Wednesday, 23 August 2017

The Beast and the Vixens (1974)

The Beast and the Vixens (AKA The Beauties and the Beast AKA Desperately Seeking Yeti) is a movie of quite staggering awfulness, and yet it has a certain morbid fascination. It is almost impossible to imagine what this movie was intended to be. It’s not scary enough to be horror. It might have been intended as parody although I do have a feeling that most of the humour is unintentional. There are some fairly explicit sex scenes but not enough of them to make this a softcore porn movie. There’s a high camp quotient but since this was 1974 it’s difficult to know how deliberate that might have been.

It’s amazingly badly made. We’re talking Ed Wood levels of incompetence here. The script is frighteningly incoherent. Even the average out-and-out softcore skin flick has a tighter plot than this film.

What makes it worth watching is that you have absolutely no idea what’s coming next. There are three or four sub-plots that have no connection whatsoever with each other, and in some cases the sub-plots just sort of suddenly stop.

The movie takes place in the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot Country. And Bigfoot plays a major part in this movie. Bigfoot has been collecting girls. He snatches them and takes them to his cave. When he gets them to his cave, he....well, he feeds them and looks after them.

While this is going on city girls Ann (Jean Gibson) and Mary (Uschi Digard) have taken a remote mountain cabin to get away from it all. Mary is a bit frightened by being in the country so Ann gives her a cuddle to comfort her. Since they’re in bed together and they’re naked this is naturally going to lead to some hot girl-on-girl action, except that it doesn’t. Maybe Ann was just trying to comfort her? Maybe the sex scene got cut, but there are quite explicit sex scenes later in the picture.

Ann and Mary meet up with a bunch of dirty stinking hippies who seem to be living some kind of communal lifestyle in the woods. Ann and Mary immediately take their clothes off and go skinny-dipping with a particularly loathsome male hippie. It is an excuse for Uschi Digard to get naked.

Whole all this is going on there’s a couple of hardened criminal types who are trying to find the loot from a robbery. The loot consists of a valuable coin collection but it’s disappeared from the place where they stashed it. One of these hoods has however noticed a hippie chick wearing a coin around her neck, a coin that looks like part of the collection they’re looking for.

There’s also a strange old hermit guy but I have no idea what he has to do with anything.

This movie does have one major thing going for it - the nude western gunfight scene. It makes no sense whatsoever but it’s the one truly inspired moment in the movie.

The acting is astoundingly horrible. The fact that many of the major characters are hippies and therefore inherently detestable doesn’t help. Uschi Digard’s voice was dubbed in many of her films but this seems to be her own voice. Her very thick Swedish accent is kind of charming. Her acting is terrible, but in an amusingly bad way. Look out for Sharon Kelly in a small role, fully clothed!

One of the hippies gets to sing a song. It’s the sort of song that makes you hope that all the hippies in the movie will die horribly.

The Bigfoot makeup is simply dire. 

Bayview Entertainment’s DVD offers two different versions of the film. There’s a widescreen transfer of what is claimed to be the R-rated theatrical release, which clocks in at 71 minutes. It’s an OK transfer but there is quite a lot of print damage. There’s also a fullframe transfer of the unrated version, clocking in at 84 minutes. This transfer is fairly poor. On the other hand there are some extras. There’s a (brief) audio commentary by Fred Olen Ray. He makes the interesting suggestion that this was a kind of composite movie, that the original movie did not feature Bigfoot at all and that the Bigfoot scenes were filmed later and combined with the original footage to make a totally different movie. That would certainly explain at least some of the movie’s plot incoherence and some of the  jumping about between completely unrelated elements. And speaking of extras, there’s a complete bonus movie, Hollywood Babylon, with Uschi Digard as Marlene Dietrich! It’s a softcore expose of Hollywood depravity during the silent era. So all in all the DVD isn’t bad value.

If Ed Wood had made a Bigfoot movie with softcore sex scenes it would have been very much like The Beast and the Vixens. It’s a terrible movie but you have to keep watching. Recommended, for its oddity, its camp value, its unpredictability and because there just aren’t enough nude western gunfight scenes in movies.

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