Today at Slammed & Damned, we hearken back to an earlier, more innocent period; a time of big hair, bare bosoms, bad impressions and worse puns. That’s right, it’s the era of the nudie cutie. And thanks to the depraved folks at Something Weird Video, fine purveyors of retro kitsch, we have a double feature made up of prime examples of the genre—both with a horror theme! Now, no one is ever going to confuse Kiss Me Quick (1964) and House on Bare Mountain (1962) with good movies but, admittedly, these flicks are excellent examples of a couple of variations on a theme: the gratuitous display of naked women.
Nudie cuties were a genre of film born in the late 1950s, begat of the nudist (or “nature”) films. While the nudist films were exactly what you’d think—movies of women at nudist colonies, engaged in activities guaranteed to provide maximum jiggle—and had a pretense of being educational, nudie cuties stepped things up a bit. These flicks were patently voyeuristic. There was no façade of enlightenment at all. Their only purpose was to reveal as many topless women as possible. Nudie cuties were in vogue until around the time America lost its innocence with the assassination of President Kennedy. It’s no coincidence that with JFK’s murder, the nudie cutie evolved (or devolved) into the “roughie,” a more extreme exploitation film filled with violence and rape. And though the nudie cutie is more naive than the roughie, the tacit misogyny of the times typically permeates the proceedings. Looking back now, what some may find quaint in a “look how far we’ve come” way, others will find still offensive.
Of the two films, Kiss Me Quick is the most blatant, which makes sense considering it was made near the end of the nudie cutie cycle. Let’s face it, the main concern of both flicks is the naked female form. Kiss Me Quick knows it and doesn’t muck things up with a lot of plot. There’s some silliness involving a pudgy Stan Laurel-esque alien named Sterilox, from the Buttless galaxy, who’s been sent to Earth in search of the perfect female specimen to be used as breeding stock in the creation of a race of servants (just a taste of the above-mentioned misogyny). Sterilox is transported to the castle of a mad scientist named Dr. Breedlove, who speaks with a bad Bela Lugosi accent (with a Peter Lorre garnish) and, coincidentally, has been working on developing the perfect female specimen. Dr. Breedlove promises to help Sterilox with his quest, but doing so means they will have to observe all of the doctor’s experiments. And observe they do. All the rest of Kiss Me Quick is made up of scenes of topless women exercising, go-go dancing, frolicking in wading pools, etc., while Dr. Breedlove makes smarmy jokes—for example: “This redhead is a personnel specialist. She’s great at finding new positions.” Truth be told, although I truly love this sort of thing, it all gets a bit tedious before it ends. There is one point of interest here: the presence of master cinematographer László Kovács. When Kovács came to the U.S. from Hungary in the late ‘50s, he was already a seasoned filmmaker, but he had trouble finding work. So, he took any job he could get, as evidenced by his appearance here. After Kiss Me Quick, he made lesser movies like Mondo Mod and The Notorious Daughter of Fannie Hill before going on to make cinematic history with films such as Easy Rider, Paper Moon and Shampoo.
House on Bare Mountain is more of “real” movie than Kiss Me Quick. The story of Granny Good, a sweet little old lady who runs a finishing school for girls who apparently major in nudity, House on Bare Mountain is filled with scenes of women with big hair showering and participating in nude calisthenics, nude jump rope and, of course, nude sunbathing. The plot involves an undercover female detective, obviously a good sport, who’s posing as a student to infiltrate Granny Good’s school and find evidence on her bootlegging operation, which is run by, of course, a werewolf (!!!). The movie’s centerpiece is a swinging costume party full of alcohol-fueled debauchery that looks as if it was cast with extras pulled in off the set of a teen dance movie. In fact, House on Bare Mountain feels a lot like a lewd American International flick—picture Frankie and Annette go nudie and you’re not far off. As in later exploitation films such as H.O.T.S., the filmmakers try to integrate the nudity into the movie’s plot, at least when compared to Kiss Me Quick, which basically says, “Look at these naked chicks.” Though smutty humor abounds, my favorite gag involves the werewolf’s union rep. Yes, you read correctly.
Essentially, both of these films are modern updates on the theater of burlesque—blue shtick and naked chicks. Looked at that way, there is some historical relevance here. But there actually is something else I find interesting about Kiss Me Quick and House on Bare Mountain: Both films reflect elements from the popular culture of the time they were made. Kiss Me Quick is bathed in the influence of the Cold War. There are jokes concerning Russia and nuclear bombs, and Dr. Breedlove is obviously based on Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove—the shadow of The Bomb is never far away. And Granny Good, the main character in House on Bare Mountain, is played by a guy doing what is actually a pretty fair impression of Maudie Frickert, one of the most well-known characters of then-popular comic Jonathan Winters. Also, in accordance with the monster theme, both flicks are sprinkled with appearances from such classic creatures as Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster, or reasonable facsimiles anyway.
The DVD is rounded out with some hepcat vintage shorts, among which are the awe-inspiring titles The Vampire and the Vixen, The Nudie Watusi and, best of all, Werewolf Bongo Party. All in all, this disc is guaranteed to provide a full evening of politically incorrect retro tastelessness at its highest (or lowest) for those that like that sort of thing…and if you’re still reading, you probably do. Because these movies don’t really work as “film,” I recommend throwing them on the big screen TV during your next swinging Halloween bash and turning the sound down, letting them run as a groovy video background while you and your pals play drinking games, listen to surf music and do the Transylvania Twist. If these flicks are good for anything, it’s setting a rude mood.
(Warning: The following NSFW trailer contains bare breasts, bad jokes, monster abuse and gratuitous topless go-go dancing.)