Friday, 15 January 2010

White Slaves of Chinatown (1964)

White Slaves of Chinatown, made in 1964, was the first of the notorious Olga films. It established the basic formula - lots of sadism and perversity combined with some nudity (the nudity increasing with each film in the series).

The Olga films were a product of a censorship climate where nudity was likely to get you into trouble (even after the US Supreme Court had ruled that nudity was not obscene) but violence and sadism directed against women was no problem. So sexploitation movies, by necessity, emphasised violence rather than sex.

In the case of the Olga movies the results were so outrageously camp that it’s impossible to take offence.

Olga (played by the wonderful Audrey Campbell) runs a white slavery/prostitution/drugs racket in New York. She uses her girls as drug distributors as well as prostitutes, and rules them with an iron fist. Any girl who steps out of line can expect a visit to Olga’s torture chamber. Olga likes to supervise the tortures herself - it’s one of her chief pleasures.

The plot is minimalist, to say the least. A couple of Olga’s girls break the rules, and Olga brings them back into line. We’re introduced to the shady syndicate that finances Olga’s operations, one of whom is a doctor who’s been struck off the medical register. He performs abortions on the girls when needed. Sometimes they even survive his medical treatment.

Olga obtains new recruits by various means, in some cases by taking advantage of naïvete but in other cases she’s prepared to resort to kidnapping and brainwashing. And of course she quickly gets the young women hooked on drugs.

There’s no synchronised sound, so the story is told through a mock-serious voice-over narration, constantly emphasising the dire threat to the nation’s youth posed by sex ad drugs. It adds a quasi-documentary feel that actually makes the movie even more camp than it would have been otherwise.

In some ways this is a throwback to the classic American exploitation movies of the 1930s and 1940s, with the heavy emphasis on vice and narcotics rackets, and the generous use of “square-ups” - moralistic messages intended to justify the scandalous subject matter and to give the impression that the movie is performing a public service by revealing these shocking truths. On the other hand the sadism puts it more in the category of the “roughies” that were starting to become such a prominent feature of sexploitation by this time.

Compared to the only one of the later Olga films I’ve seen, Olga's Girls, this one is fairly tame stuff, with very little nudity and with the sadism rather downplayed. Olga's Girls is also a lot stronger in the plotting department.

Apart from their very considerable camp value and their sheer outrageousness the great asset of the Olga movies is Audrey Campbell. She really is memorably wicked and perversely sexy.

They’re not exactly high art, but there’s an undeniable sleazy appeal to these movies.

White Slaves of Chinatown is included on a Something Weird triple bill with two other Olga movies. The picture and sound quality are remarkably good.

1 comment:

Matt Farkas said...

Lithe and lovely Audrey Campbell really makes the Olga series worth watching. Her eye-rolling, nostril-flaring über-bitch performances amazingly prefigure Mary Woronov's on-screen persona of a decade later.