Thursday, 8 July 2021

The Naughty Stewardesses/Blazing Stewardesses

Bosoms And Boeings

The Naughty Stewardesses
USA 1973 Directed by Al Adamson
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Blazing Stewardesses
USA 1975 Directed by Al Adamson
IIP/Severin Blu Ray Zone A/B/C

Well... okay, so softcore sexploitation pictures aren’t exactly my usual stomping ground (not necessarily by choice) so I thought I’d review the next two films in Severin’s gorgeous Al Adamson - The Masterpiece Collection as a double bill as they comprise The Naughty Stewardesses and its direct sequel, Blazing Stewardesses. Now, as it happens I made the right choice because, although as you’ll see, I grew into the spirit of the first film very quickly... the sequel is a huge mess of a production which I probably wouldn’t have had enough to say about (especially good things) to sustain its own review anyway so... okay, lets start with the first movie.

The Naughty Stewardesses starts off with a nice enough, very 1970s feeling animated title sequence identifying the stars of the film in little photos plus moving handbags and wing insignias. And, then we move into an opening set up of three of the four title stewardesses... including Marilyn Joi as Barbara... on a plane, talking about various sex positions engaged in while flying (and now I’ve got my eye in with Al Adamson’s films, I can tell you one of the passengers in this scene is an uncredited Regina Carrol). I have to mention right here that the interiors of the airplane sets are pretty much as authentic looking as the spaceship interiors on Horror Of The Blood Monsters (reviewed here)... that is to say, not at all. One of the girls incites one of the pilots to demonstrate that ‘it’ can be done standing up. Meanwhile, a woman on her way to her day job in a ‘massage parlour’ picks up a hitchhiker and explains she’ll soon be joining an airline company as a stewardess. Her name is Debbie, as played by Connie Hoffman and... I’ll get back to her in a minute because she’s one of the reasons this film didn’t just fall flat on its face with me.

Okay, so the film goes from bad to worse as we have a birthday party where a guy is wheeled in, covered in icing like a cake, for one of the girls and there's lots of red blooded male sex antics which are pretty much on the level of Porkys (another film I’ve always kinda hated). And at this point I was pretty much telling myself, ‘This is for the blog, I should sit through this’ when... things suddenly take an upward turn and the movie gets really engaging and, also, kind of dark in places. There’s several dollops of nudity and over the top exaggerated sex of course, which are always very welcome but, I believe Adamson couldn’t direct a sex movie if he tried and I know he was very reluctant to do this movie but, yeah, this jettisons the adolescent overtones very quickly and his soft core sequences have all the credibility of a modern Japanese porn film which, if you’ve ever tried to watch a snippet of one, you’ll know is pretty ridiculous.

Debbie, it turns out, even when shedding her clothes for the odd scene, is actually both a tragic and sincere character. She moves in with the other three stewardesses and then meets, on one of her first plane trips, a very rich, old World War Two vet who saves the life of one of the other passengers. His name is Brewster, played by the old Western actor Robert Livingston (who surprisingly, considering his age here, gets the lion's share of the simulated sex scenes too). Anyway Debbie becomes friends with Brewster and, afterwards, accidentally meets an amateur photographer/taxi driver who takes some nice modelling shots of her. However, this is where things all go wrong for Debbie because, photo-boy really isn’t all there. In fact, even as he accompanies Debbie to a party and gets offered a job shooting a porn film, Locked Loins, by a director of such movies, we can see that he might be a bit of a psycho.

And then he also turns out to be a member of a terrorist organisation called the People’s Liberation Army. Along with the porn director, he kidnaps Debbie and two of her fellow stewardesses and takes them to a cabin, to ransom back to Brewster for fifty thousand dollars. Why they would have the rendezvous point so close to where the cabin is would be anybody’s guess but when Debbie escapes and gets involved in a little chase across the snow, I have to say that it looks like the same landscape that Adamson used for the final scenes of Psycho-A-Go-Go (reviewed here). Brewster brings one of his rifles and, accompanied by the fourth of the stewardesses, who he’s also sexing up on the side, he shoots the psycho dead and it all ends in tears.

And it’s a not bad film, in all honesty. Between Adamson’s bleak turn and the performances of Marilyn Joi (billed in this and the sequel as Tracy King) and especially Connie Hoffman as the thoughtful Debbie, I was actually quite taken with this movie once I’d got the first ten minutes out of the way. One of the expectations in this kind of film, I would guess, would be that the girls would all be fairly dumb but the four stewardesses are all quite intelligent, strong female roles who just happen to enjoy sex... which really helps the viewer engage with the various ‘almost but not quite sexy’ elements of the movie. Again, like early Adamson actress Vicki Volante, it’s a shame that Connie Hoffman only made a handful of films because she really has amazing screen presence in this. Possibly her best known role was as a recurring character called Orange in two episodes of Starsky and Hutch.

There are the usual strange choices you seem to find in all of the Adamson films I’ve seen so far, such as the attempted rape of Debbie by the impotent psycho photo boy at the cabin where he’s holding the girls for ransom, being scored with music that sounds like it came straight out of a 1970s funky action movie. And, knowing the director as I do now from this box set, I wouldn’t be surprised if that is exactly where it comes from. I don’t know who came up with the idea of a ‘weird sex device’ handcrafted by Brewster, which is just a basket chair which yo-yos up and down from the ceiling but, as seen in this movie, it’s pretty impractical and not something I can imagine selling very well at a sex shop.  There are also a lot of ‘filler’ montages of the girls wandering around various locations like Las Vegas and so on which are actually quite easy on the eye and... also something I am accustomed to seeing now in this director’s movies. One thing is for sure, though, this is not your atypical ‘sex romp’ and, while the same can also be said for the sequel... um... yeah, lets get to that one now.

Okay, so after the phenomenal success that The Naughty Stewardesses got at the box office, Adamson was asked to helm a sequel... which he did in the form of Blazing Stewardesses, with three main performers coming back in the form of Robert Livingston, Connie Hoffman and Marilyn Joi reprising their characters from the first film. A third stewardess, who doesn’t take her clothes off in this film, is Adamson’s wife Regina Carrol, playing a completely dumb version of a stewardess, complete with comical voice and, frankly, although I’m sure this particular performance has its admirers and certainly had my jaws agape, it’s definitely scoring high on my ‘what were you thinking?’ chart of bizarre acting choices in a movie. It’s like watching a road accident in horror and fascination as it plays out right before your eyes but, to be fair, that’s totally appropriate to this mess of a movie, which does the same thing on all levels.

Although there are two nude scenes near the front end of the film, none of them feature the title characters and that’s pretty much it for any pretence of a) being the sex romp it’s purported to be and b) having anything to do with airplanes either, apart from the first ten minutes. Instead, after Debbie finds her future husband in bed with a another girl, she gets an invite for her and her two stewardess friends to host the opening of a new gambling ranch that her friend Brewster has opened. They accept and arrive at the ranch, along with a load of customers but, complications ensue as a bunch of cloaked and masked marauders have been hijacking Brewster’s employees and also making sure the gambling equipment he buys doesn’t make it to the ranch. If this sounds like an old timey western plot to you, that was definitely Adamson’s intention. The opening titles has cartoon figures of bikini clad stewardesses dancing around in front of shots of cowboys (presumably the title was also trying to cash in on Blazing Saddles). Even the music in the scenes with the ‘bad guys’ plays out like a 1950s Republic western score and, again, knowing Adamson that might be exactly where he purloined the cues.

Behind the plot, unknown to the others, is the madam of the neighbouring whorehouse The Beehive, played by an ageing Yvonne De Carlo, of The Munsters fame. Also on hand are... the two surviving members of The Ritz Brothers, who hadn’t been in a movie since 1943 (The Three Stooges were originally lined up for this and I believe even rehearsed some of their material but were unable to do it due to ill health and ultimately death). Now, I don’t know what The Ritz Brothers’ act was but I get a pretty good idea of it from their antics here and they do a little dance, plays cards badly, get vaguely sex addled by Regina Carrol and share a giant sandwich. I’m not sure now that I would ever watch a Ritz Brothers movie after seeing this but... you never know.

So there’s not too much of the stewardesses in the film at all, just a lot of mostly bad comedy routines and some ‘sped up’ cowboy chase footage. Other things on offer are a dodgy looking arab who we cut back to every now and again, as he tries to find oil on the ranch and, somehow, Adams manages to work in one of those exploding, rolling car shots of footage from one of his earlier movies. If this film actually hit enough right notes it could rightly be called a ‘laugh riot’ but, honestly, there wasn’t any laughing coming from me and, although I found the film interesting (like watching a train wreck happen right next to you), I’d have to say it’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen from this director. It totally hits the wrong notes throughout its running time which is a shame because, as I said, the first film was actually quite engaging.

So that’s it for me with these two. I’d recommend The Naughty Stewardesses to anyone who knows what they’re getting into and I’ll almost certainly watch it again some day. Blazing Stewardesses is a terrible mess, however... I really would give that one a hard pass. One of the extras in this is a nicely researched mini documentary about the real life phenomenon of the air stewardess and their iconic role in popular culture called Fly Girls - The Stewardess As Lifestyle Icon In The Golden Age Of The Exploitation Film, written and narrated by the living legend film programmer and writer Kier-La Janisse (I reviewed one of her amazing books on film here). It’s an interesting look at the subject matter and, frankly, worth it’s weight in comical gold for the brief shot at the start which shows Ms. Janisse in a stewardess unform herself. Another nice addition from Severin, also included on the disc, is the Adamson directed ‘gluing scenes’ from the unrelated release Bedroom Stewardesses (which I haven’t had time to watch yet but I’ll get to it at some point, I guess). So yeah, one hit, one miss and I’ll get to some more Adamson ‘masterpieces’ soon.

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