Bad Girls Go to Hell

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What great tits Gigi Darlene has. They cantilever out from her body in a way that makes the star of cult sexploitationer Bad Girls Go to Hell hard to miss and easy to appreciate, from an engineering perspective if nothing else.

They are the star of this film, the agents of all the action. Gigi Darlene uses them like weapons, pointing them in the necessary direction and making sure she’s got her target located properly, then leaves her breasts to do the rest.

Gigi Darlene wasn’t her real name, nor was the actor playing her screen husband called George La Rocque (they were Heli Weinreich and Charles Mazin) but they fit their screen names perfectly – her cheesecake to his beefcake – and in the opening scenes of this short movie (65 mins) we get plenty of this married couple waking up and going about the beginnings of the day, him and her scantily clad padding about, taking a shower, having some breakfast.

He (who is never named) goes to work and then Ellen does some light housework, in her black negligee, bending forwards to pick up ashtrays and pulling peekaboo poses as she empties them into a waste bin. It’s all a bit silly really. She puts on some knickers, pushing her rear into the camera lens, before heading out the front door of her apartment, where she is immediately cornered by the leering building janitor and raped. You’ve had the sex bit, seems to be the idea, now here’s the exploitation.

Later, in a bit of unnecessary duplication, she is raped by the janitor again and in the ensuing fray Ellen accidentally kills him. Here beginneth the film proper, as Ellen flees Boston and heads to New York, where she sofa-surfs her way through a series of adventures of a sexually exploitative kind at the hands of molesting males, leading to a twist finale that is oddly satisfying, if incredibly corny.

But what, exactly, is supposed to be “bad” about this girl? Not killing the janitor, surely? Self-defence. Clearly we’re in the era when women divided up into the good (for marrying) and the bad (for sex). When people talk about rape being more about power than sex, Bad Girls Go to Hell could be marked as Exhibit A. You might expect it to be the product of a man’s overheated imagination but in fact the writer, director and producer of this film was a woman, Doris Wishman. She started out making faintly documentary-ish movies set in nudist camps – it was a way of getting around the censors. These nudist camp movies eventually gave way to a run of sexploitationers, of which this 1965 offering a prime example, before Wishman moved into porn proper in the 1970s, eventually even directing what might be called a mainstream feature film, 1979’s A Night to Dismember (great title, not seen the movie).

Gigi screaming beneath "The End"
The end, literally?

So there’s exploitation of a distinctly unfeminist sort, unless Wishman is making a meta point about “bad” girls more generally – there’s not a bad woman in this movie and the only decent guy is Ellen’s husband, and we don’t see much of him. But there isn’t much actual sex. In fact Wishman moves heaven and earth to avoid sight of a nipple, editing artfully from five, six or more different points of view at one point as Ellen removes a bra so we don’t get too much of an eyeful.

There is underwear, nudity from the rear, nudity through a shower screen and so on. Titillation, with the emphasis heavily on the tit. Wishman was rather prudish about nudity, it turns out, and when she eventually went into porn did so to turn a buck, and reluctantly.

She also, incidentally, shot a semi-documentary film about transgender people called Let Me Die a Woman. There is something of a documentarian’s eye here, too, and Wishman regularly cuts away from human-on-human action to something incidental in the surroundings. World-building, it would now be called.

The fuzzy stills of the film you might see online, on the IMDb for instance, don’t do the film justice. Wishman’s regular cameraman, C Davis Smith, catches the action in bright, sharp and clean black and white, and his handheld work adds to the atmosphere of jeopardy. When things go bad in this movie, Smith gets surreal and lets you know with dizzy camera movements.

I don’t know who Music Sound Track are – a supplier of off-the-peg music soundtracks, I’m guessing – but the jaunty, jazzy, bright and bouncy music they supply also helps give the film an air of professionalism.

It’s well made, in other words. Wishman knew what she was doing. Bad girls may go to hell, but they do so handsomely.

Bad Girls Go to Hell – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2023

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