Monday, May 22, 2017

Hot Skin And Cold Cash (1965) - Times Square Hooker Neo Noir


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
The film starts with a shot of  a voluptuously pneumatic sleeping blonde. Shelly. She lives in her 9th Avenue Hotel flop with her pet parakeet Orpheus. A room with a view of a brick air shaft.

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
After a stop at the beauty parlor she begins to walk the streets in her trenchcoat. Her first trick of the night is from a Japanese tourist who wants to photograph her. Her next john is a guy who is procuring her for his wife who is interested in a lesbian affair, he looks like a hip ex beatnick. The wife showers with Shelly but backs out. Shelly gets her cold cash.

First Trick

Japanese Tourist who wants to take photographs

Second Trick

The Weirdo (Michael Garlock) getting Shelly for his wife

to the shower

wifey not cooperating

in the shower
Back out on the street again she gets some competition from a rival in a leopard skin coat as she's negotiating with her next john. The john isn't into two girls so he goes with Shelly back to her flop. The john, when he removes his scarf, turns out to be a priest. The priest wants to minister to her, try to get her to change her ways. She tells him basically that it's your $25 and you can do whatever you want with it. When he asks her why she does it she tells him that she's got a husband in prison and needs about $2,000 a month.

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.

Third Trick

"That will be $25"


a Priest!

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 gives the priest his money back and tells him to use it on a more likely subject. Her next trick is a virgin college frat boy who doesn't have the $25. He tells her he only has $15. She tells him that he looks like an honest guy, takes some pity on him and brings him up to her flop. The kid is all flustered and anxious, and Shelly at first laughs. He asks if she's laughing at him, and she says no she's laughing because she's never had a virgin. She calms him down and eases his apprehensions.

Fourth Trick

Frat Boys

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.

Fifth Trick

"I've got a problem...."

Orgy sequence

Shelly: You don't need me I'm leaving
Her final serene voice over is about how life will be kind and the thousands of guys will eventually be just a faded memory, and that one day the numbness will depart and she could feel love again.

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)

Victoria Astor's matter of fact humanizing portrayal of Shelly is what makes this flick so interesting, hooking is her job and she goes about it quite methodically and with no stigmas attached. She turns down offers of pills and weed, she is serious about her business and keeps her wits about her in all situations. It's quite a different take. The usual Hollywood treatment in most films dealing with hookers is to burlesque the role with the usual clichés (i.e. the hooker with the heart of gold, the cinderella hooker that meets her prince charming), make them the butt of eye-rolling jokes, or kill them off violently as plot points.

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

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