The first 'new to DVD' release that Something Weird Video has released since last year's H. G. Lewis documentary, Strip, Strip Hooray! is a collection of six burlesque features that were previously (and are still) available individually on DVD-R from the company directly. This two disc set, however, is a much better bargain and is jam packed with more bumping, grinding, twirling and thumping than you can shake a stick at, Jack! And just wait until you thrill to the latest gags from some of the worst comedians to ever walk a dusty old theater stage. Awww.... burlesque features. So much to love! So without further ado...
Midnight Frolics (1949):
Filmed on location inside the Balasco Theater in Los Angeles, our feature kicks off in grand styles as a gorgeous Latina hits the stage running and offers up a pretty impressive flamenco dance routine. From there, we're treated to a musical number by The Boyd Triplets (think of them as The Andrews Sisters, just a little bit raunchier!) before we get back to what you came here for in the first place - shake appeal! Following acts include the lovely Aleene, credited here as 'The Sweetheart of the Follies Bergere,' a group of unnamed fan dancers of varying levels of attractiveness, a frighteningly flexible contortionist and a curvy cutie dubbed Geena The Gypsy. Through in some hilariously unfunny comedy courtesy of those guys in the baggy pants - George Lewis and Jack Mann, among others - and it's safe to say that this one delivers.
Everybody's Girl (1950):
Hyped in the original poster art as 'the season's maddest, merriest musical comedy!' Everybody's Girl starts off with a bizarre musical number performed by Charlie Kraft who is accompanied by a nice selection of foxy ladies. From there a girl in a sequined outfit struts her stuff and shakes her money maker, after which it's time for the comedic stylings of Leon DeVoe, Harry Arne and Bobby Faye - none of whom are even remotely funny and yet somehow each one is hilarious. How this works is anyone's guess but these jokes are so bad you've just got to laugh. From here, the amazingly buxom Diane hits the stage, and once you pick your eyes up off the floor and pop them back into your sockets be sure stick around for the spintastic Lenora, the cute as a button Alberta and the exotic Mary Andes, each lady offering her own special form of dance for your entertainment. A foxy lady known only as Sylvia is next, followed by the top billed Gay Dawn, a legendary burlesque dancer and for good reason whose act culminates in a pretty weird move involving pelvic thrusts while standing on her head. AWESOME!
French Follies (1951):
This one starts off with a musical number from Charlie Craft about a witch with an itch to see a burlesque show before bringing out the goods with a performance from Mary Andes, still exotic even if we just saw her in the last movie. This time around she's surrounded by chorus girls, all dressed to the nines. Some bad comedy sketches kill some time before our next act, vivacious Jennie Lee, hits the stage and twirls up a storm. Pat Flannery and Doreen Grey get in on the next skit with comedians Hermie Rose and Walter Owens - it's all rather awkward but don't fast forward too far or you'll miss sexy blonde Joanna Bridges who is a genuine stunner of a gal. Miss Andes pops up again, joined by Hermie for more bad comedy before dark haired hottie Ruby Lee hits the stage in a fancy evening gown that doesn't stay on any longer than necessary. Bob Carney and Charlie Craft do their best to make us laugh a few more times before Dorothy Burke and then gorgeous headliner Val De Val bring things to an appropriately curvaceous closing.
"B" Girl Rhapsody (1952):
Shot front and center in the New Follies Theater in Los Angeles, this one is a bit lighter on the comedy than the last one but it isn't as funny either, so there's your trade off. For those keeping score, look for routines from Bennie Moore, Artie Lloyd and George Rose but more importantly, well, there's the ladies. Things start off with an amusing seaside style chorus line number before Frenchy LeVonne, Nona Carver and Ginger DuVal each offer up some fairly decent dance routines. Chili Pepper follows - do you think that was her real name? - and she's great, lots of energy and enthusiasm and no shortage whatsoever of spirit. Crystal Star and headliner Lily Ayers follow, with Lily's final routine stealing the show as she's in all seriousness quite a graceful dancer and offers more than just the suggestive bumping and grinding so often associated with burlesque.
The ABC'S of Love (1953):
This penultimate feature is more of the same but what makes it stand out is the headlining performance from top billed Gilda "The Golden Girl" who is in actuality Shirley Jean Rickert, better known as one of the stars of the Our Gang films. That's right - this movie features a sexy burlesque dance from one of the Lil' Rascals! Once she got a little older she appeared as a dancer in quite a few movies, though The ABC's Of Love would be her last though she continued to tour North America as a burlesque dancer before getting out of the entertainment industry all together. So yeah, it's pretty cool to see Shirley strut her stuff here, and it's not surprising when you see her to learn that she did quite well with this occupation because she's pretty hot stuff. Aside from that, what else does this one offer? May Blondell is not surprisingly a foxy blonde with a great set of killer curves that she just loves to show off, while Blaza Glory proves to be nothing to sneeze at either. Helen Lewis shows up for a charming can-can routine and huh, what do you know, a tap dancer named Jill Adams has to show up and ruin everything with tap dancing. Yes, tap dancing. There's nothing sexy about tap dancing and while Ms. Jill is perfectly cute, she's still tap dancing. Be Be Hughes, who is quite a stunner, brings things to a close.
A Night in Hollywood (1953):
Last but not least is A Night In Hollywood which features a great performance by arguably the greatest burlesque dancer to ever twirl a tassel, the lovely and talented Ms. Tempest Storm (nicknamed the fabulous 4D girl by production company Broadway Roadshows - you figure out why!). After a quick opening sequence we're treated to the first female entertainer of the night, Wilma Wescott - she's not bad. Not great, but not bad. She tries and that counts for a lot. That hot May Blondell mentioned earlier in this review? She's up next and is considerably more fun to watch, and she's followed by a bit of awful comedy, Mysty Ayers, and then some more awful comedy. The black and white feature switches to color and Patti Wagon (get it?) gives up a pretty fun Caribbean dance number that'll probably result in an instant, if fleeting, crush. Once Ms. Storm hits the stage, the highlight of the feature, she proves for the cameras once and for all why she will always be remembered as one of the reigning queens of the art form. In a perfect world more women would wiggle like she does.
Each of the six features is presented in 1.33.1 fullframe, absolutely the original aspect ratio for all of the material here. Quality varies from one movie to the next but for the most part this material looks pretty good. All of this stuff is in black and white except for the last chunk of A Night In Hollywood which switches to colorized black and white and looks completely unnatural and simultaneously charmingly awesome. Detail won't floor you and mild print damage is a constant but considering the age and obscurity of the material here, there's not much worth complaining about and everything is more than watchable.
Don't expect much out of the English language Dolby Digital Mono audio tracks that accompany each film. They sound a little hollow and sometimes there's a bit of background noise. Levels are generally well balanced though and you won't really have any trouble understanding the various performers that pop up throughout the half a dozen movies included in the set.
Extras? No, not a single one, just some spiffy static menus and chapter selection.
There are better burlesque compilations out there, some even from Something Weird's own catalogue, but Strip, Strip Hooray! delivers exactly what fans of this material want out of a release like this - pretty ladies, fancy outfits and horrible comedy. There's lots of sexy fun to be had here and while the presentation won't floor you and the extras are non-existent, this is an easy recommendation to burlesque aficionados.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.