Quantity and price make it worthwhile for bad movie lovers.
Doghouse King | Omaha, NE United States | 06/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"None of the movies here represented can individually redeem a purchase, even for camp aficionados, but together on one disc you can hardly go wrong. Additionally, the prints are average at best, but come on... these movies are not likely to receive Criterion Collection treatment anytime soon. So for the price, they're fine.As with a lot of the dvds in this "horror classics" series, the inclusion of at least one of the movies is questionable. Here that would be the crime-based Swamp Women. Yet, I'm glad, because it exists on dvd nowhere else. The other films exist in other formats, and have been amply reviewed, sometimes by me, so I will constrain my comments to Swamp Women. (Phantom gets a dull 2 stars, Creature gets a sometimes-good 3 stars.)Swamp Women itself is no great shakes, earning a shaky three stars. You need to know little besides "1955" and "Corman" to figure that out. His movies from this early period are gratingly inept, but without a lot of the goofy charm that they possessed just a few years later. The draw is the cast: Beverly (Pretty Poison) Garland, Marie (The Killing) Windsor and Mike "Touch" Connors, of Mannix renown. The story involves a butchy policewoman going undercover in a Louisiana jail to infiltrate a gang of broads (led by Windsor, whose screen name is Josie. Would that make them Josie and the Alleycats?) who know where their former boyfriends hid a cache of stolen diamonds. The hard-bitten ladies take her into their confidence at once, as they perform "hard labor" in what appears to be a cigarette warehouse. They escape easily by climbing out a window, and run to a waiting car. None of this arouses any suspicion.They change (offscreen) into pastel shirts, then commandeer a motorboat which holds Connors and his girlfriend ("Hey, baby, wanna tour the swamp?"), and a guide, who is shot dead so that penny-pincher Corman could pay him only for an hour's work. Connors, the nominal hero, is knocked cold by one weenie Windsor punch. The policewoman must then balance her hardened criminal act with her attempt to keep the hostages alive.They all head toward the diamonds, inserting lots of padding and filler and stock footage, making time for bickering and cutting off the women's jeans to make them into short shorts. This meager bit of cheesecake helps the movie a whole bunch. They fight over Connors' affections as he is tied to a tree, and Garland has a nice wrestling match with the Jan Sterling-esque Jill Jarmyn (If you're familiar with Jarmyn's history, you know she's had practice). Plus, Connors, who earlier had been KO'd by Windsor, battles an alligator and kills it quite simply. Yet not before the budget-conscious Corman allows it to bloodlessly kill the girlfriend, who was flailing in clearly much bluer, cleaner water. (Personally, I think this scene was inserted later only at the behest of Connors and his agent, so Touch would not be the most worthless "hero" in the history of cinema.)The movie tries hard to be tough and mean, like the caper films of the period, but it doesn't walk the walk, and it certainly can't talk the talk. Windsor's main hard-boiled line (over and over) is "Cut it out, you two!" The Asphalt Jungle this is not. Eventually they reach the "buried" loot, which appeared to be no more than delicately wrapped in dry reeds, rather like a tamale. More squabbling occurs. Then the group begins their trek back out of the swamp. Ill-planned double-crosses, a shootout that wouldn't have needed to happen, a javelin toss, a rattlesnake, a poignant death, catfights, oarfights, headbutts and a circling police helicopter ensue before a romantic fadeout that is just ... yucky.Now I shall cowboy up and admit my particular bias. Beverly Garland was one of the few B Scream Queens who could act, really act. But it gave me no great pleasure to see her acting like a kill-crazed Bayou Barbie. And although her rassling matches with Jarmyn made me wish this had been made 10 years later, they were somewhat offputting, in part because they were quite convincing. I also did not like her playing second banana to Windsor. I won't even begin to discuss Garland's demise. In fact, the whole cast is decent. But the script and direction are so bad and unambitious that they annoy, rather than elate. Not enough happens to be truly, memorably terrible. (I find bad noir less appealing than bad sci-fi.) A felt-and-rubber Blaisdell monster would've helped.As always, when I describe early Corman, I like it better now, having reviewed it. Writing all the silliness down gives me a chance to process it; what was merely blah before brings chuckles in retrospect. But I don't know that it would help on repeated viewings.Still, the three mediocre movies combined make for a dvd worth owning."