Deadly Weapons (1974)

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The soundtrack may have gotten a little more psychedelic, the blood may have gotten a little more colorful, and the breasts may have gotten much, much larger, but not much else seemed to have changed for producer/director Doris Wishman in the decade between her by the books roughie Another Day, Another Man and her “erotic” crime thriller Deadly Weapons. Doris Wishman’s weirdly casual approach to sex & violence in her exploitation work remained entirely lateral in terms of filmmaking quality and it’s pretty impressive in its own way that a filmmaker two decades into her career managed to make something as genuinely amateurish and, frankly, as punk as Deadly Weapons. A crime thriller in which famed burlesque dancer Chesty Morgan (billed in-film as Zsa Zsa) assassinates mafia types by smothering them with her gigantic breasts, Deadly Weapons certainly pulls more weight as an odd curiosity than Wishman’s era-appropriate 1960s roughies. It’s no different than these films in terms of craft or tone, though, except that it readily provides the naked breasts her roughies would only tease (unlike her early nudie cuties like Nude on the Moon). In fact, like a parent forcing their child to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in a single sitting, Deadly Weapons confronts the audience with so many shots of large, naked breasts it often feels as if you’re about to choke on them & die, like so many dirtbag mobster goons.

Chesty Morgan stars as a successful advertising executive (or so we’re told) who is dragged into a life of crime when her boyfriend runs afoul of some mafia types. Stupidly blackmailing the mob with a stolen hit list, the boyfriend is promptly murdered in his own apartment (which looks suspiciously like the apartment from Another Day, Another Man) while the buxom ad exec listens in horror on the other end of the phone. Luckily for her, the gangsters hang out long enough after the hit to loudly & clearly discuss what hotel they’ll be hiding out in until the police investigation of the murder cools off. Armed with all the information she needs to track them down, the ad exec poses undercover as a burlesque dancer (go figure) at a nightclub near the Las Vegas hotel where her boyfriends’ killers will be staying. Easily seducing the men individually, she ceremonially slips knock-out pills into their wine glasses (after making a big show of it for the camera) and, once they’re dazed, smothers them to death with her cartoonishly large breasts. After fully enacting her revenge for her lover’s murder, she returns home from Vegas to encounter a Shyamalan-level plot twist on who was truly responsible for the initial crime. This revelation drives the story home to an ending befitting of a Shakespearean tragedy: bodies strewn about the stage, laying in pools of their own blood & the stench of betrayed trust. It’s all very silly.

Although Deadly Weapons is obviously remarkable for the novelty of its breasts-as-weapons premise, it’s worth noting that those kills don’t occur until over 50 minutes into the film’s 70min runtime. Worse yet, our killer burlesque dancer only dispenses of two mobsters this way – one per boob. Those two kills are highly entertaining as oddities, though, especially in the soundtrack that accompanies them. As the gangster meanies suffocate on Chesty Morgan’s plentiful tit flesh, a nightmarish cacophony of wailing guitars, animal roars, and grotesque, masculine grunts overpower the film’s audio. Meanwhile, Chesty Morgan herself looks nearly orgasmic in these moments, giving off the embarrassing cross-eyed, empty stare people usually save for sexual congress. What saves the film from tedium before these third act kills, however, is the fact that Morgan’s superhuman rack is a sight to behold even when it’s not being employed as a murder weapon. There’s nothing especially erotic about watching Morgan take a bubble bath or somehow squeeze herself into a t-shirt, but those simple tasks are oddly compelling as an audience due to her . . . unique proportions. Even in a scene when she’s just wistfully staring out a window, admiring a ring her boyfriend gifted her, her breasts fill almost the entire frame, suffocating any potential focus on anything else onscreen.

Psychedelia + Giant Breasts is certainly a formula that’s been exploited onscreen before; just think to Roger Ebert & Russ Meyer’s collaborative trashterpiece Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Deadly Weapons boasts neither the manic energy nor the absurdist dialogue of Dolls, though, and its own appeal as a vintage curiosity is based in something much more laidback & misshapen. Wishman’s erotica is never exactly erotic; her violence is never truly shocking. Her fetishistic focus on unerotic details like ashtrays, dime store pantyhose, plastic-covered couches, and pills hidden in cleavage are the visual equivalent of a cold shower for anyone potentially turned on by Chesty Morgan’s physique. The film’s bloodiest fit of violence, a multiple stab wound incident in a stairwell, is similarly undercut by a disorienting trip down multiple, identical flights of stairs and the fakest-looking (but apparently very real) mustache I’ve ever seen, sported by hardcore porn performer Harry Reems. It’d be easy to pick on Deadly Weapons for its blatant use of stock footage, its continuity errors during a poorly staged strangling, its awkward moments when cameramen are bumped into or set lights are mistakenly exposed, the nausea-inducing green & purple tints of its impressively shitty film transfers, etc. However, that kind of nitpicking entirely misses the basic appeal of the novelty of this Wishman-Morgan collaboration (a combo that would later reunite for Double Agent 73).

There’s a candid, proto-punk amateurism to Deadly Weapons that tops even its killer-tits premise in terms of basic ridiculousness. It’s rare that this grade of schlock is so inherently fascinating just in its basic existence, although plenty of films have certainly tried to pull off that very trick. Wishman is undeniably a filmmaker all of her own, a distinction that can either annoy or delight you depending on things like how interested you’d be to watch a film about a pair of killer breasts & how willing you’d be to settle for one kill per tit.

-Brandon Ledet

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One thought on “Deadly Weapons (1974)

  1. Pingback: A Night to Dismember (1983) | Swampflix

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