Color, 1973, 75 mins. 9 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Chesty Morgan, Harry Reems, Greg Reynolds, Saul Meth, Phillip Stahl
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Image Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1974, 72 mins. 15 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Chesty Morgan, Frank Silvano, Saul Meth, Jill Harris, Harry Reems
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Image Entertainment (Blu-ray & DVD) (US RA/R1 HD/NTSC) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1970, 71 mins. 14 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Juan (João) Fernandez, Linda Southern, Larry Hunter, Olive Denneccio, Sandy Eden, Kim Pope
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Image Entertainment (DVD) (US R1 NTSC), Odeon (DVD) (UK R2 PAL)

Color, 1978, 78 mins. 10 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Dr. Leo Wollman, Leslie, Harry Reems, Vanessa Del Rio, Debroah Harten
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Synapse (DVD) (US R0 NTSC) / WS (1.78:1) (16:9)

Color, 1975, 74 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Cindy Boudreau, Sandra Kay, Michele Marie, Robert S. Barba, Joe Saverio, Roger Caine, Levi Richards
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD), Image Entertainment (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)

Color, 1972, 69 mins. 43 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD)

Color, 1971, 75 mins. 47 secs.
Directed by Doris Wishman
Starring Bernard Marcel, Pat Happel, Uta Erickson, Larry Hunter
AGFA / Something Weird (Blu-ray) (US R0HD)

In the wide, wonderful world of exploitation Deadly Weaponsfilmmaking, there's truly nobody else out there like Deadly WeaponsDoris Wishman. A prolific purveyor of everything from roughies to nudist camp movies, she delivered some of the wildest, most utterly out-there mind melters of the 1960s and '70s, with her trademarks including obvious looped dialogue and a camera that often wandered off to focus on feet, pets, carpeting, violent wallpaper, or any other odd subject that caught her eye. The majority of her films have been available in various formats over the years from Something Weird Video, while her legend has been kept alive everywhere from the pivotal RE/Search: Incredibly Strange Films book to the recent soundtrack compilation, The Best of Doris Wishman. Now her films are finally hitting Blu-ray in a trio of collections from the team of AGFA and Something Weird, with the first volume starting in the notorious 1970s period of her career with the triple-disc The Films of Doris Wishman: The Twilight Years. If you're a die-hard fan or a curious newbie, this is a great place to start for a deep wallow with the all-time exploitation queen (though Roberta Findlay gave her a run for her money) who boasted an outrageous misanthropic streak you have to see to believe.

One of those astounding cinematic curios that made even the most jaded 42nd Street viewers stop cold in their tracks, Deadly Weapons introduced the world to Chesty Morgan (actually Polish-born Lillian Wilczkowsky, credited here as Zsa Zsa). Chesty's eye-popping 73-inch bustline catapulted her to cult icon status despite the fact Deadly Weaponsthat she couldn't act worth a lick, even with dubbing. Coupled with the, er, unique cinematic stylings of Wishman, Deadly Deadly WeaponsWeapons is truly a sight to behold. Despite the fact that he's a member of the mob, good old Larry seems to be the perfect match for his busty advertising exec girlfriend, Crystal (Chesty, of course). After secretly tucking away an incriminating list of names while performing his duties, Larry instigates a string of violence which leads right up to his doorstep right after he proposes to Crystal. Luckily she hears his murder over the phone and picks up a few details of the killers' plans to hide out through their burlesque connections. Naturally Crystal poses as a stripper and uses her enormous womanly gifts to smother the jerks (including Deep Throat's Harry Reems) responsible for offing her fiance. Of course, even Crystal can't anticipate the big twist ending Doris has hidden up her sleeve.

More of a trashy sex and crime experience than a coherent narrative, Deadly Weapons wallows in appalling fashion, glittery nightclub decor, garish lighting, and jarring post-synch dubbing that sounds like broadcasts from a different galaxy. Chesty's legendary acting ability consists of one single, confused expression, making it impossible to tell her moments Deadly Weaponsof happiness and rage apart. What's not to love? A home video staple that's enlivened dull parties for years (with one VHS Deadly Weaponsedition hosted by Joe Bob Briggs), Deadly Weapons is a natural for any sleaze lover's collection. The DVD from Image Entertainment and Something Weird in 2000 (a logical choice early in the format's history) featured a reasonable full frame presentation, complete with baked-in issues like a tendency to drift out of focus at times. The disc also includes a long, very revealing theatrical trailer, as well as promotional art and a spot for Chesty's big follow up epic, Double Agent 73.

For her second big screen adventure Chesty plays Jane, a.k.a. Double Agent 73, who's called in from an idyllic vacation (at a nudist camp!) to track down a nefarious drug racketeer known as Toplar. In order to accomplish her assignment, Jane allows her superiors to implant a camera in her left breast. Every time she snaps her pendulous undercover accessories, a shutter sound and a flash go off. (The technical rationale behind all this is never explained, nor would it need to be in a Wishman film.) The point of all this is to take pictures of a dangerous circle of criminals and deduce from a tell-tale scar which one is the leader. Of course, Jane is further motivated by the fact that the camera will explode if she doesn't return Double Agent 73to her boss' office in time, a plot Double Agent 73device not unlike one used later in John Carpenter's Escape from New York. Ouch!

A fitting sequel in every way, Double Agent 73 reveals absolutely no improvement whatsoever in Chesty's acting ability. Wishman gallops gamely through the sick storyline with the gusto of a pro, often trailing her camera off to gaze hypnotically at Chesty's horrific outfits and platform shoes, not to mention the usual random items of furniture. Astounding. Chesty doesn't really use her "weapons" in action this time, but the sheer lunacy of the premise more than makes up for it. Of course, this one also earned its place in the cult film history books when an early Chesty-centric scene was used by John Waters as the centerpiece of his wild The Silence of the Lambs parody sequence in Serial Mom. Even better, you get to see what the Psycho shower murder would've been like in Wishman's hands. It's something else.

Like Deadly Weapons, the 2000 DVD looked a bit more crisp and colorful than the past VHS editions, including both Chesty trailers and some hilarious artwork that must be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, Double Agent 73Chesty quickly retired from Z-movie acting after this pair of classics; apart from a brief appearance in Fellini's Casanova(!), she did the strip club circuit and eventually retired. The world will never be the same. It's also worth noting here that later on Wishman, upon assuming Double Agent 73ownership of much of her catalog, decided to cut the negatives of some of her films for reasons unknown, apparently with an eye on potential cable sales. The full extent of how much was thrown out in the process remains unclear, but Double Agent 73 was definitely one of the casualties with at least one scene in the theatrical prints now MIA on all circulating home video releases.

Image Entertainment eventually upgraded both of Chesty's films to Blu-ray in 2012 (along with an unofficial third entry, The Immoral Three, which we'll get to below). Extras on that disc included a 35m33s Wishman trailer reel, separate trailer for Deadly Weapons, and a 5m2s Wishman gallery. The quality jump here was dramatic compared to the DVDs with extremely vibrant colors, though it's hampered by some overzealous noise reduction that makes everything look waxier than it should. (At least it wasn't as aggressive as the initial Blu-ray release of The Wizard of Gore and The Gore Gore Girls, with the latter still sadly crying Double Agent 73out for a decent remaster.) The AGFA release puts both Chesty films on the first disc, with the 1.85:1 transfers from the original negatives differing from the earlier widescreen Blu-ray and full frame DVD editions, none of which really resemble each other. Double Agent 73Thankfully the film grain is finally back with a lot of texture restored in the process, and they look significantly brighter as well (with the Image Blu-ray being the darkest of the bunch). It's worth noting that the initial DVDs had some extra vertical info on the top and bottom but were missing quite a bit on the sides, so seeing these wide (trading off frame info in the other direction) is about as valid. The DTS-HD MA English 2.0 mono tracks are, like the others in the set, all perfectly fine given the fact that it's all post-looped dialogue and a crazed assortment of library tracks, most pulled from the KPM catalog; optional English SDH subtitles are provided. For Deadly Weapons you get two commentaries, the first with Wishman biographer Michael Bowen delivering a nonstop crash course in '70s Wishman pointing out the stories behind props, personnel in front of and behind the camera, and stories from his own interactions with the diminutive filmmaker. The second track features Bleeding Skull’s Annie Choi and Joseph A. Ziemba with a more general survey of the film and the Chesty-Doris partnership as they relate to the history of exploitation filmmaking and Wishman's adorable tics as a director. Double Agent 73 gets a rip-roaring commentary by Frank Henenlotter and an uncredited Anthony Sneed having a blast trying to parse out what the heck is going on here and deciphering the merits of the "cinematic madness" The Amazing Transplanton display. Also The Amazing Transplantincluded are the trailers for both films pulled from the Something Weird SD sources.

Disc two ups the ante with a penile-chopping double feature highlighting two of her most infamous films starting with 1970's The Amazing Transplant. Sort of a mixture of serial killer study and sexploitation, this was the very first male organ transplant film-- and what a way to kick things off. The nonlinear story recounts the lethal activities of Arthur (João Fernandez, Wishman's regular cinematographer who also shot a bunch of adult films as well as the Chuck Norris classic Invasion U.S.A.), a formerly introverted guy who's suddenly turned into a sex maniac with a gold earring trigger who attacks women out of the blue. As the title already implies (though we don't find out until very late in the film), Arthur coveted his buddy Felix's luck with the opposite sex, and when fate stepped in, he seized an opportunity to... well, you'll see. Crammed with the usual Wishman touches, this one has left many an unprepared viewer agog with its crazed plotting, gaudy fashions, and head-scratching camerawork -- not to mention a very sleazy storyline.

The Amazing TransplantThe last film from the short-lived Wishman-releasing outfit Mostest Productions, The Amazing Transplant was initially distributed by Jerand Film Distributors and ended up hitting VHS from Electric Video in 1981 reflecting The Amazing Transplantthe original theatrical cut. The 2001 DVD from Image and Something Weird reflected the alterations Wishman herself made to the film, and you can read more in detail about the differences at Bruce Holecheck's review published here when it came out. That release featured the original trailer, two bonus trailers, and a pair of insane featurettes, "Penis Facts 1952" (7m15s) and "Sex Hygiene" (19m42s), both of which were censored when this ended up being ported over for U.K. DVD by Odeon. The AGFA transfer is identical in content to the earlier DVD (including the scratches present throughout the second reel), and like that one it's presented open matte at 1.33:1 (a wise choice as it doesn't work compositionally any other way). Colors are dialed down a bit compared to the borderline psychedelic DVD, and it looks significantly more detailed throughout.

Also on disc two is unquestionably the Let Me Die a Womanworst date movie of the '70s (and the most recent film in this set), 1978's Let Me Die a Woman. This notorious look at transgender lifestyles marks an unusual detour in the director's already quirky sexploitation roster of films, and for years it wasn't even sure Let Me Die a Womanthat Wishman herself was the one responsible. Patching together interviews with real transsexuals (both pre- and post-op), softcore nudie footage, weird dramatic interludes, and an unflinching injection of genuine surgical footage, this is one title that proved too strong even for the jaded grindhouse crowd. Available on and off the video market around the world since the 1980s, it still remains more often spoken of than actually seen and has entrenched itself as something of a cinematic dare, one of those films people watch to test their mettle to see how far their cinematic sensibilities are willing to take them.

Our guide through much of the film is real physician Dr. Leo Wollman, who introduces some of his subjects (going from male to female and sometimes vice versa). Complete with encounter groups and even physical demonstrations of their genital reconstructions, the squirm-inducing Wollman occasionally takes a back seat to random looks at sexual activity in New York complete with brief appearances from the likes of Reems, Vanessa Del Rio (circa her hardcore Wishman flick, Come with Me, My Love), Let Me Die a Womanand even Last House on the Left's chainsaw-wielding daddy, Gaylord St. James. Oh, and then you get to see some of the Let Me Die a Womanoperations. In close-up.

While the film's subject matter has lost virtually all of its shock value in recent years, watching Wishman's cockeyed attempt at a documentary today remains a uniquely uncomfortable experience. Most exploitation filmmakers invested their works with a certain amount of gusto or joie de vivre (however misguided it might be at times), but Wishman's often jaded attitude seeps through in nearly all of her films. This aspect is valid and even oddly striking in most of her fictional work, but when applied for the first and only time here to real life subjects, the result comes off even less sincere than Italian mondo movies. Certainly fascinating, the film retains its value as a document of a place and time in sexual politics rarely documented elsewhere, but it's tough to see as a plea for tolerance and understanding. On the other hand, for sheer gut-wrenching shock value you'd have to look far and wide to outdo this one. Just try to imagine that this actually played on at least one theatrical screen in America, complete with paperback books handed out to relive the experience at home. Ah, those were the days.

Let Me Die a WomanFollowing a 1993 VHS from Something Weird (which featured one of those paperbacks if you were one of the lucky early Let Me Die a Womanbird customers), Let Me Die a Woman first turned up uncut on home video (complete with a long-lost chisel sequence) in 2006 from Synapse on DVD. Considering Wishman was shooting with all the aesthetic sensibilities of a driver's ed film, the visuals aren't exactly stunning but do occasionally betray her fondness for injected weird, garish splashes of color to keep the viewer interested. The film's most prominent and charismatic transsexual, "Leslie," was also uncovered for an audio commentary along with Bowen; it's a fascinating chat that sheds some welcome light on this mysterious project. Bowen also contributes very lengthy liner notes in which he dissects the film's complicated history, with its origins in the early 1970s under at least two other titles! Other extras include an earlier title sequence (apparently once accompanied by a theme song!), the original theatrical trailer, and promo and radio spots to play at your next cocktail party. The AGFA edition also comes from the negative (bearing the title Man or Woman? and with the chisel scene) and is presented open matte, revealing a lot of extra top and bottom info compared to the DVD. Detail also bumps up quite a bit, and unlike the digitally cleaned-up DVD, it's presented here with all the inherent damage intact. Also included is a new commentary by transgender artist and porn performer Carta Monir, who enthuses quite a bit about the film as a trailblazing early effort to tackle a topic that's still being discussed plenty today from a The Immoral Threedifferent social standpoint. Also included are SD trailers for both films, The Immoral Threeplus a gallery (3m6s) of advertising art and stills for the films in this entire set.

Finally on disc three we get a grab bag of remaining '70s titles kicking off with The Immoral Three, which features Jane, Chesty Morgan's character from Double Agent 73, now played by another actress and killed off before the main titles. Now her three daughters, who were "occupational hazards" of Jane's love 'em and kill 'em lifestyle, have been gathered together and informed they're all sisters and had a mom. Now they're all in line for a $3 million inheritance from Jane's considerable estate -- if they can pin down and ID the man who killed her within the span of a year. Now it's up to Ginny (Boudreau), Sandy (Kay), and Nancy (Marie) to use their wiles to seduce a bunch of men and swim around in pools to avenge their mother and solve the mystery. Complete with abundant nudity, shootings, pitchforking, poisonings, and other mayhem, this one is a total blast even if it doesn't have the gimmick of Chesty's presence to put it all the way over the top. Plus you get to see Doris's apartment serving as multiple locations as usual, even standing in for Munich in one hilarious flashback. The cast is mostly filled The Immoral Threewith one-offs, though hardcore vets Roger Caine (who also popped up in George Romero's Martin right after this) and Levi Richards show up for The Immoral Threeone scene each. Most of all this is worth seeing for the amazing Kay, who shows off discerning taste in belt buckles and does one heck of a scene with a banana.

Barely released in theaters by Cinematic in 1975, The Immoral Three was eventually retitled Hotter Than Hell with a 1980 copyright for a planned reissue and still bear that name on the existing negative used by AGFA. Something Weird circulated this on VHS and DVD-R over the years, and as mentioned above, it was also included as part of that Image Entertainment Blu-ray triple feature with the two Chesty films. The story's the same here with the former annoying noise reduction finally tossed out here for a more natural, detailed appearance; it's also brighter and more subdued in terms of saturation. The film also comes with a new audio commentary by film programmer Lars Nilsen and AGFA’s Bret Berg who get to riff on Charlie's Angels, Keyholes Are for Peeping'70s aesthetics, car explosions, the Keyholes Are for Peepingawkward dubbing, and the reasons Wishman did or didn't pull certain duties on her films.

Easily the most atypical film in the set (and perhaps in Wishman's entire filmography) is 1972's Keyholes Are For Peeping (full on-screen title: Keyholes Are For Peeing Or Is There Life After Marriage?), a broad comedy that served as the cinematic swan song for onetime Jerry Lewis imitator and Duke Mitchell comrade Sammy Petrillo (Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla). Here he plays Stanley Bebble, who lives with his nagging mother (also played by Petrillo but voiced by Wishman) and gets excited when he gets his diploma to become a marriage counselor. Hanging his certification just under his "Karate Expert" credential, he opens shop in the same building (on "Cliteros Road") where the superintendent / janitor (Stahl) spends all of his time watching lovers through peepholes, represented by footage from older Wishman films (some black-and-white). Stanley has also to contend with pleasing his girlfriend (Blue), who calls him a schmuck and isn't so wild about his devotion to his mother that's spoiling their wedding Keyholes Are for Peepingplans.

The heavy use of stock footage (some presented in negative for some reason) and very broad approach to comedy make this a Keyholes Are for Peepingreal puzzler in the Wishman canon, proving that intentional humor isn't really her strongest suit. Like Joe Sarno, she has a Borscht Belt sensibility that doesn't lend itself to full-length features; however, it's still a Wishman film which means you'll find enough of her cinematic fingerprints to make it worth a look for die-hards. This one's floated around on DVD-R and VHS from Something Weird for ages, with at least one bootleg DVD from VHS out there and best avoided. The new 2K scan here from the negative looks about as good as this probably good; it's a pretty grungy film and obviously isn't consistent given the patchwork nature of how it was made, but overall it looks nice and authentic here. This is also a rare Wishman film shot with live sound (as was Let Me Die a Woman), so it feels even more disconnected from the other softcore numbers here on the audio front alone. Not surprisingly, nobody stepped up to do a commentary for this one.

Love ToyOn the other hand, it's very surprising that Love Toynobody contributed to the third and final film on the disc, 1971's Love Toy, which may well be the absolute best movie in the entire batch. Wishman returns to her roughie roots with a vengeance for this wild, intense, and nicely plotted chamber piece for four characters largely set in a New York apartment where a gambling debt spirals terribly out of control. Gambling addict Marcus (Hunter) loses at cards one night to Alex (Marcel, the surgeon from The Amazing Transplant) and, in order to salvage his house and factory, has to give his young daughter, Chris (Happel), for one night. That leads to Chris having to lap up milk from a saucer like Alex's pet kitten Samuel, a back-and-forth game of naked horsey, Marcus getting tied to a chair and used as a human ashtray, and sundry kinky shenanigans with Alex's switch-hitting wife, Mary (roughie vet Erickson, credited as "Willa Mist"). Complete with a killer library music score (featuring lotsa Syd Dale), perverse dialogue, and some of the filthiest Sadean atmosphere of any Wishman film, this is a fantastic gateway film for anyone new to her and a really sordid treat for those who already know what to expect. This is also a tantalizing indication of where the New York roughie scene might have gone with the switch to color and increasingly Love Toylax censorship standards if hardcore hadn't derailed everything around this time. We can only dream...

Anyone already attuned to the sick charms of Love Toy will be slack-jawed at the Blu-ray presentation here, which is so revitalized Love Toyhere compared to the grungy old VHS and DVD-R editions that it truly looks like a different film. Flesh tones finally look accurate, the detail is pristine, and the open matte framing is a smart choice that lets you enjoy every little background detail to the fullest. It's a real treat and easily reason enough to pick up this set all by itself. Also included on the disc are SD trailers for all three features, and there's also an insert booklet featuring a fine appraisal of her significance by Something Weird's mighty Lisa Petrucci and a lengthy Wishamn interview with Peggy Awesh that does a nice job of capturing her quirky personality. Needless to say, very highly recommended.


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Reviewed on May 8, 2022