02 September 2011

THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER/1968/RON ORMOND

THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER

1968/Director: Ron Ormond/Writer: Ron Ormond

Cast: Ron Ormond, Tim Ormond, Peggy Anne Price, Sleepy LaBeef, Georgette Dante, Ronald Drake, Jack Horton, Pauletta Leeman, Harris Martin, Diane Jordon

AKA: THE EXOTIC ONES

As hard as it may be for the uninitiated neophyte to conceive there is a class of "cult" (I do not like that term much lately as it is overused these days but is still most applicable at times) makers whose skill and dubious vision is on a lower rung of the film making ladder than even Ed Wood Jr.. In fact the title "worst filmmaker of all time" has never really been suitable for Ed Wood Jr. since there are moments in his films that show some degree of craftsmanship. Of course I am talking apples and oranges here, okay. Tim Burton made an embellished biopic of Wood's life and career of the technical nature Wood himself could never imagine. I still find most of Wood's catalog pretty deserving of being watched over when there is nothing else to do with life. I can dust the house or watch Bride of the Monster again. Not a tough decision for me folks. But even in more remote orbit from the world of conventional filmmaking are a good that churns out what are often called Z-Films. If B-Movies refer to films made outside the normal system and politics of Hollywood on super low budgets then Z-Films represent a world even outside the rules and codes of B-Movies and their creators. I doubt anyone sets out to make a "Grade Z Classic" the way Ted V. Mikels did with Astro Zombies or Al Adamson did with Dracula vs. Frankenstein but somewhere event beyond reasonable human control (such as the collective lack of filmmaking talent on the part of the entire cast and crew) come into play. And yet there is something genuinely entertaining about the films of folks like Ray Dennis Steckler, aka Cash Flagg, and even Herschell Gordon Lewis that can provide a certain portion of the population a sound evening of pseudo-surreal film watching. One could argue that this same said portion of the population is in desperate need of shock therapy or even lobotomies but that brings the subject matter a little too close to home to make me feel relaxed. So lets move on and discuss a truly odd film I had the masochistic pleasure of watching recently called The Monster and the Stripper, aka The Exotic Ones.

Like many other film makers of his selective ilk Ron Ormond's personal and professional life followed a course much like one of his eclectic films. If you are really interested there is a ten page write up on the man and his films from an article that appeared in Michael J. Weldon's Pyschotronic Video Magazine. One of these days I am going to begin some posts that provide mini-bios of the lives of influential Uranium charged film makers and I will use info from the above essay to give an overview of Ormond's life. I know you can't wait that long and ten pages is way too much to read of the cuff so I will try to give a very rough sketch from the info I have lying here next to me. He was born in 1910 as Vittorio Di Naro and changed his name to Ron Ormond because of the influence of mystic Ormond McGill on his life. Ron Ormond had a fascination with things mysterious or religious and even spent nearly a year in India with McGill researching and writing the book Mysteries of the Orient. McGill and Ormand would collaborate on some other books, that would probably be found in the occult section of a bookstore, with titles like The Master Method of Hypnosis, The Art of Meditation and The Magical Pendulum of the Orient. Later in life Ormond's religious leanings would take a more Southern Evangalical slant when, after surviving a plane crash, be became born again and followed the hell fire and brimstone preaching of the Reverend Estus W. Pirkle.

Ormand's contributions to the world of film began to be more substantial when he began working with cowboy star Lash Larue (so named because of the bullwhip the black clad good guy used in his buts with bad guys) in the late 40's and 50's. He produced and wrote many of the Larue and other B-Western films of the time for his Western Adventure Inc. production company. He married June Carr and later little Timmy Ormond was born. The times changed and so did Ron and June Ormond's film making ventures. In the mid to late sixties they churned out a handful of low budget exploitation style films that seem to belong in a little niche all their own. While most people may have never heard of Please Don't Touch and Untamed Mistress I hope that they will be a little familiar with Mesa of Lost Women, featuring some of the old Ed Wood Jr. entourage such as Delores Fuller and Lyle Talbot (doing the narration).

Ormond's film direction took still another bizarre twist when after the aforementioned near fatal plane crash he began making Christian propaganda films for Estus W. Pirkle with titles like The Burning Hell and If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do? He died in 1981 and like many exploitation style film makers his work remained lost until VHS and DVD brought them to a level of popularity he never knew in his living years. I have seen Mesa of Lost Women a couple times and am trying to download If Footmen Tire You What Will Horses Do? (Jeremiah 12:5) and Please Don't Touch Me but the film I just watched and the one this post is about is The Monster and the Stripper and seems to be the film he is most remembered for, alongside Mesa of Lost Women. The title is certainly enticing and it is also known under the less provocative title The Exotic Ones. The film is like that line from Ghost World when the character Rebecca says "Its so bad its good¡± and the totally cynical Enid responds with "Actually it so bad that's its gone past good and back to bad again¡±.

Like I said, the title is enticing and sounds pretty sleazy but the movie had me using the fast forward often, which is something I seldom do. I was aghast to discover that some people to churn out posts on a daily basis actually fast forward through the film just to get to a review on it. I actually enjoy the fare I watch and tend to do more rewinding and if the film is unwatchable I eject it. The problem with TMATS is that some scenes are fairly watchable Z-Grade material, at least for people to prefer root canals with little anesthesia or think Ed Wood Jr. may have actually been possessed of some sort of genius. The problem really is the dance sequence that are too many and go on too long, sometimes one after the other just filling up reels. They are of the Tease-o-Rama type variety and in small doses could be fun but after a while they really become simply way too boring. What I want to see in a film like this is lots of cheesy acting and corny dialog and goofy monsters. And yes, plump, pastie teasing dancing girls in a sleazy strip club as well of course but it is all just filler here obviously.

The film opens up with shots of New Orleans and the type of over the credit narration that is supposed to give the film a sort of mondo, true life feel. That's you are about to be exposed to the sights and sounds of some hidden under belly of life in America that few people even know exist, much less have ever witnessed. Soon however we are transported into the less than murky and grimy interiors of Nemo's Strip Club, run by said Nemo who is played by shade wearing Ron Ormond himself and billed as Vic Narno. His business partner is played by June Ormond and some of the dialog exchanges between consist of them staring into the camera and mouthing a line then cutting to a scene where the other, looking into the camera, reacts. June Ormond sometimes keeps slipping glances into the camera as she is talking and even seems to wink or nod to the camera and it is a little odd. Nemo's business is slowing down due to competition on the strip he is working and in one scene he has his goons pour a spittoon over the head of a toothless rival who owes him some money. He is watched constantly by what must be a vice cop (Ronald Drake) who wears a goofy straw hat and spews out patronizing advice to one nice girl, Effie, who, in his opinion, does belong in this ratty business. She is played by Peggy Anne Price and she simply wants to be a singer and we are treated to a couple performances of her doing a sort of poor man's Pasty Cline that are pretty hayseed sounding and do not seem to fit in a burlesque type club. His main dancer is the garishly eye-lined Titiania (Georgette Dante, a real live exotic show girl who stayed friends with the Ormonds long after the film) who is rotund and arrogant and becomes jealous of good girl Effie stealing a little of the lime light from her.

But Narno needs more to draw in customers and on the suggestion of his right hand man Marty (Jack Horton), who looks like he owes every Elvis record ever made, they decides to go into the swamps and bayous around New Orleand and capture the "Swamp Thing" that has been recently killing off hillbillies (or swampbillies) and ripping the heads off livestock. They figure this is just the sort of thing people will money to come in and gawk at. They hire a swamp kid named Timmy (Timmy Ormond) as their guide and the group of four men are soon whittled down to two by the Swamp Thing, a cave man looking brute played by rockabilly singer an guitar player Sleepy LaBeef (some MP3 samples at the end of the post) who lives under piles of Spanish moss. One of the best scenes in the film is when the Swamp Thing rips the arm off one of the hunters and beats the man to death with his own arm. Okay, I thought it was one of the best scenes anyway. There is some irony to this scene actually since the man beat to death was Cecil Scaife who was a PR man for Sun Records and at the time working with Columbia Records. So happens Sleepy LaBeefe (called Sleepy because of his droopy eye lid) was a Columbia recording artist. The dialog and acting in this sequence are simply the "best' in the film. Anyway, they catch the Swamp Thing, with a hypo-gun I think, and take him back to the Strip Club. The local police seem to have no interest in the fact that a murderous swamp beast has been captured and soon he is on stage rattling the cage bars as the audience stares in shock. Timmy is the only person the monster connects with, for some reason we never understand, and as well he has a monster style crush on good crooner Effie. Naturally the bad girl Titania gets on his bad side when she does her fire act and torments him with fire. In one scene the Swamp Thing bites the neck of real chicken and lets the blood drain over his body. Some trivia here is that the 6'7 Sleepy did not have the heart to actually kill the chicken and so Georgette Dante (Titania in case you forgot) wrung it's neck off camera and flung it back to Sleepy.

After a pretty non-sexy cat fight between Effie and Titania the monster escapes and kills Titiana then terrifies and bunch of dancing girls who all look like they are laughing at the lumbering, loin cloth wearing Sleepy LaBeef, who is supposed to a pretty funny and hospitable good ol' boy in real life. The beast squished the skull of Narno while the vice cop in the straw hat just watches, with gun in hand, and winches. In the next scenes we are told that the monster escaped and no ones knows where it is. Guess it just walked down Bourbon Street and back to the swamps without causing any commotion. The film ends with another Russ Myersesque narration. The film actually did rather well on the drive-in circuit where June Ormond arranged autograph sessions with the dancers (including of course Titania) and other cast member sin the concessions area. Not that the Ormonds saw much of the returns of this or any of their films and soon the shady dealings of the exploitation film business, along with his neat fatal plane crash (he may have been the pilot), all contributed to his conversion to Southern style Christianity and his very bizarre but intriguing film work with the Rev. Estus W. Pirkle. More on that stuff another day.

NOTE: One sad note about this article is that when I had it posted originally at my old URL -which was basically destroyed by hackers and unqualified tech support-  the article generated some responses from Tim Ormond and one of the films dancers Diane Jordon. Eventually even Titiana herself (Georgette Dante) contacted Tim and a bit of a reunion occurred and was chronicled in the comments sections and a couple post updates. Sadly when I lost the old URL I lost ll of that precious information. If Tim and Diane are out there I may say hi via your mails and welcome you to the new address for any updates you may want to share. Thanks for sharing the stuff you did and best of luck to you if you read this. Bill.















No comments: