Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Chained Girls (1965)

Chained Girls is a phrase that has immediate connotations and resonance for me. When I see it on a movie box – or poster – I assume that I am looking at a Women In Prison film (or WIP as some people like to abbreviate it). This is a genre that I have a particular interest in – and connection to – as I once wrote an important essay about it when I was a film student, and subsequently wrote an entire musical play poking fun at it (which was called  Bad Girls Jailhouse and was first produced in 1994). That play started me on a long path of writing, producing and directing crazy musicals, which was my main focus for over ten years – but that’s another story.

Chained Girls (1965) is an old exploitation movie that is NOT about women in prison. It is, as stated in its own publicity materials, “A daring film about lesbianism today!” If that wasn’t shocking enough for audiences in 1965, Chained Girls also claimed to be a documentary. That’s right. A documentary, as opposed to a sleazy sexploitation drama that one might typically have seen at certain drive-ins and grindhouses back in the day. Chained Girls wasn’t a cheap exploitation picture, it was EDUCATIONAL, so… uh… back off censors and other rule mongers. We have to show the public what lesbians do so that honest, morally upright people can LEARN something. This movie is good for them, like eating granola. It can help prevent tragedies and poor life choices by showing what happens to people who who’ve made those poor choices.

Poster for Mom and Dad (1945), perhaps an influence on Chained GirlsI suppose this suggests that Chained Girls is part of that unique exploitation genre, most popular in the 1930s and 40s, which includes infamous movies like Mom and Dad (1945), Marihuana (1936), Child Bride (1943) and She Shoulda Said No! (1949). On the other hand, it was probably influenced by the emergence of mondo movies, like Mondo Cane (1962), Mondo Cane 2 (1963) and La donna nel mondo aka Women of the World (1963). These movies were pseudo documentaries that purported to show shocking but true (and often sleazy) stuff from around the world. Many of them contained footage that was “fake”, or at least explained as being something other than what it was. For example, a film could show footage of a bunch of Poster for Women of the World (1963), perhaps an influence on Chained Girlsmen standing around in a foreign country while the narrator says “These men are here to buy female slaves…”. I suppose it could be true, but there is no actual evidence of slave-buying visible in the footage.

Chained Girls uses this technique often throughout its scant 65 minute running time. One of my Twitter friends (hello Peter) pointed out this questionable gem uttered by the film’s narrator: “Most teenage lesbians are prostitutes or drug addicts.” As I recall, we are simply looking at shots of young women interacting when the narrator says this. I could be wrong, as this movie (despite its claims of being a documentary) is a full production featuring actors who appeared in other exploitation pictures. I don’t think that it contains any Poster for Joseph P. Mawra's Olga's House of Shame (1964), which shares stylistic similarities with Chained Girlsactual “documentary” footage of people living their own lives. Having said that, there might be stolen shots of real people on the streets of the city. But the “scenes” that we witness throughout the film are all staged.

The movie was directed by Joseph P. Mawra, who is best known for his Olga films, such as Olga’s House of Shame (1964), Olga’s Girls (1964), and White Slaves of Chinatown (1964). 1964 was a very busy year for Mawra. As I recall, all of these movies use the same stylistic approach (silent footage of women doing stuff while a narrator says lurid things – and the narrator is often the same guy, Joel Holt, who also acted in and directed a few films as well). Both Mawra and Holt seem to have played out their entire filmmaking careers in the 1960s. Perhaps the arrival of hardcore sex films in the 1970s put them out of business. Who knows?

Chained Girls (1965) is not for everyone, but for those with a taste for its unique brand of antique sleaze, it’s pretty darn entertaining. For those with a sensitivity to out of date, inappropriate and offensive material, it would likely be much less fun. On the one hand, it’s a “documentary” with a lot of misinformation & stereotyping in it. But on the other hand, I kind of believe them when they say they got their facts from recent (in 1965) research. Probably some biased, 2nd rate studies by would-be Masters & Johnson types. This makes it a fascinating window into the crazy beliefs of the time. And it’s the over-the-top inappropriateness of what the narrator is saying that makes the movie a jaw dropping good time (for those who can stand it). John Waters is apparently a fan of this film, and I can see why. In some ways, it’s kind of a distant relative (and perhaps an influence on) Waters’ A Dirty Shame (2004). it’s been a while since I saw that movie, but I recall Waters educating the audience about different types of unusual sexual practices (a plate job, for instance). I really need to see that movie again soon…

One reviewer on the IMDb says “For what it is “chained girls” is one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had… Rarely has a movie made me laugh so hard and so deeply… Really this film is a treat if you are in the right frame of mind and/or watching it with someone who truly has a firm grasp of irony.”

I first saw Chained Girls with my friend Brian during one of our all day movie marathons. We had no idea what we were getting into, and I think we both spent the entire 65 minutes with our jaws hanging open in disbelief (when we weren’t laughing, of course). Watching it again now only confirmed our original impression of it. I remember turning to Brian halfway through the film and saying “This movie could be turned into a brilliant fringe musical.” As I mentioned earlier, I spent many years working on crazy musicals and I had a pretty good eye for material that was ripe for adaptation. “I don’t think I could do it, however,” I said. “The playwright and/or composer needs to be a woman – and preferably a lesbian.” I made a mental note to mention this idea the next time I ran into the right person, but alas, it never came up. So, if any of my lesbian playwright friends are reading this, here’s an idea for you…

As for the rest of us, we can still enjoy Chained Girls (1965), for what it is, on any #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn on which the spirit moves us, grabs us, or otherwise chains us to our seat. It’s the kind of #NotQuiteClassicCinema that must be seen to be believed.

Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical

Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical
Book, Music, and Lyrics by Angus Kohm

You’ll See: Innocent young girls, cruel sorority sisters, foolish fraternity freaks, and one sadistic, insane killer stalking them all. Sound familiar? It is. But this time they sing and dance too…

Reviews:

“What do you do when you’ve got a script that tells the story of an axe-wielding madman who escapes from the loony bin and starts stalking sorority girls on a nearby college campus? Why, you make a musical, of course. Which is exactly what Winnipeg writer/ composer/ director Angus Kohm has done with Slumber Party Massacre, aHalloween-style plot delivered with a Rainbow Stage sensibility. The result is a campy, absurd musical spoof that’s found commercial and critical success beyond the cult following Kohm and co. already had in Winnipeg. And all we can say is, uh… it’s about bloody well time. Not only is Kohm worthy of praise for breathing new life into a time-worn genre (Scream notwithstanding), so is the troupe. Particularly noteworthy are the skilled veteran duo of Cassandra Williams and Stefanie Wiens, who are so adept in their competing good-girl/bad-girl roles. Let’s hope that Kohm, who poked fun at that other B-movie staple, women’s prison films, in the equally ridiculous Bad Girls Jailhouse, will keep coming back like the Michael Meyers of his craft. Five Stars!” (Highest Rating)
— Riva Harrison, The Winnipeg Sun, 1997 

“Call it magic, fringe-style. But what other explanation is there when actors start belting out the tune There’s a Severed Head in the Toilet Bowl and all the prim looking grannies in the front row start tapping their toes? And then, by the time the cast starts singing I’m a Crazy Mixed-Up Psychopathic Killer, the grannies actually look ready to jump on stage to sing along. That is the rather magical scene these days at the Manotick Fringe Festival, site of the world premiere of Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical.”
— Paul Gessell, The Ottawa Citizen

“This is the show you don’t want to miss. It’s fast, funny and macabre – just the kind of edgy fluff people expect at a fringe festival. Sweeney Todd fans will be especially pleased. A unifying, tenacious grip on just the right sense of irony makes dippy songs about things like finding a severed head in a toilet bowl absurdly funny. Prediction: Manitoba playwright/composer Angus Kohm will make serious money some day.”
– Pat Donnelly, The Montreal Gazette

“Screamingly funny and well performed. How can you go wrong with a song title like There’s a Severed Head in the Toilet Bowl? REACTION/BUZZ: “Even the corpses are singing and dancing.” “I laughed, I cried… I just about wet myself.”
– David Gobeil Taylor, The Montreal Mirror

“A wondrous little piece by Angus Kohm… it moves fast and the timing is bang on. I want the cast album!”
– Gaetan L. Charlebois, The Montreal Hour

“In a perfect world, all Fringe shows would feature at least some of the spunk and spirit of Winnipeg playwright Angus Kohm’s Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre. The Winnipeg Based B-movie fanatic, who brought his Bad Girls Jailhouse to the Toronto Fringe last year, once again shows a genius for casting and a gift for catchy tunes and good humored, ridiculous lyrics…Sorority Girls is good silly fun.”
– Kathleen M. Smith, The Toronto Eye

“Oh what the hell.”
– Jason Sherman, Toronto Life

“This is one of the must-see shows of the festival… like Andrew Lloyd Webber staging Halloween.Kohm’s lyrics draw hoots of laughter… There’s a Severed Head in the Toilet Bowl appears destined to become Kohm’s signature song. Five Stars!” – (highest rating)
– Kevin Prokosh, The Winnipeg Free Press

“Here’s a show that gives you exactly what the title promises. Yes, there are sorority girls, they do have a slumber party, there is a massacre and, incredibly, it’s all set to music. Winnipeg’s Angus Kohm is the evil genius behind it. Lyrical gems like That Madman Is Nuts pop up frequently. Only one song goes to far: There’s a Severed Head in the Toilet Bowl was just too disgusting.”
– Cam Fuller, The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix

“He’s baaa-ck!  No, not the sadistic ax murderer with a lust for the blood of nubile sorority girls, but local composer/playwright Angus Kohm, who unleashes a raucous, cutting-edge satirical attack on slasher movies. Who needs a two sided ax when you can wield cutting edge songs with razor-sharp lyrics honed to leave listeners helplessly laughing?  Sorority Girls debuted in 1997 as a kind of stage cousin to the 1996 film Scream.  Since then, the genre has been crowded by moreScreams, Scary Movies and I Know What You Did Last Summer.  Kohm still has the musical field all to himself.  Undeniably silly and violent in a cartoon-like manner, Sorority Girls stands up as a hilarious skewering of the cliche of teen slasher flicks.”
– Kevin Prokosh, The Winnipeg Free Press (2001)

“A returning Fringe fave, Sorority Girls should have been force-screened to the Wayans Brothers before they spoofed the horror genre in Scary Movie and its terrifyingly bad sequel. This is all the ammo they needed, as five local university students remind us that horror films are already effective self-parody. With rousing song-and-dance numbers such as There’s a Severed Head in the Toilet Bowl, and I Feel Like a Walk in the Basement … Alone, the musical plumbs the depths of bad taste — with hilarious results… This will be a hot ticket by the end of the week, even in the spacious Prairie Theatre Exchange.”
– The Winnipeg Sun (2001)

Performance Rights and Other Details For Potential Producers:

Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical
A one act musical comedy;
Cast Size: 5 Actors (4 Female, 1 Male);
NOTE: The show was designed for 5 actors doubling as more than one character. It is also perfectly acceptable to cast more than 5 actors and reduce (or eliminate) the doubling.
Running Time: 60 minutes (could be as long as 75 minutes if the director chooses to slow the pace);
Set: Originally produced on a bare stage with one mime cube.
Props/Costumes: Few props, such as fake knives, axe, etc.; simple costumes such as work coveralls and a mask; if doubling with a cast of five, quick changes will be required (for example, from from generic members of the sorority to specific characters in pyjamas);
Music is scored for piano and voices; has sometimes been arranged for a full band.

Copies of the script are available for $7.95 each.
Single Perusal Copies of the score are available for $29.95 each.
A Soundtrack Recording of the 2001 Cast of  Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical is available on CD for $19.95. More info here

Professional and Amateur Performance Rights are available.
Royalty Fees will be applicable, but the exact amount will depend on the details of each individual production.

To find out more, contact the author (address below).
Please include information such as:
1) Where your production would take place
2) When it would take place
3) How many performances there would be
4) How many seats there are in the theatre
5) Ticket prices

To Order Scripts, Scores, CDs, etc.,
or for information on obtaining the professional or amateur rights to
Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical,
contact Angus Kohm c/o Rubbed Raw:

To send an e-mail click here
Snail mail: Angus Kohm c/o Rubbed Raw:
205 – 21 Roslyn Road
Winnipeg, MB
R3L 2S8
Canada
Make cheques (or money orders) payable to Angus Kohm.

Shipping charges may be applicable, and may vary due to shipping location and size of order. E-mail or snail mail to find out more.

Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical: a musical that has been seen at fringe festivals and on university campuses all over North America.

Friday Night At The Home Drive-In: Angels’ Brigade aka Angels’ Revenge (1979)

I once almost wrote a musical like Angels’ Brigade (1979).

I was in the midst of my most successful fringe tour in the summer of 1997, with a show called Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical. Everywhere we went we were doing boffo box office and I was starting to ask myself “How am I going to follow this?” I had a cast of regulars, mostly female, with whom I was hoping to work again. And I had a certain style, or “brand” as some people might say. I needed an idea that would not only appeal to me, but to the fans of my current and previous shows. After a couple of all night drives down the Trans Canada Highway, I started to think about movies like Angels’ Brigade and how they might just be the perfect fodder for my next musical atrocity. But perhaps I need to back up a little…

When I was at university, I majored in FIlm Studies. There was one class in filmmaking, and another in screenwriting, but most of our time was spent studying films, the way English majors study literature. This was not entirely satisfying to an aspiring writer and filmmaker like me. Fortunately, I also did a minor in Theatre, where most of our time was spent acting, directing, stage managing, building sets, etc. I also had the opportunity to write plays.

The Black Hole Theatre Company, my alma mater’s student run theatre company, accepted submissions of new plays by student writers for possible production. I was excited by the possibility of having a play produced, but I learned very quickly that if I wanted my play to be chosen it had to have a lot of good roles for women.

It didn’t take a genius to notice that there were twice as many women enrolled in theatre as men. And most classic plays, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, had way more parts for men than women. The Black Hole Theatre Company, my professor told me, made a point of trying to select plays that had good roles for women. I took this news to heart and wrote a play for three women and two men. It was produced as part of the The Black Hole Theatre Company’s Lunch B.H.A.G.G. series (free plays produced at lunch time).

When I started producing my own plays, at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival, there were no requirements to cast women. But I felt that it was stupid to write a lot of parts for men, when there were clearly more women interested in being in plays. And from a practical point of view, I knew that I had access to lot of good female actors (friends and acquaintances from university). There were already enough plays filled with parts for men, and not enough good men to fill them. So, I wrote plays with more parts for women.

This culminated with my first musical, Bad Girls Jailhouse in 1994. My previous plays had all included one man – and I toyed with the idea of having a male guard, or warden – but in the end I wrote a play for seven women. Yes, seven women. Smarter people than me were producing one person shows, in which they stood on a bare stage and talked for an hour (like a stand up comedian). I was producing a musical with props and costumes. And seven actresses. Apparently I wasn’t concerned about making a profit.

Two years later, I took Bad Girls Jailhouse on the road. It was my first fringe tour, and it was a success. But nothing could have prepared me for the success of Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical in 1997, and then later in 2001. It sold out performances and broke box office records. It was a play that featured four women and one man.

Both Bad Girls Jailhouse and Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical. were satires of film genres. I had always imagined that I would be writing and directing films. But in the pre digital video, pre internet days of my early career, making films was expensive! Even if I had made a short three minute movie, it would have cost me hundreds of dollars and I would have never made that money back. For the same amount of money (or less), I could write a one hour (or ninety minute) play and produce it at the fringe festival. And wonder of wonders, the plays could actually make a profit!

But being a film fan, and a filmmaker at heart, I chose to write plays that were kind of like movies. My specialty became musical spoofs of film genres. Mel Brooks was one of my heroes. He taught me, among other things, that the best satire is a labor of love. He often included musical numbers in his films, which were always a highlight. I saw myself doing things that Mel might have, but with more unusual, or perhaps less respected film genres. So, after the success of Sorority Girls Slumber Party Massacre: The Musical, I was looking for another offbeat film genre I could lovingly satirize. One that involved a large proportion of female characters…

And that’s what made me think of films like Angels’ Brigade and The Doll Squad (1973). I don’t know if there’s an official name for that subgenre of cinema, but someone I know once referred to them as “female commando movies.” Interestingly, some say that The Doll Squad was the inspiration for Charlie’s Angels (1976-81). Angels’ Brigade was clearly named to cash in on the success of that show, which was at the height of it’s popularity. I wouldn’t call Charlie’s Angels “female commandos”, so that may be a misnomer. I’ll have to come up with a better term for them…

In any case, I thought that a musical about a team of female agents/detectives/vigilantes sounded like a really fine idea back in 1997. Unfortunately, that never happened. But it did give me an excuse to revisit movies like this one…

Angels’ Brigade aka Angels’ Revenge aka Seven from Heaven (1979) is undoubtedly a bad movie. It scores a 2.0 on the IMDb, which is lower than a lot of movies that aren’t worth anyone’s time. But Angels’ Brigade is the kind of “bad” that can be a whole lot of fun to watch (if you have a taste for it). The assembling of the team, and the explanation of each member’s purpose, is almost as hilarious as the brilliant SCTV sketch Maudlin’s Eleven (1982). For example, they need someone to distract the guards at the front gate of an isolated drug processing compound, so they bring in a beautiful model played by Noela Velasco, whose only other credit is an episode of Chico and the Man (1974–1978).

But they are ALL beautiful women, including Susan Kiger, a former Playboy playmate. I don’t think they needed to go outside the group of six to find a woman who could distract a couple of guards. But much like Maudlin needed his team to add up to eleven (and so brought in The Harmonica Gang to wait by a pay phone), Angel – wait, there is no Angel – April, a schoolteacher played by Jacqulin Cole, needs her team to add up to seven – as in “seven from heaven”, so she’s got to have a professional beautiful woman to walk up to those guards and bat her eyelashes. Makes sense to me.

Schoolteacher April (Jacqulin Cole, real life wife of director Greydon Clark)  and Las Vegas entertainer Michelle (real life Playboy playmate Susan Kiger) recruiting stuntwoman Terry (Sylvia Anderson).

Oh, and in case you haven’t figured it out, this is #NotQuiteClassicCinema gold. It’s the kind of movie magic that makes sifting through bargain bins of unwanted VHS tapes worth it. Or in my case, watching random movies on TV late at night.

The man responsible for Angels’ Brigade is Greydon Clark, the auteur of such #NotQuiteClassicCinema greats as Black Shampoo (1976), Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977), Without Warning (1980), and Joysticks (1983) – all of which are in my personal library. Apparently he first conceived of Angels’ Brigade as a blaxploitation picture (not unlike Black Shampoo), but in the end he went with a multicultural team of women that included Sylvia Anderson, as the 6’1″ tall stuntwoman, and Lieu Chinh as the shorter martial arts expert. Here they are sandwiched in between the schoolteacher and the beautiful model:

The seven from heaven are rounded out by real life sisters Robin and Liza Greer. They are two of the women who tell their stories in the book You’ll Never Make Love in This Town Again (1995), which appears to be an expose of prostitution and sex with celebrities in Hollywood.

Real life sisters Robin and Liza Greer in Angels’ Brigade.

One of the most remarkable things about Angels’ Brigade is its star-studded supporting cast. When I first stumbled upon this movie on late TV, one of the reasons that I couldn’t stop watching it was that every few minutes another recognizable TV actor would make an appearance. The movie seemed to be, to my relatively untrained eyes, extraordinarily bad – but all of these famous actors were in it! How could that be?

Top of the list for me was Jack Palance, who I used to see on Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (1982-86) and in movies. Perhaps even more shocking to me was the presence of Jim Backus and Alan Hale Jr. – both from Gilligan’s Island (1964-67) which I had watched religiously in reruns. Other recognizable faces included: Peter Lawford, Neville Brand,, Pat Buttram, and Arthur Godfrey. I didn’t recognize Darby Hinton at the time, but I would get to know him later thanks to the mighty Malibu Express (1985). 

As a kid, I knew nothing about the common exploitation filmmaking technique of hiring recognizable “names”, or actors with name recognition, paying them for one day of work and then putting their names and/or faces on your poster, in your trailer, etc. Often they would be actors who used to be successful, but had fallen on hard times. I’m not saying that this was the case for any of the people in Angels’ Brigade, but according to the cinematographer, Peter Lawford would show up drunk with a woman on each arm, and perform his scenes sitting in a chair because he had trouble standing.

I could go on about Angels’ Brigade all day, but I’ve probably already written more words than could be reasonable justified. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. Nostalgia is undoubtedly a factor, but it also a camp classic – a minor masterpiece of #NotQuiteClassicCinema – and I could happily watch it on any given #FridayNightAtTheHomeDriveIn.