Wednesday, March 12, 2014
YEAR 1956: THE SWAMP WOMEN
For some reason various sources list this Roger Corman "roughie" as appearing in either 1955 or 1956, but the most reliable sources seem to go with the latter date.
Though this is far from the worst film ever to be spoofed on MST3K, SWAMP WOMEN provided one of the comedy-team's best riffs, in part because it's one of Corman's dullest films. It's one of three films Corman completed in or around 1956 with actress Beverly Garland, but both have greater moxie than this one. GUNSLINGER, featuring Garland as a tough lady sheriff, deserves to have its own entry here, while IT CONQUERED THE WORLD has earned a place on many viewers' "best bad SF film" lists.
SWAMP WOMEN, though, is basically a "fugitive on the run" story, with the comparative novelty that the fugitives are four gun-molls escaped from a women's prison. One among them, name of Lee Hampton, is in truth an undercover policewoman who arranges the escape so that the real gun-molls will cut her in on a cache of stolen diamonds. Her brilliant scheme doesn't make a lot of sense in that she apparently has no means of calling for backup. Maybe she assumed she was tough enough to take down all three molls in the wilds of the Louisiana swamp?
To her good fortune, during the escape the Swamp Women come across a rich young guy named Bob (Mike Connors), his good-time girl date, and the guy piloting their canoe. The bad girls want the canoe, so they kill the pilot, and eventually the good-time girl too, despite Lee's attempt to prevent bloodshed without blowing her cover.
This leads to the only mild asset of the film: a G-rated kinkiness as the four comely women all take turns mooning over the safely-trussed-up Bob. In addition, Corman-- who may have noticed an increase in female-centric exploitation flicks of the decade-- appears to be playing to the catfight-connoisseurs in the audience, just as GUNSLINGER did. But whereas GUNSLINGER's simple characters are involving, the script's idea of "characterization" is to have the molls sitting around dreaming of the ways they'll continue flouting the law after they cash in on the diamonds.
To be sure, "real molls" Marie Windsor, Beverly Garland, and Jill Jarmyn do pretty well with their threadbare roles, though for most viewers their fistfights will prove more memorable than their line-readings. Eventually Bob and Lee team up to defeat the real molls and the law recovers the stolen diamonds-- a dull resolution that may have persuaded Corman to give more attention to the outlaws in some of his future endeavors, like 1957's NAKED PARADISE and 1958's MACHINE GUN KELLY.