Thursday, March 24, 2016

Glutton for Punishment: Bad Girls Go to Hell

by JB
This week we once again encounter a misnamed film. The “girls” in this movie are all largely blameless…it’s the male characters who are clearly on a collision course with H - E - double hockey sticks.

We are all interested in bad movies, inexcusable cinema, worse-than-mediocre pictures, and miserable excuses for art, for that is the stuff we use to fill the hours when we should all be in church. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, and the inexcusable—that is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the full story of some of the worst movies ever made. We are bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the miserable soul who survived a screening. I am that miserable soul. The absurdly low budgets, the endless shots of people’s feet, the ridiculous misogyny, the inane, looped dialogue, the risible acting—my friend, we cannot keep these a secret any longer. Let us punish the guilty. Let us reward the innocent. Remember, my friends: terrible movies such as these will affect you in the future!
Watching Bad Girls Go To Hell was my chance to finally sample the work of maverick independent filmmaker/confirmed lunatic Doris Wishman. I have read about Wishman’s unique oeuvre at some length, never quite believing what I was reading, and I am glad I finally had a chance to scratch this particular itch. Something Weird’s founder/owner Mike Vrany has this to say about Wishman: “Her movies are actually the epitome of what fascinates me about ultra-low-budget movies—the fact that they were ever made… Doris is a perfect example of anarchy filmmaking.”

NOTE: The bit of anarchy in question here is filmed in black and white. Unnecessary pans and zooms are used to photograph the anarchy, as if the filmmaker was unfamiliar with a movie camera and just playing around with it. The footage of the anarchy is edited with no attention to the rules of editing, so jump cuts, breaking the 180-degree rule, and general audience confusion are common. When one of the anarchists is talking, the camera focuses on whoever in the scene is NOT talking.

The Plot In Brief: Meg Kelton (Gigi Darlene) is happily married to Ted (Alan Yorke). When Ted announces that he has to go in to work on a Saturday, Meg is disappointed because she wanted to stay in bed all morning pleasing him. Ted leaves for work anyway. Meg begins her housework regime in a revealing negligee. When she leaves the apartment to throw out the trash, the building janitor (Harold Key) assaults her. Meg kills him with an ashtray.
Despairing over her homicide, Meg leaves town, adopts the fake name Ellen Green, moves to New York, and begins to rely on the kindness of strangers. Most of these strangers are only interested in bedding “Ellen,” beating her, or both. It is not pretty. The film’s vaunted “twist ending” is horrid in every sense of the word, seemingly written, staged and photographed by a women-hating amateur sociopath.
Writer/director Doris Wishman’s signature style takes some getting used to. All dialogue is dubbed in later—there is no synced sound. This was probably done as a cost-cutting measure. The problem is, to avoid the additional problem of bad lip syncing, whenever an actor is talking, Wishman will usually cut to some nonspeaking person or object in the room: a rug, a chest of drawers, or actors’ legs and feet. The single most defining aspect of the Wishman style is its demented preoccupation with legs and feet. When characters move across the frame, Wishman will actually film them from the waist down. Why? Perhaps Wishman wishes to carve her own path, since every other director on Earth tends to focus on a person’s upper half because that’s where the face part is. You know, the thing an actor uses to ACT.
No amount of hipster laughter about Wishman’s campy style can wash away this film’s very real, and very disturbing, violence. In the 1950s and ’60s, an offshoot of the disreputable genre known as the “nudie cutie” was the “roughie”—a grindhouse, drive-in picture that featured not just glimpses of nudity and simulated sex, but also brutal violence, almost always directed against women. Once the character of Meg kills the janitor (in self-defense, I need to point out) her life becomes an unending litany of awkward seductions and brutal beatings. Is Meg being punished for killing a man? Is this a cautionary tale to women who would take out the trash in inappropriate clothing? Is Doris Wishman catering to a sick clientele who are so sexually frustrated, they need to take out those frustrations on the seeming objects of their own desire? Any way you look at it, it’s not pretty.

Bad Girls Go To Hell features a shitty faux Twilight Zone ending so misconceived that it would be hilarious if it was not so soul-crushingly grim. Is Bad Girls Go To Hell a veiled social protest, portraying all men as the beasts we suspect ourselves to be? (The men in the film are all awful bullies and alcoholics.) Or is this the work of a female misogynist, who presents here a virtual “How-To Manual” for the amateur wife beater, a self-deprecating narrative of shame over which the worst men in any town can slobber?
Something Weird’s DVD of Bad Girls Go To Hell contains a plethora of bonus features that almost make the disc worth purchasing. Drive-In Countdowns, Coming Attractions, and the bonus Doris Wishman sleaze-fest Another Day, Another Man are also included. Lovers of looped dialogue, foot fetishists, and abusive social liabilities—I may have just found the DVD you have always wanted! Hooray?

My friend, you have now read this column, based on my own sworn testimony. Can you prove that this film doesn’t exist? Perhaps on your way home, a mysterious woman will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it, but she just might be the ghost of director Doris Wishman on her way back to Hell! Many scientists believe that bad movies are being filmed at this very moment. We once laughed at fire, the wheel, gravity, post-synced dialogue, the telephone, the murder ashtray, and the airplane. So much laughter! And now some of us laugh when bad girls go to hell. God help us in the future.


  1. So you loved it? This all sounds great to me. If you watch it, Chaybee, then I will. By the way, watching Beyond the Door. 20 minutes in, I'm on board. These two kids are marvelous.

    1. Rock! Yeah, I'm eventually going to check this out sooner than later.

  2. So SPOILERS FOR BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). Here are some random thoughts I had during the movie. Maybe the greatest mustache in the history of the world. Kirsten Dunst' mom makes out with 5yr old son. 30 seconds later, coldcocks her 7yr old daughter. 30 seconds after that, demands an abortion. That's what some would call the Trifecta. My favorite food is banana peel covered in dogshit. This kid really wants to drown that doll. Toy Story ripped off Beyond the Door!
    So did Poltergeist! I was going to say Exorcist but that was the year before. Co-directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis, my new alias. "You can't explain it. It's unexplainable. It's...a mystery." Really hits home with this Trump thing going on. "We have to take her to hospital" sounds hilarious to me. I want a bed wherein the middle is a sit-n-spin. I loved it! It's one of the best I've seen from 1974. Well done, sir.

    1. Yes! haha! Great stuff, Brent! So glad you liked it. It really is a gem.

  3. Just watched "Bad Girls go to Hell" and I really dug it. It's sexy and sleezy in all the right ways. I love the way it's lit and love the way it's shot. Everything JB points out about the camera focusing on objects due to the dubbed dialogue or the "unnecessary pans and zooms" (which I disagree with) just add to the charm and it feels experimental in a "Breathless" kind of way. I think JB is partially correct that she might not have known what to do with a camera, but that can sometimes be a good thing. The band "Nirvana", and numerous others, started out with a bunch of kids who bought instruments from yard sales with no lessons.

    As Godard used editing as a tool to move the story and create a feeling of anxiety, Wishman, is doing much of the same in-camera by using those untrained techniques and by using music. Again, there are some restrictions due to the over dubbed dialogue, but her and her cinematographer obviously had some sort of eye for settings and sexy. The score, credited as "Music Sound Track" (! - brilliant), is a heavy dose of obvious stock Jazz that keeps the meandering story feeling like things are happening and it's always present in the film for the most part.

    This was a such a pleasant surprise and although I am no expert in the genre, I am somewhat well versed and really liked this one. It certainly didn't hurt to watch the lead, Gigi Darlene, for an hour.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention, JB!

  4. I am really glad you liked it and thought it was worth your time. Please don't hit me with your belt.

  5. Just watched - "A Night to Dismember" (1983) Directed by Doris Wishman.

    Vicky ain’t doing so well after her fam is killed and she is released from a mental hospital. Filmed without sound and overdubbed to the point of lunacy where dialogue is cut mid sentence, music loops in odd fragments off time and sometimes with totally different songs, and found sound from different sources plays throughout inter-cutting with dialogue of the same scene. It’s mostly narrated in post production and the acting is non-existent. There are some great, truly creative effects for the kills like a shadow kill with a machete where not one, but two heads are lopped off in unique albeit low budget fashion.

    Apparently a disgruntled employee destroyed a bunch of the negatives for this film in which Wishman (can I call her Doris yet? Nah. Only two films in) had to make do with what she had. I believe this is probably true as the narrative is incoherent and the film has a short 1:08 runtime.

    So, what do I think? I loved it! Being only my second Wishman film as JB introduced me to her with this article on “Bad Girls Go to Hell”, which I also loved as you can see in my comment above. Where “BGGTH” reminded me of Godard, “A Night to Dismember” reminded me 100% of a “Negativland” record with it's mash-up style that almost pays homage to so many different era's it's hard to tell if it was intentional, a product of what was worked with or a bit a both. I'm going with the latter.

    This is really fascinating stuff to me. I hope whoever is reading this realizes I am not being funny or "cute", I don't pull MST2K with this stuff. I would love to debate how Breathless and BGGTH are very similar. It's been a long time since I have been turned onto to a filmmaker from the past that I didn't know of nor had seen any of their films. I can’t wait to visit another Wishman film. Thanks again, JB!

    1. btw- trust me, I know I am going to hit the part of her career where she is doing nothing but sexploitation films, I'm just hoping I jump around enough in her filmography that it doesn't get redundant, though I'm guessing it might. If anything, seeing BGGTH and then ANTD is all I ever need to be a fan.

  6. This is a very raw movie. Even the awkward editing does not detract from the grimness of the lead character's circumstances. It almost seems like a feminist sexploitation film at moments.

    I have watched more of Doris Wishman's movies than I would care to admit to. This is the perfect film to start with, as it is her most accomplished effort. Nude On The Moon has certain naive charm to it, though. I dare anyone to tackle the bizarre and scuzzy Let Me Die A Woman.

    1. I think "Night to Dismember" has now taken BGGTH as my fav though it's close. Real close. Nude on the Moon is the only other I've seen (this month) and it's great and boring. I love this woman.

    2. All the nudie cutie films like Nude On The Moon are quite boring. They are artifacts of an era when displaying the female body was considered scandalous. It is amazing to see the kind of films male audiences over half a century ago would endure just to see a bit of female flesh. Nude On The Moon at least has other things going on than relentless nudity.

      Wait until you get to the movies Wishman made with Chesty Morgan. Those are a little painful to watch. The Amazing Transplant is not any better. Maybe you would like them better.

      A film that I would recommend is Indecent Desires. It is very much in the vein of BGGTH.

    3. Yeah, I'm very familiar with the genre, (I just don't watch them really) and I don't use the term boring as a bad thing unless I point it out that it was legit BORING. I'm gonna roll through Wishman reagardless so, cool, indecent Desires it is next. Thanks!