Sunday, 18 May 2008

Chained Girls (1965)

Chained Girls, dating from 1965, is one of those bizarre American pseudo-educational movies warning about the dangers to decent society posed by social threats like juvenile delinquency, rock’n’roll, drugs and similar evils. This time it’s lesbianism. We get lots of hysterical statistics from “medical research” informing us of shocking facts about the prevalence of lesbianism on college campuses, and we’re told the terrifying truth that lesbians can be found in any walk of life, and that many lesbians look just like normal women. Most frightening of all is the revelation that cities are being terrorised by roaming gangs of teenage lesbians called Baby Butches, spreading terror with knives, lead pipes and their fists! It’s a mix of scare tactics and titillation, with scenes of young “femme” lesbians being “initiated” at “coming-out parties” where the experienced lesbians draw straws to see who gets to initiate the new girl!

It’s from the same producer as Ed Wood’s infamous Glen or Glenda, and at times it has a vaguely similar feel, when it switches from scare tactics to a surprisingly sympathetic (if ludicrously wrong-headed) approach to the subject, when we’re told that these poor women are really just looking for love and they deserve our understanding.

The mix of paranoia and exploitation that drove so much of the low-budget American movie production up to the 70s is something I find deliciously entertaining in a camp sort of way. The fact that this one is presented as a documentary just makes it all the more amusing. It’s the sort of thing you need to be in the mood for, but when you are in that mood then Chained Girls delivers jaw-dropping entertainment value. And there are more outrageous bouffant hairdos than you’ve ever seen in your life. There’s a very small amount of nudity, but mostly it relies on extravagantly overheated fully clothed make-out sessions for its titillation value.

On the Something Weird DVD release it’s paired with Daughters of Lesbos, an equally silly but much less entertaining film from 1968. It’s really just straightforward sexploitation, although it has occasional bizarre and amusing moments. It also features quite explicit nudity and sex, so I’m not sure it was really the right choice for double-feature billing with Chained Girls. Both movies are in black-and-white, and both look remarkably good considering that they’re not exactly the types of movie that you’d expect anyone to have bothered to carefully preserve.

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