Thursday, 29 July 2021

Jessi's Girls

Stormin’ Mormon

Jessi's Girls
(aka Wanted Women)

USA 1975
Directed by Al Adamson
Manson International/
Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Warning: Some spoilers within.

You know, as I rummage my way through Severin’s beautiful Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection, I’ll occasionally come across a hidden jewel. For every terrible Brain of Blood (reviewed here), Blood Of Dracula’s Castle (reviewed here) or Horror Of The Blood Monsters (reviewed here), there’s an unpolished gem of a movie such as Psycho-A-Go-Go (reviewed here), Five Bloody Graves (reviewed here) or The Fakers (Smashing The Crime Syndicate, reviewed here). Jessi’s Girls is one such precious stone of a movie. I mean, sure, it’s ragged around the edges... this is an Al Adamson film after all but, it’s engaging and pacey and makes for a good evening’s entertainment, for sure.

Now, I’ve not seen Bad Girls (got the Goldsmith score though, so I should get around to rectifying that situation in the near future, I guess) but, from the looks of the plot outline, it doesn’t stray too far from this rape/revenge western and I can’t help but think the writers/producers might have had the memory of this one in mind when they went forward on that movie.

After a not too inspiring opening title shot of Jessi’s Girls riding the open country, Adamson gets straight down to the plot when we meet the young, mormon couple of Jessi (played brilliantly by Sondra Currie) and her husband, travelling on their lonesome in their covered wagon. As they set up camp and try to get a fire going, we are treated to Jessi bathing naked by a waterfall and then doing sexy things with her main man before they are approached by the old timey Western equivalent of a thuggish, Al Adamson style motorcycle gang (but, you know, on horses).

In a particularly unpleasant sequence, the husband is tied up while the seven or so bandits take turns raping Jessi. They then shoot both Jessi and he husband dead and go off on their merry way. But what’s this? Jessi’s still alive after receiving the wound in her shoulder and, after digging the bullet out with her hot dagger (bizarrely, the shell is still in its casing which, according to IMDB... and presumably history... is not the kind of bullet wound you would get in the Old West), she starts walking her way out of the desert until she comes across a homestead and, in her primitive and brutalised state, she is befriended by the grizzly guy living there, who teaches her how to shoot so she can pursue the filthy scoundrels. He even gives her his shotgun, which he calls ‘Judy the equaliser’.

Meanwhile, as Jessi is being taught good shooting and such and such by her new ‘vengeance coach’, Adamson cross cuts the footage with three other events to set up the other members of... Jessi’s Girls.

First up we have wanted outlaw Rachel McBride played by Jennifer Bishop, riding in the desert with her somewhat damaged horse. A marshal, called Clay, catches up with her and takes her in. It’s at this point for the sake of not driving myself mad, that I have to point out that Clay is referred to by other characters as either ‘Marshal’, ‘Sheriff’ or ‘Deputy’ quite randomly throughout the entire running time of the movie. I don’t know why but I can only guess that the script kept changing or they were shooting different revisions each day and so his character, who is quite definitely a lawman (of sorts) has a kind of vague title. He does seem to be running things though so, for this review, I’ll just continue to refer to him as... Marshal Clay.

Next up we have prostitute Claire (or sometimes Clara, depending on what script was being read on the day, I suspect), who is played here by Al Adamson’s wife, Regina Carrol. For some reason, she starts shooting at a client after a good night’s sleep (portrayed by Hugh Warden, the same guy who played the heart attack client in Girls For Rent, reviewed here) and so Marshal Clay next arrests her.

Finally, we have Ellyn Stern as Kana, who gets left behind by her gang during a bank robbery, by the same bunch of bandits who attacked Jessi and her man at the start. So, of course, Clay arrests her too and puts her in a jail cell with the other two girls, ready to take them on the long, cross country trip to ‘territorial prison’ the next day.

And, naturally, the next day when he and a deputy (who also refers to him as deputy?) are trying to transfer the girls, it’s also Jessi’s first day of riding around, trying to catch up with the gang what ‘done her man in!’ She kills the deputy, wounds Clay and recruits the girls, grabbing the marshal and taking him with them for a bit so she can dress his wounds and 'sex him up for information' as to where the infamous gang hide out... which is apparently a ghost town feared by lawman and bounty hunters alike at Copper Creek. She lets Clay escape and the girls start off on their way there in pursuit of both justice and, also, the money from a recent bank robbery... the slight twist being that the robbery was the same one that Kana was at, who is the main squeeze of the gang’s leader.

After a fair amount of sexing, rogue bandit/indian killing and various other exploitation elements such as a fist fight between Kana and Claire, which is actually quite well staged and has some satisfying sound effects... we end up with the surviving three girls all arriving independently at Copper Creek for the big showdown. At the end of the confrontation it’s only Jessi and Clay, who has been following the trail of corpses left in the gal’s wake, to gun it out because... Clay just wants the bounty on the gang all to himself. The last shot is a humdinger and makes a nice, abrupt ending to the movie and, seriously, I would have easily watched a sequel to this one if somebody had thought to make one.

It does look rough and ready, for sure and, yeah, the cinematography isn’t monumentally stylish (although the fastly edited, frenetic hand held stuff in the fistfight I mentioned earlier gives a nice, kinetic feel to proceedings). But it does have a bunch of good performances at its heart which elevates things past the limitations of the script and the budget, with Sondra Currie being especially good in this movie, holding things together and looking, in my eyes at least, like a young Julianne Moore. The scene where she is raped is something she’s especially good in, as you see her eyes deaden to her plight as she loses her innocence and this intensity informs her fierce performance for the rest of the picture.

Also, the stunt work in that final gun battle, which includes Claire’s memorable last words as she is shot down, “It still beats whoring for a living!”, is actually pretty good. Some of these guys take some pretty hard and spectacular falls and I was especially impressed when Jessi does the old spaghetti western gag of lighting sticks of dynamite with her cheroot and blowing up a big wooden tower with a stuntman still standing on top of it... falling to earth midst the splintering wood fragments. Some nice action which, I dunno, feels kind of raw in that good way that you think, maybe some of today’s action directors could learn a thing or two from, by looking at movies like this once in a while.

So there you have it, Jessi’s Girls is definitely an Al Adamson diamond in the rough and I’d have no qualms about recommending it to anyone. I absolutely loved it and will watch it again no question, if I don’t run out of time first. If you’re going to do a rape/revenge Western then this is definitely the way to do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment