Bad Girls Go to Hell (1964)

I’ve been a voracious audience for Doris Wishman sexploitation cheapies over the past few years.  There’s a wholesome amateurism to the schlockteur’s decades of D.I.Y. smut that appeals to me as a fan of B-movies and kitsch erotica, especially in the context of her being one of the few women directors to “make it” in that industry.  I will admit that I’ve hit a wall with my appreciation of Doris Wishman’s back catalog, though.  It’s the exact same genre barrier that made parts of my Russ Meyer retrospective such a prolonged slog.  I hate “roughies.”  Somewhere between the cutesy nudist-colony novelties at the start of her career (titles like Nude on the Moon) and her late-career, absurdist whatsits (titles like Double Agent 73), Doris Wishman cranked out a lot of roughies.  They’re violent rape-fantasy films in which a female protagonist is stripped, exploited, and assaulted by every man she encounters on her journeys, her torment played purely for the audience’s sexual titillation.  A lot of Wishman’s auteurist quirks repeat throughout her roughies period—most notably her adorable obliviousness to what is and what is not erotic—but I’d much rather seek those pleasures out in a genre that’s less inherently grotesque.  It’s slowed me way down on seeking out her work, since the bulk of the remaining ones I haven’t seen appear to fall in that category.

I’m at least glad that my general distaste for roughies delayed me from seeking out Bad Girls Go to Hell sooner, despite it being one of Wishman’s most widely recognized titles.  My appreciation of the film is just as muted now as it would’ve been a few years ago when I was at the pinnacle of my Wishman binge, but the film’s presentation has changed in the meantime.  Whereas I’ve previously had to seek out Wishman novelties like Dildo Heaven or A Night to Dismember as fuzzy VHS rips on YouTube or sub-legal porn streamers, Bad Girls Go To Hell is currently streaming on The Criterion Channel – all cleaned-up and presented as Important Art.  It is a roughie in the strictest sense, following a sheltered housewife’s moral decline after she kills her rapist neighbor and flees from the law by bed-hopping across the country, mostly against her will.  The film is included in Criterion’s “Close to Home” programming, which highlights films shot in their directors’ homes & apartments (alongside another pre-hardcore erotica classic, Pink Narcissus).  I initially suspected it was added as a bizarro Pride Month selection, given that our housewife-in-crisis’s only consensual sexual encounter while on the run is shared with another woman.  Regardless, seeing a Doris Wishman film all cleaned up and prestigious on Criterion feels like a major cultural Event.  I just personally wish they had programmed something outside of her roughies period; almost all of her films were at least partially staged in her NYC and Miami apartments, so pretty much anything she’s directed could’ve fit the bill.

Despite my reluctance to dig any further, I’m sure that there’s a Doris Wishman roughie out there that will wholly win me over someday.  If nothing else, the women-on-top, femdom variation of the roughie format in titles like She Mob and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! appeal directly to my sensibilities, and it’s likely Wishman has waded into that exact territory sometime in her career – if not only through having made so many films in that genre.  There’s also plenty pure-Wishman goodness oozing out of Bad Girls Go to Hell as is.  Her instantly recognizable apartment is starting to feel like a nostalgic setting after seeing it repeat in so many of her classic-era pictures.  There’s a statement-piece glass ashtray always on display in her living room that’s used as a murder weapon in this particular appearance, and it feels like a surprise celebrity cameo.  Wishman’s camerawork is also as wild as ever here, sometimes tilting around the room as if her sex scenes were set on a carnival ride and sometimes statically fixating on the most mundane details imaginable: strangers’ feet on the sidewalk, pigeons, beaded curtains, etc.  I’ll even admit that Wishman is highly effective at times in highlighting the sleaze & grime of the roughie genre.  Her flashlit crime scene lighting and insert shots of lace panties resting on the corner of a mattress are incredibly lurid for a smut director who largely doesn’t seem all that interested in sex. 

Bad Girls Go to Hell is not the best Doris Wishman has to offer, but it’s maybe her most iconic – at least among Something Weird VHS collectors and other video store weirdos of that ilk.  It’s cool to see any of her work presented in such crisp, respectful packaging from a taste-making institution like Criterion.  Anything that gets me closer to owning Deadly Weapons restored in HD on Blu-Ray has to be counted as a victory, so I’ll gladly suffer a few more roughies to get there.

-Brandon Ledet

Dildo Heaven (2002)

Schlock legend Doris Wishman made an honest-to-God, shot-on-video nudie cutie in the early 00s, about four decades after the nudie cutie genre was no longer of any real use to anyone (thanks to the legalization and increased accessibility of actual pornography). Wishman filmed Dildo Heaven in her 80s while working in a Florida sex shop called The Pink Pussy Cat (which is proudly featured in the film). She recycled footage from better-funded works in her heyday to pad out the runtime, further drawing attention to Dildo Heaven‘s jarring quality as a nudie cutie dislodged from its proper place in time. While it’s nowhere near the pinnacle of Wishman’s accomplishments as a smut-peddling auteur (that honor likely belongs to her 1970s collaborations with Chesty Morgan), it’s still a fascinating document of a filmmaker continuing to do her thing whether or not anyone else was interested. Wishman was the master of unerotic erotica, a schlockteur whose work prompted the question “Who is this for?” even when she was on top of her game; watching her stick to her guns four decades after appropriately-timed nudie cuties like Nude on the Moon only makes that question more humorously bizarre.

Three hot-to-trot roommates scheme to seduce their bosses: thoroughly uncharismatic men whose small-time authority make them irresistible to the bored nymphs. Meanwhile, the girls’ Peeping Tom neighbor (an adult man who dresses & acts like a schoolboy) occasionally checks in to hopefully catch them naked in their own apartment. That’s it; that’s the plot. As written-on-a-bar-napkin simple as that premise sounds, Wishman still felt the need to introduce each of these characters and their shallow motivations in an opening exposition dump, narrated like a movie trailer. This is mostly an effort to sweep any pedestrian narrative concerns out of the way so that she can get to the true business at hand: shoehorning in clips from nudie cuties, roughies, and other sexploitation ephemera from her heyday. In the laziest examples of this device, Wishman’s old movies happen to be playing on television while the girls are lounging around their shared apartment, waiting for the right time to jump their bosses’ bones. More frequently, the clips are integrated through the Peeping Tom’s adventures outside the apartment as he peers into keyholes, shrubs, and curtainless windows looking for some action. Even then, the clips are amusingly disjointed from the movie’s SOV reality, often represented with black & white film grain or roaming TV bars as if the Peeping Tom were tapping into an alternate dimension just on the other side of a keyhole.

If there’s any true letdown in Dildo Heaven, it’s that the movie doesn’t incorporate a lot of genuine dildo content. It mostly blows its load in an opening title sequence where deliriously repetitive images of clouds accompany a low-energy rap song about reaching for your dildo because it’s “HIV negative” and “fills the void” left by sexually unskilled men. Otherwise, there’s only one physical dildo that genuinely factors into the “story” Wishman tells. One of the three roommates purchases that dildo from the aforementioned Pink Pussy Cat after being haunted by the sex toys advertised in its display window on a casual afternoon stroll. This monumental purchase only really amounts to two significant moments: a nightmare sequence in which floating dildos swarm the poor girl’s bedroom while she tosses in her sheets and a hilariously dull Pink Pussy Cat store clerk explaining in exhausting, monotone detail the technical difference between a dildo and a vibrator. That’s hardly the dildo quota you’d think a movie would have to hit to declare itself a dildo heaven, but that kind of unerotic letdown is, in a way, Wishman’s personal stamp as an auteur. Her entire career was packed with sex movies that are thoroughly uninterested in sex – something that had to be a personal, artistic choice as she continued it into the long-obsolete days of early-2000s softcore.

Even beyond the absurd anachronism of brining the nudie cutie into the VHS era and the jarring frugality of Wishman pilfering her own back catalog, Dildo Heaven has plenty of minor quirks & gags that keep it entertaining as a lost trash relic throughout: winking fantasies where a man sprouts a second boner to facilitate a threesome, go-nowhere montages of girls idly hanging out on playground equipment while incongruous thriller music sets an ominous tone, a movie-length gag about the world’s cheapest wig, etc. Best of all, it’s readily apparent that Wishman was having fun while filming this unrepentant trash, enjoying her late-career celebrity as “The Female Ed Wood.” She allows herself a Hitchcockian cameo where she practically winks at the camera as she strolls by, directs a character to exclaim “What a cool magazine!” while flipping through an issue of Psychotronic Video, and even promoted the film on a legendarily bizarre episode of Late Night with Conan O’Brien where she got to tease Roger Ebert for his boyish crush on Chesty Morgan. The best quality of the nudie cutie as a genre was that it was having lighthearted, knowingly campy fun with the idea of erotic titillation (a welcome contrast to the dark days of the roughies that followed). While the genre may have been long-obsolete by the time Wishman made Dildo Heaven, the novelty of that kind of playful, weirdly innocent erotica is eternal.

-Brandon Ledet

Double Agent 73 (1974)

One of the most oddly entertaining aspects of Doris Wishman’s first collaboration with the impossibly buxom Chesty Morgan, Deadly Weapons, was how frustrating it was in its avoidance of delivering on its premise. As the title suggests, Deadly Weapons was billed to feature Chesty Morgan dispensing of bad-guy criminals by killing them with her enormous breasts. It’s a novelty that only occurs twice onscreen in the film, absurdly late into its comically short runtime. Wishman’s punk amateurism & effortless ability to de-sex the sexploitation genre carried the movie through as a bizarre delight, and the film was followed up with a “spiritual sequel” in Double Agent 73. There’s only one boob-related kill in Double Agent 73, and it involves Chesty’s chest being smothered in poison instead of crushing or suffocating her criminal victim. Her titty-enabled espionage takes on an entirely different flavor in this follow-up, one that elevates the entire concept to an even more absurd level of camp cinema delight. Here, Morgan’s weaponized bosom is made to be an espionage tool instead of a lethal weapon. Through surgery, her rack is fashioned into essentially being the world’s largest, most conspicuous “hidden” camera. The results aren’t as sexy as they may have been intended to be, but they are far more hilariously absurd & more plentifully deployed than the killer tits conceit of Deadly Weapons, which stands out as the lesser Wishman-Morgan collaboration (a minor distinction, but an important one).

Chesty Morgan stars as the titular Agent 73, a James Bond-modeled international spy who hides in plain sight as a burlesque dancer. Her latest mission is to assassinate an evil syndicate of heroin dealers headed by the mysterious crime boss Toplar (sometimes humorously referred to as “Mr. T” for short). Toplar’s true identity and Agent 73’s descent down the heroin crime ring rabbit hole are obviously not the main draw in this soft-core nudie thriller. The glory of the movie’s hook it that a spy camera is surgically implanted in the buxom agent’s ample breasts. She’s instructed by her higher-ups to assassinate several men within the heroin ring and to take a picture of every kill after completion, a mission that conveniently requires her to frequently strip to the waist. Her camera isn’t necessarily aimed at anything in particular when she snaps these photos and every deployment of it is matched with a loud shutter sound that consistently elicits giggles. It’s difficult to pick a favorite deployment of the titty-cam conceit in the film: The post-surgery nurse-kill where she takes a picture even though the camera is still covered by a bandage? The scene where she sneaks into a criminal’s office to whip out her titties over a stack of top secret documents? The Deadly Weapons callback with the poison bosom? Double Agent 73 gets a lot more mileage out of its booby-themed espionage than its predecessor, while still sticking to that sweet, sweet 70min runtime.

I’m still getting accustomed to what distinguishes A Doris Wishman Film from other examples of blissfully absurd sexploitation, but Double Agent 73 more than earns her signature cartoon title card in the opening credits. Wishman has a distinctly anti-erotic approach to filmmaking that’s on full display in this movie’s uncomfortable close-ups, heavy breathing, and bizarre intrusions of bloody violence. A trip to a nudist camp recalls her early nudie cutie works like Nude on the Moon. A bizarrely edited homage to the shower scene from Psycho recalls her total-meltdown slasher A Night to Dismember. The snazzy jazz & sped-up fistfights recall her roughies like Bad Girls Go to Hell and Another Day, Another Man. In its own way, Double Agent 73 might be the distilled ideal of a Doris Wishman film: it’s short, blissfully absurd, oversaturated in aggressively unerotic nudity, and follows through on its over-the-top premise in a way more of her films could stand to. There’s a consistency to Wishman’s D.I.Y., unerotic filmmaking craft that never changed over her decades as a schlockteur, for better or for worse. The gems in her catalog, then, are naturally going to be the ones built on ludicrous premises like Double Agent 73’s. It’s not only her best collaboration with Chesty Morgan; it’s likely one her most worthwhile films overall.

-Brandon Ledet

A Night to Dismember (1983)




Doris Wishman is primarily known for her work in sexploitation cinema, building her career as a low-energy, oddly punk version of Russ Meyer with films like Nude on the Moon, and Another Day, Another Man. Once you get into the back half of her career, however, there are plenty of weird genre outliers that complicate that reputation, like the killer breasts espionage thriller Deadly Weapons. Nothing I’ve seen from Wishman so far, though, Deadly Weapons included, has been comparable to the way out of bounds, dissonant horror cheapie A Night to Dismember. Although the film stars porn actress Samantha Fox and makes occasional use if her nude body, it’s a work that finds Wishman operating far outside her sexploitation comfort zone. A Night to Dismember is a Doris Wishman slasher, purely so. It finds the director shooting gloom & gore the way she usually shoots scantily clad women, following a very strict Halloween/Friday the 13th-style narrative structure to deliver its jarringly violent genre thrills. What makes it notably bizarre beyond Wishman stepping outside her usual genre box is that the film makes no attempt to tell a clearly intelligible story besides mimicking the general feel of a slasher. So sloppy it’s avant garde, A Night to Dismember adheres to a strict “Axe murders for all, coherent plot for none” political platform. Almost unwatchable, yet undeniably entertaining, Wishman’s sole slasher is chaotic outsider art, a watch that’s just as challenging as it is inane.

I can’t say with total confidence that I fully understand the plot of this picture. A young woman is released from a mental institution where she’s imprisoned for supposedly killing two teen boys. Her siblings conspire to have her re-committed by gaslighting her with prankish “hallucinations” and by framing her for a series of axe murders. That’s all I’ve got. Rapid, continuous narration from a detective who worked on this case of violent crimes is the only aspect of A Night to Dismember that affords the film any level of cohesion. There are a few scenes of badly dubbed dialogue that if you squint at them just right feel as if they belong to a proper feature film, but for the most part the movie a jumbled mess of candy red blood, kaleidoscope graphics, and brief flashes of nudity. It’s a full-length exercise in oddly disjointed editing, but I found an enjoyable sense of kinetic energy in that constant, off-kilter disorder. From the opening scene where a woman axe murders her sister in a bathtub to light-hearted elevator music, to the narrator’s instructions to contact authorities with any intel in the whereabouts of the killer over the end credits, A Night to Dismember is a total nuclear meltdown of a mess, but it’s an undeniably entertaining mess. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it before, which makes it a valuable work as a cinematic experience, even if some of its most interesting results might be attributable to ineptitude.

Headless necks squirt blood in tidy steams, knives are rhythmically stabbed into victims’ throats, hearts are ripped out by hand, fingers are severed, a skull is crushed under a spinning car tire: Wishman’s horror show features gore galore. Some scenes are much stranger in their visual effects: disembodied hands reach to grope our would-be final girl from all directions, dreams of fratricide are accompanied by orgasmic moans, unexplained skulls & 80s computer graphics overlay the action, lightning strike stock footage straight out of 1930s horror appear to signify dread. Wishman forgoes her duties as a storyteller here to deliver a disorienting montage instead of a proper feature film. She readily supplies the basic components of blood & tits 80s horror, but makes no effort to reign them in as an understandable narrative. A Night to Dismember bluntly delivers the goods with no concern for justifying their presence onscreen. It’s just as blatantly to the point as it is a total mess and I greatly admire the punk energy Wishman finds in that sloppiness even if it is a constant struggle to understand exactly what she’s doing onscreen throughout the experience.

According to Wishman herself, most of the film negative for the original version of A Night to Dismember was destroyed in a lab, which made the constant, overbearing narration necessary to tell a cohesive story. The VHS cover art for the film claims an 80 minute runtime and the original poster credits an entirely different actress than Samantha Fox. It’s widely believed that the original version of the film was intentionally “lost” & re-shot to include Fox, completely ditching the story told in the first version to boost ticket sales with a recognizable actress. Not having seen the lengthier version of the film, which is apparently hosted by a different narrator & follows a more supernatural plotline, I can only report that the short, hour-long version of A Night to Dismember is an entertaining oddity, a fine example of avant garde filmmaking at its trashiest.

-Brandon Ledet

Deadly Weapons (1974)



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

Another Day Another Man (1966)


three star


Something I learned from my career retrospective of sleaze auteurist Russ Meyer is that as far as sexploitation subgenres go, I’m much more wired to enjoy the light-hearted kitsch of nudie cuties than the violent leering of roughies. Two films into Doris Wishman’s catalog, I’m only having my bias reaffirmed. The deliriously inane Nude on the Moon was a perfect intro to the world of Wishman, as it was a sexed-up version of the exact kind of cheap sci-fi dreck I often find myself watching anyway. Her black & white roughie Another Day Another Man was a little more outside of my comfort zone. Arriving soon after her roughies era started with Bad Girls Go to Hell, one of her more infamous works, Wishman’s black & white cheapie Another Day Another Man toys with all the hallmarks of the more disreputable end of sexploitation cinema (domestic abuse, misogyny, rape), but never indulges in them long enough to totally sour the mood. Too much of Another Day Another Man is lopsided in a memorably goofy, tangibly dingy way to completely dismiss the film as misanthropic erotica, but it does often come perilously close.

Two female roommates argue about the moral implications of earning rent money through sex work. One is, unapologetically, a prostitute with a brutish lowlife for a pimp. The other is quitting her reputable job as a secretary to pursue her dream career: housewife. Her newfound dependency on her husband becomes immediately troubling when he’s stricken with sudden illness and the housewife is, no surprise, pressured into sex work under the guiding hand of the same low level pimp. She’s initially shamed for flaunting her sense of moral superiority over former roommate’s head, but that’s only the start of her degradation. She’s roughed up for de-masking her first client, a wealthy politician. She suffers great anxiety over sneaking out nightly to cuckold her husband for “easy” money. Her pimp’s tactics of breaking down his employees’ wills and pressuring them into sex work is given great detail (over the course of a clunky dream sequence, oddly), making her plight as a protagonist out to be nothing special. It’s all very standard roughie territory, which leads to inevitable & predictable tragic end, a plot you could comfortably scribble onto a crumpled up cocktail napkin.

What Wishman excels at that makes this exercise watchable is texture. The camera work & production design in Another Day Another Man isn’t exactly masterful; I’m not even sure I would call it competent. There’s something endearingly dirty & off-center about the whole thing, though, that makes for a memorable picture. The movie gets off to a rocky start with a badly dubbed stroll through Central Park between our soon-to-be-doomed newlyweds, but it picks up as soon as the roomates argue about the respectability of the respective ways they earn a living. Drastically lit like a crime scene, the two women’s magazine spread living room is a kitschy nightmare where the roomates argue, undress, and overstuff ashtrays in furious torrents of chain-smoking. The camera slowly pans up from their high heels to their complicated, lacy underwear to their beehives, careful never to show actual nudity, but coming as hilariously close as it can without going there. Weirdly sultry, off-center rock music is a constant, oppressive presence as the film gets lost in minor, unerotic details like shoes & ashtrays and, in its weirder moments, buries its lens, unfocused, in its characters’ cleavage for multiple consecutive shots. It’s a strangely dizzying, convincingly seedy experience even if it refuses to deliver the goods in terms of actual nudity.

As similar as Doris Wishman’s career trajectory seems to be to Russ Meyer’s in terms of following sexploitation trends from nudie cuties to roughies to auteur weirdness to late-period pornography, it’s funny to see the way their visual calling cards differ. Meyer’s work is typified by a rapid-fire, machine-like montage style that smashes images of women’s bodies against inanimate objects like cars & street signs and somehow makes the juxtaposition oddly erotic through the sheer pervy will of its leering filmmaker’s eye. Wishman’s style, if Another Day Another Man is any indication, is a languid, decidedly unerotic version of the same technique. She cuts away from women undressing to focus on a cigarette butt or a clown painting or a bra discarded on the carpet in an amusingly dispassionate way that puts the audience libido on ice. The technique is a lot sillier & less controlled than Meyer’s, but it makes for some interesting camp cinema auteurism. Unfortunately, the rape-oriented seediness of the roughie genre kept me from falling in love with Another Day Another Man and, oddly enough, the film’s story loses a crucial amount of steam after its protagonist starts hooking that makes the film somewhat of a chore. Wishman’s amateurish, but strangely off-center eye kept its dingy visual palette fascinatingly unerotic despite all odds, though, and I’m curious to see how that dynamic is echoed in the rest of her sexploitation work.

-Brandon Ledet

Nude on the Moon (1961)



While we were performing our various autopsies on the best movies we watched in 2016, I noticed something embarrassing about my own viewing habits. Out of the near-400 films I watched last year, less than 40, a mere 10%, were directed by women. As a minor corrective to this massive oversight, I’ve decided to take the 52 Films by Women pledge this year, a very simplistic resolution that only urges that you watch one film a week directed by a filmmaker. It’s very little to ask of someone who watches film with any regularity, but I think it’s an important means of consciously paying attention to who’s behind the camera in your media production. My first step in achieving this goal, and my first viewing experience of this year overall, is proof positive that this 52 Films by Women pledge will in no way limit the variety of films I’m watching in terms of genre, style, or content; it will only make sure that a woman is behind them. The light sci-fi nudie cutie Nude on the Moon, directed by undercelebrated sexploitation filmmaker Doris Wishman (under the psuedonym Anthony Brooks), is not likely to be a typical inclusion on most people’s 52 Films by Women lists. It was a solid start for the year in my mind, though, considering how much it tickled my lowbrow sensibilities.

Two amateur rocket scientists tinker away with vaguely defined bleep bloop machines & chem lab beakers in order to pull off a self-funded trip to the moon. Ignoring the all-too-obvious romantic desire of his sheepish, but buxom secretary, the youngest scientist buries his head in his work until an inheritance payment from a deceased uncle fully funds the trip, newly energizing the ultra-macho nerd. The two-man expedition to the moon goes beautifully smooth . . . almost too beautifully smooth. The men land in a crater teeming with unexpected treasures: water, plants, “moon gold,” and, most treasurable of all, half-naked space aliens. The citizens of the moon are beautiful humanoid specimens, both male & female, who wear only shiny lamé booty shorts & dumb little antennas that allow for telepathic communication. Much like in the similar erotic fantasy piece Cat-Women of the Moon, they follow a matriarchal Moon Queen, except in this case the monarch is topless & means no harm for the Earthmen. Our two rocket scientist heroes frolic in this nudist colony for as long as they’re allowed, then return to Earth unharmed, but without proof of what they’ve witnessed. The only thing that’s changed upon their return is that the hunkier professor finally notices that his adoring secretary looks an awful lot like his beloved Moon Queen (both roles were played by an actress billed simply as “Marietta”) and he rapturously returns her affection.

As the title suggests, there’s not much more to Nude on the Moon than an indulgence in light-hearted kitsch. The main innovation Doris Wishman brings to the post-Immoral Mr. Teas nudie cutie genre is in transporting the typical nude colony setting to an extraterrestrial locale. Adding a sci-fi touch to its genre’s flimsy excuses to leer at beautiful, naked bodies makes the film a memorable novelty, especially in its dinky rocket ship model & ASMR telepathic space alien whispers. Nude on the Moon is careful not to frame its actors in the same shot as its kids’ science fair project moon rocket, which is only shown from a distance. We do get a close look at the astronauts’ space suits, though, which feature exposed skin where the helmet doesn’t meet the body and vaguely resemble either the green Power Ranger’s 90s getup or The History of Future Folk, I can’t decide. The dialogue is exactly as goofy as you’d expect, given the circumstances. For instance, an astronaut points for his Earth-buddy to notice a ladder that’s leaning on a wall, only to tell him in perfect deadpan, “This leads to the top of the wall.” All of this cheap sci-fi silliness combines with an original lounge crooner number “Moon Doll,” set to a a picturesque, starry sky moonscape, to pad out the film’s opening half, which has been tasked with the dubious honor of entertaining audiences before the film delivers on the nudity promised in the title. It’s all delightfully inane.

Don’t be surprised if when I recap the films I watched for the 52 Films by Women pledge at the end of the year, over half of my selections are Doris Wishman productions. Although this light nudie cutie territory is far-removed from the nastier “roughies” genre pictures her career would eventually devolve into (strangely mirroring Russ Meyer’s own sexploitation career path), it was wildly entertaining stuff. Making an interesting picture solely out of near-nude actors & cheap sci-fi effects is a much more difficult kind of genre film alchemy than you might imagine. Although Nude on the Moon didn’t quite match my enthusiasm for the less bawdy, but similar-in-spirit Cat-Women of the Moon, it was still a delightful novelty and I can’t wait to see what else Wishman delivered with that innate understanding of what makes this kind of half-cooked frivolity so appealing to audiences like me.

-Brandon Ledet