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Cult Epics presents
"Of all the leggy models ever shot by Irving Klaw, Bettie Page was the most beautiful and dynamic. With her long dark hair, delightful face and truly stunning figure, Bettie, already a top nude model, was to become the ultimate fantasy."
DVD ReviewThis three-disc set from Cult Epics represents not just a look at a couple of very different facets of the pinup career of the legendary Bettie Page, but also of photographer Bunny Yeager. Page, the nude model who made a real name with her 1950s S&M photos for Irving Klaw, gets the royal treatment, with the centerpiece here being a two-hour disc looking exclusively at her bondage work.
Bettie Page: Pinup Queen
Before we get to the bondage, it's the more innocent Page. The first half of Pinup Queen consists of piecing together just the Page moments from three feature-length color burlesque films that on their own are an assortment of vaudeville humor and "big name" exotic dancers: Striporama (1953), Varitease (1954) and Teaserama (1955). But it's all Page here, with a wee bit of Tempest Storm thrown in as part of a duet of sorts in the Teaserama segment, where Bettie has to help her partner get dressed for a night on the town, with plenty of garters, corsets and high heels to go around for both. For iconic Page moments, there's her famous bubble bath scene in Striporama—once referred to as "the most daring bath scene ever filmed"—with a coy Bettie festooned in barely strategic bubbles.
After the "best of" from the three burlesque titles comes the final two sections on this disc: The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page and Bonus Films. This collection of thirteen terribly grainy (and sometimes blurry) black-and-white shorts is decidedly more sexual in nature than the other clips, and features Page bumping and grinding more erotically in a variety of tiny two-piece outfits with the occasional odd prop, such as maracas or a rather phallic stuffed clown. Highlights are her very alluring and limber moves in the Fireplace Dance (which looks the best of all of these assorted shorts) and even though the print is a little rough, the Pin Up Beauties Fight with June King is a classic Page wrestling moment.
Bettie Page: Bondage Queen
Director: Thomas Blackstone
Representing the darker, kinkier side of the Page mystique is this collection of what previously had been two VHS releases: Irving Klaw Bondage Classics Volume One and Two. Running nearly two hours, it features narration by a fairly bored sounding woman who offers a little history on Irving Klaw and his "statuesque darlings" over footage from assorted short bondage titles. Part one, running just under 58 minutes, is centered primarily on Page, with a handful of black-and-white Irving Klaw shorts in varying degrees of bondage, both dominant and submissive. The second half looks at some of Klaw's other models, such as Johnnie Wilson and Barbara Pauline, with the narration pointing out the "more deliberate camera work", and then concludes with a collection of six additional Page bondage shorts, including another romp with Roz Greenwood.
The bondage/fetish films of Page are certainly not for everyone, though by today's standards they are relatively tame, if not just plain odd at times. There are plenty of ball gags and spankings, but through them all Page remains especially radiant, even while being bound and strung up. Cutting edge and incredibly daring for the time, there is now a strange balance between campy and curious for Klaw's bondage films, especially those with Page, whose presence seems to overshadow her costars.
100 Girls by Bunny Yeager
This 1997 documentary is narrated by Bunny Yeager—who had the title of "the world's prettiest photographer"—and during the '50s and '60s did a whole lot more than snap a few famous shots of Bettie Page, though those pictures helped keep her name known decades later. Cut into a whopping 103 chapters, this doc has Yeager offering a quick sentence or two on 100 different models that she shot as we are shown photos and the occasional film footage of each woman, with Page getting no more or no less treatment than any of the others. Chock full of tasteful nudity, this is a smorgasbord of vintage skin from the likes of Sue Kendall, Teri Hope and Maritza Antoinette, and the feature ends with 1996 footage of Yeager on the beach shooting well-endowed nude model Bambi.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: A+
Image Transfer Review: All three discs are presented in 1.33:1—no real surprise there—and understandably the quality varies greatly from segment to segment, none of which is particularly strong. The Pinup Queen disc runs the gamut, with nicks, lines, splices and excessive grain throughout, and the bondage disc is equally hit or miss. But like the Zapruder film, these little historical gems have not stood the test of time all that well, and what we see is what we get. The Yeager disc is the most consistent of the bunch, though it is fairly grainy throughout.
Image Transfer Grade: B-
Audio Transfer Review: Audio is a sometimes hissy 2.0 mono track that delivers understandable narration and slightly flat music beds. Overall, a moderately average audio mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 143 cues and remote access
Packaging: Box Set
Extras Review: Bettie Page: Pinup Queen has a thick cardboard insert, with the 25 chapter listings on one side and the flipside featuring a color photo of "harem girl Bettie" for your enjoyment. Extras also include a text bio of Bettie written by Cult Epics' Nico B, as well as something called a "text commentary" by Page, though it's actually just a few screens where she recalls her "wiggle dances" and ads for The Top 100 List of Glamour Girls of the Century book.
Bettie Page: Bondage Queen doesn't have the same quality cardboard insert, but it does have a standard paper insert with the 15 chapter listings on one side, and a fetching color shot of Page in one of those metal missile bras that Madonna made famous a decade or so ago. There's another text commentary from Page, discussing her title of the "Queen of Bondage", and how it surprised her that requests for those photos at the time came from doctors, lawyers, and judges. Also included is a text History of Fetishism and S&M covers the subject at a cursory level, and credits Irving Klaw as being the inventor of fetish films, as well a bondage photo gallery.
No extras on 100 Girls by Bunny Yeager, but it is cut into a staggering 103 chapters, with a paper insert sporting a non-Bettie-Page color photo, as well as listing all the models/chapters on the flipside.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsA three-disc set with really only two discs devoted exclusively to Bettie Page, this is still an enjoyable cross-section of 1950s/1960s erotica, even with questionable print quality on some of the short films.
A hearty recommendation for Page freaks.
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