‘Chesty Morgan beats a man to death with her 73-inch breasts. Two scientists build a rocket and fly to the moon only to find overweight, scantily clad girls with pipe cleaners on their heads. A husband is mysteriously stricken after a spaghetti and meatball dinner, forcing his wife into a life of prostitution to pay the medical bills. A man has a doctor graft his best friend’s penis onto his own, only to find himself uncontrollably raping women who wear gold earrings. These are just some of the bizarre plots in the 18 movies directed by Doris Wishman, the unheralded queen of exploitation films. Wishman wrote, directed and financed her own movies, which ran the gamut from nudist-camp films to “roughies”(sleazy black-and-white shockers) to a Mondo-like documentary about sex changes.
‘Wishman didn’t set out to be a director. She attended the New York Avalon Drama School in the 50’s, where she was classmates with one Shelley Winters. “I was a far better actress than she was,”Wishman proudly recalls. But instead of pursuing acting, she got married and started working for Joseph E. Levine, the showman turned producer who imported foreign films (including Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Hercules). Dissatisfied with New York, Wishman and her husband moved to Florida, where he died suddenly. Devastated, Wishman was encouraged by her sister, Pearl, to throw herself into the work she knew. Pearl lent Wishman $10,000 to make a nudist-camp film-the easiest way to turn a few bucks, she figured. She directed her first feature film, Hideout in the Sun (1960), about two bank robbers who lay low at a nudist camp. With her niece, Judith (who went on to write several memorable theme songs for her films), Wishman headed for the Sunny Palms Lodge Nudist Camp to meet with manager Zelda Suplee, who agreed to let her film there, provided that the entire film crew be naked. Wishman nervously called her cameraman that night with the news, only to have him cheerily reply, “That’s great!”Wishman, however, remained clothed during the shoot.
‘The film turned a profit and she churned out others, like Diary of a Nudist, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (starring the infamous stripper and former mistress of Louisiana governor Huey Long), Gentlemen Prefer Nature Girls and the wonderfully loony Nude on the Moon. Bored with the nudist genre, Wishman returned to New York and started work on a series of sexy melodramas with lurid titles like Bad Girls Go to Hell, My Brother’s Wife, A Taste of Flesh and Indecent Desires.
‘Wishman has a signature style. Irritated by the actors’ nasal twangs, she post-dubbed all of her films and devised unusual ways of cutting away from actors while they talked to make it easier to synchronize later. At any given moment, the camera will zoom in on feet walking across a rug, or perhaps an ashtray, lamp, hanging plant or the ceramic knickknacks arranged on the mantle of Wishman’s Queens apartment, where she shot many of her films. When actors talk on the phone, the receiver obscures their lips. And, in some films, she has shots of people thoughtfully reacting to what is being said, which can be maddening to watch. These bizarre tactics-mixed with violence, busty women in lingerie and obligatory bubble-bath sequences-are Wishman’s trademarks. There’s an almost Jean-Luc Godard-like perversity to her technique. Even Michelangelo Antonioni, who used landscape, space and architecture to illustrate his characters’ alienation, never dollied in on an out-of-focus squirrel for several minutes during a crucial bit of dialogue like Wishman did in The Sex Perils of Paulette.
‘Wishman will perhaps be best remembered for the films she made with the Israeli-born stripper Chesty Morgan, whose real name was Lillian Wilckowsky. Chesty’s main assets were her freakishly large breasts, and Wishman fashioned two outrageous movies around them: Deadly Weapons, in which she seeks revenge for her husband’s murder by smothering people with her massive mammaries, and Double Agent 73, in which she plays a secret agent sent to break up a drug-smuggling ring by having a camera surgically implanted in her breast. What she doesn’t know is that the camera is actually a bomb set to explode in 48 hours. (“That made it more exciting,”Wishman says gleefully.) There was to be a third Chesty film called Crystal, but the thought of working with the difficult and woefully inept Morgan was too painful a prospect for the director.
‘Wishman tried her hand at comedy with Keyholes Are for Peeping, starring Sammy Petrillo, the low-rent Jerry Lewis, and Let Me Die a Woman, a documentary that included an actual sex-change operation that had patrons screaming up the aisles on 42nd Street when it debuted in 1978. Wishman has always vociferously denied that she ever made hardcore sex movies, but recently a porn film surfaced: Come With Me My Love, starring Annie Sprinkle and Vanessa Del Rio, about a horny ghost who has sex with the reincarnation of his lost love. The movie has all of Wishman’s unmistakable crackpot flourishes-from meandering plotlines to endless cutaway shots of inanimate objects. The credits read “Directed by Luigi Manicottale,”but Wishman often used pseudonyms like Louis Silverman, Dawn Whitman or Anthony Brooks when she was embarrassed by a film’s sexy nature. We contacted Sprinkle, who admitted that Wishman was the director and that they made several films of this nature together.
‘Wishman’s Waterloo came with a slasher film called A Night to Dismember, which she started in 1979 and which was ultimately destroyed by the lab. She spent three years trying to piece together a movie out of what footage she salvaged, and the result was a baffling, utterly fascinating mess that went straight to video. Depressed, Wishman returned to family and friends in Florida and took a job working at a sex boutique.
‘Thanks to the release of Wishman’s movies on video, fans began to search her out, igniting her fever to return to filmmaking. She recently shot her first video feature, Dildo Heaven, about “Tess, Bess and Lisa-three girls who would do anything to satisfy their erotic desires!” Harvard University awarded Wishman an honorarium and held a symposium of her films. Author Michael Bowen is finishing an eagerly awaited book about her career, and this month Wishman herself will be the guest of honor at the New York Underground Film Festival, which will screen her 1965 film, Bad Girls Go To Hell, a movie that prompted Variety to compare Wishman to Alfred Hitchcock. “I wasn’t sure if it meant the way I looked or the way I directed,”she laughs.
‘It’s gratifying to see this maverick filmmaker get the recognition she deserves. In the male-dominated field of exploitation movies, she did it her way and is fiercely proud of her accomplishments. Once, when asked what she would be doing in the future, Wishman replied, “I’ll be making movies in hell!” See you there.’ — Dennis Dermody, Paper Magazine
Doris Wishman @ IMDb
WHEN I DIE I’LL MAKE FILMS IN HELL: DORIS WISHMAN IN MIAMI
“She Was An Outsider Artist”
Doris Wishman profile @ Senses of Cinema
Interesting Motherfuckers – Doris Wishman
Doris Wishman: The First Lena Dunham
The Singular Doris WIshman
Embodiment and Realization: The Many Film-Bodies of Doris Wishman
John Waters and Sandra Bernhardt are among her thumbs-up enthusiasts …
Nus sur la Lune de Doris Wishman : L’étoffe des Éros
Needs Must When Doris Wishman Drives
Frame Analysis: The Title Sequence for Doris Wishman’s Bad Girls Go to Hell
Doris Wishman: Indie Filmmaker, 1912-2002
Doris Wishman, Queen of Sexploitation
THE SEXPLOTATION OF DORIS WISHMAN
Doris Wishman talks Chesty Morgan
WHEN I DIE I’LL MAKE MOVIES IN HELL: The Late Films of Doris Wishman
16 of Doris Wishman’s 30 films
Hideout in the Sun (1960)
‘In a way, it’s almost fitting that the first Doris Wishman film opens with a lengthy montage of shuffling feet. Brothers Duke and Steve rob a bank and, when their getaway plans fall through, they find themselves hiding out in the nudist camp that Dorothy, the girl they’ve kidnapped, works at. Cut to a lengthy sequence where Steve learns about the joys of nudism while eating naked lunch and playing nude archery. The brothers eventually make their escape, only to wind up at Miami’s Serpentarium, where Duke is killed by a cobra and Steve proclaims his love for Dorothy AND nudism. End film.’ — Evan
Diary of a Nudist (1961)
‘A reporter infiltrates a nudist colony hoping to expose its evil ways, but once there she learns she enjoys it. The self-taught woman filmmaker Doris Wishman decided to go into the film business on her own. Recent legislation had allowed nudity to be seen in film if it was in the context of documentary footage. Wishman borrowed $10,000 from her sister, and became one of the few women directors in the 1950s and 60s.’ — The Rogue Cap
the entire film
Nude on the Moon (1961)
‘On an exploration mission the crew of the rocket find the planet to be inhabited with naked females.’ — DW
the entire film
The Prince and the Nature Girl (1965)
‘In this rare, final 1965 “nudist” film by Doris Wishman, an attractive and successful businessman named Prince takes an interest in the blond half of a pair of newly hired identical twins. Mistaken identify hijinks ensue when the girls compete for his heart at the office and his favorite nudist camp!’ –– Provider
The Sex Perils of Paulette (1965)
‘A young girl arrives in New York City from Ohio determined to make it in the big city, but circumstances result in her becoming a waitress, then a prostitute.’ — trakt
Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965)
‘With a running time that barely breaks an hour, it would be fair to assume that Doris Wishman’s ‘Bad Girls Go To Hell’ is a straight through and through film that leaves little space for baggage, it would also be fair to assume that this cult 60s sexploitation earned it’s status as a classic of the genre. In fact, it would be fair to assume many things about this film before watching it, none of which could prepare you for what you get. Overlong, meritless trash.’ — Cameron Sherwell
the entire film
Another Day, Another Man (1966)
‘I have no choice but to declare Another Day, Another Man pretty much perfect as far as cinematic entertainment goes. Sure, the film relies too much on archival footage, but as far as perverted camera angles; unnecessary close ups of legs, feet and inanimate objects; never having the person reciting dialogue appear onscreen; and scenes that boast distressed blondes cradling their faces in her their hands go, this is pure Doris Wishman-based awesomeness from start to finish.’ — House of Self-Indulgence
Radio Spot/Trailer for Doris Wishman’s Another Day, Another Man
the entire film
A Taste of Flesh (1967)
‘It’s not quite as memorable as some of the other roughies that Doris was making in the late 60s, but A Taste of Flesh has such a wacky Wishman plot – two hitmen hold a lesbian couple and their friend hostage so that they can assassinate the leader of the nation of ‘Netia.’ Add in the requisite stripteases, shower scenes, rapes and even a bizarro dream sequence (??) wherein one of the lesbians is dressed in male drag, and you’ve got a pretty fun, not-too-scuzzy 70 minutes.’ — Evan
Too Much Too Often! (1968)
‘When swaggering and conceited teddy boy Mike (played by fleshy-faced BUCK STARR) isn’t combing his wavy hair in a stance reminiscent of The Fonz, he’s latching onto each and every female who crosses his slimy path. The guy is bad news and has everybody fooled, except Mr. Dite (rotund BOB ORAN), an advertising executive and recent recipient of Mike’s services as a whip-wielding sadist. Taking advantage of the weak-willed masochist, Mike blackmails Dite into giving him a cushy job, then takes advantage of his new position by stealing Dite’s clients, seducing Dite’s elegant daughter, Sara (JOANNE CUNNINGHAM), and climbing his way up the social ladder.’ — letterboxd
The Amazing Transplant (1970)
‘A seemingly pleasant fellow, Arthur, goes berserk and rapes any woman in front of him, wearing gold earrings. One woman tells the investigating detective (who is Arthur’s uncle), she was raped, and flashes back to an erotic love making scene. Another one, a lesbian, relates a story that has to be seen to be believed, other women flashback to their encounters with Arthur. We find out from a doctor, in another flashback, that Arthur underwent a penis transplant with a just-dead friend, unknowing his friend was a serial rapist who preyed on golden earring-ed women.’ — Film Gorillas
Love Toy (1971)
‘This film was supposedly written by Judy J. Kushner, Wishman’s niece. She also wrote A Night to Dismember and Double Agent 73, among other favorites. So it’s a family affair. Wishman never liked to film the sex scenes, so all the sleaze was left to the cameraman. As a result, the groping and the goofy kinks in Love Toy are pretty standard sexploitation, but the story and dialogue surrounding them is classic Doris Wishman. There are plenty of shots of inanimate objects and endless city traffic, and the dialogue does not in any way model how people talk in real life. There is a lot of role-playing, messy make-out sessions, butt shots, bush shots, and crotch grinding, and there are many flashes of a peen that is not particularly excited to be there, if you catch my drift, which I think you do.’ — Bleeding Skull
Deadly Weapons (1974)
‘Deadly Weapons is one strange film, which was par for the course of the late, great Doris Wishman, the same woman behind Nude on the Moon and Bad Girls Go To Hell. On one hand, it is a completely, dyed-in-the-wool piece of cinematic ridiculousness. The rapt obsession with Chesty’s breasts permeates almost every frame of the film, but with the effect being less sexual and more surreal. Part of this is due to the somnambulist-esque performance of Chesty herself. She ranges at times between looking confused and tired but then peppers it with these odd attempts to make a sexy, licking-her-lips face. The bizarre fashion choices only add to this, whether it is the awkward silver wigs, secretary-type pantyhose or the occasionally frumpy blouses. Of course, she does don some legitimately burlesque type clothing for her act and in half of the film, she lounges around in a frilly pink number, but the whole thing feels more like some bosom-mad fever dream than anything else.’ — Dangerous Minds
Satan Was a Lady (1975)
‘It’s far less gross than her other hardcore film, the ghost sex opus, Come With Me My Love (aka The Haunted Pussy), but, at the same time, it’s also far less quirky and memorable. Here, Annie Sprinkle is experimenting in light bondage with one guy while also making it with her sister’s fiancé, who’s also making it with some other lady. The copious amounts of sex are whatever – I’m not in the target demo for straight sex – but the film is entertaining regardless. Doris’ apartment is garish as always, with the eye-searing red carpet from her earlier films now a deep green and with a matching, puke colored sofa that gets some action. Doris herself provides the inner monologues for our two lead female characters, and we’re treated to no less than two scenes wherein one of them wanders around Central Park while ‘The Entertainer’ plays on the soundtrack and we hear Doris wondering about things.’ — Evan
Let Me Die a Woman (1977)
‘From Doris “Queen of Exploitation” Wishman comes LET ME DIE A WOMAN, one of the most jaw-dropping and unclassifiable films ever to ooze forth from the Seventies grindhouse. A stunning sleaze-umentary on the medical condition known as gender dysphoria, this doco-style sleaze-fest includes unabridged interviews with post-ops, bull dykes and drag queens, probing anatomical examinations, and real medical stock footage from an actual sex change operation! It’s enough to make you want to put on an iron jock strap! See a man turn into a woman right before your eyes! Watch as ambiguously gendered he-shes perform unspeakable sex acts (or at least pretend to)!’ — Synapse Films
all footage and audio of men removed, and most of what was left recut
A Night to Dismember (1983)
‘Even by Doris Wishman’s own high standards, A Night to Dismember is a veritable jaw-dropper. Lensed mainly in 1979 yet unreleased ’till 1983. Essentially, the film lab lost a large proportion of the negative and the weary director was forced to assemble a new plot around the odds and sods that remained, relying on overblown narration to fill in the huge gaps in the story. She failed, dismally. What remains is an incomprehensible, choppy, half-film about the nutty Kent family and their bid to send loopy Mary (adult movie actress Samantha Fox in a non-speaking role) over the top. Sounds simple? Not when the voice-over rarely matches the on-screen “action” and any notions of narrative filmmaking are conspicuously absent! Shoddy attempts to emulate the gloopy gore seen in the likes of Herschell G. Lewis’ movies only adds to the appeal.’ — Horrorpedia
the entire film
Dildo Heaven (2002)
‘There’s something so light and effervescent about Dildo Heaven. Just a bunch of gals trying to bed who they want and buying dildos and laying around in their underwear fantasizing about having sex on beige couches. Doris Wishman is a perfect human, incapable of error. The celestial silhouette of saintly angel person. Strange SOV fantasies in which women are trying to get the attention of their bosses and failing. They get SO frustrated saying things like “I’ve done everything I can, what am I going to do?!” Like there’s no way to function WITHOUT sleeping with your boss. It’s endearing that these are scenarios that an 89 year old woman cooked up.’ — Scumbalina
Doris Wishman promotes “Dildo Heaven” and chastises Ebert about his sexual frustrations.
p.s. Hey. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi, Ben. Yes, Gisele spent time at Vent Haven doing research when we were making ‘The Ventriloquists Convention’, and a convention of ventriloquists that they hold there every year was the original inspiration for the piece. Thanks for the alert, pal. ** Steve Erickson, It’s a wonderful novel. Well, probably a foreign book needs to have sold very well abroad to get published by a American major press, but these days finding really good novels from most major presses is almost like getting a lucky break. The new Helena Hauff is growing on me. She’s interesting, yeah. Yes, and I enjoyed and felt enlightened by the Medium review. ** Tosh Berman, I feel fairly positive you’ll love that Schuhl novel. I’m greatly looking forward to seeing you in great Paris. I’ll be back from NYC on the morning of the 10th, and we should hook up straight away if that suits you. ** Ferdinand, Hey, man, nice to see you! Great project you’ve got there. I’m excited to get to read it. Let me pass along your query. Everyone, Here’s Ferdinand with an exciting and possibly lucrative (for you) possibility: ‘Im looking for short story submissions for a DIY zine entitled Striptease I am starting. A scrapy physical (i)lit zine. Mail me at email@example.com for theme. Not so keen on contrubuters to more established online lit blogs like Queen mobs teahouse. Contributers to Online zines or small self-run blogs welcome.’ Hit him up, guys. ** Jeff J, Hi! Yeah, it’s fantastic. So sorry to hear your shoulder is being so slo-mo. That’s too bad that you can’t make the Lincoln Center events, but, yeah, understood that it would be quite a trek for you. I’m waiting to see if the clips I want to show are ones that LC can gets their hands on or if I’ll have to choose some alternates, but I’ll tell you what they are when that’s finalised. Great luck with those gigs. I hope you or someone records them for youtube and us. Great that you’ll be on Bookworm! Give Michael a crushing bearhug for me. Not reading that much due to too much writing I have to do. The Schuhl, the new issue of ‘Film Panic’ magazine which is devoted to the awesome films of Rouzbeh Rashidi, and not much else, sadly. What about your reading recommends? ** Misanthrope, Ah, great about LPS getting the slide. I hope he watches himself like a hawk, at least til year’s end. Excellent about NYC’s sorting! I’m happy and grateful that you’ll be there, man. I hear you about what the next spate of novel writing needs, of course. Very different zone. One of then most exciting to be in once you find the groove. ** Jamie, Hey, J! That book’s a sweetie. Sure, I know that Gary Indiana book. He’s an amazing writer almost always, fictional and nonfictional. My day was, as usual, work filled, and filled by the usual work. Creeping along. Yeah, not much else. Took a nice walk. Weather’s stellar here. I want to see that new ‘Mission: Impossible’ for both obvious and inexplicable reasons, but no one I know wants to see it, and I’m not the hugest fan of going to the movies alone, I don’t know why, so I reckon that’s a future in-flight pick if I ever saw one. Did you see it, or, if not it, what? You can’t really go wrong with a carnival, any carnival. That’s kind of my motto. I think my weekend will involve more work of the same sort. I think Zac might come back to town by Sunday, I’m not sure. But, yeah, seems destined to be grindstone-oriented weekend. How was yours? May yours involve you winning every giant stuffed animal that every carnival game booth dangles. Parsed as opposed to bisected love, Dennis. ** Dominik, Hi! I’m … hold on, let me check … good. My week has been very quiet and full of work that I’ve been kind of semi-successful at occasionally. I’m on something like my 10th attempt to figure how to write a synopsis that will make our very non-conventionally exciting film sound somewhat conventionally exciting. We’ll see if the 10th time is the charm. Ha, yes, people ask me what I do, and I say (or often say), ‘I write novels’, and then they ask, ‘What are your novels about?’ And then pause and smile and cringe at them at the same time and say, ‘Young people?’ That does sound an unusually fun and fresh goth event. Yeah, when you mentioned it, I did imagine a place full of people in their early forties, a little thick around the waist, with lengthy dyed black hair and narrowed, mascared eyes, wearing slight variations on a little too tight Bauhaus t-shirts. Which isn’t unfun necessarily, but what you actually attended sounds much more so. Thank you for the video intro to Bohemian Betyars. I’ll watch that as soon as I get out of here. Wow, you make me super wish I could see them live. Maybe I will. I hope your weekend is as exciting as that gig, but less physically exhausting maybe. See you on Monday! ** Damien Ark, ‘Tamala’ is super odd. If you watch it, you’ll see what I mean very quickly. Oh, well, it’s only my pleasure to talk with you about that stuff. You’re really kind about the blog, thank you. The two short Duverts are very nice and not difficult. My copy of the new Sotos is winging its way to me, apparently, and I’m psyched. The publisher is Nine Banded Books. You could try them re: your mss. It’s a pretty adventurous house, that’s for sure. I agree with your bf 100% about starting a new writing project to help you through the publisher searching hell phase. With rare exceptions, I’m always working on a new novel when that’s happening, and, just as helpfully, when the book is actually published, because that’s an emotionally fraught thing to go through even in the best of circumstances. So, yes, if you can start something, do, I agree. Yes, it was very interesting and refreshing to write ‘God Jr.’ for the reasons you mention. It was very interesting to see what happened to my writing when sex wasn’t a back seat driver. Same with making ‘PGL’, which has no sex and almost no interest in sex in it apart from a brief scene of one character masturbating under his bed covers. I recommend trying that, yes. You take care too, and have a lovely weekend. ** Right. I have to credit to the wonderful Dennis Dermody and his addictive site Original Cinemaniac for putting the idea of making a post about Doris Wishman in my head. See you on Monday.