My review of the latest WWE documentary/countdown Top 25 Greatest Rivalries in Wrestling History is now up over at Screenjabber. This is one of the best discs the company have released recently and is both enjoyable and informative. A must for wrestling fans, and I don’t say that lightly!
Made in the model of famous and influential 60s release Mondo Cane, Primitive London is the British equivalent, exploring the various facades of our capital. Using the very loose narrative of the cycle of life as a basic spine for the film (opening with lovely graphic footage of childbirth, which as we all know scares the hell outta me), we get glimpses of various contrasting and ‘shocking’ (remember context folks, this was 1965) looks into female judo, busking, turkish baths, stripping schools, fencing, swingers parties and stand up comedy routines. Personally interesting to watch were women jean shrinking in their bathtub (which you don’t really need to do these days, thank you skinny jeans!), people getting tattoos done and footage of old British Wrestling promotions including Brit legend Mick McManus working a fight. Watching an operation on a goldfish, however, was just a little weird and, well, less said about the scene at the factory killing battery chickens…
As mediocre as it is to watch, it is fascinating to see footage of London from over fifty years ago and seeing just how much it’s landscape has changed. Women being tattooed and learning judo are here played with a hint of shocked ignorance which has since given way to nothing but normality. Interesting to watch are also the streets of Soho, full of clubs and advertising strippers left, right and centre. You’d be hard pushed to find much of that London history in Soho as it stands now, with its past feeling very nearly wiped out than celebrated for what it was. Shot by future director Stanley Long (Adventures of a Plumbers Mate, Adventures of a Taxi Driver) and produced, written and directed by Arnold L. Miller (Nudes of the World, Under The Table You Must Go), some of the film has efforts of surrealism, with cows intercut against topless models wearing the latest fashions and the task of food shopping contrasted against strip club routines. Whenever the moralising voice of the narrator feels like its starting to wane (one feels somewhat sorry for the young beatniks who are interviewed at the start of the film who get spoken to sometimes as if they were very young children), we always cut back to a stripper. Interesting and yet mundane.
Released in 1965, it was originally given an ‘A’ certificate. So, at the last-minute some footage of a Jack The Ripper murder re-enactment was added in which ensured it got an ‘X’ certificate for release (something the producers specifically wanted). It first screened at the Windmill Theatre, and in true 60s advertising, a group of exotic dancers were hired for the night. Soho dancer Vicki Grey donned a fur-coat and leopard print bikini in homage to the famous ‘Leopard The Wild One’ dance, the imagery of which made most of the posters and front of house stills. Grey toured the West End with a cheetah on a leash (loaned by Colchester Zoo, sadly a leopard wasn’t available), before relaxing with it in the foyer. It received fairly negative reviews upon release and wasn’t as successful as its predecessor London In The Raw, however it still provides a watchable slice of Brit history.
Also included on the BFI Flipside release is a short film from 1965 called Carousella. A short documentary on the lives of a few Soho strippers, Carousella is probably more interesting to watch than Primitive London itself, aware of its short running time and making a narrative with material that still interests and has relevance today. Whilst it was made without much fuss in the 60s, it was immediately banned by John Trevelyan after he watched it, exclaiming that it was nothing more than a recruitment film. It was given a ‘X’ certificate by a few local authorities, but numbers didn’t make for an eventual cinematic release. It’s a shame because the film is beautifully shot and feels really rather human. Nothing is scandalised and the narrative and comments given by the girls featured are delivered well and romanticized but far from the point of being patronising or condescending. A short worth seeking out.
My review for WWE‘s 2013 Elimination Chamber PPV DVD release is now up over at Screenjabber.
My review for the WWE 2012 version of The Best of Raw and Smackdown is now up and online over at Screenjabber!
Everyone knows how much of a fan I am of WWE so the kind folks at Screenjabber gave me the recent release of TNA PPV Turning Point to review for them. This was my first time watching, let alone reviewing, any TNA output and I wasn’t blown away but will be keeping an eye out on the occasional show on television to keep up to date. You can read my review of the DVD release here.
It’s been a while since I did my usual wrestling run-down so with four days to go until this years Wrestlemania event, it seemed logical to return to some WWE themed musings, even if I’m slightly short of a rounded top ten…!
I’ve been waiting for his debut since WWE started showing us television teasers and I’m really hoping that its been worth the wait because right now I’m more than a little underwhelmed with new star Fandango (I say new, Fandango aka Johnny Curtis signed to the WWE back in 2006…). I’m aware that it’s all about the build up, but there are only so many weeks I can take of someone using the excuse of no-one pronouncing their name correctly to not fight in the ring. That, coupled with a gimmick I’m not entirely sure is going to be able to last that long, hasn’t left me with much patience for the guy (having said that, Brodus Clay’s gimmick has lasted a lot longer than I thought it ever would). So I’m quite looking forward to his actual in-ring debut against Jericho at Wrestlemania. The guy’s been given a great platform to showcase his debut so I’m really hoping that he’ll deliver.
6) REID FLAIR
On a sad note, wrestling legend Ric Flair’s youngest son Reid was found dead last week, and although cause of death has yet to be confirmed, rumours of a drug overdose are circulating. Reid had recently returned to the US after wrestling in Japan under All Japan Pro. Reid was only six months older than me so this has had me thinking about things over the last week. Whatever the outcome, life is precious and short. Thoughts are with Ric and his family.
5) RHODES SCHOLARS
When this tag team disbanded I didn’t think it would be long before they returned and, for once, I was right! A great team, Cody Rhodes and Damien Sandow work well against each other, both have egotistical characters that compliment each other and they can work the crowd really well. They’re not half bad in the ring either and I was genuinely quite disappointed when they originally announced that they would be parting ways… I’m happy to see that they have a Wrestlemania match (we all know that I think Cody Rhodes is something of a talented chap), not just for Rhodes but Sandow’s sake too. He’s currently one of the best in the ring and on the mic. Not so sure about their new cheerleaders though…
4) BELLA TWINS
… Which leads me to the return of the Bella Twins, one of the biggest surprises WWE have landed on me this year. The Diva division is in a terrible state at the moment and it’s not something I’m particularly happy about, but I’m not so chuffed to see these two girls back in the ring either. Again,l I feel like I must stress that I’m still proud of the twins success and admire what they can do, which literally is stuff i can only dream of. But I’ve never thought that they were really much in the ring, and more of a bit of eye-candy for the male viewers. Seeing them handed a new contract isn’t surprising, the WWE really need to do something to improve the female roster but I’m not sure handing contracts back to those who aren’t particularly skilled in the ring is the way to go about it. They havent been back long and have yet to impress me which anything impressive. One only hopes that there are some bigger plans in motion for them and the WWE puts a bit more training behind them (or their boyfriends John Cena and Daniel Bryan show them how to throw a good punch or two). Their return has also rendered one of their specials ‘twin magic’ useless. Nikki has had a breast enlargement which now makes it incredibly easy to tell the two apart.
3) BILL MOODY
Another piece of news which really saddened me was the death of wrestling manager Bill Moody at the start of the month. Moody was probably best known for being The Undertaker’s manager Paul Bearer, whose gimmick of managing a funeral parlour worked really well against The Undertaker. Bearer was always dressed in black and wore deathly white make up, accompanying Undertaker to the ring by carrying the now iconic golden urn. Moody was my favourite manager, for me his gimmick combined with The Undertaker’s presence was just perfect. A perfect equation where manager and client were just meant to be, both becoming stars in their own right, When you think of 90s wrestling, Moody is just as iconic outside of the ring as those you remember inside it. A genuine loss…
2) CM PUNK VS THE UNDERTAKER
…Which brings me to number two on the list and the match I am most looking forward to at Wrestlemania. Do I care about The Rock VS John Cena? Nope. Way too recent for my liking. But this match between Punk and Undertaker has the potential to be one of the greatest matches in Wrestlemania history. Undertaker is going for his 21st straight win and it’s more than unlikely that the WWE are even going to stop that streak, but Punk is a worthy opponent and the run up to this match has been truly something… Because of the use of the now deceased Bill Moody. I’ll be honest, I was a bit in shock to see Punk open the urn and spill the ashes over Undertaker on this weeks Raw (and yes, I know it’s not real but its symbolic) and to see Paul Heyman dressed up as Bill Moody. Still, it’s all building up to one hell of a match and one can only assume that if anyone involved had any problems going with the angle, they wouldn’t have agreed to do it. Still, its clear to see that its left a lot of fans mixed.
1) DDP, JAKE ROBERTS & SCOTT HALL
What I’ve seen so far of DDP I’ve liked but this year the man has jumped up a hell of a lot of notches in my book just for being a decent human being. DDP took in WWF legend Jake Roberts in a bid to help him turn his life around (those who know Roberts will know he has had quite a few problems in his life) one last time for the better and the results so far are nothing short of amazing. So when fellow wrestler and friend Scott Hall (aka Razor Ramon) reached our for help, DDP took him in, worked out what help Hall would need and set up a donation page in an attempt to help fund part of his much-needed hip replacement and rehab, amongst other things. For me, it’s not about calling on the fans to help out financially, it’s the fact that DDP saw he had a friend in need and didn’t hesitate to help. There aren’t enough people like that in the world and its such an inspiring act to see. I know we all say how much we love our friends, sometimes more than our biological family, but how many of us would really help out that much? It’s not about the money, having a big enough home to look after enough people, having the contacts to call upon; it’s about being a friend. Kudos to DDP for not turning his back on people and here’s hoping we can all learn a little lesson from this episode. Here’s wishing Scott Hall all the best for the future.
Once viewed, Babette Bardot is never forgotten. Tall, curvaceous, well stacked, a perfect red pout and inches of voluminous platinum blonde hair. Think of your typical hourglass-figured caricature and you’ve got Bardot, thick fluttering black eyelashes and all. She only starred in two of Russ Meyers films, Mondo Topless and Common Law Cabin, but she made one hell of an impression. And yet, I know very little about her, so tried to piece together as much as I could find to create some sort of rounded profile on the girl.
Swedish-French Babette Bardot was born in Goteborg, Sweden in 1940. She’s quoted by Meyer biographer Jimmy McDonough in his book Big Bosoms and Square Jaws as being ‘the fourth cousin of Brigette Bardot‘ although there seems to be some contention online as to whether or not this is actually true. Another fact up for questioning is whether or not she really did model for artist Pablo Picasso in her teens which she exclaims she did. At some point in the early 1960s she became a cheesecake model and was a regular in glamour and pin-up magazines, appearing in Fling, Adam and Escapade to name a few. Judging from earlier pictures of her she has at some point had a fair amount of cosmetic surgery. I didn’t know whether her breasts were real or not, and had yet to read anything that said either way, until it was confirmed for me by Diana Hart in her book Under The Mat that she’d had a boob job. Looking at early pictures and comparing them to her later look in Russ Meyers films, it’s also clear that she had some sort of nose surgery and maybe even lip fillers. You wonder whether her caricature look was one that she had intended to construct for a long time.
In the early 1960s she apparently worked on two Swedish films but I have found nothing to establish whether or not this is actually true or, if it is, what the titles were. Sexploitation director extroadinaire Russ Meyer found Bardot at the infamous Pink Pussycat on Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, where she at one point had a headlining strip show (she previously used to dance before the legendary Tura Satana did her routine). Meyer asked her to appear in his mockumentary Mondo Topless and Bardot agreed, bringing some of her fellow co-workers along with her. There is no denying that Babette steals the show in Mondo, with Meyer even giving her assets pompous exaggeration; ‘French and Swedish, fifty-fifty where it counts!’. Once you see the images of her driving around San Francisco, topless, bouncing at every turn and bump, you’ll never be able to erase it from your memory. Even more so when you see her dancing and stripping off next to a train track, an oncoming locomotive in the distance and then roaring past. Only statuesque Babette would be discussing the intricacy of portraying a sexually mature woman with childlike innocence in her routines. Except that she manages to do it pretty easily, peeling off her stockings whilst sucking her thumb. My personal highlight is spotting the bruises up her thighs. Sign of a true pro, Bardot wasn’t once the highest paid stripper in the entire US for any old reason, reportedly earning a regular $2,500 a week.
The following year in 1967 Bardot returned to play a character named after herself in Meyer’s Common Law Cabin. It’s here where Babette really shines, albeit in a glow of european campness. Every line is drooled in her thick French-Swedish accent making some words have an unintentional hilarious different meaning when in conversational context (‘rich’ ends up sounding more like ‘retch’). Having said that she does have some great scenes. I am a big fan of Common Law Cabin but if you’re not convinced, give it a watch just to see her in a tiny, push up bikini chopping fire wood with a machete. Then there’s her exotic fire dance atop a mountain, complete with wailing screams… Bardot plays off against her fellow leading lady Alaina Capri really well creating a memorable performance that stands out amongst those of other Meyer leading ladies. Capri herself said working with Bardot was ‘kind of wild’ which is hardly unsurprising. Accounts give the impression that this woman had a lot of energy, which director Russ would know all about. He claimed to have enjoyed a dalliance with Babette on set, with her frequently staying in his on-set accommodation. In true Meyer fashion, he blamed the films lack of success on the fact that there was too much extra-curricular action on set…
In 1967 she also appeared in I, Marquis de Sade in a minor role as one of de Sade’s girls. I can find very little about her brief role in this but it would again appear that she was hired based on her background of stripping and dancing. This and the two films she did with Russ Meyer appear to be her only film credits.
On the back of her appearances in Meyer’s films and under the guidance of her husband Bob Baker (her manager and leader of the small band that accompanied her act), she toured the US as a burlesque dancer in 1968, having shows at the Gayety Theatre in New York City, the Town Theatre in Chicago (of which I managed to find a photo essay of one of her routines in which she looks gorgeous) and the Colony Club in Dallas. Bardot toured the burlesque circuit internationally until she set up a residence at the Majestic Inn in Calgary, Alberta. The liberal laws in Alberta allowed her to strip completely nude, although she would maintain her thong during performances. She performed there nightly for six months before heading to Las Vegas where she not only danced but also sung. She also managed time to fit in another night with Meyer… and none other than Uschi Digard. One can only imagine the amount of breast on show that night (Tura Satana once said she was knocked out when she bumped into Bardot in Vegas in the 70s having not seen her since her early Pink Pussycat days, her words ‘silicone does wonders’ pretty much sums up the interaction).
Whilst in Calgary she became friends with the legendary wrestling family The Harts through wrestler Andre The Giant, a regular at her shows. In the early 1970s Bardot and her family, which by this point included two children Bobby and Bianca, would travel to Calgary yearly to perform at the Majestic Inn where she would perform a lunchtime show and an evening show. During this month they would stay with the Hart’s in the big family home. In 1973 Stu Hart billed her as Miss Stampede Wrestling (the wrestling promotion he ran) after spotting her popularity with other wrestlers he worked with (she was also friends with Terry Funk and Dan Kroffat) but it was always Andre at every one of her shows sitting in the front show. Apparently he was reluctant to miss any of her performances and would sometimes turn up late to bookings that Stu had arranged for him because he’d been to see her. Word on the street was that he secretly held more than a flame for her. Bardot appeared at many of the Stampede parades, regularly riding with the wrestling clan on their float. One summer, the horse she was riding on buckled after the float in front of it stopped and Babette was thrown into the road. Apparently in tears in a heap on the floor, she still managed to let her bulging cleavage show to the crowds supposedly embarrassing a young Owen Hart. As Miss Stampede Wrestling Babette also had frequent appearances on the Stampede Wrestling TV show, handing out awards, title belts at wins and greeting big name stars to the ring.
The last known appearance I can find that she did was in 1981, where she headlined the Babette Bardot Review at the Kings Inn Motel in Daytona Beach. It would appear that she passed away at some point in the early 00s. Tura Satana herself suggests on one online forum that Bardot remarried at some point but that her new surname wasn’t known to many people, including her, which renders much information seeking redundant. It’s a real shame because I would have loved to know where this enigmatic woman found herself after 1981 and what she was up to at the time. By all reports she was a lovely lady and left an impression on all those she met, as well as all of us Russ Meyer fans.