When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand
Categories: Alternative Film

“BOOBIES!! BOOBIES!! BOOBIES!!” shouted the inebriated Neely O’Hara (Patty Duke) to no one in particular as she stumbled down a scuzzy street of strip bars and adult theaters in 1967’s VALLEY OF THE DOLLS.  Self-consciously appraising her own dimensions against the aggressive images of the adult-entertainment placards, she summed up the state of show business with those three well-chosen words. 

As the ‘sixties promoted and lionized the Swingin’ Bachelor lifestyle, the post-Studio System wave of meretricious, low-budget / rebel filmmaking that came behind the 1950s phenomenon of drive-in movies aimed at teenagers was the Adult Film for the over-18 market of the 1960s — and “Adult,” in the decade of Betty Friedan’s first published book, meant “Male.”  So the key selling point of Adult Films zeroed in on the American Male’s fixation on female breasts.  Therefore, in the visual lexicon of cinema in the earliest days of “adult theaters,” permissiveness equaled toplessness. 

SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA was the type of film shown at adult houses of the mid-1960s in larger cities.  (I actually remember, as a kid in Atlanta, seeing the newspaper ad for this movie when it played for an extended run at a Skid Row grindhouse.)  It would still be a few more years before “adult films” became “skin flicks” with full nudity and actual or simulated sex, but by 1964, there was enough breast-laden celluloid on the market that producers, I suppose, looked for variations on the usual product. 

That’s the only way I can explain that SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA is not just a nudie flick, but a musical to boot. 

The plot of course is the Cinderella story, but instead of leaving behind a glass slipper at the ball, Sinderella and Prince Charming get into some (surprisingly off-screen) second-base antics that leaves him holding the bag, so to speak, while his new love flees after the clock strikes midnight.  His majesty and entourage then travel door to door across the kingdom, in a quest for the girl whose lucky pair will provide the key to his ignition — again so to speak.

Yet, as a self-identified bosom-obsessed film emerging from a bosom-obsessed culture, the film falls …er… flat.

It’s hard to comprehend why this film, the brainchild of male above-the-line creatives, didn’t have its finger more on the pulse of manly libidinal desire and fantasy the way Doris Wishman movies (NUDE ON THE MOON, BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL, etc.) did, with its D-Cup mammas and the occasional buttcrack thrown in for good measure.  SINDERELLA has a montage of girls trying on the bra and giving it back with an “It ain’t me, babe” look on their face (see photo above), yet the movie’s adornments, excesses and conceits (fairy tales, show tunes, glittery costumes) are perversely contrary to the universe of most Guy flicks and, come to think of it, of sex itself.

Sinderella is portrayed by a thin-resuméd French poule with an unintentional Pepe LePew accent.  She’s pretty enough, but compared with the non-sexual supporting cast of seasoned bawdy comedians, her presence and non-mastery of English pronunciation leaves an anemic impression on the viewer.  Making her more out of place, the eponymous bra and its rightful owner are scarcely in the 34-C category (according to my non-professional, eyeballed calculations) — a size which doesn’t jive with the mammarian zeitgeist of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties era. 

But what needed some serious underwiring was the lame approach to telling the old Cinderella tale.  OK, the door-to-door brassiere-trying-on sequence I guess constituted the 1964 version of a Money Shot (Sinderella’s demonstration of the perfect fit at the finale was bizarrely filmed with the heroine behind a folding screen, leaving her kingdom-winning orbs to the imagination), but why didn’t the producers stop to think how unappealing the other aspects of the fairy tale would be to the men in the audience?  [Remember this was made back when skin flicks had plots, in the days before the invention of video’s Fast Forward button.]  The producers should have mulled over factors such as the other women characters in the tale being young and ugly or old and wicked, totally killing the idea of a visual chick feast.  Alas, SINDERELLA AND THE GOLDEN BRA‘s tragic flaw is its rigid adherence to the original fairy tale, keeping the movie narrative reigned in like a corseted torso.  The Fairy Godmother is a fey Gay guy in this film, but other opportunities to have fun with the material are missed. 

However, back when films like this were the only game in town, it must have been successful (like I said, it played the dirty movie house in my hometown for weeks and weeks).  But I still feel sorry for the frustrated guys in the audience.  For the men, the movie doesn’t exactly have a happy ending:  aside from the climax that stuck to the floor after the lights came on, the movie’s other climactic payoff was a girl putting on her underwear and the guy settling down with a ball-and-chain. 

That’s hardly a root-raiser.

Doug / PoMo Joan

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