep this up all day, honey, and besides, it's good exercise for me!" One of the many quotable lines from what many consider the best film in the OLGA trilogy, OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME!! The third in the official Audrey Campbell series (the second film, OLGA'S GIRLS, is forthcoming on disc from Synapse), the setting has been transplanted to an picturesque abandoned mill in upstate New York, providing the opportunity for great scenic outdoor chase and torture scenes. They use a little boxcar on the train tracks to get to and from the mill. Olga has taken her brother, Nick (the very fey W.B. Parker, who played Campbell's husband in SIN IN THE SUBURBS), under her employ and as the film opens, they torture young drug trafficker Elaine (the chipper Alice Linville, a great actress who co-starred as Campbell's daughter in SIN IN THE SUBURBS). It's pretty bizarre seeing 'Mom' and 'Dad' torture 'Daughter' in this strange family reunion of sorts!! As in WHITE SLAVES, little plot but a lot happens in 69 minutes: Elaine escapes, resulting in a lengthy chase through the woods before they recapture her; lots of torture, including branding a woman's breasts with a hot poker as steam erupts from the flesh, running women ragged like horses, spanking girls with a board with a nail in it, strapping girls into the electric chair, snipping off nipples, leaving girls tied to trees in the scalding sun to go delirious, and tying girls up in strait-jackets; Paula and Ellie, two of Olga's girls, plot to take over Olga's drug racket and prostitution ring; and finally, Olga decides to train Elaine as her replacement, creating a mini-monster with all the cold-blooded evil in a tiny compact body. Tee-hee...Alice Linville would indeed take over as the chief bitch, with W.B. Parker in tow, in the unofficial sequel MADAME OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR, which is now lost. I assume there was more money in this sequel, as Mawra could afford to include some live sound sequences (the opening torture sequence includes all three actors' real voices live on-set!). Despite this special occasion, Joel Holt still returns for narrative duties, just as melodramatic and wonderful as before! And Audrey Campbell once again narrates her own inner monologues and spouts more hateful dialogue as she tortures the daylights out of her girls ("She looked as if she'd handled a bullwhip all her life," "When was the long time you received a spanking? A long time I bet! This is one you won't forget! Your ass will be so red that you won't be able to sit down for a month! Be lucky that I'm not using this on another part of your body, rather than your ass!")! This is the best-looking of the Mawra trilogy; the outdoor photography is superb, with lots of motion and rugged guerilla tactic filmmaking (some of those hills and rivers look treacherous!). And imagine poor Alice Linville and Audrey Campbell climbing over those rocky burgs!
OLGA'S DANCE HALL GIRLS is rarely mentioned when discussing the OLGA films, except in passing by those who have no interesting in seeing it. It was produced by George Weiss, wishing to continue to capitalize on the Olga character despite Audrey Campbell's departure from the series, but the similarities end there. Olga (played by a Mary Woronov look-alike Lucy Eldredge) and Nick (NYC nudie regular Larry Hunter, whose character goes back and forth from 'Nick' to 'Vince') are back in New York (Elaine has suddenly left the picture since MASSAGE PARLOR), running a somewhat classier version of their prostitution ring, recruiting bored housewives in need of extra cash to be "hostesses" at parties held at a private dance hall. Housewife Jill tries to get out of the "business", while Carol Ross moves higher up in the organization to become one of its leaders. She takes part in an initiation ritual with feathered masks and capes...a ritual that leads to the realization that the organization is a front for a bizarre cult that indulges in human sacrifice! Unfortunately, unlike the Mawra films, little happens in the 59 minutes. There's lots of simulated sex at a party, including one really long sequence with Olga (hey, she was supposed to be a lesbian!). The library music is fabulous, most of which I'd never heard before, and the film opens with the familiar trippy acid hallucination effects seen in THE WEIRD WORLD OF LSD a year later (the music from that sequence is heard during the climax)! There are several live sound segments in the film, but most of the film is narrated by a lesser dance hall girl (not surprising). One of those segments allows the viewer to hear actor Larry Hunter's voice, a very rare instance indeed (his performances in Doris Wishman films and various other nudies are usually dubbed). All of them show that the dialogue was wholly improvised. More interesting is the fact that Carol Ross is played by the alluring Linda Boyce, best-known as the S&M stripper Stella in CURSE OF HER FLESH (the woman who unwittingly kills her lesbian lover with a dildo knife!). She appeared in many other NYC nudies and roughies, was an acceptable actress, and is one of my personal favorites. And my all-time roughie favorite, blonde vixen Uta Erickson, a Michael Findlay regular and a damn good actress, is seen briefly sitting on a couch in the background during one of the dance party sequences, even receiving a few close-ups, taking part in a catfight in her underwear and the sacrifice in the nude (all uncredited, of course)!! So, for NYC sleaze fans, this is a must-see film for various reasons. Others might not be so impressed. Granted, it isn't Audrey Campbell and it isn't packed with torture or campy narration, but it still oozes that special nastiness that only 42nd Street theaters could appreciate. Thankfully the aura remains intact on DVD.
The presentations of each OLGA film is as varying as the films themselves. All three black-and-white transfers seem to be taken from original negatives, which is shocking considering the limited release of the films. WHITE SLAVES opens with some grain and dirt during the opening credits, but as the film progresses, the grain diminishes until the image is simply stunning. A spattering of dirt and speckling here and there doesn't detract from enjoying the transfer. OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME looks the very best of the three, with no grain, no dirt, no speckling. The only problems were with the original photography, some scenes are very dark, there are very bright intervals in-between cuts. OLGA'S DANCE HALL GIRLS is the least of the trio, with lots of wear and tear during several scenes, with big dark gashes and lines in the print. At its best, there are faint signs of grain. All three transfers show very deep, true black levels. The mono audio mixes are also of varying quality. WHITE SLAVES and HOUSE OF SHAME allow the music and narration to blast through at a satisfactory level, but live dialogue isn't rendered very well.
Ready for more torture? Enter the Torture Chamber...er, the extras menu... The trailer collection includes WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN, OLGA'S GIRLS, OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME, MADAME OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR (some of the only remaining footage left of the lost film), and OLGA'S DANCE HALL GIRLS. WHITE SLAVES is very exploitative: "See an abortion! See how the girls get ready to give sexual favors! See Olga in a moment of passion! See how this warped mind makes love!" A title card announces the title, so an alternate one with the OLGA'S WHITE SLAVES title could be inserted when need be. OLGA'S GIRLS will leave you drooling for Synapse to finally release it on DVD (with Audrey Cambell commentary, too!). A tongue is cut out, nails stabbed into breasts, and of course girls dance and get topless at a dance party. See that nudie cutie patootie Darlene Bennett dancing and being tortured!! "Tortures that rival the Spanish Inquisition enforced on beautiful, innocent girls!" This is the OLGA film with the most plot, if you can say that about any of them. "See Olga's chastity belt!" "OLGA'S GIRLS is disgustingly true!" HOUSE OF SHAME makes good use of all the nasty violence seen in the film and makes you want to sit through the movie all over again. MASSAGE PARLOR's trailer leads me to believe that if the film were ever discovered, it would not disappoint. Elaine is now called "Madame Elaine" and she has also employed a younger, sexier guy named Jacques to do her bidding. An Audrey Campbell look-alike is one of the girls who is tortured!! Exercise machines are used as torture devices! DANCE HALL GIRLS makes the film look like it has more to do with the devil cult than it actually does. More groovy library music is heard than is in the film. I'd go see it based on the trailer.
As MADAME OLGA'S MASSAGE PARLOR is now lost (apparently for good), SWV has included all the existing footage remaining of the film. In addition to the awesome trailer, they have also included the brief clips from the film used in Joseph Mawra's fake documentary MONDO OSCENITA, detailing the rise in sexual violence in exploitation films. That film used footage from all of the OLGA films (save DANCE HALL GIRLS) to cut costs. It starts off with footage of OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME (Olga whipping Elaine, then Elaine and Olga whipping girls tied to trees), then continues with torture footage from OLGA'S GIRLS (Olga herself is tortured!), then includes the conclusion to OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME (Elaine looking foxy making a girl tied to a rope run in circles). Then more footage from OLGA'S GIRLS before we witness some of the lost footage. Girls tied up in a dungeon try to break from their handcuffs and scuffle along the floor trying to lick food and water from dishes. We return to more footage of HOUSE OF SHAME before more MASSAGE PARLOR scenes: Elaine and Jacques proceed to strangle a girl tied to a chair with a vicious rope-tightening device; a bound and gagged woman is tied to a weight-lifting machine that regularly pulls her legs up and down; a lovely blonde girl is gagged with electric tape and tied to a machine that mechanically lifts her up and down repeatedly; Jacques turns an exercise machine into a stretching rack for another bound and gagged gil as Elaine's henchman sets the girl's foot aflame with a lighter; a vibrating weight loss machine is wrapped around one girl's face and turned on full speed. A fake expert narrator (Joel Holt again!) speaks about the "history" of sadism and torture in sex films over the footage. An invaluable addition to the disc!
Audrey Campbell is in the spotlight for the short "Audrey Campbell, Art Lover" culled from Barry Mahon's 1000 SHAPES OF A FEMALE (1963), which Campbell has no recollection of making! She is painted in the nude by painter husband Byron Mabe as they discuss each other's artistic work. Unfortunately, the scene of Campbell painting a nude woman for one of her paintings is missing, so those Campbell completists who were looking to get rid of the otherwise disposable film (like me) will want to hold onto their VHS. A gallery of sex movie magazines set to the theme from BOOBY TRAP feels out of place amongst the roughie material; perhaps a gallery of NYC-based sexploitation posters and pressbooks may have been more appropriate? The final extra is a thick booklet containing an interview with Audrey Campbell from a 1995 issue of Charles Kilgore's Ecco Magazine (#20). She discusses her working relationships with Joe Sarno, Joseph Mawra, George Weiss, and Barry Mahon, her memories of co-stars Gigi Darlene, Dyanne Thorne, and Alice Linville, low-budget shooting conditions, the earliest work of her career, and is in general a wonderful interviewee. I can't wait for that audio commentary on Synapse's OLGA'S GIRLS disc!! An Easter Egg on the main menu is the trailer for SHE SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN BED (with GIGI DARLENE and AUDREY CAMPBELL!!). "Now it is possible to see what women do when men are not around" (Gigi stands around reading a book topless, while Audrey brushes her hair topless).
Does the length of this review
reflect anything to you? I LOVE these movies! Their intentions may have been
to shock and disturb, but today, they serve as campy entertainment and reminders
of the early days of the New York-based sexploitation genre. What I wouldn't
give to see these on the big screen on 42nd Street circa 1964. SWV should be
commended for finally unleashing these babies on DVD, they've been a long time
coming and I can't wait for the Findlay trilogy coming in August! On a closing
note, it should be noted that this review should have been published ages ago.
I am solely to blame....I just couldn't bring myself to leave Madame Olga's
chambers until now....PLEASE OLGA MAY I HAVE ANOTHER?! (Casey
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