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Olga's Dance Hall Girls (1969)
Olga joins the Church of Satan
After the success of the Olga series with Audrey Campbell, there were two sequels. The first, Mme. Olga's Massage Parlor, carried over a couple of characters from the original trilogy. Then came this film which retains none of the things that made the original series unique (for better or worse).
Gone is the Joel Holt narration that was present in the original films as well as the repetitious music that could drive a Disney fan to suicide. Olga herself is played by Lucy Eldridge and she does not have any of the screen presence of Campbell. I found myself more interested in her creepy sidekick who Olga refers to as Vince and the character who narrates refers to as Nick the creep (Larry Hunter from Doris Wishman's The Amazing Transplant). Even though he had two different names, he was entertaining to watch as he reminded me of a character that would have been at home in an early John Waters movie (in particular when he talked, I kept thinking of David Lochary in Pink Flamingos).
Plotwise, this one does make a bit of an effort as Olga and Nick/Vince have a new racket in that they are recruiting bored housewives to work in their dance hall which doubles as a house of sin. We are treated to a number of scenes in the hall and at one point, one of the dance hall girls strips down and her dancing becomes an aphrodisiac for all in the room. The film also takes a bizarre turn when we are shown the Olga and the gang are involved in occult rituals that involve human sacrifice. A nifty new angle but overall it didn't work due to the weak portrayal of the title character.
Olga's House of Shame (1964)
Please no more "Night on Bald Mountain"
This is the third entry of the 'official' Olga series with Audrey Campbell playing the lead character. The addition of a bit of a plot makes this quite an improvement over White Slaves of Chinatown and the character began to grow on me a little bit. I am starting to see why Campbell ended up becoming a sexploitation icon but the film still failed to live up to the hype that has been bestowed on the series over the years.
Some improvements in this film were a cool location for Olga's lair (an abandoned ore mine), cinematography that was much more interesting with a number of clever shots and some great looking black and white photography, and the addition of another main female character named Elaine. This character would go on to star in the next film in the series entitled Mme. Olga's Massage Parlour that has apparently become lost over the years. I thought that Alice Davis (aka. Judy Young) was perfect as the young protégé of Olga. That being said, some of the more annoying elements of the first film were still present including the terribly repetitious use of "Night On Bald Mountain" and the voice-over.
Sexploitation fans will be happy that this contains the most nudity of the series, there is a belly dancer, and the requisite torture scenes are plentiful but relatively tame in comparison to what was to come with the many knock-offs in the 70's. If you are only planning to see one Olga movie in your life, this is probably the best one to check out.
Hell Up in Harlem (1973)
Tommy Gibbs returns
Fred Williamson reprises his role in the sequel to one of the more well-known flicks of the blaxploitation genre. I found this to be a more entertaining film than it's predecessor because it could concentrate more on the action as the characters and their back stories were developed in Black Caesar. This time the focus is on both Tommy and his father (Julius Harris) and how they take their territory back after the events of the first movie. The beginning was a little awkward as it rewrote the final few minutes of Black Ceasar but from there, the film evolved into a revenge story as Tommy tracked down the people who did him wrong. There were a number of great action scenes including Tommy and his mini-army storming a mob hangout on an island and a cross-country chase scene that would make the contenders on "The Amazing Race" envious.
I found that director Larry Cohen was a lot more comfortable with the characters this time around and I enjoyed seeing Harris with an expanded role. Still, I think that it would have been extremely challenging being a white director such as Cohen or Jack Hill with a predominantly black cast in that particular era. The score was by Edwin Starr (who is most known for the song "War") and was pretty good even though I would have preferred another score from James Brown. Brown was initially involved but his score ended up being scrapped but thankfully was still released as one of my favorite albums from the Godfather of Soul entitled "The Payback".
White Slaves of Chinatown (1964)
Ilsa predecessor fails to live up to the hype
The Olga movies have a place in exploitation cinema history as being some of the first successful 'roughie' films and they gave us one of the first demented female icons of the grindhouse era. I decided to start out with this flick as it is the first of the series and I have to say that I was underwhelmed. Maybe it is because I have already seen the Ilsa flicks (which were obviously inspired by the Olga series) as they were way more offensive and explicit thereby making White Slaves of Chinatown quite tame in comparison. This resulted in a tedious movie that consisted of narration over various scenes of women becoming addicted to drugs and being tortured for not submitting to Olga's demands. I'm sure that these scenes were offensive back in 1964 and would probably still offend many today (especially in an abortion scene) but I guess I have become quite desensitized to this kind of material. There is an extremely annoying score that consists of an endless loop of Chinese music, some hero-like jazz, and rendition of "Night on Bald Mountain" that kept making me think of Fantasia and took me right out of the picture. This movie hasn't aged well and reminded me more of Reefer Madness than the sexploitation classic it claims to be.