Friday, 7 November 2008

Olga’s Girls (1964)

The Olga films are among the more notorious sexploitation movies of the 60s. Olga's Girls, dating from 1964, was the second film in the series. To some extent they were a throwback to the classic exploitation movies of the 30s and 40s, focusing on the dreaded “white slavery” rackets, but with lots of extra sleaze.

They’re like an early version of the Ilsa films in some ways, with Olga being a sadistic lesbian who runs a prostitution and drugs operation in New York. There’s the same mix of nudity, S&M and general nastiness and tackiness, made even more sleazy by being filmed in black-and-white. And there’s the same outrageous cartoonish feel. Olga’s operation is actually funded by an international communist conspiracy aimed at undermining America’s youth!

There’s no synchronised sound, but there is a gloriously campy voice-over narration having the advantages of saving money and giving a quasi-documentary feel, and we also get a kind of running commentary by Olga herself. There is a plot, with one of Olga’s chief lieutenants trying to break away to set up her own operation, and luring away several of Olga’s choicest girls. This sets the stage for a showdown between Olga and the treacherous Colette.

It’s quite extraordinarily lurid, even by more recent standards. Olga maintains discipline in her organisation by the extravagant use of torture. There’s enough in this movie to satisfy just about every unusual taste. There are also surprisingly graphic portrayals of drug use. Although the girls are all supposedly hooked on dope, they seem remarkably cheerful and healthy (except for the occasions when they’re getting tortured by Olga). It’s all delightfully kinky - lots of black stockings, boots, and assorted bondage gear. It’s the early 60s ambience that gives this movie such a wonderful flavour, with great 60s hairdos, and lot of scenes of Olga’s girls doing The Twist and go-go dancing.

Had it been made more recently and in colour it might actually be objectionable, but the combination of black-and-white and voice-over narration and the 60s vibe, added to the generally cartoonish nature of the plot, makes it more camp than offensive. Audrey Campbell as Olga is one of the great iconic screen villainessess, glamourous and cruel.

The image quality on the Synapse DVD release is astoundingly good, and allied with some astonishingly nice black-and-white cinematography the result is a movie that looks superb. There’s a commentary track which includes Olga herself (Audrey Campbell). The Olga movies are like the Ilsa films in that you simply have to see at least one of them. You don’t really believe them until you actually see them. Olga's Girls is sleazy and fun, and undeniably fascinating.

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