THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!" The Last Drive In
A day in the life of Times Square street walker Shelly (Victoria Astor). It's Hooker Noir. We have our PI's our Femme Fatales, our washed up boxers, our amnesia victims, our falsely accused, our hitch-hikers, our small time losers looking to score one last dream, and now we have a lady of the evening as the subject of our tale. It's a clever realistic angle for a quasi sexploitation flick shot on the gritty streets of Manhattan. This diamond in the rough curiously delivers. Astor is great, there are none of the usual clichés, she's just a working girl selling her ass for $25 a trick where Broadway and 7th intersect. It's also another great time capsule to the tawdry side of Times Square circa 1965.
Directed by Barry Mahon who (believe it or not) was a distinguished fighter pilot during WWII. He was shot down and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III where Mahon worked on the same escape tunnels made famous by the movie The Great Escape (1963). It has been said that the part of Steve McQueen in that film was partially based upon Mahon. He's mainly known for producing a number of Errol Flynn and Gina Lollobrigida pictures Crossed Swords (1954), Cuban Rebel Girls (1959), as well as a considerable amount of children's programs and for the most part quickie, mostly bad sexploitation features.
As Mahon is quoted (explaining his style of low-budget filmmaking), "We have not aimed for the single picture that is going to make us rich. We are looking for the business that's like turning out Ford cars or anything else. If there is a certain profit per picture and we make so many pictures, then we have established a business that is on a basis that's economical." Luckily for us a few of these hit on all cylinders.
There are curiously no writing credits on the film proper, though a script girl is listed. The film consists of a series of realistic encounters that a hooker might have on her typical day. It's possible that it's just a rough sketch gleamed from interviews with actual prostitutes, who knows. The cinematography is by Joseph Mangine (The Lords of Flatbush (1974), The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)) and the effectively cheap sleazy jazz score is by Al Klap.
|Shelly in Times Square|
The film stars Victoria Astor (Some Like It Violent (1968)) as Shelly, Charles Howard, John Connant as the lawyer Mr. Stone, Phil Fitzpatrick as the College boy, Michael Garlock as the Weirdo, Allen Joseph (Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), The Fugitive TV Series (1963–1967), Eraserhead (1977), Raging Bull (1980)) as the Priest, Scott Lehman as the Police lieutenant and Dixie Van Cortlandt (as possibly the rival prostitute).
|Shelly (Victoria Astor)|
|feeding Orpheus the parakeet|
|the phone call from her sleazy lawyer|
|as long as I got this body nobody's gonna take care of me but me|
Shelly: (with a New York accent in a voice over narration) There is no rest for the wicked, I guess I'm pretty lucky to get any sleep at all. I'm a hooker, a prostitute and when I finish my nightly rounds the sun is usually coming up. Between then and when my phone starts to ring is the only chance I have to get any rest. Why did I turn pro? Because my husband, the only man that I ever loved, is in prison. Lawyers don't come cheap, and I've been trying to get him out.
Her day starts with a call from her lawyer who wants money for his work on her husband Mike's case and a second call from her son's foster mother who also wants money.
Lawyer Stone arrives at her flop and gets his payment. He also wants Shelly, he tells her that his wife is like ice and what can he do. Shelly tells him that he can take off his clothes she has an appointment at the beauty parlor. Stone tells Shelly that if she wants Mike out that she'd better cooperate.
|Shelly's sleazy lawyer|
|she's not enjoying this, but a gal's got to do what a gal's got to do|
|Japanese Tourist who wants to take photographs|
|The Weirdo (Michael Garlock) getting Shelly for his wife|
|to the shower|
|wifey not cooperating|
|in the shower|
Priest: You could work in some legitimate undertaking.
Shelly: Where else am I going to make $2,000 a month?
Priest: What about the moral issue?
Shelly: Moral issue!, ever since I've been fourteen somebody's been trying to get into my pants. What's the difference? Some guy I meet on the street like you or some guy I meet at a cocktail party? And because he passes me the hor'dourves thinks he can come up here for nothing.
|"That will be $25"|
|The Priest (Allen Joseph) the only cast member who had a career|
|"ever since I've been fourteen somebody's been trying to get into my pants."|
|Shelly on the job|
|Twenty-five? I only got fifteen dollars....|
|Come into my parlor said the spider to the fly|
|A virgin !!!|
|I'm laughing because I've never had a virgin.|
Her next trick tells her he's got a problem, he wants her to go to an orgy with him. He tells her that only girlfriends and wives are allowed. His own girlfriend won't go with him and he can't go stag. The following orgy scene is the only real sexploitation sequence in the entire film. Shelly leaves early and is back out on the streets.
|"I've got a problem...."|
|Shelly: You don't need me I'm leaving|
Times Square Noirsville (circa 1965)
|In profile an incredibly pneumatic Shelly|
|Shelly's Hotel (note the Westinghouse Whiteway street lamp used on 3rd and 9th Avenues after the "els" were demolished)|
|Majestic Dancing (a taxi dance ballroom)|
Hot Skin And Cold Cash fits an aspect of the original French definition of Film Noir "the content contains murder or suicide and the other social taboos that are a mainstay of the film noirs." As far as the sexploitation aspect, it's more Titillation & Assignation than actual T&A. One good rule of thumb to keep in mind when reading the reviews of films labeled exploitation/sexploitation; if the sexploitation reviewer rates the film low it's not because it's a bad film it's usually because he/she thinks there is not enough skin/sex shown on the screen. These are the films that may be lost Film Noir, films that went beyond the cultural taboos of the time they were made, (hence their label as exploitation) but now in our current time and, looking back with noir shaded glasses, would be labeled say PG13 or R. Of course being independent and low budget with mostly amateurish actors they aren't going to resemble the Hollywood product but they are still going to entertain despite some excessiveness.
Again, what makes these low budget films worthwhile, to quote V. Vale & Andrea Juno in Incredibly Strange Films, is the "unfettered creativity. Often the films are eccentric-even extreme-presentations by individuals freely expressing their imaginations..." To quote Picasso "Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness."
Screencaps are from the Something Weird Video DVDr 6.5/10