My, oh my,
oh my. When I decided to delve into the world of '70's drive-in fare
for a while, I did not expect a movie I had viewed earlier in life would
so thoroughly jump out and bite me on the butt as does Ginger.
who, in her teens, won Life magazine's Bardot look-alike contest
(thanx for the info, Mike Weldon), plays Ginger McAllister, "the
female James Bond". There were two other Ginger movies, the titles
of which should give you an idea of the general tenor of the series:
The Abductors and
Girls Are For Loving.
These flicks provide excellent examples of a Drive-In Movie's ideal
combinations of sex, (poorly-staged) violence and some bondage (to set
them apart from the other soft-core fare).
We first meet
Ginger as she drives our nation's byways in her sports car to the movie's
theme song, which is a knock-off of the Mannix theme (if it were
made today, it would be Pat Benatar's "Stop Using Sex As A Weapon",
but then, this movie would not be made today). She arrives at the private
investigation agency of series regular Jason Varone (William Grannell),
who, despite her lack of training in the investigation or law enforcement
fields, hires her to go after small-time crime lord Rex Halsey. Perhaps
it has something to do with them already losing two people on the job.
Ginger is then given her very own secret agent briefcase, which is a
normal briefcase with a gun, camera, tape recorder and some handcuffs
tossed in (when this film came out, I was 12 years old and I
had a better secret agent briefcase).
When I say
Halsey is small-time, I mean small. He is also the most
incredibly gay bad guy to ever be playing it straight. With a crack
team of spoiled rich kids and the token streetwise black dude, Rex runs
prostitution, drugs and blackmail in a New Jersey resort town (ah, the
glamor of Jersey...).
and immediately gets to work on who she considers the
weak link in the gang: Rodney, the rich kid in charge of blackmail.
To set the tone for the rest of the movie, Ginger does this by participating
in a bar game, wherein a girl picks any guy from the crowd. He must
stand against a post, hands behind his back, and she must turn him on
by dancing for him. Neither are allowed to use their hands. Rodney is,
shall we say, impressed.
Are your SleazeMeters
pegging yet? If not, let's go on to the next scene: the next day, while
Ginger is sunbathing on the beach, she is accosted by the Girl Contingent
of the gang, who give her the leave-our-men-alone speech. When it looks
like they'll all jump her, Ginger uses the standard hero "Wassamatter?
Can't take me on alone?" gambit. No holds barred, loser has to
call quits. This leads to Girl Gangster #1's immortal line, "You
don't get off that lucky. Loser has to get stripped."
As she is a Bad Guy, this means that not only will she wind up sans
bikini, but Ginger will use self-same bikini to tie her hand and foot.
A truly amazing piece of cinema. It is the Citizen Kane of catfight
The only Girl
Gangster who is happy at Ginger's victory is Cathy, a good girl turned
into a prostitute by the heinous Halsey Gang. So distraught is Cathy,
agonizing that she's "even beginning to hate men," that Ginger
immediately has lesbian sex with her.
All of this
is within the first half-hour, mind you.
to testify against Rex and crew, which of course means that she will
wind up dead within two scenes. Ginger summarily offs her killer
by strangling him with a belt. Apparently, if you use a wide, studded
leather belt, this can be accomplished in about 10 seconds. I did not
the plot occasionally interrupts the sleazery, but not too often. Jason
Varone himself gets into the act by entrapping one of the Girl Gangsters
in a prostitution sting, managing to handcuff her to the hotel bed after
she's stripped for business (of course). At her urging, he goes ahead
and avails himself of her wares while still tied (I'm telling you, this
is not our planet). Jimmy, the streetwise token black dude (hereafter
STBD) makes a rich white junkie strip for him (I guess I should add
Angry to the STBD). And Ginger slips Rodney some knockout drops, and
when he wakes up, he is spread eagled, nude, and tied to a bed. Ginger
threatens to castrate him unless he spills the beans.
It is at this
point that we discover that Ginger Has Issues. Upon finding that Ginger
has taped his (understandably) cowardly tattling, Rodney calls her a
bitch (helpful hint: never call a woman who has a piece of piano wire
wrapped around your privates A Bitch). Ginger has a flashback to when
a guy said he loved her, took her to bed, then left. After the flashback,
Ginger whacks off the helpless Rodney's 'nads.
entices Jimmy (remember him? the ASTBD?) to her room, strips, and then
shoots him. Seems in her youth, Ginger was gang-raped by three black
men. This perhaps explains Ginger's constant use of the term "jungle
bunny", but our heroine is rapidly becoming sociopathic, if not
With the death
of Jimmy and one of the Girl Gangsters deciding to drop a dime on the
whole sordid mess, only one GG and the amazingly gay Rex remain. The
last GG wails, "I want to laugh and swing, and you don't get to
do any of that in jail!" and splits. Jason and Ginger capture her
after a less-than-thrilling (or even visible) nighttime car chase. This
leaves Jason's not-terribly-competent right hand man to watch Rex, who
kills the lackey with his bare hands and runs off into the night.
the distraught Jason with the corpse and goes to her hotel. Rex, of
course, is waiting and knocks out the suddenly incompetent blonde. He
uses her own handcuffs on her, rapes her (given the general tone of
the film, it comes as no surprise that she winds up enjoying it), and
then shoots her full of heroin. He then leaves her, only to be shot
to death offscreen, where it is cheaper.
end finds Ginger apparently exorcised of her personal demons and somehow
not held responsible for all the murder, maiming, and other violations
of Due Process, and telling Jason if he has another "interesting
case", to let her know. She then boards a private plane, perhaps
heading for Disney World. The end.
me about my return to the land of Ginger is the explicitness
of the scenes. A bit of history might be helpful here. Several different
sources give Ginger a release year of anywhere from 1970 to 1972
- a period when Deep Throat was considered mainstream cinema
and nudity was increasingly cropping up in studio films, meaning the
indies had to really up the stakes. Ginger was given an
R - but it's what is known as a "hard" R. Hard enough to cut
a culture where movies get an NC-17 for "general tone", Valenti
and crew would probably burn the negative. Like Blazing Saddles,
there is no way in hell this movie would be made today. If it
were, it would be shot on video and star.... oh crap. I've gotten old
enough that I don't know the names of any porno stars. Never mind.
throughout, though rarely awful, is, at the least, quite stagebound
- especially since several characters get long solo speeches, the type
which are generally lifted and utilized at high school speech tournaments.
Cathy's speech about how she became a prostitute is the best-acted,
which is probably why she got killed. I know actors will often do anything
for a role, but the number of people the filmmakers got to do humiliating
things while nude is astounding. And just to make sure that nobody dodges
the humiliation bullet, even Jimmy, the ASTBD, must have a speech where
he informs Rex that he was promised "...all the ass I wanted! White
ass!" And the Ginger movies are notable in that they're not terribly
shy about full-frontal male nudity - which counts for something,
I have to mention the drug deal scene - no, it's not heroin or
cocaine, it's pot. On Planet Ginger, the marijuana comes pre-cleaned
("no stems, no seeds that you don't need," as Cheech and Chong
once sang) as a sparkly green powder (a lot of Easter basket grass is
my guess), and
we all know how in traditional drug deal scenes, the lacky tastes the
dope with a finger. Here, we are treated to a lengthy joint-rolling
scene, doubtless so that the like-minded in the audience could do the
same (it couldn't have smelled any worse than Pic mosquito repellent,
lemme tell you). While not of the caliber of Reefer Madness,
the scene does exert a certain sense of silliness.
The late Monterey
Home Video considered these films notable (or notorious) enough that
they issued all three in a box set a few years back. Past the three
Ginger movies, Caffaro only made three others that I know of. The really
frightening thing is that I own five. Although I've only watched the
have my limits.