Sunday 21 August 2011

Striptease Extravaganza / Mary Millington's Striptease Extravaganza

Or the uses and abuses of montage...

One of the key divisions in film theory is between proponents of the long take and proponents of montage. The use of the long take is usually associated with realism, and entails the presentation of blocks of space and time where the relationships between images emerge 'naturally'. Montage, by contrast, is associated with formalism, and entails the construction of relationships between otherwise disconnected images, perhaps in the service of another (higher) reality.

I mention this because Striptease Extravaganza / Mary Millington's Striptease Extravaganza is an exercise in the latter, albeit one which few montage theorists would likely want to take as an illustration of their idea(l)s.

First of all, there are those titles: Millington friend / exploiter / enabler John M. East introduces the film, proclaiming that Millington was a great striptease artist who made a profound impression on the form. As evidence he presents some scenes from Queen of the Blues, the last film that she made before her 1979 suicide.

But, if you don't care about Millington, or don't find dead women sexually attractive, it's then on to the main attractions of the other, sans Millington, title: Comedian Bernie Winters and 16 women supposedly competing for the stripper of the year title, £1000 and a movie contract.

Then there is the complete dissociation between what is happening on stage and the reaction shots of the audience. The latter, you see, have also been taken from Queen of the Blues, although unlike the introduction this is not stated. If you look carefully there are never any establishing shots which show the performers and the audience together, nor any pans or tracks from one to the other.

Then we have the complete dissociation between the pianist and drummer on stage and the music we hear, reinforced for those familiar with other David Sullivan product of the time by the re-use of cues from Emmanuelle in Soho. (Some of the cues do have a pleasing Nico Fidenco type vibe to them, though, and wouldn't be out of place in a Laura Gemser vehicle)

Turning to Emmanuelle in Soho, we also have its two female leads, Mandy Miller / Quick and Julie Lee, amongst the 16 strippers. The former is introduced as Vicky from Sweden, the latter as Julie from Hong Kong. Neither wins through to the semi-finals, though Winters does announce Julie as one of the semi-finalists even if she isn't actually present on stage.

Nor does either speak. In Lee's case this is presumably because her Yorkshire accent would have demolished the lie that she was from Hong Kong.

Not, however, that any of those we do hear speak make any attempt to present themselves as being from Turkey, France or wherever else 'exotic'.

A reason why they wouldn't is that not being white British often means being subjected to racist 'humour': Vicky from Turkey is a 'Chapati' while Maxine “from Botswana” can be distinguished from Cathy “from South England” by being “the darker one”.

In fairness, however, Winters also does some self-deprecating/hating Jewish jokes.

Then we have the incogruity of some of the strippers doing paired routines despite this supposedly being a competition.

Then there is the sudden injection of some cynical realism when one of them, Cathy, proclaims in a voice-off that she had better win since she had given the main judge a blow-job. This leads to further re-use of outtakes from Emmanuelle in Soho.

Cathy does, however, win the competition.

Art imitating Life?

The losers, meanwhile, must also include anyone who ever went to see the film on its original release, for entertainment...