9.22.2012

Female exploitation



The, um, “stars” of Doris Wishman’s Deadly Weapons (1974), namely the 73-inch breasts of Liliana Wilczkowska, better known as “Chesty Morgan,” here billed as “Zsa Zsa.”  That such a puerile exploitation film as Deadly Weapons was made by a woman raises potentially interesting questions—but, then again, maybe it doesn’t.  Maybe all that it confirms is that, as Pauline Kael wrote about Liliana Cavani’s The Night Porter (1974), “women can make junk just as well as men.” 

Whatever one’s feelings about The Night Porter, Deadly Weapons is likely to make it seem downright Tarkovskian.  Filmed in what appear to be the kitchens, parlors, and basement rec rooms of the cast and crew, it is a laughable attempt to build the plot of a crime thriller around the breasts of its star, which are the film’s main attraction (a fact that it makes little attempt to disguise).  The vacant, confused-seeming Wilczkowska plays a distraught wife whose husband is murdered by gangsters, and who thereupon contrives to get revenge by hunting down his killers, drugging them, and smothering them to death with her breasts.  What might have been a campy, outrageous nudie comedy is instead laboriously unimaginative.  What’s more, Wishman’s objectification of poor Wilczkowska, whose breasts are presented not so much as a source of sexual titillation as one of spectacular disgust, feels demeaning and sad, especially when one gets the distinct impression that the consistently out-of-it-looking Wilczkowska doesn’t appear to know where she is or what she’s doing, let alone enjoying it.  This female-authored exploitation film is less interesting and more shameful than a good many male-authored ones, such as Abel Ferrara’s ingenious Ms.45 (1981), which is probably as elaborate and compelling an application of feminist ideas about violence, gender and sexuality to the conventions of exploitation cinema as any you’re likely to find.  Wishman’s film, by contrast, doesn’t just feel misogynistic; it feels dehumanizing.         

’70s porn icon Harry Reems of Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones fame (who appears as one of the gangsters) emerges as the most talented member of the cast—perhaps not surprising, but not a good sign.  He’s also the only decent-looking one.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen an exploitation movie filled with so many off-putting faces:     




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