The Films of Doris Wishman: The Twilight Years is a collection of sleazy filcks from the 1970’s that highlights the queen of sexploitation’s last era of filmmaking. Emphasizing her erotic surrealist DIY aesthetic are two films starring Chesty Morgan with Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73. Also included are the controversial The Amazing Transplant, Let Me Die A Woman, The Immoral Three, Keyholes Are For Peeping, and Love Toy. AFGA and Something Weird Video give each film a new 2k restoration which breathes new life into the features. Multiple commentary tracks accompany the bizarre films making this an essential release for exploitation collectors. Highly Recommended.
While the name Doris Wishman may not ring a bell for most her low-budget features have become sexploitation mainstays. Starting her career off making nudist camp loops in the early 60's, Wishman soon added outlandish plot lines and extreme violence which would edge the filmmaker into explicit material. Coupled with her bizarre camerawork and DIY set design she was embraced by many for her devil-may-care attitude. Today she is considered a trailblazer for her work highlighting the transgender community and bringing a delirious abstraction to her features challenging the established exploitation aesthetic.
Comparisons to Ed Wood and Russ Meyer are frequent and with good intentions, surely. However, Wishman isn’t inept at directing or even making “bad movies” because of a lack of talent or resources. Nor is her campy topless fare winking at the camera having a bit of fun. The salacious and violent films carry with them a grounded yet wandering approach that encouraged curiosity and challenged the social conventions of the time. For every weird sustained shot of a shoe or doorknob, she would explore issues of trans identity, lesbianism, and turning sexuality on itself. When a well-endowed woman kills men with her giant breasts or when a penile transplant transforms a man into a rapist you get where she is going, right?
The set begins with her two most known features starring the unforgettable Chesty Morgan in Deadly Weapons and Double Agent 73. In both features, Chesty uses her “talents” to take down drug dealers and seek revenge for the death of her boyfriend. The films are a must-have for sleaze collectors! Next up are two controversial films with The Amazing Transplant and Let Me Die A Woman that has become cult curiosities over the years. In Transplant a man undergoes a penis operation that renders him a murderous rapist. The semi-documentary Let Me Die A Woman focuses on gender dysphoria in the 1970's combining softcore sequences with clinical footage of surgical operations. Both films never won over audiences but were trailblazing efforts to discuss gender identity and the power of penis envy.
The last disc in the set contains three features: The Immoral Three, Keyholes Are For Peeping and Love Toy. A sequel of sorts to Double Agent 73, The Immoral Three sees the daughters of Chesty’s character avenging her death in order to inherit the secret agent’s fortune. Chesty doesn’t star in this one but is sadly replaced with a disposable actress who is killed off before the opening credits. Needless to say this is a solid sexploitation feature with plenty of eye candy and outlandish plotting. Keyholes is Wishman trying out comedy with disappointing results. Here a newly certified marriage counselor sets up his practice in a building where the superintendent is a peeping tom. Hilarity ensues but Wishman doesn’t quite have the chops to see it through. It’s a patchwork of love scenes cut from her other films which make Keyholes more of a curiosity for diehard fans rather than a standout feature. Last but certainly not least is Love Toy. This sordid roughie is a perverse feature well worth your attention. When a card game goes south one man must give up his daughter for the night in order to save his house and job. A filthy and sleazy affair from start to finish, this is possibly the last great roughie before hardcore features took over grindhouses.
Doris Wishman: The Twilight Years chronicles the celebrated director evolving from her nudie cutie features into her wildly experimental offerings and beyond. This release gives fans new and old a fascinating look into an exploitation pioneer. Double feature any of these flicks with your favorite John Waters movie and you'll have a blast!
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Loading the Region Free discs offer the AGFA logo, the Something Weird logo, then onto the disc’s Main Menu screen with scenes from the films playing beside the navigation options. Nestled inside a transparent keepcase the three cradled discs are accompanied by an insert booklet with an essay from Lisa Petrucci and a vintage Doris Wishman interview by artist Peggy Ahwhesh. If you order through Vinegar Syndrome you score an exclusive slipcover.
All films except for Let Me Die A Woman and The Amazing Transplant are presented in 1.85:1 with a bright and dynamic HD image from a new 2k restoration. Those two oddities are supplied with their original 1.33:1 open matte. First let’s talk about the 1.85 films and their HD image. Grain levels hold steady and offer film-like presentations. Fine detail within costuming and actor’s “features” are evident in closeup and medium shots. Flickering is present with specks and dirt though these imperfections never detract from the experience or pose a threat to the clarity of any particular scene. Black levels are solid though some dark scenes can be noisy. Overall a pleasing HD image offering the best presentation the films have ever seen.
Our two curiosities in the collection Let Me Die A Woman and The Amazing Transplant receive a 2k restoration but due to the condition of their source negatives their presentation is lackluster compared to the other features in this box set. Dirt, scratches, and other anomalies flood the image at times which only makes the experience better! Both films have been restored with a brighter image offering far more detail and a stable grain level. As expected these two films aren’t the most visually appealing within Wishman’s filmography but here we’re able to see them in their best quality to date.
Previous DVD versions can be found from Synapse, Something Weird, and Odeon. Collectors shouldn’t toss out their old copies as they could contain special features not found on the Doris Wishman: The Twilight Years. Upgrade to this remarkable set from AGFA/Something Weird to see the films in all their glory!
All films in the collection are presented with a DTS-HD MA Mono audio track that handles the looped dialogue, music, and effects confidently. Exchanges are clean without hiss or pop detected. Overall a clean audio presentation for all features given the limitations and pedigree of the the source materials.
The commentary tracks are the big draw here with some solid names involved. While I would’ve wanted some retrospective documentaries or interviews the audio commentaries are well worth a listen after you’ve enjoyed the features.
Doris Wishman: The Twilight Years makes it possible for this cult collector to finally see her films in the best possible way. No longer will I agonize over exorbitant prices for OOP DVDs on auction sites. No longer will I only read about the controversial films but now I can experience them in my own private grindhouse.
Wishman is the queen of exploitation and deserves such a collection! While some are here solely for Chesty Morgan’s contribution I’ll bet that most will be floored by the rest of her absurdist flicks. The A/V package on this Blu-ray set from AGFA / Something Weird brings her bizarre flicks to vibrant life with stellar 2k restorations. This new box set which will surely excite fans new and old. Highly Recommended.