Here in the States, we are currently in the middle of what is known as "Sweeps Month". After the month of February, the major broadcasting networks total up all their Nielsen ratings for that month and use them in some arcane occult formula that allows them to calculate their ad rates for the next year; therefore they trot out all sorts of special programming, mini-series, and stunts during established shows. It's kind of hard not to get swept up in all the excitement.
Therefore, to continue my naked (snicker) grab for more ratings, I decided it was time to take another trip to Planet Ginger. First discovered in our review for Ginger, this planet is home to Ginger MacAllister, known as "the female James Bond", although she has no formal training in the fields of investigation or espionage; she is apparently "a talented amateur", as the offscreen voice used to refer to Mrs. Peel in the old Avengers series. Come to think of it, Ginger gets tied up almost as often as Mrs. Peel did... but I'm getting ahead of myself. The rules on Planet Ginger are different from our own, as we shall see.
To set the tone for the entire movie, our very first scene is of a half-naked, screaming woman, hands tied behind her back, being dragged down a corridor, She is thrown onto a mattress in a storeroom, as her captors tell her, "Maybe some time in solitary will cool you off."
Then (just in case you were out getting popcorn during that first scene), three cheerleaders are out driving in the country in an Olds convertible when one of the tires is blown out by a shotgun blast. The three are pulled out of the car by an equal number of thugs, and then we find that the forces of evil, just as in the first Ginger movie, employ a Token Black Dude (TBD) to do the heavy work. He points a gun at the cheerleaders and commands, "Strip! Everything but panties! Do it!" The girls comply, they are tied and gagged, and their clothes thrown in the convertible, which is then torched. The thugs take off with their booty (giggle), and the titles run as grown men in the audience sob, "That car was a classic!"
Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Dr. Freex, you and the guys at StompTokyo always warn us that nudity in the first few minutes of a film is bad news." And you would be right, True Believer, except in this case: when the entire point of the film is the nudity. Disavail yourself of all thoughts of seeing a detective or action film, here; this is Planet Ginger, and we are here to see nekkid women get tied up and fondled while helpless.
If you need more pointers as to the tenor of the Ginger movies, you need go no further than the very next scene, a telephone call between Ginger and her sometimes employer, Jason Varone (William Granell), presented in glorious splitscreen, Jason in his office and Ginger floating in a pool "in the Caribbean":
Yep, all the despicable acts of the first five minutes are the work of some sort of low-grade white slavery operation, and Ginger is going to be the one to bust (guffaw) them. Jason gives her a brand new secret agent briefcase, with two innovations over her last one: a much more stylish interior, and "radar disks", tiny transmitters that are meant to be swallowed and "reject expulsion from the body for 24 hours." That's comforting.
Meantime, back in Cheerleaders in Bondage-land, the three prisoners are informed that "certain wealthy businessmen" are willing to pay $100,000 for, quote, Mistresses in Bondage, unquote. It goes without saying that $100,000 was a lot of money in those days (1971). Jablon (Patrick Wright), the head jailer, informs them that they will be schooled in the Fine Art of Enjoying Sex. And if they do not cooperate (dramatic opening of nearby drape....): the first, uncooperative bound babe is revealed in some halfway strenuous suspension bondage. The three cheerleaders decide to subscribe to Jablon's version of the ten-step program.
Ginger arrives at the Cheerleader Kidnapping Crime Scene and examines the burned-out husk of the car; there she meets Ken Stanton (Richard Smedley, surely a name to conjure with), a local advertising man, who informs us that the kidnapping happened "last Friday". Here is another difference between our world and Planet Ginger: there are no police, and an important piece of evidence will sit rotting on a backwoods road until Ginger comes to examine it. Ken and Ginger play the usual early-70's swingin' sexual predator games, and make a date for the next night.
Ginger, being the only investigator on the case with brains, figures out the girls must be taken to an isolated spot in the woods between the two kidnapping sites. Meeting with Jason, she offers herself up as bait, but Jason nervously points out that the abductors are targeting females that represent youth and freshness, whereas Ginger represents...(awkward pause)... "sophisticated sex". I'm sorry, all of those who answered "extreme sluttiness" lose 200 points.
Jason therefore recommends Carter Winston (Jennifer Brooks ), who just graduated college "and she's a detective, to boot!" Ginger, via Ken's advertising agency, sets Carter up as a vacationing starlet, trying to network with Hollywood producers on holiday. It is not long before the shadowy boss of the entire operation (always shot from an angle to show off nothing more than his bald spot, which I am sure the actor hated) is ordering Jablon to "abduct her!" (Somehow, whenever Mr. Big is on the phone, I could not help thinking of an evil Charlie of Charlie's Angels fame)
In the meantime, Ginger continues stringing Ken along, winding up date after date without sex. As she tells Carter, "I want him to work for it." One such segment, meant to push Ken over the edge of tantalization, involves Ginger dancing to some generic salsa-esque house band as she brandishes a pair of maracas. Clocking in at three minutes - including a lengthy drum solo - the sequence seems to only be there to eat up time, or allow people time to trek back to the snack bar or restrooms without missing any bondage action.
Of course, eventually Carter gets abducted while Ginger is busy teasing Ken. Once Ginger notices, via her handy car-mounted radar scope, that Carter is not where she's supposed to be, the blonde bombshell swings into action. Well, first, she changes clothes, then she swings into action.
Finding Carter, who is busy being molested in a cabin in the woods, is no problem... the real problem becomes apparent when a helicopter arrives to spirit away the trussed girl while the frustrated Ginger looks on helplessly.
Ginger then does what Ginger does best: she waylays one of the henchmen (conveniently enough, the one who was doing the molesting) by first pretending to be a sexy hitchhiker, then pulling a gun on him. She handcuffs him to a tree, then pulls down his pants and proceeds to whittle a stick quite provocatively (and threateningly). The henchman does what any red-blooded American boy would under such circumstances: he sings like Pavarotti. Not that she learns too much: the operation is arranged in a series of cells, with all communication by anonymous phone calls. The unit in charge of kidnapping does not know who's in charge, or even where Carter has been taken.
As Ginger tells Jason, this only leaves one course of action - we're back to using Ginger as bait. Either the henchman is going to talk, or Carter will, so Ginger starts a diet of radar disks, and Jason arranges for a helicopter. Meanwhile Carter, deciding enough is enough, gives the Jablon contingent a sound thrashing utilizing her judo skills - to no avail, as she is recaptured, and now the bad guys are reasonably certain Something is Up (I mean, there's no reason for a starlet to know judo, is there?).
The Buyers, all older men with a ton of money, arrive to inspect their Mistresses in Bondage, who are, thanks to Jablon's tutelage, no longer in bondage but are are tarted up to the nines and welcome their new sugar daddies with relish. Meantime, Ginger, depressed over losing Carter, finally has sex with Ken. This proves to be a mistake, as Ken is actually the second in command of the operation, right under the Evil Charlie.
Thus do Ginger and Carter both wind up bound and gagged in Abductor Central. Ken decides to work on Carter first, taking her to another room and getting her so hot and bothered that she blabs everything (would this actually work anywhere but Planet Ginger?) This leaves Ginger to do the other thing that Ginger does so well, which is using her feminine wiles on a remarkably stupid henchman so he'll untie her that they may "do it". One kick in the crotch and Ginger makes her getaway, plowing through a garage door and zooming past Jason and a Police Roadblock.
Yes, after one and two-thirds Ginger movies, the Police have finally arrived. Not that it makes too much difference. After allowing Ken to leave ("He's mine!" asserts Ginger), the police make the usual bullhorn announcement that they're there, and the bad guys start slinging lead. Although the cops know that there are innocent people inside, they return fire. Lots of it, to judge from the soundtrack.
Jason drives into the hole Ginger left in the garage door and proceeds to shoot the one remaining thug (heaven only knows who the police are still shooting at). Jablon attempts to take Jason hostage along with the half-naked Carter, but Carter lands an (actually) impressive back-kick on Jablon's jewels, leaving him in no condition to avoid capture.
Ken arrives at Ginger's hotel room with a gun, but only demonstrates why he needed thugs to handle the kidnapping when his target sneaks up behind him with a gun (and, to be fair, considering the way the last Ginger movie ended - with her raped, hogtied and shot full of heroin, similarly in her hotel room- she probably learned to be a bit more prepared). Ginger returns to the first thing she does well: stripping Ken nude and handcuffing him to the shower rod, so she can alternately spray him with scalding hot water and lather him up. Good thing Ginger seems to derive some pleasure from these interrogation sessions, because Ken is no wiser than his henchmen as to the true identity of the Evil Charlie.
It's also a good thing Ginger is the female James Bond, because she somehow deduces that the Evil Charlie is none other than D.C. Whiitington. "You mean the President of the Northern Metro Bank and founder of this town?" gasps Jason, expositionally. The two connive their way into Whittington's office and confront him with the evidence. By way of response, Whittington presses a button, revealing a most Wild, Wild West - type battery of shotguns concealed in his desk, aimed right at our heroes. Whittington then gives an excellent Supervillain speech.
The Supervillain Speech is required by an unwritten, yet no less binding law, which states that the villain, rather than killing the hero(es) at his mercy, must instead give a lengthy speech detailing his motives, the origins of his plot, and how he accomplished same. The speech must then culminate in a grand, intense two-handed gesture and utterance of some sort, which provides the hero(es) a dramatically apt point to jump the villain and triumph. This Supervillain Speech is no different.
In a poolside finale, Jason and Ginger try to tie up any loose ends, except there really are none, so instead they exchange banter instead. Ah, banter! The way all cliche-ridden movies (and episodes of Scooby-Doo) end. Ha! Ha ha ha! *sigh* Oh, incidentally, the three cheerleaders, having had "a taste of the high life", show no inclination to go home. Only on Planet Ginger. The end.
Writer/director Don Schain had a larger budget to work with here than on his first eponymously- titled Ginger movie, and it shows in some better production values and acting. Not enough was spent on the technical aspects, however; several slow zoom-ins and outs are executed jerkily, spoiling the intended dramatic effect; too much of the location sound is hollow and boomy, either a badly placed microphone or lack of an actual boom.
Caffaro is more at ease with the character this time around, possibly because this time Ginger isn't quite such a psychopath. As a result, her acting has improved, too. Jennifer Brooks is the real winner, this time around - she is impossibly cute, and manages to be quite likable, even though she has to bear the weight of some the worst lines in the film. Most of Schain's dialogue, in fact, while not terrible, is of the sort that looks really good on paper, but when human mouths try to say it, the words just fall flat, like a clapper on a muffled bell (I blush to admit I have some experience with that sort of writing). Richard Smedley though, ah..... he's a find. Smedley not only appeared in another Schain/Caffaro vehicle, A Place Called Today, he's also in Al Adamson's Brain of Blood! Smedley's performance is perfectly adequate, but I kept getting distracted by the fact that the man looks like Charlie Sheen with big 70's hair, but delivers his lines in a subtle, almost-Elvis drawl. Fascinating. Kept me occupied while I was waiting for more naked women to be tied up.
And let's face it - as a drive-in movie, this is what mattered. The soft-core sex scenes (lengthy and quite explicit, in this case) were what sold the tickets to these things - and what the Ginger films used to separate themselves from the pack was the use of bondage and some rough sex. Admittedly, there were some guys like me who cared enough to figure out that Dick Miller was the rapist in Student Teachers, but by and large, the story was not the reason we forked over the bucks at the box office.
Okay, so what has this trip to Planet Ginger taught us?
Yet, while frankness in the area of sex is laudable and healthy, there is something chillingly predatory in the way Ginger goes about her adventures - she's like the creature in Piers Anthony's Firefly, who uses human pheromones to trap its prey. To over-strain the metaphor, Ginger is more like the Borg Queen in StarTrek: First Contact than she is Ripley or Wonder Woman.
At least, unlike the first movie, Ginger's sense of justice is more finely tuned. In Ginger, she maimed and murdered several characters who, although being far from innocent, were actually paying for the crimes of others in Ginger's past. This time, when rough justice is meted out, Ginger-style, it is distinctly related to the crime the punishee committed. Thus the henchman who manhandles Carter's breasts in the cabin is left chained to a tree, naked from the waist down. After making the Beast with Two Backs with Ginger, Ken opens a door to let in his gunweilding henchman, surprising the nude and still-panting Ginger. This means that later, while he is handcuffed in the shower, Ginger will tease him to erection so that he can be all the more humiliated when Jason and the Police burst in. It's an empowering method of dispensing comeuppances, at once more warped and yet more desirable than any number of automatic weapon-armed vixens.
Or perhaps I have simply tarried too long on Planet Ginger.
Man, does this movie exploit women.
- February 14, 1999