Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Olga's House of Shame (1964)

* Pretty much more of the same as White Slaves of Chinatown, the first entry in the Olga series, except even more ridonkulously fun. Tonally matter-of-fact yet overwrought narration and general seediness make this feel less like a typical exploitation film and more like some maniacal off-world mondo flick. (Example: The narrator refers to narcotics as "this human misery!")

* Unlike White Slaves, this has a couple of synch-sound dialogue scenes. These scenes really don't mesh with the rest of the film at all, mainly because the involved actors are better at projecting menace and/or fear than forming words. Still, it does allow us to bask in the awesomeness of W.B. Parker, who plays Olga's brother/henchman Nick; he's like the Joker mated with Paul Lynde and squeezed into corduroy pants.

* Starts with the barest of plots, something about Olga consolidating her underworld power in the prostitution/narcotics world by punishing the disobedient and crushing the competition but kicks into overdrive when it stops caring about telling a story and starts tossing the early-roughie action at the audience in great sticky gobs of sick. There's a 15-minute section in this film right past the half-hour mark where the only thing on screen is one in a procession of naked girls getting manhandled in some manner by Olga (electrocution, whipping, slapping, bondage, etc.). Director Joseph P. Mawra knows what you came here for, and he's more than happy to give it to you; quite a fair change of pace from the average grindhouse feature which stingily parcels out its saleable elements in between long stretches of dull dialogue.

* Obviously shot quickly and cheaply, House of Shame still manages to demonstrate that Mawra, despite his station in the industry, might have been a born filmmaker. His compositions are generally pretty sharp, and every now and then he'll do something (like the dominant-position shot of chief torture subject Elaine as seen from between Olga's legs) that hint that he's not just a point-and-shoot nobody. The cut from Olga masturbating to the jiggling breasts of a belly dancer: Best cut ever.

* It's not often you get to say this about two-buck sleaze cinema, but Audrey Campbell cuts a genuinely iconic figure as Olga. She exudes a hateful glee at her naughty, brutal acts that says more than any mess of dialogue could. Also, she gives pretty good haughty voiceover.

* Despite it all, this is still a pretty bad movie. But it's bad in a wonderful, mesmerizing kind of way. There are times when I can't tell if the goofiness was meant to be intentional (the narration seems too ludicrous to be true at times). Most memorably, there's a big chase scene that seems to be taking place in amber -- everyone's moving just a little too slow, as if they didn't really want to exert themselves too much. It's really kinda great.

* Hope you like "Night on Bald Mountain," because it gets played during this film. A lot.

Grade: B-


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