Dashed together with less skill than any youtuber splicing random footage together to post on the web, the dolts responsible for Bettie Page: The Girl in the Leopard Print Bikini (2004) knew little about Bettie Page, & evidently had no interest in researching the topic. You can find out more about her life & pin-up career from any one-paragraph thumbnail biography.
Superficial beyond belief, this inept documentary begins with a generic introduction about the commerciality of sex & porn.
It puts Bettie in the worst possible context then procedes mainly to ignore her in favor of stock footage of everything from speeding trains & random silent film footage of people doing the Charleston or bidding from the floor on Wall Street & hungry-hungry hobos & the Ku Klux Klan & President Nixon & Fatty Arbuckle, whatever could be grabbed quickly at no charge.
"She also learned to cook & sew" is the level of biographical detail. World War II happened while she was in high school, a factoid that permits even more stock footage from wartime newsreels, more to do with Bob Hope than Bettie.
When they do get round to mentioning the purported subject, they tend to get facts wrong. It's not true she gave testimony before Senator McCarthy for instance.
Nor were Irving Klaw's long-believed-lost & poorly made b/w silent films the basis for Bettie's lasting fame.
It was the vastly better done still photographs, then the 1970s retrospective photo magazines of color stills, the Bettie Page pictorial playing cards, & underground comix art of the 70s & 80s, that kept Bettie iconic & built her increasing reputation while other pin-ups of her era faded from public memory.
The documentarian knew none of this & could only use material that did not require liscensing or permissions to be cleared, so that even apart from the incredibly bad text, couldn't even put together a pictorially interesting video.
There's a lot of Burlesque 101 padding out the film, too, most of it incorrect for the history of burlesque. And, of course, all of it inapropos of Bettie who never performed in any burlesque theater.
The gorgeous gal who once said "God was probably naked as a jaybird" is inherently an interesting subject, but we don't get any of that from this film.
The incompetent morons responsible for turning such a fascinating subject into a ridiculous excuse for a documentary should be stripped naked, strung upside down in a birch tree, & a number done on their peckers by hobos armed with louisville sluggers. Film that out of focus in silent b/w & stick it on your panoram!
The disc with the no-good documentary does have a selection of "extras" consisting of a few unedited Irving Klaw films from the early 1950s. Long believed lost, these films resurfaced in the new millenium in poor condition & nowhere near as thrilling or well-done as Bettie's pin-up photos.
But it's spectacular to find these footnotes to her finer work have survived after all; they are of historic consequence to anyone who is fond of Bettie, whose name is spelled Betty on virtually all these old films from the early 1950s, mostly under five minutes each.
Even more of Bettie's b/w silent films can be had from Something Weird Videos, the company responsible for ferreting out & restoring these old film-shorts for public consumption. These also overlap on Bettie Page: Bondage Queen (2005); aka, Irving Klaw Bondage Classics Volume I; aka, The Irving Klaw Classics Volume I: The Bettie Page Films (2006).
First up for consideration is Tambourine Dance. Irving sold these sorts of films through the mails to individual collectors for 8 mm & 16 mm home projection. They were also shown in adult arcades on panoram visual jukeboxes or other devices that showed short films in loops for a price.
Bettie dances in black panties, bra, high heels & nylons while shaking maracas in the very grainy b/w silent featurette. It's a living room setting with Bettie gyrating in front of the davenport, giving the impression of practicing alone at home.
She puts down the maracas & gets her tambourine from off the sofa, changing her dance a little bit with high kicks, in order to kick the tambourine. After a while she teturns to the maracas & Irving Klaw's camera decides to focus in on her lovely legs.
Although it's a silent film the implied sound can almost be heard, & the poor condition of the footage makes it all the more a time-screen on some as yet unperfected time machine viewer. It runs four & a half minutes.
Pretty much the same performance continues in Joyful Dance seemingly shot the same day if not the same hour. Joyfulness seems to come naturally to Bettie Page so nothing could be more fitting than an arcade mini-film with this title.
The titles aren't things she is likely to have had any choice in, however, nor any advance knowledge about. So she doesn't know she should be amping up the level of joy conveyed, but it's there nonetheless.
It's the same living room in front of the couch, where she performs close to the same dance. She's added black gloves to the black shoes, stockings, panties, & bra, & she squirms prettily grabbing the top of her panties or the bottom of her bra now & then as if to imply she might strip, but Bettie was no stripper. She was a slow wiggler.
Toward the end of this one she begins blowing kisses to the camera. The faded nature of the footage deprives the viewer of her marvelous expressions, however, even as the camera pans close to her face.
Hat Dance has her pretty much doing the same dance by the sofa, but this time she is wearing a hat with the trademark black bra, panties, nylons, & shoes. In none of these three films does she use the sofa for a prop.
But what Bettie doesn't know about using all the objects at her disposal she makes up for with her innocent sensuality & strong-looking body. She takes the hat off & dances with it, threatening to put it back on then sweeping it about. Pretty silly! The mediocre jazz the modern distributor has added doesn't come close to matching the beat that is going on in Bettie's head & exuding from her body.
Bettie was also known as the bondage queen. Her bondage films don't often reflect her as well as the dance or wiggle films, as she was not personally into bondage.
Indeed the reportedly "nice" Irving Klaw was the only photographer she did these scenes for, & the reason was that he guy refused to pay her for her regular work if she wouldn't also do bondage films too. She did need to get paid so would do bondage & discipline films or photos in order to get paid for all her work. So he was a jerk. But for guys who bend the same direction as Irving, these may seem like the better films.
In the dance films Bettie is really being Bettie. She clearly enjoys herself, conveying pride, sweetness, & joy. In the bondage films she just seems like a mediocre actor, better usually than the other girls in these films because she's still Bettie, but it's obviously not where the heart of her posing artfulness is to be found.
In The Porch we get a softcore b/d skit. A young woman is napping on the front porch on a big sofa in her under clothes, cuz just everyone naturally goes outside in their undies to take a nap don't they? Ah, but not in long gloves too I bet!
She's unexpectedly awakened by Bettie Page & another gal dressed in black underthings. She's soon tied up & gagged. The "victim's" undies are white as it's a "white undies/black undies" parallel to an old cowboy picture.
Bettie's got some mean looking expressions. They've flipped white-undies-girl on her stomach & are giving her a spanking right out there on the porch.
Her legs are bound too but they make her hop to the car & they tie her up some more in the trunk. When they get her in the woods, they tie her to a birch tree in quite an unusual posture, still spanking her from time to time. Although Bettie seems to be "in character" trying to look tough the other two are just going through the motions as directed & are otherwise bored, & so was I.
Silly-ass vignettes of this sort are pure Irving Klaw softcore & we're getting a good idea of what turned him on, but if you're not into bondage & discipline it'll be pretty damned bad. The exotic dance films can be appreciated (or not) as America & kitsch art or erotica, but softcore perils-of-pauline just about demand a deviant response. They don't hold a lot of suspense & don't work as stories. So you just gotta be that specific sort of perv who shares Irving's masturbation fantasies.
Second Initiation of the Sorority Girl provides more bondage & discipline stuff to Irving Klaw's tastes.
This time Bettie is delivering punishments to a sorority gal played by Roz Greenwood. Roz is already in wussy slender chains & a a dog collar when the film opens. There's a small sofa to sit on so Roz can get comfy as Bettie slaps her a bit, checks the locks on the chains around her ankles, puts a gag around her mouth, & spanks her.
Bettie's looking tough again but the mean look occasionally turns into a grin since she's fully aware of the ridiculousness of it all. Roz is trying to act too, a woe is me performance. Bettie drags her about by the chains for a couple of seconds. Roz's ultra high heels are too big for her; probably Irving bought them in his own size. Finally the dumb thing ends.
Another bondage film untitled has been dubbed Bettie & Bondage amidst the extras with The Girl in the Leopard Print Bikini. This time it's Bettie being tied up & gagged by another woman.
Bettie's for the first time in any of this set of films wearing a leopard print bikini, with her usual nylons & black fetish shoes. She gets a spanking & spun around while suspended from a rope.
More ropes are tied to various parts of her body & finally she's even raised off the floor for a second. With the gag in her mouth Bettie can't really use her face to express anything, so we can't say that Irving Klaw knew how to get the most out of a dumb thing. And this one's truly dumb. Still, I admire Bettie's panache no matter what silly-ass thing she does.
All of these films are piss-poor in quality. The best are with Bettie dancing though they're in the worst condition. Bettie's very real sweetness & charm shine through in the time-worn dance films, but not so much in the b & d shorties.
Another of the silent dance films is included as an extra on the Varietease dvd from Something Weird Video, entitled Teaser Girl in High Heels. This one was edited for use on a Panoram jukebox. These showed multiple short-short films on a loop & ever each two to three minute film you'd have to put in another coin for the next film.
Teaser Girl however is arranged like chapters of a single film. The title cards are preserved, so every two to three minutes a card appears asking for another coin to see the performance continue.
This film is a delightful introduction to Bettie's totally unselfconscious posturing & stretching, while she is seemingy alone & very happy with her body, for who wouldn't be.
She starts off in black bra & large black panties, & from there she gets dressed in black silk stockings, & high heels. It's the opposite of a striptease & a whole lot sexier than most strip acts could be.
We might call "chapter two" the segment after the first request for another coin, in which she hooks her panty-girdle to her stockings & struts about in fetish heels, feeling up her own legs.
It's actually kind of funny. In her head someone must be yelling from the audience, "Put it on! Put it all on!" as she puts on a dress with slit up the side, a sexy top, long gloves, then, then, then! "Deposite Another Coin For the Next Part."
A whole new set & scenario comes up with Part III, so really this is two separate films each shown in two parts. Now she's in undergarments again, this time white ones, & stockings, stretched out on a sofa as if napping.
She awakens, sits up, & begins the reverse striptease again, putting on her fetish shoes & turning on the radio (which we can't hear of course) in order to do pin-up-girl calesthetics. She's just so funny! It's obvious she knew how sexy she was, but did she also know she was funny? I suspect so. She starts dancing around by herself & then the text card asks for another coin.
The dance continues. She doesn't look like a trained dancer, but it might take a trained dancer to duplicate her endearing moves. She does only a bit of stripper-style bump & grind as she flings herself around & throws a kiss the camera as the show ends.
If anyone can watch surprisingly innocent Bettie's reverse-striptease without smiling, then they're insane prudes. Some find it odd that Bettie as she grew older became increasingly religious. But I think it's clear from the start she was always a lot more wholesome than are people who use their religion to justify demonizing sexiness.
I have to mention in passing a one-minute video I encountered by accident on youtube. It's called Miss Stevie Ryan: Honey (2007) & features a slim young gal doing a Bettie Page impersonation to raunchy old bump & grind tune called "Honey Rock" by jazz guitarist Barney Kessel.
The tune Stevie selected is correct for Bettie's heyday. There's a vintage radio on an endtable in the picture; the song we can pretend comes from that. It was recorded in 1957 & released as the B-side of one of Ricky's singles.
Discographies amusingly list the vocal as by Ricky Nelson since he's on the A-side, though it's a girl chanting the insinuating lyric "Oo honey." The cut is also on the Verve compilation Tease! The Beat of Burlesque (2005).
The film is in black & white & looks old & worn. It is shot in a curtained living room like so much of Bettie's stuff. Stevie is wearing a typical Bettie outfit of black underthings, black nylons, black shoes, has done her hair like Bettie's.
If she's not quite the equal of Bettie at this act, well, who is. She could nevertheless & very easily be mistaken for a contemporary Bettie impersonator rather than by a modern-day Bettie fan paying homage. And capturing the aesthetic of 1950s softcore is perfectly done.
Stevie has a number of videos posted at youtube, mostly comedy, & is known worldwide as "the youtube queen," & no one I've ever stumbled upon better deserves the title.
Link to her Bettie film here: Miss Stevie Ryan: Honey. I hope Weird Wild Realm readers will let me know if the link ever goes dead, as so much at youtube does vanish suddenly.
Search her name & the name of her recurring character "Little Roca" at youtube for many more of her faked vlogs, & also check out my selection on Stevie Ryan Reviewed.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl