Thursday, 1 October 2009

Satan in High Heels (1962)

Satan in High Heels is another weird gem from the vaults of Something Weird Video. This one isn’t really sexploitation, it’s more like a cross between sexploitation and those “racy” Hollywood shockers of the late 50s and early 60s, movies like Peyton Place and The Carpetbaggers, with perhaps even a hint of film noir, but done on an ultra-low budget and with a little bit of extra added sleaze.

Stacey Kane (played by Meg Myles) is a dancer in a burlesque show on an amusement pier. Which is bad enough, but getting her boss to part with any of the money she makes for him makes it just that little bit more annoying. When an old boyfriend shows up and announces he’s kicked his heroin habit and sold his first story so now they can be together at last, she sees her chance. Separating the boyfriend from his $900 isn’t difficult. It’s not a fortune, but it’s enough to get her on a plane to somewhere else, anywhere else, and the rich sleazy businessman she meets on the plane provides her with another opportunity - the possibility of a job as a singer in a club. And she only had to sleep with him once in order to get an introduction to the club’s manager, Pepe.

She gets the job, and she gets to meet the club’s owner
, Arnold Kenyon. Kenyon maintains a facade of married respectability but he always likes to have at least once attractive young girlfriend. And the spectacularly endowed Stacey will suit him nicely. He finds it east enough to pay off his previous lady friend, but Stacey meanwhile is having to deal with a number of complications. She’s staying at Pepe’s place, but the lesbian Pepe would clearly like to have Stacey in her bed as well as in her apartment. And then there’s Kenyon’s cute but hopelessly irresponsible son - Stacey is keen to sleep with him but his dad is just as keen to sleep with her, and neither of them can afford to upset Dad. She also has to cope with the hostility of the club’s reigning star, Sabrina (whose hostility is hardly surprising given that Stacey makes no secret of her intention to replace her as the club’s star attraction). Stacey’s determination to have stardom, money and the cute boy is going to involve her in some fairly precarious balancing acts.

This movie’s great strength is its fascinating cast. Meg Myles is a competent actress and makes Stacey something more than just a conniving bitch, although she’s certainly that as well. Sabrina, whose 41-inch bust almost equals Stacey’s endowments, plays herself and she truly is a bizarre but amusing creation. Del Tenney, later to achieve a kind of fame as the director of the schlock classic The Horror of Party Beach, plays the club’s gay piano player who takes an instant dislike to Stacey. And Grayson Hall )from Dark Shadows) gives a scene-stealing performance as the very butch Pepe.

There’s no sex or nudity (apart from a split-second glimpse of nudity) but the whole movie is pervaded by an ambien
ce of sexual deviance. It’s done very effectively and without spelling anything out. Del Tenney doesn’t overdo the queeniness. Stacey’s taste for leather gear (a taste clearly shared by Pepe) and the riding crop she employs as a stage prop both contribute to the general atmosphere of kinkiness.

It’s a very competently made film, with none of the slightly amateurish feel you get in some sexploitation movies of th
is period. It’s an odd mix of seriousness and camp. This is sexploitation noir, wallowing in the seedy half-world where show business and crime co-exist and corruption is the norm. There’s no misogyny in this movie - everyone is equally corrupt and equally amoral, male or female, gay or straight. They’ll all stab you in the back to further their careers, or to protect their reputations. It’s delightfully cynical and bitter.

This is not advertised as one of Something Weird’s double-feature DVDs but in fact it does include a second feature-length movie, The Wild and the Naked, as well as a couple of short films and the usual assortment of trailers. The second feature displays a fair amount of print damage which may be why Something Weird didn’t promote this one as an actual double feature. Satan in High Heels though looks splendid, and is a classic piece of early 60s sin and sleaze.

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