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Faux Feminist

[whitespace] 'Bad Girls' go to MadCat festival

By Richard von Busack

"You! ... You!! ... YOU!!! ... do you know that BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL?" The trailer for Doris Wishman's film Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965) shows how well this peculiar director grabbed her audience. Wishman, whose rarely seen Bad Girls Go to Hell will be screened on the closing night of the MadCat Film Fest (May 15-17 at the Roxie), had her own approach to the man's world of '60s sex films. She wasn't the only woman who directed sex movies; photographers Suzy Parker and Bunny Yaeger also worked in the field. And the nudist-camp films Wishman helped pioneer are hard to watch now. Even the interestingly titled Nudes on the Moon, filmed in a Florida jungle-theme park, is only a curio today.

"I suppose I don't believe in women's lib, I really don't," Wishman told writer Andrea Juno in an interview in the book Incredibly Strange Films (Re/Search, 1986). So it's strange that a feminist film fest like MadCat is featuring her.

But Wishman's two most compelling films, her Chesty Morgan duo, are arguably very feminist. In Double Agent 73 and Deadly Weapons (both 1970), Wishman directs the cripplingly overendowed Morgan as an assassin who uses her yard-wide boobs as weapons. Avoiding her actors, Wishman coasted her camera around lamps, telephones, platform shoes and other everyday objects of the high-kitsch '70s. The films are so rich as a record of their time as to make the tack in Boogie Nights look as muted as Merchant-Ivory.

On one level, these movies were meant to exploit Morgan, a short, sad woman with a platinum wig and the perpetually aggrieved look of a Shetland pony. On another level, these two films are unintentional but powerful critiques of the big-boob fetish, taken to a dead extreme by Morgan. And Morgan's plaintive face reveals the unforgettable hostility of a pinup girl sick of being stared at.

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From the May 4-17, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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