Ed Wood’s lost film “The Cocktail Hostesses,” unseen for 40 years, will screen this weekend at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz in Austin, Texas as part of the theater’s “AGFA Discoveries” program. Wood, best known for the cult classic “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” was the subject of Tim Burton’s 1994 biopic, “Ed Wood.” He was played by Johnny Depp in the film.
The Alamo Drafthouse screens a large number of American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) horror and exploitation discoveries year round. The theater occasionally holds “Reel One Parties,” essentially public research sessions during which the programmers throw the first reel (around 20 minutes) of an unknown movie on screen to determine the exact title, year, credits, and condition of the print. From this research conducted last year, 2014 Alamo programmers Laird Jimenez and Joe Ziemba singled out five titles to feature in the January screening series.
Below are the five picks, with synopses courtesy of the Alamo Drafthouse. For showtimes go here.
Ed Wood was the author of hundreds of novels, a pall-bearer at Bela Lugosi’s funeral, and a notorious filmmaker responsible for some of the most surreal and individualistic movies of all time, including the delirious “Plan 9 From Outer Space.” But after all of that happened, Wood spent the 1970s immersed in poverty and exploitation motion pictures. While many of the “lost” sex movies Wood worked on during this time have been found, a handful of titles remain completely unavailable, as was “The Cocktail Hostesses” until now. The film was one of several films made by Ed Wood and his director partner Stephen C. Apostolof and was shot back-to-back on the same sets as another collaboration, “Drop Out Wife.” Featuring adult film star Rene Bond in the lead role, “The Cocktail Hostesses” has only been available via bootleg VHS since its theatrical run, never via an official release. (Joe Ziemba)
Truly a movie on the margin of existence, this “nudie cutie” follows a swinging bachelor and a disgruntled husband on the run from their respective sex problems and features aggressively silly narration from the same voice actor who read messages to Ethan Hunt on “Mission Impossible.” In the pre-home video days it found distribution initially in 1966 then again as a re-release in 1971, but disappeared from screens as hardcore pornography supplanted all other forms of sex film in the following years. It was never released on video, but remains an amusing time capsule of regional (filmed in and around Atlanta, Georgia) exploitation at its quirkiest. Director William F. McGaha went on to helm J.C., a movie that imagines Jesus Christ’s return to earth as an acid-tinged story of rebellious bikers in the deep South. (Laird Jimenez)
“Get Rollin'” follows a handful of New Yorkers who are dead set on becoming professional roller disco performers, filmed in a fairly loose documentary style with some scenes that are very painfully and obviously staged. The two featured skaters, “Pat the Cat” and “J. Jammer” (name abbreviated for political correctness), are bright, funny, colorful, and above all inspiring in their quixotic quest. It’s the kind of documentary that may tempt viewers to laugh at the ridiculousness of the subjects at first, but by the end has them rooting for the roller disco dreamers as if they were trying out for a more mainstream major league sport. The waning popularity of disco and the regional interest inherent in the topic are likely among the reasons why this movie was barely screened on its initial release and never made it to home video (though apparently it was broadcast once on Dutch television). (Laird Jimenez)
One of the major U.S. producers and distributors of exploitation film was Sam Sherman who through his Independent-International Pictures purchased, re-titled and dubbed this German detective movie for exhibition in the States. Sherman was probably attracted to the salacious content such as the setting in the underground world of transgender prostitution and a few brief, but violent action scenes, though genre enthusiasts such as Quentin Tarantino will recognize the director Alfred Vohrer’s name from many great thrillers of the ’60s. Vohrer brings with him a quaint sensibility that is constantly at odds with the lurid subject matter of the film. This is probably best exemplified during a scene in which a sadistic gangster ends a phone call with, “And no monkey business!” This movie was such a hit in its native Germany that it spawned a long-running TV series that reunited Vohrer and star Horst Trappert. After a near 25-year run and another decade plus of reruns, the series only recently took a nose dive in popularity when it was discovered that Trappert served in an elite unit of the SS during World War II! (Laird Jimenez)
A rare surviving 35mm artifact from the group of 1970s Québécois sexploitation films dubbed by Variety as “maple syrup porn,” “Getting High” was an English dubbed and re-titled version of this prince and pauper-esque tale about a rich kid who goes to live on a hippie commune. It’s silly, full of nudity but light on sex, and a great time capsule view of hippie subculture and Canadian exploitation. Not currently available on video in the United States. (Laird Jimenez)