Overlooking its profoundly shallow and gimcrack plotline, along with the substandard acting and the shoddy filmmaking skills of the entire crew, 'Deadly Weapons' offers a substantial girth of entertainment value when given the proper chance and the right point of view. Come to think of it, the bonkers plot, wooden acting, and sloppy filmmaking is precisely what makes this low-budget grindhouse classic into such an enjoyable watch, and I genuinely love every minute of it. The movie from Doris Wishman, well-known director of several nudie films, "roughies" and many more sexploitation features, is a prime example of what the Exploitation genre is all about, living up exactly to what the name implies and busting at the seams with the stereotypes modern audiences commonly think of.
These types of films largely "exploited" a cultural trend, a genre device or usually controversial, lurid subject matters, but in this wonderful little crime thriller, Lillian Wilczkowsky, otherwise remembered by her stage name as Chesty Morgan but credited as Zsa Zsa here, is the sensationalized main attraction. Starring as a "successful advertising executive" seeking vengeance for her boyfriend's murder, the Polish immigrant's well-endowed features are a force to reckon with — perversely eye-popping but also freakishly mesmerizing because it is so unwonted. Part of the fun in watching this dreck is seeing Morgan's laughably horrid acting and Wishman making the best of it with obvious cutaways, dubbing over her heavy accent and rarely showing her speaking any of the dialogue. It's similar to the way Steven Soderbergh works with Gina Carano in 'Haywire,' only Soderbergh does a much better job at hiding Carano's poor acting skills.
In fact, the argument could be made for Wishman's talent as a director based entirely on how inventively she tries to mask the former exotic dancer's other shortcomings. Of course, her trick for doing this is with hundreds of hilariously useless establishing shots, which if removed would probably reduce the movie to less than an hour. She also surrounded Morgan with a cast that could perform better in front of the camera — albeit not very well — like Greg Reynolds as the mob boyfriend and henchman Harry Reemes, a known porn star if you can't already guess by his stage name. Further demonstrating her resourcefulness as a low-budget filmmaker is the fact that she used the same house for all the pretend shooting locations, keeping costs exceptionally low by not only moving furniture around and decorating walls, but also by utilizing different camera angles and ingenious editing. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
Double Agent 73
Moving into the next movie 'Double Agent 73,' which is a clear reference to Wilczkowsky's amazing bust size, you'll notice right away a feeling of it trying to outdo the first. Both were filmed back-to-back, if not at the same time, using a few of the same locations inside the same house. Some of Morgan's costumes are also repurposed. How it tries to surpass its predecessor is in the action and injecting yet another hysterically flimsy plot with a bit of complexity and intrigue, involving espionage, double-cross and not one but two shocking twist endings. As before, Wilczkowsky's speech is blatantly dubbed over by an unaccented voice that's also a bit on the sexy side, allowing her to focus on strutting the fabulously groovy clothing, making requisite facial expressions and flaunting her other voluptuous talents.
It's easy to dismiss a film for being bad; it's a greater challenge to appreciate and approvingly study the same film for that very reason. And while I would hardly call any of Wishman's low-budget schlock features as great cinema, I acknowledge their contribution and inspiration for better assessing and valuing any motion picture with such superlatives. Like the works of Herschell Gordon Lewis and David F. Friedman ('The Blood Trilogy') and Russ Meyer, Wishman's movies is paracinema at its best during the height of the Exploitation era — sleazy, brazen, fearless works pushing the mainstream envelope with the end of the Hays Code along with our understanding of standards imposed upon the entertainment arts. Free of major studio influence or any guidelines which were often artistically restrictive, these films show complete independence and liberty to be as creative and sometimes innovative as they pleased, giving viewers an unintentional — perhaps even educational — glimpse into the basic fundamentals of filmmaking.
This may sound like I'm just blowing a bunch of smoke in some lame attempt to give value to the valueless, to redeem the unredeemable. But in a movie where Morgan pretends to be a secret agent with a surgically implanted camera inside her left breast, you have to admit that's pretty imaginative and even an ingenious use of Wilczkowsky's physical attributes, not matter how stupid the idea may actually sound. Wishman continues displaying her creative talent by deliberately undercutting some of her own efforts at seriousness with a quirky sense of humor, letting her audience know that she's aware of the absurd silliness. In essence, to love something like 'Deadly Weapons' and 'Double Agent 73' is to love its massive jugs of badness and the shocking impact the genre to which they belong has made on later generations of film lovers and filmmakers, such as John Waters, Robert Rodriguez, John Landis, Quentin Tarantino and many, many more. (Movie Rating: 3/5)
The Immoral Three
The third movie is basically the black sheep of the family because it doesn't feature Chesty Morgan and is rarely mentioned in connection to her short stint as an actress, yet it's oddly meant as a direct sequel to 'Double Agent 73,' which is the reason for its inclusion in this triple feature collection. Morgan's secret agent character with a unique talent for taking pictures is referred to by name, but flashback sequences are with a completely different, more modestly-proportioned actress. I'm unaware of the reasons behind Wilczkowska's absence, but it's a riot watching these low-budget flicks back-to-back and finding such trashy discrepancies. And like its predecessor, Wishman seems to want to surpass her own previous films with 'The Immoral Three,' putting a bit more razzle-dazzle to the action and further pushing the envelope of decency.
This time around, instead of simply using totally outdated stock footage, the filmmakers actually shoot on-location on the Las Vegas strip. I imagine the cameraman probably filming from the window of a car since it is doubtful Wishman possessed the proper permits. Nonetheless, it's a nice change in the photography compared to the first two and still funny all the same. Cindy Boudreau as the big-mouth lush Ginny is in Vegas investigating the murder of Agent 73, who she just recently discovered is her biological mother. On the day of the funeral, which was followed by one of the funniest cutaways for a car explosion, she also met for the first time her two sisters: the calm, mature Nancy (Michele Marie) and the very cross but also salacious Sandy (Sandra Kay). While on the hunt for their mother's killer, Wishman makes each woman's encounter with men fairly graphic, almost on the verge of softcore territory in some areas while others spice things up with some unnecessary violence which harkens back to the director's "roughies" days.
The most oddball thing about the whole movie — as if the shoddy production really needed anything else — is the three voluptuous women adding a kind of 'Charlie's Angels' feel to the mystery. The hit TV series didn't actually air until a year after this bawdy schlock, but there's little denying the odd coincidence that Wishman and her two writers, Judy J. Kushner and Robert Jahn, somehow forecasted a popular cultural trend. Even the guitar work has a funny 70s twang that's vaguely similar to the show's theme music. It's all complete happenstance, I'm sure, but it adds to the fun and enjoyment, noticing these strange little quirks and oddities. There's a whole lot more to laugh at — like the elevator malfunction and sudden break into a random sexual encounter scene — which Wishman put into the movie purposefully. She may not be widely recognized by mainstream audiences, Doris Wishman is a delightful filmmaker worthy of some overdue recognition. Think of her as the Roger Corman of sleazy schlock, and you'll have a blast with her strangely amusing films. (Movie Rating: 2.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Image Entertainment and Something Weird Video bring the Chesty Morgan film collection to Blu-ray on a single Region A locked, BD50 disc and housed inside a blue eco-lite keepcase. Dubbed "Chesty Morgan's Bosom Buddies," the disc goes straight to the main menu with still photo and music. Viewers can choose between the three films from here and also access bonus features.
You'll be shocked! You'll be amazed! You'll even be appalled at the sight of this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode, which shows better treatment of all three films hitting Blu-ray on the same disc than most higher caliber features residing by their lonesome. I might even go so far as to guess the high-def transfers come from newly made masters of the original elements, they look that good. Fine object and textural details are surprisingly sharp and well-defined, exposing lots of distinct lines in surrounding furniture, around the threading of the hilarious clothing and making skin blemishes unwantedly visible. Colors are beautifully rendered with lushly saturated primaries everywhere. Contrast and brightness are spot-on with blacks looking particularly full-bodied. Of course, there is the occasional white speck and dirt mixed with an ultra-fine layer of grain, and the print shows its age with a couple blurry shots, a tad of judder, black blobs and looking somewhat warped, most noticeably during 'Double Agent 73.' But in the end, all three films look surprising good and far better than expected on Blu-ray.
Thank goodness the movies are relatively easy on the eyes because the audio is pretty awful. In spite of what it reads on the back of the box, all three movies come in legacy Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and the quality of each is on par with one another. The ADR work is very noticeable and can be a tad distracting, but it's also to the movie's charm. Nevertheless, dialogue is intelligible throughout, except for the few, really odd dropouts. The mixes also come with a healthy low-end, providing the music with a great deal weight and presence. The problem is that each lossy soundtrack exhibits tons of noise, hissing and popping in the background, and things really sound flat and distorted during some of the action where the upper frequencies are required to be clean and stable. Again, it be enjoyed as part of each movie's quaint charm, but they're also heavy distractions.
Only one bonus feature is ported over from the 2007 Special Edition DVD.
The Chesty Morgan movies ('Deadly Weapons,' 'Double Agent 73' and its direct sequel 'The Immoral Three') are the furthest from anything we'd consider great cinema. But watched in the right frame of mind, these badly-made, low-budget flicks offer a good deal of fun and enjoyment. They're everything you'd expect from the Exploitation genre, the finest in sleazy, trashy schlock. The Blu-ray shocks and amazes with a very good video presentation but awful audio quality. Supplements, too, are lacking, but for cult enthusiasts and collectors of Exploitation Cinema, owning all three movies in a single package is worth every penny.