Wednesday, 11 October 2017

She Came on the Bus (1969)

She Came on the Bus is a fairly late entry in the sexploitation roughie sub-genre and it manages both surprisingly tame and still oddly depraved.

A gang of juvenile delinquents, four guys and a girl, embark of a rampage of rape, petty theft and more rape. In the course of their adventures they steal a bus which becomes a sort of mobile headquarters. They begin by breaking into a house and raping a young housewife, then turn their attentions to a door-to-door saleslady. When this gets boring they head off in the housewife’s car and then get the bright idea that hijacking a bus would provide lots of thrills.

They pick up a couple of young female passengers who end up getting the sort of bus ride they hadn’t expected. One of them decides she really likes being ravished by juvenile delinquents; the other doesn’t like it one little bit. After a while the bus ride gets boring so they go back to the housewife’s house, then that gets boring so they get back on the bus. The bus will be their life in future.

Not much of a plot, although with enough energy and style it could have been enough. Sadly the energy and style aren’t quite there.

Writer-director Curt Ledger clearly belongs to the school of film-making where you roll the cameras for a while and see what happens. That kind of cinema verité approach can be effective but here it (mostly) doesn’t work.

This is not just low-budget film-making, this is at the very bottom of the heap. There’s no synchronised sound, no dialogue, just a voiceover narration that tries to be portentous and disapproving and some bizarre sound library choices. Given the lack of dialogue, and the lack of anything but the most basic storyline it’s impossible to say anything about the acting.

I use the term juvenile delinquents quite deliberately. These kids do almost seem like the kinds of juvenile delinquents you’d see in movies in the 50s. The jarring note is that while their demeanour is tame in a very 1950s way their actions are pretty perverted. It’s like a movie caught in some kind of constantly reversing time warp.

What makes this movie particularly odd is the tameness, rather surprising for 1969. There’s no frontal nudity at all and just one brief shot of a naked behind. There are plenty of topless scenes but for 1969 the nudity quotient is incredibly low. The sex scenes are also remarkably coy. You get a sex scene in which the guy leaves his trousers on and the girl keeps her panties on. I guess he is a juvenile delinquent so maybe he wasn’t paying attention in biology class when the topic of sex was covered and so the idea that it might be a good for the panties to come off just didn’t occur to him. Although it’s also quite possible that these girls have their panties actually welded on. Mostly the sex scenes are not much more than heavy petting.

On the other hand while the visual content is extremely mild the ideas are genuinely depraved. These are nasty vicious people but they’re doing nasty vicious things in an oddly innocuous sort of way. For the most part the rape scenes have no impact whatsoever since absolutely nothing is actually happening beyond a bit of clumsy and rather diffident groping.

There’s no sexual frisson to any of this, and no effective shock value either. The consensual sex scenes involving the girl juvenile delinquent are equally coy. This girl also has the kinds of panties that can only be removed with industrial cutting equipment.

A major problem here of course is the lack of dialogue. We get no sense whatever of the personalities of any of the participants, not even the briefest sketch, so we feel no emotional involvement. We don’t feel the terror of the women involved. We also find it hard to believe that these women are in any real danger. There’s no sense of menace. The victims don’t seem real enough and the perpetrators don’t seem actually scary.

There is one exception. There is one scene on the bus that does actually manage to be quite raunchy and to pack a real punch. It actually seems weirdly out of place. It’s at least mildly  shocking in a way that the rest of the movie isn’t.

Naturally there’s a go-go dancing scene which must qualify as the most gratuitous and out-of-place such scene in movie history.

Something Weird released this one as part of a triple-header that also includes Sin Syndicate and Sin Magazine. The transfer for She Came on the Bus is quite OK if hardly dazzling. This is of course a movie that probably never looked dazzling to begin with!

This is definitely one of the lesser roughies. If you want a roughie with a real impact and some subtlety The Defilers is infinitely superior. If you want full-blooded depravity it’s hard to go past The Touch of Her Flesh. And if you want roughies that deliver deliciously weird entertainment then mid-period Doris Wishman (such as Bad Girls Go to Hell and Another Day, Another Man) can be recommended. If you want genuine style, Russ Meyer’s Mudhoney is the real deal.

She Came on the Bus has the right ingredients but fails to deliver.

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