Though his name is often associated with the underground film movement of the 1960s, Andy Warhol wasn't really much of a filmmaker. Content to merely experiment with the lens, he used celluloid as a medium of artistic adventure and deconstruction. His movies were flights of fancy, attempts to capture the same surreal spirit on the big screen as he created on his canvases. It was his collaborator and cameraman, Paul Morrissey that actually put the Warhol productions on the cinematic map. From 1966's considered classic Chelsea Girls to the infamous and influential trilogy Flesh, Trash and Heat, Morrissey has been the main reason that Andy's name is still associated with modern moviemaking. Recently, Image Entertainment has been reissuing the Morrissey films. Women in Revolt represents the final phase of this writer/director's work with the influential artist. Relying on the famed Factory faces and other icons of the New York scene, Morrissey wants to make a farce about feminism. He almost succeeds.
At the center are our three drag divas. Candy's onscreen persona is like a mixture of all those classic Tinsel Town soap opera characters she keeps quoting. So highly strung that it sounds like she's singing instead of speaking, her affected voice will take some getting used to. But along with the blousy burlesque of Jackie Curtis, she gets off the majority of the memorable dialogue. Holly Woodlawn, so amazing in Trash, is merely set decoration here. Her first scene is fabulous, as she wrestles with her naked man friend and pitches hissies over his attempted penetration of her. No one can screech like our hag Holly. But if the movie belongs to anyone it's Jackie Curtis. The least convincing of our trio of female impersonators, Ms. C gets by on personality alone. When asked why she's drinking a beer while minding her child, Jackie argues that it is doctor's orders, "to calm (her) nerves". When the bodybuilder prostitute she hires comments on what a big girl she is, Jackie adds "I was captain of the volleyball team". During the moments when our trio talks trampy and tawdry, Women in Revolt is a riot. Candy responds to a ridiculous request in the following manner: "What do you mean come down off the trapeze into the sawdust? That's circus talk!", while Holly uses a couple of four letter words starting with "c" to describe the pros (feminine) and cons (male) of the movement. Indeed, the dialogue is the most delicious aspect of the film.
The plot, on the other hand, is nearly non-existent. It is obvious that this is a send-up of the radical feminism that was sweeping metropolitan America in the dying days of the 1960s, and Morrissey means to express his displeasure with the notion of male/female gender equality in the most obvious way possible. By passing off drag queens as real women, he is doing what the activists want, literally. But then, by making them into whores and half-wits, whining bitches that bellyache over every little issue in their lives, he hopes to drive home the point that some sentiments inherent in sexuality are hard to shake. Unfortunately, that message is mired in messy sequences of improvised dramatics that hardly move the narrative along. Jackie has an extended scene with her "houseboy" where she ridicules his hygiene and sprays him with deodorant - all over (including the ass). While it's very funny, it doesn't go anywhere, nor does it firmly establish the relationship between the two. Candy comments on how she wants to leave her man for another woman (and hints that we will soon learn who this gal pal is). But nothing ever comes of that revelation. It's as if Morrissey thought that so much of this material was comedic gold that he couldn't or wouldn't cut it into something making sense. Unlike the rambling but reasonable plots in the trilogy, Women in Revolt feels aimless and scattered.
Besides, it really is too long. At nearly an hour and forty minutes it plays like two films mashed together. We could do without the meeting with Mrs. Fitzpatrick (another guy dressed up like an old biddy) or the bedroom romp between Holly, Jackie and that odiferous manservant. Morrissey could have clipped most of the casting couch scene between Candy and a would-be agent, and the final few minutes where the now famous Darling is dressed down by a gossip columnist goes from humorous to horrible as it overstays its welcome. Timing is tantamount to successful comedy, yet Morrissey consistently lets his actors go on long after the joke is well worn out. Still, this is one catty, campy quip-fest, full of the kind of homo-hilarity that would color the works of filmmakers like John Waters for decades to come. If you are only familiar with Paul Morrissey from his work on Warhol's Frankenstein/Dracula epics, here is a chance to learn where his true cinematic roots lie. His work with the pop art pioneer would always be gauged by the drag/Dallesandro oeuvre. While not the best example of the guys as gals arena, Women in Revolt is still a cheap, cheesy curiosity. It definitely deserves a look.