Wild Women
Kl Studio Classics // Unrated // $19.98 // December 11, 2018
Review by Stuart Galbraith IV | posted February 4, 2019
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Not so wild, Wild Women is a 1970 TV-movie Western as tame as your average episode of Little House on the Prairie. Heaven knows why Kino chose to release it to Blu-ray, complete with audio commentary yet. Maybe the success of The Night Stalker and its TV-movie sequel was a factor. Maybe somebody at Kino is a big Hugh O'Brian fan, or maybe has the hots for co-stars Anne Francis or Sherry Jackson - fetching, certainly, but hardly big-name draws.

Made by Aaron Spelling Productions, there's really nothing to recommend this almost painfully middling show. Actor-turned-director Don Taylor was alternating between theatrical features and TV-movies around this time, following a dozen-plus years helming series television of every genre. Unlike, say, Andrew V. McLaglen and Ted Post, contemporaries who could make their TV Westerns look like features, Taylor had no visual style, his direction even clumsy at times. His feature films especially are visually dull, even his best-liked works, probably Escape from the Planet of Apes (1971) and The Final Countdown (1981). Those films have their good points, but Taylor's direction isn't one of them.

Wild Women doesn't look any more elaborate than the average hour-long Gunsmoke of the period, maybe less so. Many exterior scenes are obviously faked on soundstage sets. The outdoor sets look cheap and underdressed, and the smaller roles are played by uninteresting actors.

Set in 1840, the thin plot has U.S. Cavalry Col. Donahue (Robert F. Simon) assigning scout Killian (O'Brian) to select five female convicts, offering each a pardon if they agree to pose as settlers' wives, their "husbands" actually soldiers secretly running guns and ammunition into Mexican-held Texas.

The Filthy Five are Jean Marshek (Anne Francis), Killian's former lover; saucy former madam Maude Webber (Marilyn Maxwell); crack-shot Lottie Clampett (Marie Windsor); voluptuous Nancy Belacourt (Sherry Jackson); and circumspect Indian Mit-O-Ne (Cynthia Hull), deemed useful should the caravan run afoul of any Apaches.

The women are, predictably, paired off with men comically their visual opposite, and everyone grumbles about the arrangements. Also predictably, the usual sorts of things happen: a desert crossing and a parched-throated search for a watering hole; a run-in with Apaches (see - she did come in handy!); a clash with suspicious Mexican soldiers, one of whom, Lt. Santos (Pepe Callahan), vaguely recognizes Maude from her brothel days. Jean and Killian squabble, but are clearly destined for one another, as are the other men with the other women.

Everything in Wild Women is tamely, unimaginatively staged. Favorites like Francis and Windsor give spirited performances, but have no character to play. Hugh O'Brian, conversely, is insufferably smug throughout, the Wyatt Earp star coming off rather annoying instead of heroic.

Wild Women proved to be the last major role of Marilyn Maxwell, who died of a heart attack five months after it aired, at the age of 51. Maxwell had been a big radio singer of the 1940s and early 50s, her stunning platinum blonde look led to occasional films, and she became a huge sex symbol, predating Marilyn Monroe by several years. Though married thrice, Maxwell was more famous as the not-so-secret lovers of married entertainers Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra, both of whom served as pallbearers at her funeral. By the time she made Wild Women, like co-star Marie Windsor, Maxwell had transitioned to tough-talking dame parts a la Joan Blondell. She's probably the best thing about this tepid show.

Video & Audio

Presented in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio (though there is generous headroom, suggesting Spelling might have considered an overseas theatrical release in cropped widescreen), Wild Women looks good for what it is: one doubt the original camera negative has been in great demand. According to Kino, this is a new 2K scan. The 2.0 mono DTS-HD Master Audio is also fine, considering. Region "A" encoded.

Extra Feature

For such a tepid show, film historian Lee Gambin musters up a lot of energy in his audio commentary, which explores the genre tropes, the cast, etc. Not bad at all but, seriously, will anyone bother to listen?

Parting Thoughts

Not terrible but without mild interest some viewers will have in leading players like O'Brian, Francis, Maxwell, Windsor, and Jackson, Wild Women would be of no value at all. It's just an average, run-of-the-mill TV-movie, completely undistinguished. Skip It.

Stuart Galbraith IV is the Kyoto-based film historian largely absent from reviewing these days while he restores a 200-year-old Japanese farmhouse.

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