Monday, 20 July 2009

Hellcats: Mud Wrestling

Or, from Konga to Queen Kong

Not the 1976 Frank Agrama entry but the American female wrestler, Dee Booher, of the same name and a film that makes even Agrama's monstrosity look accomplished by comparison.

For what we have here, as the title indicates, is a short on the subject of mud wrestling, a sports entertainment that sees scantily clad women rolling around in mud for the pleasure of a mostly male and plebian audience .

The drama is provided by the US versus UK angle and its provision of the necessary villain and hero role functions, all played with appropriate excess (cf Roland Barthes' famous essay in Mythologies).

The main points of interest are sociological and historical rather than aesthetic - unless, of course, seeing women rolling around in mud gives you a particular thrill.

And that, I suppose, that was what the film-makers were banking upon.

For bankrolling Hellcats: Mud Wrestiling was none other than David Sullivan, one of the UK's biggest porn barons. He was the man who specialised in the bait and switch, of promising the punters one thing - usually then-illegal hardcore material - and giving them another - the same old softcore as last time and, if they hadn't wised up yet, the time before that.

With a plethora of magazines to uncritically hype his wares it was a winning strategy.

One of the few occasions on which Sullivan himself was taken for a ride was by veteran nude photographer Harrison Marks on Come Play with Me, a bizarre combination of 70s softcore sex comedy and old-style music hall that looked all but unsaleable.

But thanks to his magazines' ceaseless promotion of the film and its nominal star, Mary Millington, along with keeping it in one of his cinemas for four years solid, Sullivan still managed to somehow make the film profitable. (Among the posters for other films featured within Hellcats, even the not so sharp eyed can spot one for Come Play with Me.)

It was around this time that Sullivan met John M. East, the disreputable member of a respectable theatrical family. Their association outlived Millington's suicide, with East going on to appear in other productions by Sullivan's Roldvale company, within which the porn mogul also sought to find a replacement for his most profitable but now dead asset.

East is the writer on Hellcats: Mud Wrestling and conducts the on-screen interviews - with an admirably straight face, it must be said, given the preposterousness of his subjects - while the film might be read as a vehicle both for its 'sport' and for another porn performer, Vicky Scott.

Incredible though it may seem, Hellcats: Mud Wrestling may not even represent the nadir of the British sexploitation film. Its companion pieces Queen Kong: The Amazonian Woman and Foxy Female Boxers would also have to be considered contenders...

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