Category Archives: Exploitation

Party Girl (1930)

“Don’t call me Madame!”

Party Girl is a tepid little melodrama directed by Victor Halperin and featuring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The film is one of the morality tales that is supposed to simultaneously titillate and preach to its audience. Unfortunately, it does neither.

Maude Lindsay (Almeda Fowler) runs a shady “party girl” escort business, and the term “party girl” doesn’t carry the same meaning it has today. For the purposes of the film, it’s a euphemism for prostitute. Mrs. Lindsay provides her party girls for various informal meetings. They’re a sort of ‘perk’ for the businessmen who attend and are supposed to encourage contract signing, etc. One evening Mrs. Lindsay holds a party–complete with a bevy of her naughty girls–for the United Glass Company.

Jay Rountree (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) the wastrel son and heir of another glass manufacturer crashes the party, and although he’s seeking a good time, he finds himself up to his spoiled little neck in trouble when he becomes involved with “society trollop” party girl Leeda Cather (Judith Barrie).

Simplistic, and not particularly noteworthy, the best part of the film is the role of Leeda as the bad girl. Although the party girls are just the female version of playboy Jay Rountree, while his drunken faux pas are considered mere foibles, the females’ behaviour is interpreted, by the script, as morally reprehensible. Flippant Leeda, the worst of the bunch, callously teaches Jay a painful lesson on the need to stay sober. Made in 1930, Party Girl was originally banned, and it’s just recently been unleashed on an unsuspecting world. This DVD from Alpha video has some sound problems. The speech of some of the characters is not particularly clear, and there’s a loud background hiss for most of the film. The picture is acceptable, but it’s a bit faded in spots.

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She Shoulda Said ‘No!’ (1949)

“You’d better calm down—you’ll end up in psycho.”

In 1948, actress Lila Leeds was arrested with Robert Mitchum for possession of marijuana. He spent 60 days in prison, and continued his career, and she was in prison briefly and required to make the film She Shoulda Said No (aka Wild Weed) as part of her community service. She had a couple of other parts after the arrest, but her film career never recovered.

The film She Shoulda Said No is–predictably–a tale of the horrors of marijuana, and the film’s tagline: How Bad Can a Good Girl Get…Without Losing Her Virtue and Self-Respect encapsulates the film’s heavy moralistic message. Lila Leeds plays Anne Lester, a small time chorus girl who is supporting her brother in college when she’s introduced to pusher Marky (Alan Baxter). Marky ensures Anne becomes a marijuana user, and her habit quickly ruins her life. After she loses her job, she begins hostessing wild marijuana parties in her home. After a couple of puffs, the guests begin dancing crazily, and tearing off their clothes. Anne’s younger brother discovers the source for his college tuition and feels so guilty he hangs himself. Anne’s life plummets even further and she ends up in jail.

According to the film, marijuana use “becomes an invitation to your own murder.” Whenever a marijuana cigarette appears on the screen or when a character begins smoking, a spooky music score emphasizes the world is now incoherent for the unpredictable marijuana user. And there’s a no-holds-barred approach to the consequences of using the narcotic–heroin addiction, strait jackets, bleached out zombies, and the mental ward are all marijuana’s inevitable results. Naturally this makes for a very campy film, but if you enjoyed such titles as Reefer Madness and Cocaine Fiends then She Shoulda Said No is a companion film.

Lila Leeds is interesting to watch, and it’s unfortunate she had such a short career. She’s clearly made for femme fatale film noir roles. She’s as hard as nails here, smart-mouthed and brazen. Keep your eyes open for Jack Elam as a petty thug.

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Mad Youth (1940)

“Aren’t you a little bit ashamed to sell yourself to women?”

According to the tawdry morality tale Mad Youth there’s a direct connection between the delinquency of parents and the delinquency of their children. In this over-the top melodrama, there’s no cliche spared as a delinquent mother and precocious daughter are pitted against one another as rivals for the same European gigolo. If you appreciate Trash Cinema, then chances are you’ll enjoy the questionable merits of Mad Youth.

In this sordid tale, middle aged, divorced and lonely Marian Morgan (Mary Ainslee) spends all of her alimony money on gigolos she employs as her escorts. She likes them young–in their late twenties–and if they claim to be European nobility, that’s even better. One evening, her latest gigolo, Count DeHoven (Willy Castello) meets Marian’s nubile young daughter, Lucy (Betty Compson), and there’s an instant attraction. Soon mother and daughter are squabbling over the same stud. And it doesn’t take long before the claws are out, and the fur flies as both women exchange nasty comments.

Don’t approach this film expecting serious cinema–Mad Youth is Trash Cinema with a High Camp Factor, spotty acting, and bad lines loaded with double entendre. There’s a lot packed into this relatively short film–a wild teenage party complete with some great jitterbug sequences, flamenco dancing, and even a game of strip poker. And one of the best features of this film is that it doesn’t bother with subtleties. Marian Morgan, for example, one of the escort agency’s “best customers” is forthright with the statement that she likes her men “around 27 or 28” because that’s “right around” her own age. A great deal of the dialogue is preposterous and stagy–with lines such as “You ought to realize, mother, that you’re no longer attractive to young men” “I’m saving you for a very special customer” and my personal favourite–“Don’t you realize, some of their customers are criminals, morons, or people who are mentally or physically diseased.” Directed by Melville Shyer, this Alpha DVD print is acceptable. Look for a pair of split trousers during a fight sequence towards the end of the film.

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