If you think I look good this way wait until you see me with motion, sound, and character development.
Above: an excellent photo of U.S. actress Tanya Boyd, who rose to fame in ’70s blaxploitation movies, particularly 1976's Black Shampoo and Ilsa: Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, two of the wilder movies of the period. Most of her career afterward consisted of television appearances, including a 650-episode stint on the soap opera Days of Our Lives, but she's always been a favorite of ours for her film work. In terms of blaxploitation performers, she was never as famous as Pam Grier, but she was just as fearless.
The temperature goes up but everything else goes down hard in low budget action flick.
We're drawn by cool promo posters, but even though there's nothing special about the cheap-ass art for the 1976 blaxploitation flick Black Heat, we had to watch it anyway because we love low budget vintage cinema. It's like panning for gold. Usually you end up disappointed, but occasionally you find something shiny and nice. Black Heat stars Timothy Brown, who we last saw in an epic disaster called The Dynamite Brothers, aka Stud Brown, that probably should have ended his cinematic career. But here he is two years later still riding the blaxploitation wave. He plays Kicks Carter, an L.A. cop trying to get to the bottom of illegal activities at a fancy hotel, keep his partner's born loser girlfriend out of gambling trouble, and make time for romance on the side. Considering the bad luck Brown had with The Dynamite Brothers we'd love to tell you Black Heat is a major step up in his career. It isn't. It's terrible. The only spark is provided by co-star Tanya Boyd, who you may remember from her eye popping turn in Black Shampoo. Anything she's in, we'll gladly watch, because as far as heat is concerned her dial goes to eleven. But she about covers the positives here. Well, her and the fact that the movie features one of our favorite sights from ’70s cinema—the car that goes over a cliff with a dummy in the driver seat. It's a good metaphor for the film—basically driverless, destined to crash and burn. Black Heat premiered today in 1976.
Sheena embarks a day late on a long journey.
This photo shows U.S. actress Tanya Roberts in character as Sheena in her 1984 lost world flick Sheena, riding what we suspect is a white horse dyed to look like a zebra, and we were going to make an excuse to share it eventually because it's an amazing image. Unfortunately, it became relevant because Roberts died last week. Bizarrely, it happened a day after her announced death. Somehow her publicist told the world she had died, then learned in the middle of an interview that her employer was still alive. Then Roberts died the next day. That's a new one as far as we know. In any case, she looks goddesslike in this photo, and will be remembered for her roles in the James Bond film A View to a Kill and the television series Charlie's Angels (third iteration). Fare thee well, Sheena.
The queen of sexual torture takes her talents to the Middle East.
Today is the day we finally complete the trifecta of Ilsa movies with Ilsa, Harem Keeper of the Oil Sheiks, for which you see two Japanese posters above. The movie premiered in the U.S. in March 1976, and opened in Japan today that same year. The Japanese titles of Western movies are sometimes like lists of ingredients. The translation of アラブ女地獄 悪魔のハーレム is “Arab hell devil harem.” Even with that clear warning, Japanese audiences—who aren't fazed by much—must have said, “These Yank filmmakers are fucking crazy.” Which is to say that the Ilsa trilogy is among the most irredeemable sexploitation cinema ever produced, the type of stuff that will never, ever be made again, at least not in the U.S., where every instance of cinematic nudity is a political event. Generally, we decry that, but only when it keeps realistic and healthy sexual interactions from being shown onscreen. Harem Keeper is not healthy. Not on any level.
But we digress. This was the second installment of the Ilsa trio, and all starred Dyanne Thorne. She reprises her role as the cruel dominatrix Ilsa, and this time she's in charge of a sheik's harem. She rules this desert roost with utter cruelty, indulging in random acts of corporal punishment, and assisting her boss as he derives both income and pleasure from auctioning kidnapped women to wealthy pervs. Ilsa and the sheik discover that their little set-up has been infiltrated when they catch a spy sent by the granite-jawed Max Thayer, who later himself arrives on the scene and is quickly a prized guest in Ilsa's bed. We could get into the major subplot involving war with a rival sheik, but suffice it to say that the entire plot is just an excuse to string together set pieces featuring vile faux-violence and silly faux-sex. How low does the movie sink? At one point Ilsa uses her incomparable creativity to implant a harem girl with an explosive diaphragm that will detonate during intercourse. It's no electrified dildo (see installment one), but it's close. Yes, Ilsa is cruel as hell, but it's nothing excellent sex won't cure. That's right up Thayer the Layer's alley. He works his way to Ilsa's creamy center, at which point she decides to switch allegiances and betray her sheik. Will she get away with this outrage? Well, we've already mentioned there were three Ilsa movies and this was the second, so theoretically, she gets away with it. On the other hand, she died at the end of the first movie, so you never know. Regardless, without putting too fine a point on it, this is a terrible movie. But the participation of porn actress Colleen Brennan, nudie model Uschi Digard, and blaxploitation beauties Tanya Boyd and Marilyn Joi as Ilsa's usually-topless enforcers, make this worth a guilty watch. Just don't let anyone know you did it, or you might lose your job, your friends, your family, and even your cat—and cats generally don't give a fuck. But that's how bad this flick is. We have a ton of promo images below. Some came from an interesting French-Canadian website called Cinepix. You can check it out here.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. Then there's its romantic side.
We found this rather nice Thai promo poster for the 1980 sexploitation flick Tanya's Island and were reminded what a bizarrely interesting film this was. We talked about it a while ago. It stars Vanity—yes, Prince's Vanity from the sex-pop music group Vanity 6—as an often nude woman who gets involved with an apelike creature on a tropical island. She performs pre-Vanity under the name D.D. Winters, and while she's no Susan Hayward she gives her all, and that's the most you can reasonably expect in a movie in which her love interest is a furry primate. Thanks to her performance Prince decided to pluck her from b-moviedom and make her a star, though from a purely selfish perspective we'd have enjoyed a few more low budget romps from her. But what can you do? We don't have a Thai release date on this, but figure sometime in mid-1980s. You can check out our earlier write-up and see some amazing promo images at this link.
We must have sex on the brain, because everything we see reminds us of it.
Remember our last group of Japanese posters containing the English word “sex”? No? Go directly there. Also, perhaps visit here, here, and here. Now that you’re back, today we have another set of posters with sex in the text (you have to look closely at some of them, but it’s there). One Japanese word for sex is セックス, and the phonetic transvocalization of the English is “sekkusu,” but their poster artists often seem to prefer plain old sex. Why? Well, why do Americans use the French word “chauffeur” instead of saying, “that underpaid guy who drives my car”? Because it's cooler, that’s why. Most of these posters are for American x-rated films, but panel two, just below, is for the Natalie Wood movie Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, which definitely isn’t x-rated. But it should have been. Because Natalie Wood. And, um, wood. On the other posters you get Kay Parker, Nina Fause, Maria Arnold, Jennifer Welles, Constance Money, an unknown, and Inge Hegeler. And if you want to know the titles, those are all on the posters in English too (though sometimes wrong, as in Expose Me Lovely which turns into Exporse Me Lovely), but it’s probably easier to just look at the bottom of the post, where we’ve listed them in order.
It was beauty thrilled the beast.
Tanya’s Island may not be the best sexploitation flick of all time, but it’s surely one of the most earnest. Before she hooked up with Prince and became known as Vanity, Canadian actress D.D. Winters headlined this deeply Freudian beauty-and-the-beast psychodrama about a young actress who lucidly dreams of going to live with her painter boyfriend on a deserted island, only to discover that they are in fact not alone. The imaginary island’s other inhabitant is a sort of tropical sasquatch (but with soulful blue eyes), and within the reverie Tanya develops, her boyfriend becomes jealous and aggressive while the ape seems to take on increasingly more humanity.
Since this all takes place in Tanya’s head, some pretty interesting questions are being raised about the nature of female desire, as well as both the savage and civilized sides of man. Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes now, and that’s fair enough, but a big reason why these seventies skin flicks are great to watch is because the filmmakers took themselves so seriously. Writer/producer Pierre Brousseau even plastered the 1982 Cannes Film Festival with posters in hopes of generating attention for his movie. His strategy probably didn’t boost box office receipts much, but it did increase interest in his lead actress, resulting in her appearance in Playboy, and thence into the arms of Prince. Since Tanya’s Island is indeed about a woman searching for her prince charming, there’s a certain symmetry in this.
But probably the only symmetry you’re really interested in is Vanity’s, so you’ll be happy to know she’s completely naked before the opening credits have finished and remains half or wholly bare through much of the film. And for our female readers, her boyfriend’s member makes a brief appearance as well (though we suspect you won’t find the man attached to that appendage particularly alluring). Soon after this film Vanity would become famous as a singer and consort, and in one of her most memorable songs she cooed: “Ooh yeah, such a pretty mess.” That neatly sums up Tanya’s Island. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1980.
Come on baby, drive me wild
She was born Denise Matthews in Niagara Falls, Canada. She began her show business career as an actress, using the name D. D. Winters. Her first starring role was in Pierre Brousseau’s Tanya’s Island, one of our favorite bad sexploitation flicks ever, and as eye-catching a debut as you’re ever likely to see. After that she met up with the musician Prince and under his tutelage became simply Vanity. Under that moniker she released music of debatable quality such as the semi-hits "Nasty Girl," and "Drive Me Wild," and continued to act in less-than-stellar-movies, but along the way redefined the word sultry. She posed for this feral promo image around 1982.
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