An unspeakable nightmare of eroticism
In an abandoned coalmine somewhere between the urban sprawl of New York City and the black lung of Butcher Holler, is Olga's House of Shame. Really nothing more than the Teamster's former lunch shack converted into a den of inequity and sin, it houses the white babes in bondage of the mob's favorite dominatrix, Olga. This high cheekboned badass bitch relishes and relies on the torture and torment of women for their eventual use and abuse by paying members of paternalistic society. With the help of her haberdasher turned henchman brother Nick, she finds parolees, the disenchanted, and the heavily impressionable, and before you can say Somerset Maugham, she's got them manacled, bound with leather, strapped into homemade electric chairs, and prancing like my little pity pony around her Love Canal style estate. True, there is always an ungrateful gal or two wanting to escape the life of degradation for a slight sip of the milk of human kindness. But Olga has some inventive means of quenching the thirst for personal dignity.
Meanwhile, Peking duck and the Eastern/Oriental mindset are given a big kick in the diversity as our Olga sets up shot in the Chop Suey district and, with the help of opium and a lack of political correctness, begins her career as a provider of dope fiend hookers. That's right, whenever you or your buddies are wondering just where to find the finest and freshest flesh feasts, you need look no further than the gone to seed supermodel Madame O and her White Slaves of Chinatown. Offering a wide assortment of society's dregs in all manner of mistreatment, you can really get your Marquis De Sade started at this BYOBI (bring your own branding iron) establishment. Everything is offered here, from blowtorches to combs. But it's not all electrodes and evisceration. Even Olga herself occasionally finds time for a little employer/employee interaction. Picking out one of her more unconscious chanteuses, she moves in and performs the art of seduction the only way she's ever known how: by beating someone until they pass out.
Finally, what's an upper class Manhattan housewife to do when she's grown bored of the cosmopolitan highlife and wants to earn a little extra 19th nervous breakdown bread? Well, she can read the want ads, meet up with the slimy sleazeball Nick, and apply for a lifetime contractual position as one of Olga's Dance Hall Girls. Helping to redefine the term "hostess" so that it requires more horizontal than vertical service calls, our decidedly different looking headmistress spends a great deal of down time trying to motivationally speak her indentured dancing queens into giving up their goodies for the sake of a sick thrill. And for the most part it works, since even a bored Suzie Housewife is more than happy to throw down the gauntlet of acceptable social behavior and expose her Bill Blass to the paying customers. But they best be wary of making Miss Ga-Ga angry. She will get Greenwich Village on their hinder and beat them to a bloody pulp. Either that, or endlessly discuss the ramifications of violating contractually agreed upon terms over and over again with the ladies until their brains melt. Seems not all torture is physically based. Just ask a lawyer.
Get ready to be incredibly disappointed by this set of Olga films. Those who have long dreamed of seeing these urban grit girl fests in the privacy of their home theater, hoping they were warped and weird counterpoint to the non-metropolitan masochism of the later Ilsa series, may want a ribald recount. Bereft of even the slightest titillation factor (unless you are deep into S&M—more on this later) and poorly shot, filmed, and acted, the Olga movies offered on this Something Weird triple feature could best be described as monotonous in the most completely literal interpretation of that word. These are movies made for a sole audience, with only one main goal in mind and created from a singular premise. In some ways, the SCTV spoofing of similarly seedy concepts, with such comically precise titles as "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House of Slave Chicks," accurately captures the ludicrous laziness of these movies. Not films, since they tell no cohesive story and are filled with images and archetypes instead of characters, these cinematic explorations of sleaze function as lurid litmus test, a good gauge to your sexual proclivity. If you find any of the elaborate and carefully staged bondage material the least bit enticing, if your cabbage is tossed when you witness Olga beating a wounded wanton wench back to the stone age, or if you salivate at the sight of long, static tableaus featuring women in various stages of servitude, then you may be the perfect candidate for this trilogy of trauma. But most other exploitation audience members will, once the novelty has worn off, wonder just what the whipping post the big deal is here.
The Olga films are formula formations all the way. Each is exactly the same in tone and timbre. We are introduced to Olga and her occupation: white slaver to the world, provider of female pulchritude and occasional dealer in illegal drugs. She is always associated with a "mob" or "syndicate" who bankrolls her brainwashing and bondage. She always has a less than masculine "assistant" who aids her in the finding of new flesh. And the storylines are always ones of finding the new gals, discovering the traitors, and meting out punishment for crimes, be they actual or thought. There is a minimum of dialogue (Dance Hall Girls has more spoken words than the other two films combined times 20) and a voice-over narrator gives us the Joe Friday style set of facts for everything that is happening on the screen (our storyteller always seems to know even more than what is being shown, or could be inferred from being shown). We then cut to scenes of women in bondage, filmed matter of factly to provide the raincoat crowd the requisite amount of raunch per second of screening. There is always some fake violence involving electricity, knives, or bizarre implements of defilement. Everything is forced and invariable, offering very little drama or dirt. In reality, these films are nothing more than B&D books come to ersatz "life." Olga's House of Shame is probably the most entertaining (if one can find these flat visions of vice enjoyable), since it provides the most amusing voice-over story structure plus the pear shaped asexuality of Olga's Barry Humphries in training brother Nick. His chase of Elaine through the woods, wobbly male "pouch" in full undulation, is worth the price of admission alone.
But as for the rest of this night terror of tortures, Chinatown is too prosaic to make much sense. We do learn a lot about why Asians have had such a hard time, socially, within the United States since the crass, racist comments made about life and crime in the Oriental areas of urban society are downright slanderous. For a film to try and excuse what is basically an exercise in perverted sexuality as some sort of unwanted "yellow plague" seems horribly unfair. Dance Hall Girls is decidedly different, as it offers pages and pages of dialogue. That's right, Olga and her minions talk…and talk and talk and talk. Seems there's not a meaningless topic that these miscast actors can't mangle and moon about for untold moments of monotony. If you ever wondered why House of Shame and Chinatown have an ix-nay on the alking-tay credo, the verbal Valium of Dance Hall will lull you into a sense of silence. And all of the Olgas are slim on the skin side. While the nudity level seems to increase as the DVD moves along, there is very little revelry in the reveal. It seems that nakedness is treated as an offhanded indirect result of having to torture and abuse women. Even when our Olgas decide to get their pre-soft core freak on and rub their prisoners for a little lesbian leisure, the newsreel manner of the sex's sequencing makes for limp biscuits all around. It's easy to understand why these films were such a scandal in the early '60s; people used to seeing the nudie cutie booties of various sun worshipers scurry across the screen must have purged their petticoats when they saw these scenes of pseudo sick sleaze and sadism. But in the light of 2003's anything-for-a-jolly social mentality, it all plays out like a very special episode of Fear Factor.
Something Weird is to be half praised/half taken to task for the material offered here. The fan base that has long clamored for these titles on DVD will find the sampling provided here as noteworthy. But these are not, apparently, the best of the awful Miss Olga batch. That title seems to be reserved for Olga's Girls and/or Madame Olga's Massage Parlor. Sadly, all we get to witness of those seemingly legendary letch films are their oddball trailers. All the Olga films have trailers here and it's interesting to watch how they were sold versus what they actually contained in the main body of the movie. As for the prints proper, SWV again strives to give the best black and white transfer possible, and while a little softer than other monochrome titles, the Olga Trilogy looks very good. Unfortunately, the usual Something Weird wealth of extras is, to say the least, a little skimpy this time around. We get a two minute short featuring Audrey "Olga" Campbell in color and in the nude and a ten minute excerpt from an oddity entitled Mondo Oscentia that discusses (and shows highlight clips from) the Olga films. But aside from the adult film magazine gallery, we get very little else to explain or further investigate the whole S&M world presented by these films. Thankfully, as part of the packaging, we get an insightful and very entertaining interview with Campbell, which partially explains the making and mythology of the oeuvre de Olga. Any fan of exploitation worth their heft in hedonism will definitely want to check out this mad mistress and her love of pain. But the casual fan that has only heard about the outrageous nature of these movies will be disarmed at how devoid of violence they truly are. Olga may be "possessed of a mind so warped that she made sadism a full-time business," but the movies capturing her mental malady are quite sobering.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Something Weird Video
• Trailers for the Entire Olga Series
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