04 July, 2012

La Chica de las bragas transparentes / PICK-UP GIRLS (1980)

A Luz Internacional Films S.A. Production 
Filmed in the Canary Islands

Al Crosby (Antonio Mayans, here credited as "Robert Foster") is a sleazy private eye (cf Franco's Al Pereira) who is hired by a hood to meet up with another hood but ends up getting involved with two stripper-hookers (Lina Romay and Doris Regina) who take compromising photos of him. Rosa Valenty, playing the sex change Robert Bressac, who keeps his/her member in a jar for nostalgia sake, enters the muddy picture, getting Al further involved with blackmail, murder, political corruption and more. It's a lot of fun for the audience, but not for the PI.

A loose remake of the director's 1972 LES EBRANLEES, a  Robert De Nesle produced sexy mystery in which Howard Vernon played the sleazy PI Al Pereia, this one of the director's 1980s Classificada S films which features a familiar Pablo Villa (Franco and Daniel J. White) hot jazz score. It's a toss up if this is more explicit than the 72 film but times have changed as it relates a twisting tale of white slavery, personal corruption and sexual identity. It's really about audience expectations and how Franco approaches the Spanish Adult film market which was a good decade behind the French market. Just look at the very first image: a small panel opens within a door to a secret casino/bar/strip club. We see the framed face (and he will indeed be framed) of Al reciting the pass code. He's facing the camera, the viewer, the focal plane, looking into what should be the "fourth wall." In effect he's asking our permission to enter our space, our consciousness. Entering the club, which features tropical plants and tree branches amid lounge furniture against a black background, it appears we are in an interior which wants to be an exterior , much like the plot which is reluctant to clarify,  proceed or reveal character's intentions.  This offers a more shifting, interactive matrix than the 1972 film. The opening set-up already places us in the casino interior, we become implicated in the "plot," part of the lie, part of the deception. The dancing girls are placed so it's not clear if they are really there or mirror reflections. Spatial integrity is immediately subverted. Somehow we feel involved in something more than just another sexy thriller. It's not just about the fate of Al Crosby. It's also about our position as the prejudiced, awaiting audience, after all. 

The English dub PICK-UP GIRLS deploys "Americanisms" and a New Jersey Gangster delivery while attempting to mask the Canary Island settings with references to the US. But it's obviously not the States. It's an 1980s approximation of Film Noir with lurid colors and full nudity in a tropical surreality. Mayans looks the part with his off-the-rack wardrobe, burnt-out demeanor and regulation mustache while Rosa Valenty conveys a magnificently bitchy mystique as the sex change, the girl with the not-so-transparent sexual identity.

The English language version is missing about 5 minutes of (sexual?) footage according to the review in OBSESSION. THE FILMS OF JESS FRANCO.

(C) Robert Monell - 2012

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