Something Weird Video // 1961 // 148 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // September 4th, 2002
They're nude but not lewd.
While hunting the wild asparagus, Arthur, the editor in grief of a fledgling Florida fish wrap, stumbles upon a nudist camp and is morally outraged. He decides to blow the roof off the sucker, and coerces Stacey, his ace reporter, into donning her birthday suit for the cause. She joins a local organic organization and gets in good with the bare brood. Soon, she finds she enjoys the jaybird jubilee so much she can't possibly expose those with no clothes. Since Stacey failed to uncover the uncovered scoop, Arthur exposes his hickory nuts and investigates the ribald resort in order to complete the explosive Diary of a Nudist.
Bob Dixon is a just-weaned Mama's boy who marries his Paris art model wife, Yvonne, because she has a really sexy accent. Fancying himself another Renoir, he paints a study in skin called The Naked Venus and it immediately sells to some Manhattan miscreants with a fetish for flesh, also known as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Mother doesn't approve and she casts her Oedipal umbilical across the Champs Elysees. She also sends a P.I. to spy on the daughter-in-law. When our Toulouse La treks back to the bosom of motherhood, family in tow, Mrs. Dixon becomes Mrs. Bates, insults Yvonne, and instantly gets sonny boy back on the teat. He files for divorce and it's up to lawyers, buns, and money to decipher just who gets custody of the canvas stretcher. Oh yeah, Yvonne's a nudist.
Diary of a Nudist is the standard Doris Wishman "in the buff" bizarreness, which means that it is either taxing (like Double Agent 73) or delightful (like Nude on the Moon). In this case, Diary of a Nudist is a harebrained bare bones escapade (pardon the pun) that's lack of fancy facets (like plot or characterization) permits the audience to focus on the absurd amusements and unique pleasures located in Doris's ditzy directing style. She is the unrivaled queen of the reaction shot. And since they say acting is really the art of reacting, Our Miss Wish is running the master class here. We rarely, if ever, see dialogue come out of a character's mouth. The moment someone opens their yap to articulate, Doris cuts to the other person(s) in the scene. We then get the joy and cinematic bliss of watching people watch other people talk. She loves to pad her films with scene after scene of carefully posed prime meat and we get lots of bare body shots here. Diary of a Nudist might be considered a lesser work in Wishman's primer of naked nature films, but still it offers innocent, wholesome fun. (And pay close attention to the opening sermon by the nekkid philosopher. It will explain to anyone willing to listen why all this unadulterated nudism is good for you!)
The Naked Venus is something altogether different about the all together. Instead of a movie that focuses on the nudist lifestyle or viewpoint, we get an elongated episode of Divorce Court. The script is so hyper-charged, melodramatic, and filled with incredibly overheated potboiler moments that you'd swear it written by Tennessee Williams and William Inge after one too many mint juleps, with a little nudie footage thrown in to expand the running time. It's not every day that one gets to view a nature film that spends its last 45 minutes in a courtroom. Instead of volleyball, sunbathing, and carefully positioned hats and towels, we are treated to the repeated image of The Right Honorable Judge Jabba T. Hut. Our inflated arbitrator presides over a pseudo separation case so loopy, so filled with legal jargon and shyster shenanigans that you almost forget that this is supposed to be a movie about people parading about unadorned. Wynn Gregory as the evil monster-in-law Mrs. Dixon is so convincing you'll swear she's Satan's subconscious. Don Roberts, as the weasely arty son is perfectly effeminate and rodent like, and Patricia Conelle as the nice girl from Nice sets the entire population of France back centuries with her refusal to surrender when attacked by angry, outside forces. Too bad the film forgets that it's all about the boobies, baby.
Something Weird Video usually offers a splendid DVD package. Unfortunately, when it comes to image quality, both movies have some obvious tan lines. Diary appears to be a longer, foreign cut of the movie (there is a British Censors label at the start), as there are extra incidental scenes that look inserted. And these have a definitive deteriorated color and tint. The rest of the film is satisfactory, but nothing more. Venus looks washed out whenever the film shifts to outdoor nature footage (which isn't often), and the overall black and white transfer is soft, and not as sharp as we usually get. Digitally remastered or not, these less than stellar presentations are a slight smudge on the otherwise exceptional reputation that SWV has earned.
Attempting to make up for the less than perfect pictures, SWV ladles on an extra rich, thick gravy of goodies. We get trailers for other goof-glorious nudist camp films, some provocative and peculiar nudism short subjects, and around ten minutes of alternative, deleted footage from The Naked Venus that actually explains where some of the sun worshipping scenes went. The Diary of a Nudist / The Naked Venus DVD is a cheerful celebration of the bare bodkin. It presents the health benefits of a natural naked existence as a cross between tabloid journalism and objections to exculpatory hearsay evidence. Just like Judge Judy!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 148 Minutes
Release Year: 1961
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Archival Short Subjects
* Alternate Naked Venus Title Sequence
* Eight Minutes of Outtakes from Naked Venus
* Gallery of Nudist Camp Exploitation Art
* IMDb: Diary Of A Nudist
* IMDb: Naked Venus