Retro-View: QT lll Fest – 70’s Double Feature

a70-5583Sunday night all over Texas, 7 pm. Feels exactly like a Sunday night all over Texas. Smell of detergent from homes. Light traffic on the roads. Must work the next day. Drive into a quieter Sixth Street. Alert but still weary from the previous night. Settle into my usual seat. Order another pizza with beer. Feel guilty that I already ate pizza Friday. Indulge. Relax.

Quentin bops out, immediately goes into his riff on cheerleader movies and how they promised more than they delivered. But he held up PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW (1971) as the best, most sexy, expensive cheerleader film never made by New World. With Roger Vadim as director and Gene Rodenberry (yes) as producer slash screenwriter, the project certainly had odd pedigree. Not to mention, Rock Hudson as Tiger, the he-man football coach who’s also seducing much of the foxy student body. People titter when Tarantino refers to Hudson as a stud, and of course there’s obvious irony but Quentin lectures apropos that Rock Hudson was an actor and knew his shit. He fooled the audience lusting after him for decades. QT also gamely told the audience that this is the kind of cheerleader movie that will genuinely turn you on. It’s clear Tarantino was enthralled by this film and with that out of the way, he dropped the mic. We were off to the double feature, 1970’s style.

For some reason, PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW will always be representative of my QT III experience and one of things that most evokes my time in Austin. I knew I loved this movie the minute the Osmond’s catchy theme song “Chilly Winds” started up over the archetypal ‘70s credit scene as our young hero on his Vespa finds himself surrounded by Eisenstienian cuts of nubile females. Only in this What Kind Of Man Reads Playboy era could so much adolescent horniness be sanctified by macro-close-ups of exposed, jiggling flesh. Blame the Frenchman behind the camera. I always suspected Rodenberry was some kind of libertine. Look at those mini-skirts in STAR TREK.

290161020aPRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW was Vadim’s first and only American film, produced by MGM at the height of their disconnect from audiences. After the success of Antonioni’s BLOW-UP (1966) they tried all sorts of esthetic experimentation. By 1970, with the failure of Antonioni’s ZABRISKIE POINT, the famous studio lion was having a bad trip. Going with the revolutionary flow, the studio had sold off its past while trying to buy a future. But they ended up with unique films like this one. Vadim said he had total freedom and there were only about four films being shot on the lot at the time.

In a nutshell, the plot of PMAIAR is simple. A horny student named Ponce (engagingly played by John David Carson) finds himself in lust with proto-MILF Angie Dickinson at the veritable stratosphere of her carnal beauty. Meanwhile, certain nubile students are being bumped off with cryptic notes attached to their bodies. The prime suspect seems to be “Tiger”…the popular football coach and teacher. Rock Hudson is quite terrific and you don’t doubt his seductive virility, especially in a strong scene where he convinces Dickinson to give Ponce some private lessons. I’d have loved to watch that moment being filmed.

Throw in Telly Savalas as the pre-Kojack suspicious detective (holding his cigarette Euro-style as he did in ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE (1968) and HORROR EXPRESS (1972); Roddy McDowall as the bewildered principal; James “Scotty” Doohan speaking straight English; William Marshall from STAR TREK; Keenan Wynn as a clod sheriff; and of course, dozens of stunning 70’s babes including the familiar Joy Bang…Top it off with Vadim’s leering, black comedy tone, questionable point of view and you end up with my favorite discovery of the festival. Harry Knowles was taken with it too as he enthused in his AICN post. Too bad Paramount won’t be rushing this to DVD anytime soon likely due to its risque high school nature, but it is available on bootleg and VHS. Kinky. (UPDATE: Warner Archives to the rescue!)  And that theme song!

mother_jugs_and_speedI was so pleased by PRETTY MAIDS and filled with Sunday night tranquility that I bailed on MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED, a 1976 oddity with Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch and Harvey Keitel as wacky ambulance drivers directed by Peter Yates (BULLITT). The Cos is quite good in the film and I always thought he was an underused actor. “MASH on wheels” is how the ads described it and that’s certainly the tonal template, one of the last dark comedies of the decade. Roger Ebert’s review aptly sums it up: “It almost relishes the incompatibility of its scenes – gore followed by double entendre followed by chills ‘n’ spills – and if it thinks it’s imitating “MASH” it’s wrong, because “MASH” had a central idea about its battlefield surgeons and then played variations on it.”

I’m sure that’s what Tarantino loves about the film, going from running nuns to shotgun murders to slapstick chases. And I find that appealing too, if only as an indicator of the unpredictability that Hollywood briefly allowed its big studio films. I was feeling liberated myself that evening. Driving home past the soft Southern lights of Texas, I vow to evolve like Ponce and track down the Osmond’s coolest track ever. But first, I need serious sleep in order to go undercover for the Monday night roster of SPY FILMS…

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6 Responses to “Retro-View: QT lll Fest – 70’s Double Feature”

  1. […] what comes next, but I’m thrilled to see the groovy trailer for Roger Vadim’s lurid PRETTY MAIDS  OF ALL ROW (1971) and the enchanting X-rated bumper ads featuring LOLZing kittens. So sit down, grab a beer and pizza […]

  2. […] Moore was never wittier as 007 (and I love John Barry’s underrated score). Mankiewicz penned the odd 70′s black comedy and Tarantino fave, MOTHER, JUGGS & SPEED (1976) and was later credited as “Creative Consultant” on the scripts for SUPERMAN and […]

  3. […] MOTHER, JUGS AND SPEED (1973), which Quentin Tarantino showed along with FREEBIE AND THE BEAN at QT III Fest, and the fantasy misfire, KRULL (1982), but he never failed to impress with his crisp composition […]

  4. […] cast (including Robert Quarry). Lalo Schifrin contributes a lovely score, somewhat recalling his PRETTY MAIDS ALL IN A ROW done in the same period. Although the film was not received well critically, time has been kind to […]

  5. […] great night. We had survived. At least some of us had. And I would be back for that evening’s 70′s DOUBLE FEATURE. After this cine-trance, I was tested and battle-ready. Nothing would keep me away… I […]

  6. […] Culture, Politics & SKIDOO « Retro-View: QT lll Fest – 70′s Double Feature Retro-View: QT III Fest – Good Ol’ Boy Night […]

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