Grindhouse Grande Dam: The Olga Series Reviewed

Audrey Campbell is Olga

With grindhouse movies suddenly receiving mass media attention thanks to buzz for Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s forthcoming Grindhouse, now seems an ideal time to delve into the seedy realm of sleazoid cinema.

Some of the best examples of the tasteless trash sculpted specifically for the drug-addled Times Square trench coat set in the pre-Guliani heyday of NYC’s grindhouses come from the George Weiss-produced Olga series. Olga is just one of the bitch-Godess dark starlets of exploitation’s salad days of the 60s and 70s. (Another of note, Illsa, gets her own post later.)

Olga’s reign, though not extending beyond the mid-sixties, made a lasting impression on the future of sadistic cinema and unlike much of this genre imported from Europe, Olga had the distinction of being a hometown girl. Through three films Audrey Campbell held the whip as Olga, bringing the perfect ball-busting bad-assery to a roll that is largely pantomimed sans-dialogue behind a voice-over narration.

Despite their rep, the Olga series seems amazingly tame by today’s standards in light of more recent bijou brutality in films from the Saw series, and more relevantly, the Hostel flicks. Olga features throb with a sort of naïve charm that makes them somewhat hysterical now, but there’s no denying the twisted glee with which these largely torture-base movies are constructed.

OLGA’S GIRLS (1964)
This, the second Olga movie, is arguably the most brutal. Olga purchases new “flesh” from Johnnie (“aka, the Pimp”) for only a few hundred dollars. Once in Olga’s power, the girls become enslaved minions, doped up to be rented out. Supporting their drug habits or looking for quick cash, the ladies are promptly shown who’s boss at the sadistic hand of Madame Olga. Donning what she refers to as her “cape of persuasion” (which looks like a Hefty Bag pulled over her head), Olga drags her victims to her dungeon where she whips, electrocutes and maims them as punishment for falling out of line or for fabricated justifications to suit the big O’s whims. Most of OG’s action takes place in the dungeon, an effectively claustrophobic setting – but resurfaces for some breath-catching in the form of drug abuse (“the big H”), stiff go-go dancing, O’s lesbo lusting and some explanation of the “crime syndicate” to which she contributes. There’s a gruesome tongue removal, blow-torch torture, close-up mainlining, dismemberment/cremation and electrocution in “the hot seat,” where one unlucky subordinate is jolted right out of her bra (!). The second act center’s around sniffing out a police informant and one girl’s attempt to break-free from Olga in hopes of starting a more humane flesh franchise. After torture at the hands of her own girls, a furious Olga drops in to surprise the traitors at a party celebrating their independence, complete with an “Under New Management” sign. “HA! Great sign,” she snaps in voiceover. “But you spelled it wrong!” she says, crossing out “new” and replaces it with “old.” Nice.
*** ½ – Gill Man Highly Recommended

OLGA’S HOUSE OF SHAME (1964)
OHoS is the third Olga movie but amazingly, the first with actual dialogue beyond narration. Olga, this time with her effete super-skeezy be-jumpsuited brother, is still makin’ Benjamins for “the syndicate.” In a hideaway tucked deep into the woods of upstate New York and only accessible via a broken-down rail car, Olga conducts her bidness; prostitution and drug pushin’ and punishing those who cross her, or worse yet, don’t respect her business model. After she’s captured and tortured, Elaine, a particularly spirited double-dealing moll with striking hard-edge cuteness that puts her a head above most of the non-thesp flesh in the series, escapes with the assistance of a (now doomed) fellow prisoner. After a pretty hilariously staged chase through the woods, she’s caught, strung up and forced to disclose the location of some missing diamonds. She’s so tough though, that she wins O n’ bro’s respect and before you know it she’s functioning as Olga’s whip-wielding right hand. As is standard by now, girls are beaten, electrocuted, left to die of exposure – and BEST YET, subjected to “horse discipline.” The dialogue seems mostly improvised, the acting is non-existent and the “gore” effects peak with what looks as lipstick-drawn lash marks. But there’s no denying Audrey Campbell’s appeal as O. In some ways she comes across as the cuddliest of all cinematic dominatrix. But don’t let her hear you say that. Show-stealing Elaine makes this my repeat-viewing Olga-feature fave.
*** ½ – Gill Man Recommended

WHITE SLAVES OF CHINATOWN (1964)
Produced by Weiss, the man responsible for financing Ed Wood’s transvestite epic, Glen or Glenda, WSofC is a perfect example of audience-pandering exploitation made on a shoestring and cranked out in a hurry. This, the first of Olga’s three primary adventures and its follow-ups were all made and released in 1964(!). Olga introduces herself as a severe, arched-brow villainess played with vivacious viciousness by Audrey Campbell (who looks a little like a more attractive version of cult thesp, Mary Wornov). She runs a white slave trade in the titular locale, hooking desperate young girls on drugs and thusly trapping them in a gift-wrapped life dedicated to prostitution and drug dealing. There’s some tame torture, gratuitous (though appropriate) nudity and a little lively lesbian action throughout. Live dialogue is consistently eschewed for running narration – usually from the authoritative tembre of professional voice talent and Olga herself. Add to this ching-chong-ching Chinese music the head-scratching inclusion of a classical soundtrack (which adds an air of pomp to the sordid onscreen action) and you’ve got an unforgettable slice of somehow charming sleaze.
*** – Gill Man Recommended

~ by Number5ive on April 3, 2007.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: