Director: Paul Morrissey

Following the Special Edition releases of Paul Morrissey’s FLESH, TRASH, and HEAT, it was only natural for Image to re-release the least-mentioned of their earlier Morrissey discs, WOMEN IN REVOLT. Shot off and on over the space of several months, Morrissey cast the three foremost drag Superstars in the factory, willowy blonde Candy Darling, larger than life Holly Woodlawn, and less-than-feminine Jackie Curtis, in his take on women’s lib. When discussing Morrissey’s films, the attention shines on his Dallesandro trilogy, with WOMEN IN REVOLT often left in the shadows. It doesn’t help that it was released between two of his very best films, TRASH and HEAT, but this remains his laugh out loud funniest film, one he remains very proud of, and is a must for fans of uncompromising improvisational comedy.

Meet the P.I.G’s: that’s Politically Involved Girls to you male sexist pigs out there! Candy is a pampered princess, a rich girl who has been having an affair with her brother and is desperate to break into show business. She learns the hard way the only way to make it to the top is to spread your legs at the bottom. Holly is a man-hungry model who uses men to pay her rent, but spends her nights buried between the legs of beautiful women. And then we have Jackie, a sourpuss schoolteacher who refuses to bow to men any longer, attacking a construction worker on the street and kicking ass and taking names as the leader of the P.I.G.’s. She begins to question her lesbian tendencies and decides to take the plunge and discover what men to have to offer…resulting in the eventual disintegration of women’s lib!

With a clothesline plot concerning the making and breaking of an ill-conceived women’s lib group, Morrissey was obviously more interested in giving the world a glimpse at the impressive talents of the Factory drag queens. Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn have stronger legends built around them, but it is Jackie Curtis who is the strongest of the trio in WOMEN IN REVOLT. Jackie had, by 1971, written several independent stage plays, and in fact, many of her quotable dialogue in the film are recycled from her scripts! From her very first scene (“Holly’s after pussy, and Candy’s after cock, but I’m after something more…intangible…!”), Jackie commands every one of her scenes, stealing them left and right from her co-stars and landing the most impressive and hilarious lines. She makes her houseboy’s life miserable (“I’ve never seen such a slophouse! What a hellhole! What a dive! Take a bath! You smell like a dead papa! Don’t you know there’s something more beautiful in this world than that thing between your legs?”), reprimands Holly for running around with guys (“You read too many comic books, Holly, you’re living in a dream world”) and screams at her boy toy (“Take your balls and go!”), tries to swindle a rich Park Avenue matron out of her fortune (“You won’t believe this, but I read the other day this woman left all her money to a dog! Now what is a dog gonna do with all that money? Rub her legs, would ya, get her going…”), and ends up with a screaming baby living in the slums (“The doctor prescribed this beer to calm my nerves! Baby, I’m not giving you this bottle until you stop crying. Calm your nerves now.”). Her best scene is, without a doubt, her first heterosexual encounter with Johnny Minute, a former Mr. America who now hustles to make ends meet. She explains her situation (“I’m in women’s liberation, I’m a virgin, I’m 21, I think I’m a dyke… You’re Mr. America, and I wanna have sex at the top so I know what it’s like at the bottom”), is unimpressed when he forces her to give him oral (“So I sucked a cock! This is another case of women being exploited!”), then finally can’t get enough of him. The repartee between the two is brilliant: he asks if she’s going to come, she mutters, “Uh…I think I’m gonna go…”; he remarks on her size, to which she replies, “Oh yes, I was captain of the volleyball team”; she asks if he’s itching because he has crabs, but he explains he’s “itching to fuck”. Anyone who watches this scene and doesn’t laugh should probably seek help!

According to Morrissey, WOMEN was conceived as a star vehicle for Holly Woodlawn, riding the crest of stardom after her successful turn as a homeless garbage collector in TRASH. However, for a number of reasons, Holly hit the bottle hard during the shooting of WOMEN, and thus is relegated to supporting actress after her first two very strong scenes. Holly wrote in her autobiography that she felt pressure at the thought of sharing scenes with Candy, who was more beautiful, and Jackie, who was more inventive at improv, and she began drinking as a result, so she has the film easily stolen from her by both of them. However, her opening scene with her screaming, fighting, and having sex with her boyfriend, all at the same time (!), is a career highlight (“Motherfucker! I hate you! Men! I hate men! You! I hate you! I don’t have to live off-a you, I don’t have to live off-a nobody! Take your cock and stuff it up your ass! I don’t need you!”). She also holds her own during a drunken lesbian scene with Jackie. But as her scenes progress, she gets drunker and drunker, contributing nothing to the film and finishing off the role by playing a Bowery bum who pisses on an apartment building’s doorstep.

The least interesting cast member, probably because she takes herself deathly seriously (true to life, according to those who knew her), is Candy Darling. In her defense, she is probably the most gorgeous drag queen who has ever lived, but she seems to think she really is in a soap opera, which sometimes makes some of her scenes work in a campy aspect. She has some great dialogue (“I’m sick and fed up of you and all men…how do ya like them apples?”, “What do you mean get off the trapeze and into the sawdust? That’s circus talk!”), and does hilarious impressions of Lana Turner and Joan Bennett at a sleazy audition, but is overshadowed by the hilarity of Jackie Curtis throughout the film. Her final scene, an interview with a gay journalist that goes wrong (on the set of her new movie BLONDE ON A BUM TRIP, an in-joke reference to the Distribpix film of the same name), is a gem, but moreso because of actor Jonathan Kramer (who appeared in MIDNIGHT COWBOY). He turns from respectful reporter to muckraking paparazzo in a manner of minutes (“Have you ever slept with your own brother? Oh I’m sorry, that just slipped out… Come on, Candy, who had the biggest dick of all them directors? You’re no fuckin’ good, you little tramp, you’re no good!”).

Sadly, only one of the three leading ladies is still alive today. Candy Darling died prematurely in 1974 of cancer. Jackie Curtis died of a drug overdose in 1985. Holly Woodlawn has thankfully survived the turbulent times of the Factory, still lives in Los Angeles, and has written her autobiography, A Lowlife in High Heels, which is essential reading. Viewers looking for male beefcake will find it in spades with two handsome actors, Martin Kove (LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, “Cagney and Lacey”) providing complete nudity, including full-frontal, and muscle magazine model Johnny Kemper playing Mr. America, a competition winner-turned-hustler who deflowers Jackie in perhaps the film’s funniest scene. Kove especially gets into the screaming match-sex scene with Holly, beating her senseless with a pillow as she screams hysterically while his bare ass fills the screen. Kemper seems less interested in acting, but is suitable eye candy for Jackie to fawn over and the camera rests on his naked butt while Jackie gives him oral sex…and continues talking with her mouth full! Of the other supporting ladies in the cast, only the rough-voiced Penny Arcade makes an impression, but Betty Blue tells a hilarious story of being sexually molested by a perverted dwarf. Another TRASH actress, Jane Forth, is wasted in a throwaway role as the heiress of a rich old biddy embezzled by the PIG’s. Watch for cameos by stripper Geri Miller, who did Warhol films (TRASH, FLESH) as well as sexploitation (DAUGHTERS OF LESBOS, MEETING ON 69TH STREET), and Brigid Berlin, most famous for her vicious turn in ANDY WARHOL’S BAD.

Image’s previous disc of WOMEN was a mess, with a very soft image and endless grain, a muddy complexion and muted colors. Remastered in high definition, this is a vast improvement over all other video versions! The flesh tones are more natural and accurate, grain is drastically minimized, and colors are quite strong. None of Morrissey’s films will ever look like a million bucks, but this is as close to pristine as one would look. The mono audio, recorded under primitive conditions, is actually quite good, which helps the outrageous and lengthy monologues each actress is given.

Finally, a Special Edition of WOMEN IN REVOLT! Instead of a feature-length commentary, a photo gallery of rare on-set snapshots, theatrical posters, promotional stills, and behind-the-scenes photos is overlaid with a commentary by Morrissey. Morrissey explains the way the Factory was set up, how the Superstars entered the fold and what they did inside the Factory, the genesis of WOMEN IN REVOLT, how Warhol was barely involved with the making of any of his films, working with the three actresses and other cast members like Martin Kove, the various locations, and memories of specific scenes chronologically in the film. This is a much more detailed and interesting commentary than his previous gallery/commentaries, and the unique supplement runs almost 9 minutes in length. Almost more entertaining is 15 minutes’ worth of deleted scenes, with optional commentary by Morrissey! The scenes look to have been cut for good reason, as they’re not as outrageously funny as what was left in the finished film, but they include Candy further berating her brother, Jackie talking to her boyfriend, Holly on the phone, and yelling at her houseboy, two scenes of Jackie and Holly arguing, Jackie and the PIG’s bursting into Candy’s Park Avenue apartment, Jackie at Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s apartment, and Jackie talking to her mother on the phone. All are extensions and alternate takes of existing scenes, so are interesting glimpses into what could have been. Morrissey explains on his commentary that he forgot he even had outtakes for the film! He talks about how certain actors didn’t really work in the film, his love for Candy’s sense of humor, approaching the film’s idea of having men play women, Andy’s brief involvement with shooting, memories of future director Jed Johnson, and also talks a bit about the major bomb L’AMOUR.

Related Info:

For more information on the incredible Jackie Curtis and her underrated legacy, visit www.jackiecurtis.com, and purchase the excellent biography Superstar in a Housedress. The book comes with a DVD of the accompanying documentary of the same name, with many rare clips of her TV appearances, stage shows, poetry readings, and musical performances!

Living Legend Holly Woodlawn, the last surviving Warhol Superstar of the drag world, is on the web at www.hollywoodlawn.com. Drop her a line, and learn more about her fascinating life. Track down her autobiography A Lowlife in High Heels for an excellent read!

Photos of Johnny Kemper and biographical info of this beefcake model can be found in the book The Male Ideal: Lon of New York or at the website www.posingstrap.com.
(Casey Scott)