But if one had to pinpoint an icon to represent the kinkie form of troublemaking movie, Olga the white slaver would be numero uno on most lists. As essayed with cold, calculated bitchiness by exploitation stalwart Audrey Campbell, the five films that made up this mangled menagerie, are considered classics by the more reprobate portion of the raincoat crowd. Beginning with White Slaves of Chinatown (often referred to as Olga's White Slaves to avoid racist arguments) and moving through Olga's Girls, Olga's House of Shame, Madame Olga's Massage Parlor and Olga's Dance Hall Girls, each film found bigger and better ways to shock an audience with its combination of pulchritude and pain.
Campbell only appeared in the first three features, but she left a memorable impression in the process. Last year, Something Weird Video release three of the surviving four films (sadly, Massage Parlor is MIA, and is feared lost forever) and the result was something a little underwhelming. While offering exactly what one would expect from the series, the films seemed incomplete, missing key elements that would help us understand Olga, her operation, and her incestual links to organized crime. Thanks to Synapse Films, however, we now have the long lost link in the Olga canon. With the second film in the series, Olga's Girls, new to DVD in an amazing transfer, we finally can figure out what makes this mad madam tick – and why fans have flocked to her for years.
At first glance, anyone whose seen one – or all – of the other Olga films will probably argue that Olga's Girls is nothing special: just a lot of the same old bondage and discipline served up by a heartless bitch whose got a way with a blowtorch. And for those who know nothing of the series, they may be wondering if all those who champion these titles as classics aren't smoking out of the same crooked crack pipe. Indeed, these movies are as bare bones as possible. They contain little or no dialogue (the only voices we hear are that of a very serious narrator, and Olga herself, offering memories and her own static storytelling), have very little narrative drive (it's a vignette oriented experience) and repeat themselves in both mannerism and meanness. By the end, you'll probably understand why Olga is such an icon of the insidious, but you may not be one of her hopelessly devoted fan club.
That being said, Olga's Girls is a great little bit of gratuity, perhaps the perfect combination of the carnal and the cruel that the rest of the films fail to achieve. If you don't enjoy this middle movie in the series, then the other films will leave you colder than Audrey Campbell's stare. Chinatown has more plot, House of Shame ups the nastiness, and Dance Hall Girls is on another exploitation plane all together (it was made without the participation of Campbell, or original Olga master Joseph P. Mawra). Girls is the perfect combination of all of the Olga elements. There is plenty of tit, lots of ass, and ample torturing of both. While the actresses all have a hardened, hooker look that adds to the authenticity of the film, there is a surprising lack of sex. Campbell does get a single lesbian moment with her black assistant, but the rest of the wicked storyline is taken up with beatings, brandings and other atrocities, metered out with flat, matter of fact ferocity.
If you are familiar with the horrible horror film (and MST3K staple) The Creeping Terror, you know how this movie tells its tale. The voice over motif provides a kind of educational short principle to the production – especially when the whole "drugs as a scourge of Communism" enters into the discussion – and the filmmaking is fairly dead and lifeless. Thanks to a stellar black and white transfer from Synapse, the grit and grime of the urban setting is translated across the decades. You really do feel as if the skuzzy side of big city life is being radiated from the screen. Campbell makes an interesting symbol, possessing one of those wide, depraved mouths that seem to open into a smile filled with endless, malevolent teeth. Her eyes are also large pools of perversion, never once showing a single ounce of sympathy. With her long hair and stark wardrobe, she comes across like a runway model as big bull commandant. This helps a great deal to sell the rest of her clan as comely lasses. Indeed, don't pay too close attention to the cast, or you might find your exhausted barmaid tolerances tested.
That being said, you really do have to be a fan, or understand the exploitation groove to get into this movie. When Olga is cutting out the tongue of a stoolie, or when the gals are applying a weird bed of nails clamp to their baneful boss's breast, the level of sadism can be a bit much. And since the film is nothing but talk and torture, you can quickly find yourself turned off and uninvolved. If fake agony and faux persecution don't bother you however, or if you can successfully divorce yourself from the unease such scenes create, you can enjoy the film as a twisted time capsule. The combination of the fashions, hairstyles and body types are enough to wash the post-modern waif figure female out of your personal proclivity permanently. While they are not sexy by any far stretch of the imagination, the gals here do give good gratuity. This is also a pre-beaver production, so don't be expecting any full frontal moments from this film. More or less an S&M magazine come to life, Olga's Girls will be reminiscent to anyone who remembers walking past a 42nd Street sex shop, the oily hucksters standing on the sidewalk, or the tainted images plastered in the windows as an icky brand of enticement. There is nothing subtle about this film. This is "wham bam" without a lick of "thank you ma'am".
Thankfully, Campbell is the glue that holds it all together. She can say more with those big deep doe eyes of hers than other actresses can convey with a monologue and a set of Method mannerisms. Her voice is throaty without being harsh, and she has the whole frigid freak show regality down pat. Without her, an Olga film would merely be a collection of uncaring clips. With her, they are elevated to a strange, surreal level of entertainment. Still, Olga's Girls won't be for everyone. The proto PC mindset that makes up modern society would scoff at such a film if it were made today (and that's the least of the legal ramifications it would face), and many without a knowledge of the grindhouse will believe that they somehow stumbled upon an early example of a snuff stag film. Yet for any devotee of the series, or someone with more than a passing interest in the variety, this is an exercise in brutal babe bashing that can be enjoyed as a novelty – or if you are so inclined, something naughty. Individuals less than impressed with the previous Olga DVD can now rejoice. Olga's Girls is something to relish, not remand to the pile of disappointing diversions.