Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 24: "The Snow Bunnies" (1972)

A moment sorta like this but not really happens in A.C. Stephens' The Ski Bunnies (1972).

Sybil: Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton were telling me about California. You can swim in the morning, and then in the afternoon, you can drive up into the mountains and ski. 
Basil: Must be rather tiring.
-Fawlty Towers ("Waldorf Salad," March 1979)

Filmmakers took Dracula out of Bram Stoker's
time and quite rudely dragged him into ours.
Irrelevance. It was breathing down Ed Wood's neck in 1972. If the world had ever needed his services in the past, it certainly didn't now. The old school Universal horror and science fiction films he favored were distinctly out of fashion, except as filler on late-night television. Ed's biggest career coup had been getting Bela Lugosi -- Count Dracula himself -- to star in a string of low-budget films back in the 1950s.

But 1972 was the year that William Crain's Blacula distinctly and unmistakably politicized the Bram Stoker tale by depicting the famed count (Charles Macaulay) as a racist who refuses to help a proud African nobleman, Prince Mamuwalde (William Marshall), in his quest to end the slave trade. Instead, Dracula cruelly transforms Mamuwalde into a vampire, glibly renames him Blacula, and seals him in a coffin where he slumbers for nearly 200 years before emerging to wreak havoc in 1970s Los Angeles. Never before had the screen witnessed a black vampire. Never before had Dracula's race even been an issue.

It's interesting to note that the men who unwittingly unleash Mamuwalde upon LA are two fey homosexual decorators, Billy and Bobby, who end up as the African vampire's first victims. These characters are not unlike the limp-wristed, lavender-scented sissies who turned up in Love Feast (1969) and Take it Out in Trade (1970). We were ready to accept a vampire as a symbol of racial pride by 1972, but "fags" were still acceptable hors d'oeuvres for a movie monster.

Nevertheless, a gauntlet had been thrown down: the Dracula story had been dragged out of its 18th Century dreamland and deposited forcefully in the Here and Now. To audiences of 1931, Bela Lugosi's character may have been a darkly romantic antihero. To audiences of 1972, he was just another old white man in a big house on the hill, a symbol of racial oppression. Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula aka Andy Warhol's Dracula (1974), further politicized the Stoker story but concentrated on class struggle instead of racial warfare. Here, Count Dracula (Udo Kier) was an enfeebled aristocrat who met his doom at the hands of a virile Bolshevik laborer (Joe Dallesandro) in 1920s Italy. Meanwhile, England's Hammer Studios, who had been Dracula's most faithful cinematic caretakers since Universal, were trying to keep their franchise alive by transporting Drac to swinging modern-day London in the tellingly-titled Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972).

Even the Duke bites the dust.
Eddie might have taken some consolation in the fact that one of the biggest grossing films of '72 was a John Wayne starrer called The Cowboys. In all probability, horse operas were closer to Ed's heart than flying saucers, vampires, and zombies combined. He preferred the term "cowboy pictures" to "westerns" and liked the black-and-white moral certainty of the cheap, primitive morality tales he'd grown up with. None of this "revisionist western" or "adult western" nonsense for Ed Wood. No, sir. He liked his cowboy movies straight up, no chaser. He assayed the form frequently, mightily, and without success in the first few years of his career and kept casting old Hollywood cowhands like Bud Osborne, Tom Keene, Johnny Carpenter, and of course Kenne Duncan in his movies for years, regardless of genre. Poor Kenne intentionally overdosed on barbiturates in '72, thus depriving Ed of another close longtime friend.

As late as 1973, after all hope for becoming the next Zane Grey was long extinguished, Eddie wrote the wistful, fact-based short story "Pearl Hart and the Last Stage" for his buddy Charles D. Anderson's anthology, Outlaws of the Old West. History does not record whether Ed Wood ever saw The Cowboys, but if he had, he might have been appalled by the picture's infidelity to its own heritage by killing off John Wayne's character in an unsatisfactory way. In a January 1972 review, Roger Ebert explained:
The Cowboys has violated a Western convention. It is a sacred belief of the genre that good guys never miss, and bad guys never hit. The bad guys can pour a rain of lead into a besieged position and hit nothing more than a lantern or a whisky bottle, even by accident. But then all a good guy has to do is pop up and squeeze the trigger, and a villain bites the dust at 200 yards. The Cowboys tries to get around the convention by depriving Wayne of a chance to shoot at all, and disarming his dozen or so teenaged sidekicks. He's killed while he's unarmed (and after having already beaten the daylights out of a man thirty-five years his junior).
Last Tango: An offer Marlon Brando couldn't refuse.
With Dracula being co-opted by the counterculture and unarmed cowboys being gunned down on movie screens across America, Ed Wood can be excused for feeling a little woozy in 1972. By then, the only sector of the film industry that would still have him was porn. The last refuge of a filmic fuck-up. And wouldn't you know it? Even that was under siege! Sure, this was the era when it was temporarily okay, even fashionable, to take your wife to a movie theater and watch a thirty-foot-tall Linda Lovelace deep throat Harry Reems on the silver screen. "Porno chic," they called it, and for a hot second it looked like it might even seep into the mainstream. Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial and widely-discussed Last Tango in Paris (1972) was a non-porn film whose sex scenes were still sufficiently believable to warrant an X rating. It starred Marlon Brando, who was then reconquering America in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather (1972). Was Tango the future of motion pictures? Real sex or real-enough sex in movie houses everywhere? Would more "big name" stars follow Brando's lead? Nobody seemed to know.

Eddie had made a hardcore feature of his own a year before anyone had heard of Linda Lovelace, but there wasn't anything particularly chic about Necromania. With its Dracula-inspired Gothic trappings, it was proudly unfashionable, even somewhat sweetly nostalgic. Besides, Ed was a day tripper in the hardcore scene. It was a mere avocation. His true vocation was softcore, a subgenre which had not quite breathed its last in '72 but was certainly coughing and wheezing by then. Thanks to cable and VCRs and their bottomless appetite for topless girls, softcore would make a Dracula-esque reemergence in the 1980s, but Eddie wouldn't be around to see it. In 1972, making a feature-length "nudie cutie," especially one with no apparent topical or social relevance, was just about the least hip career move you could make.

Yet that's just what Ed Wood did, penning another script for his old cohort, Stephen C. Apostolof aka "A.C. Stephen." I picture the two men clinging to each other for warmth on the deck of the Titanic, possibly hoping to use the buoyant Marsha Jordan as a flotation device, as they made this week's film...

THE SNOW BUNNIES (1972)

A vintage newspaper ad from The Snow Bunnies' run on the Pussycat Theatre circuit.

Alternate titles: Since "ski bunny" is an American slang term, the film was called Coming Together in Australia and The Lustful Bed Bunny in Germany. The French title was Snow Dolls, and the Dutch title was Snowmen. (Those last three are translated into English, of course.)

Availability: Like several other Apostolof films, The Snow Bunnies was released on VHS in the 1990s by Something Weird Video as part of its series, The Erotic World of A.C. Stephen. The best way to get the film currently is as part of the DVD collection Big Box of Wood (S'more Entertainment, 2011).

AIP goes slaloming in 1965.
The backstory: One might say that the making of The Snow Bunnies began some 57,000 years ago when, according to geologists, a series of volcanic eruptions created California's majestic Mammoth Mountain. Or perhaps it started in 1953, when hydrographer-turned-developer Dave McCoy received a permit from the United States Forest Service to operate a ski area on the snowy peak of the 11,0059 ft landform, ushering in a tourism tradition that continues to this day.

But let's jump forward another decade. In 1963, American International Pictures had tremendous success with the low-budget, highly profitable teenage musical comedy Beach Party starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Frankie and Annette then starred in a whole slew of "beach" comedies over the next two years. By 1965, the formula must have been getting a little stale because AIP decided to switch things up a little by taking the series away from the shore and up into the mountains with Ski Party, with guest appearances by James Brown and Lesley Gore. (New mom Funicello was reduced to a cameo, while Avalon would price himself out of the series within the year. The franchise continued two more years without either of them.)

Though ski-sploitation was never the cultural phenomenon that beach-sploitation had been, Ski Party gave independent filmmakers a viable second option: snow instead of sand. Both sub-genres became coarser, cruder, and more sexually explicit as the decades wore on. From the 1970s onward, lusty young surfers and skiers alike were expected to lose their clothing and their inhibitions for the benefit of drive-in audiences. The last significant outburst of ski-based comedies appeared in the 1980s and early 1990s, including such video store rental classics as Hot Dog... The Movie (1984), Ski Patrol (1990) and Ski School (1991). More recently, writer-director Chris Seaver's obscure Ski Wolf (2008) attempted to revive the form by adding a werewolf element.

Mammoth Mountain Inn as it appears today.
The Snow Bunnies was Steve Apostolof's predictably skewed attempt at a ski flick. As is typical of the director's 1970s output, this film takes place in the bleary-eyed, booze-soaked world of jaded, neurotic adults. Normally such films are more lighthearted and involve happy-go-lucky high schoolers and college kids. That wasn't quite Steve's style, and it definitely wasn't Ed Wood's. Eddie would have been about 47 or 48 when he penned this script, and his middle-aged desperation is all over it. The cast is almost exactly identical to that of  The Class Reunion, a Wood-Apostolof collaboration released the same year. The subject matter is the same, too: restless, dissatisfied twenty- and thirty-somethings who try to drink and fuck their problems away for a brief spell.

Reunion contrasted the refreshing and inviting natural world, represented by a scenic, serene public park, with the dank and sleazy man-made world, represented by tacky bars, dreary lounges, and grotesque hotel rooms. Bunnies does pretty much the same thing, only with more cheerful outdoor footage (all of it shot in bright sunlight, complete with lens flares) to offset the sleazy indoor footage (seemingly shot on studio sets, complete with boom mic shadows). There is ample location footage of happy skiers slaloming down the mountain, riding the chair lift, and relaxing at the ski chalet. Among the revelers seen in the film are Steve Apostolof himself and his third wife, Shelly, suggesting that perhaps the director's true motivation in making this film was to justify a swell vacation getaway for himself and his family.

Although the movie is ostensibly set in Canada, The Snow Bunnies' location footage was shot at California's picturesque (and suggestively named) Mammoth Mountain Inn, about a five-hour drive Eastward from Los Angeles. The fact that California's distinctive state flag (featuring Monarch the grizzly bear) is included among the Flags of All Nations at the hotel's entrance is the viewer's first hint that Apostolof didn't take a film crew across the Canadian border to make this thing. Moviegoers who had already been to Mammoth would certainly recognize the Yodler Haus, a restaurant and bier garten which figures prominently in the film.

By the way, I reached out to the staff of the Mammoth Mountain Inn to see if they had any particular memories of The Snow Bunnies being made at their resort. They were very nice, but unfortunately no one currently on the payroll was working there back in '72. The hotel has apparently changed hands a few times over the years. Here, though, was their official statement on the issue:
We didn’t actually take over the ownership of the MMI until late in 1978 from Getty Resorts, who only owned the property between 1975 and 1978. MMI does have a colorful history with the film industry over the years, hosting many crews that included Steven Spielberg’s Temple of Doom and Golden Child with Eddie Murphy. Tom Cruise also stayed at the Inn during one of his movies. Jim Vanko was working as MSSA’s Location Services manager during this time period and may remember many more of the different movies and production companies who shot segments of movies at Mammoth.
(Thanks to Joani Lynch and Tom Smith at Mammoth Mountain for their help in researching this article.)

Disco Stu strikes out at the ski lodge.
If the Sixties were all about love, the Seventies were all about sex -- where to get it, how to get it, and who was getting it. And the dirtier the better. As Edy Williams would memorably put it in Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970): "Take away the guilt, and who'd wanna get laid?" One major development of the so-called Sexual Revolution was that it was now more socially acceptable for women to have sex with men to whom they were not married and whom they had no intention of marrying. Obviously, this kind of thing was happening before the 1970s, but it had never been more out in the open. Even Mary Richards was doing it on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). Young, unattached men and women "on the make" began to seek out meeting places other than bars. By the end of the decade, of course, the discotheque would be serving this function.

Somewhere along the line, though, ski resorts became known as hot spots for singles on the prowl. They never totally lost their unwholesome reputation, as handily illustrated by a  2000 episode of The Simpsons entitled "Little Big Mom." In this installment of the long-running series, the Simpsons take a family vacation to a ski resort called Mount Embolism (which looks very much like Mammoth Mountain and any number of other such tourist destinations), but overly-cautious Marge won't go near the slopes and instead spends her time drinking cocoa in the cozy, rustic-looking lodge. Here, though, she attracts the unwanted attention of Disco Stu, a sleazy would-be swinger whose musical and fashion tastes are permanently stuck in the 1970s. While sitting at the bar drinking brandy, Stu sees Marge and goes in for the kill, softly singing Johnnie Taylor's 1976 hit, "Disco Lady."
Stu: (to self) Snow fox at five o'clock. (singing to self as he walks toward Marge) Movin' in, shoot it out, Disco Lady. (to Marge, as he sits down on the armrest of her chair) Is this seat taken? 
Marge: Uh, I think that's an armrest. 
Stu: So, do you party? 
Marge: You mean like a hats and noisemakers kind of party? 
Stu: Sure, baby, whatever your trip is. Disco Stu wants you to be comfortable while he does his thing. 
Marge: Who's Disco Stu? 
(Bart and Lisa enter the room and come running toward their mother. Stu regards them with horror as he stands up and takes a step away from Marge.) 
Bart  & Lisa: Hey, Mom! 
Marge: (hugging her kids) Hi, pumpkins. 
Stu: Kids? (singing to self as he walks backwards toward the bar) Back away, not today, Disco Lady.
Stu's revulsion at the sight of children is typical for someone accustomed to the no-strings-attached promiscuity of the 1970s. Like many of his generation, Disco Stu treats the ski resort not as a destination for wholesome family fun but as an adult playground where the usual moral standards of society do not apply. The characters in The Snow Bunnies do the same thing. Mammoth Mountain Inn is a place where they expect to -- and do -- hook up with willing semi-strangers for some harmless, meaningless fornication. A vacation there is a sexual safari only occasionally interrupted by skiing. These folks are not in the market for long-term relationships and say so. Surprisingly, Ed Wood makes an issue of this in his script, thus exposing the sexual gamesmanship in the film as the sad and soulless ritual it truly is.

Belgian poster for the film.
The viewing experience: As dense and baffling as any of the SCA Distrubutors movies Steve Apostolof did with Ed Wood. If I'd been tasked with writing a movie called The Snow Bunnies about four sexy young ladies who go to a sexy ski resort in search of sexy adventures, I'm pretty sure I would have kept my script very light and just a bit naughty. Ed Wood went in a different direction. At least the movie starts out in comfortable, familiar territory. Extremely familiar territory for me, in fact.

The Snow Bunnies' first scene is an extended shower sequence nearly identical to that which opened The Class Reunion. Once again, the very first image is of Marsha Jordan's boobs as she lathers them prodigiously. Then, as before, the camera pans upward to show Ms. Jordan is wearing heavy lipstick and eye shadow. A side-by-side comparison of the two movies shows that this is indeed new footage, just shot from slightly different angles. The mood is darker and more sensual, too, with suggestive saxophone music on the soundtrack instead of the cheerful strings which opened Reunion. Anatomy students will want to note that this movie contains a rather lengthy close-up of Ms. Jordan's ass. Having seen it, I can say that Steve Apostolof needn't have bothered. It's not her best feature... or maybe it's just not being filmed attractively.

Marsha Jordan
Instead of being summoned by a doorbell, as she was in the previous movie, Marsha's character in The Snow Bunnies -- a nurse named Joan Bradford -- is summoned by a telephone call. In Reunion, Jordan's husband was away on a 72-hour business trip. Here, Joan is on vacation from work but spending that time in her own apartment. A fellow nurse named "Miss Pastor" (sitting in what is clearly someone's bedroom being pitifully passed off as a hospital) tries to summon her back to work. Their conversation is priceless. Brusque, foul-tempered Marsha Jordan comes off like a character from a John Waters movie.
Joan: (angrily) What is it? 
Miss Pastor: (stiffly, awkwardly) Miss Bradford? This is Miss Pastor at the hospital. There's been somewhat of an emergency here, and the supervising nurse would appreciate if you would cancel your vacation and report for duty. 
Joan: Like hell I will! You tell that supervising nurse to go to hell! I've worked too long and too hard for this stinking vacation to give it up! You've got 200 broads on duty there right now, and you sure as hell don't need me! Take that! (slams down the phone)
Joan's apoplectic anger is highly reminiscent of James Craig's odd behavior at the beginning of Venus Flytrap (1970). Like his character, burned-out NASA scientist Dr. Bragan, Nurse Bradford is in sore need of a vacation. She picks up a very convenient Air Canada brochure on a coffee table near the phone and decides right then and there to take a skiing trip with three of her (noticeably younger) female friends. Let's see now. There's...
Terri Johnson
  • Brenda (Terri Johnson from The Class Reunion and Drop Out Wife) - A teacher who is obviously a serious intellectual because she's wearing horned-rim glasses when we first see her. Though she has term papers to grade, she decides to go with Joan because, in her words, "maybe an old maid school teacher might get male-connected!" With each passing movie, I try to figure out whom Terri Johnson reminds me of. I think I've settled on a combination of Jan Brady and Alfred E. Neuman. Brenda's designated sex partner for the film is overaged, vest-loving college student James Eldridge (Harvey "Forman" Shane), who's paying his way through school by working at the pro shop. Between sex sessions, they engage in absolutely incoherent political debates. But he wants her to know that he's not into, like, the whole commitment bag. You dig? Towards the end of the film, for no reason whatsoever, Brenda dances completely nude in front of a bunch of tourists at a cocktail lounge. I guess this is supposed to illustrate that the once-sterm schoolmarm has really loosened up on this vacation.
Sandy Carey
  • Tammy (Sandy Carey aka "Fluff" from The Class Reunion) - A promiscuous, fun-loving model who gives up a cover shoot for Teen Magazine (yeah, right) to go on the trip. At the lodge, she'll be the only one to spend any time on the slopes, cutely trying and failing to ski. (Oh, you gals! Always trying to do stuff!) She's paired up with fair-haired boy Chris (Chris Geoffries), who at first seems like an ideal lover... even though, just like in The Class Reunion, he can't keep up with her in bed. Later, Chris reveals that he has some dark ulterior motives for getting involved with Tammy. In short, he wants her to start pimping him out to rich women. She, as you might guess, is not too thrilled with this idea. So that's the end of their relationship. Chris Geoffries is another untrustworthy scumbag almost as vile as his character from Drop Out Wife
Starline Comb
  • Carrol (Starline Comb from The Class Reunion) - A troubled, hard-drinking single gal who's been "drowneding" her sorrows in martinis since being dumped by her (married) boyfriend, Herbie. Just as Terri Johnson and Sandy Carey are playing variations on their characters from The Class Reunion, Carrol is typecast as the total downer. Sure, she's ready to get naked and sweaty with some random dude she just met, but she isn't taking this trip lightly. "I came here to get a man, and that's what I'm gonna do," she says with a total lack of humor. It doesn't work out so hot, though. Carrol's temporary boyfriend is a real-life Disco Stu type named Fred (overly-tan Ron Darby, with his pasty white ass, unruly 'fro, and melted-candlewax facial features), who seduces her by surreptitiously getting her drunk and then tries to make their relationship "a permanent thing." Carrol wisely says no to this offer. So she doesn't get a man out of this, but that's probably for the best.
After making the Manos-esque car trip to the ski lodge, the four ladies spend virtually the entire movie apart in their individual storylines, which mainly consist of drawn-out and not-terribly-interesting lovemaking sessions with Bachelors #1, #2, and #3. Joan disappears for a long, long stretch in the middle, and for a while I figured that she, like Marsha Jordan's previous character in The Class Reunion, was just there for the pre-credit sequence. But, lo and behold, Joan makes a major reappearance in the movie's last third, when her story intersects with that of the film's fifth (and most surprising) major female character
Rene Bond
  • Madie (Rene Bond) - A scantily-clad waitress at the Yodler Haus. Her jerky boss, Cappy (Orgy of the Dead choreographer Marc Desmond), says he'll fire her from her high-paying position if he catches her hitting on any of the male clientele. But she does so anyway, aggressively coming on to well-dressed young skier Paul (Ric Lutze, Rene's soon-to-be-ex-husband), who at first insists that he's not interested. But she gives him a handy under the table, which changes his mind. They go back to his room and attempt to make love. But he just can't maintain an erection, which causes Madie to accuse him of being gay. This obviously trips an alarm in his brain, and he smacks her. Later (perhaps having been beaten more severely) she awakens to find herself alone, traumatized and injured. She staggers around the hotel, soon running into Nurse Joan, who tends to her wounds... then seduces her in the movie's most mind-meltingly inappropriate scene.
Apart from one unmemorable, passionless sauna scene between Chris Geoffries and Sandy Carey, the sexual shenanigans in this movie are mostly filmed in the characters' cheaply-furnished, tacky-looking hotel rooms where art director Mike McCloskey (who worked on such cult classics as Please Don't Eat My Mother!, Loose Shoes, and The Undertaker and His Pals) tries to establish the "winter sports" atmosphere by plastering the walls with ski equipment posters, mainly hawking Scott USA, and travel ads which invite us to "Ski Colorado." Why a ski resort supposedly in Canada would be exhorting us to go to Colorado is beyond me. Apostolof does not skimp on the downhill action, however. I'd say that this movie is about 85% screwing and 15% skiing. Steve's "court composer" Jaime Mendoza-Nava is back again, and his music gives the outdoor scenes the feel of a jaunty, upbeat travelogue.

In addition to looking for Steve and Shelly's big cameo, you'll want to check out how many "long-haired freaky people" were going skiing back then. Clearly, the Woodstock Generation had left the communes in the rearview mirrors of their VWs. (And, yes, there are some VWs in the Mammoth Mountain parking lot.)

Speaking of the counterculture, the first conversation between teacher Brenda and student James is so ridiculous and unfollowable that it deserves to be transcribed for the ages. It's a typical Wood-ian mixture of sexual come-ons and world philosophy. James is working in the pro shop when Brenda comes in to browse the merchandise:
James: Hi! I guess we got about the largest selection of merchandise and equipment in the mountains! 
Brenda: Yeah. I was just looking. 
James: (nodding slyly) Well, most people come in here looking for something. 
Brenda: Well, I guess most people are looking for something
James: (chuckles) You alone? 
Brenda: Is that important? 
James: (laughs) It is if I'm gonna proposition ya. 
Brenda: You're a fast one, aren't you? 
James: Life's very short. We should take advantage of every moment, every hour. 
(They both laugh.) 
James: Did I say something funny? 
Brenda: No. It's just that I heard something similar to that remark before. 
James: Oh. I suppose there's somebody somewhere with the same philosophy as my own. Hey, you know, life's what you make of it. Who's got time for wars, drafts, dictates of the establishment? 
Brenda: One of those kind, huh? 
James: Yeah, one of those kind, if you want to phrase it that way. I'm just a student. 
Brenda: Well, hello, student. I'm a teacher: 
(James laughs.)
SCA leading man Forman Shane aka Harvey Shane
Here, Harvey Shane does what most actors are unable to do: make Ed Wood's stilted dialogue sound natural and conversational. Terri Johnson takes just the opposite approach, reading her lines as if she's a kid forced to perform in a school pageant. Meanwhile, in one of the movie's most depressing scenes, Carrol the lush makes a beeline for the bar, where she's immediately seized upon by icky, sweater-wearing insurance salesman Fred. Fred tells her he's been watching her and that the slow pace at which she's been drinking indicates her level of boredom. This is obviously something Ed Wood would know, having spent plenty of time in barrooms.

Carrol, who looks utterly defeated and miserable, tells Fred she needs "assurance, not insurance." She then practically chokes on her drink, leading Fred to confess: "I told the bartender to double whatever you were drinking." Nice guy, eh? They debate whether alcohol is "assurance" or "insurance," then go back to Fred's room to sample some of his booze, which he says is better than the "rotgut" the bar is serving. There's a great inadvertent (?) little moment at the very end of this scene when the camera lingers for a second after Fred and Carrol leave, and you can see the reflection of the bartender who's been watching this horrendous couple.

"Work is the curse of the modern system," says James.
Now, we spend some quality time with Tammy and Chris, who discuss whether a woman can make love more times in a row than a man. Chris insists that men and women are built differently in that respect. "Oh, don't get clinical on me!" Tammy protests. "It's physical, not clinical!" Chris retorts. After they put this theory to the test for a few minutes in bed, we hop over to Brenda and James, who are still discussing politics and "the future" (where you and I will spend the rest of our lives) over dinner. Liberal James says that he and (relatively) conservative (by the standards of this movie) Brenda are part of the same "breed." She doesn't think so. He elaborates: "We're two separate people, two different opinions, but part of the same generation gap. Kinda, sorta focusing in on one future." Talking about his job at the pro shop, which he needs for college tuition, James takes a swipe at capitalism: "Work is the curse of the modern system. You work or you don't eat. So we're forced to work right from the cradle to the grave."

As Brenda and James admit their mutual admiration for one another, cinematographer Allen Stone (whose only other credit is, you guessed it, The Class Reunion) clumsily zooms in on their clasped hands. If having the screen go blurry was the visual hallmark of Drop Out Wife, haphazard zooms are the calling card of The Snow Bunnies. This is just one of literally dozens in the film. In fact, a totally unmotivated and unnecessary zoom in on the Yodler Haus is used as a transition to Brenda and James' big love scene. Brenda is reluctant ("We shouldn't be doing this!"), but James uses some pseudo-philosophical double-talk on her: "We believe we should, so I guess that makes it right!"

As the lovers undressed on screen, I made this observation: the girls in Steve Apostolof's 1970s movies wear panties but not bras. That's very consistent from scene to scene and movie to movie.

When they start making love, the only real point of interest is that Terri Johnson manages to climb on top of Harvey Shane. Normally, Steve Apostolof prefers to depict his onscreen lovers having sex in the male-superior missionary position. By putting Brenda in a female-superior position, this gives the cameraman the opportunity to do a sort of POV shot of her riding atop James. Unfortunately, that also gives us the opportunity to see the room's not-too-exciting stucco ceiling, air vent, and pea-soup-colored walls behind her. Other angles don't help either, as they bring into focus the room's sickly-looking green couch and irradiated orange carpeting. You had to ignore a lot to have sex in the '70s.

"He's a scotch drinker.": Ric Lutze and Rene Bond.
The film then cuts to two characters we have never seen before: waitress Madie and customer Paul, in a dimly-lit restaurant, perhaps the same one Brenda and James had visited earlier. (The lamps on the tables look about the same.) Madie, as I mentioned earlier, is throwing herself at Paul, but he's not interested. "What's so all-fired hellish about me?" she asks him. These characters are played by real-life couple Rene Bond and Ric Lutze, aka Shirley and Danny from Ed Wood's Necromania. Rene'd had her boobs done since that movie, but otherwise she and her then-hubby look pretty much the same. Their offscreen marriage failed, and it's interesting to watch this movie and look for signs of trouble. These are not difficult to find. Madie and Paul are at odds for most of the movie, and the anger, annoyance, and resentment between them feels uncomfortably real.

Early on, Madie asks bartender Cappy for some crucial info about her man: what's his drink. Cappy scoffs, "You've been eyeballing him for the last two days, yet you don't know what he's drinking?" After she tells him to "cut the crap," he responds, "He's a scotch drinker. The good stuff." I have a hunch Eddie Wood was not drinking "the good stuff" by 1972 and had to make due with the "rotgut" (a term I've most often heard applied to Ed's booze of choice, whiskey) that Fred and Carrol were drinking earlier. Madie ignores Cappy's warning to stay away from the guests ("When I'm on my own time, I an't nobody's help!" she reasons) and makes another desperate play for Paul. Though she had taken offense to being called a "bar girl", i.e. a woman employed by a bar to hustle drinks, the next scene reveals that this is exactly what she is, since she purchases drinks for both Paul and herself on his tab but without his permission. He's not too put off by this, though, as he seems to regard her as a quaint amusement and even toys with her a little.

Again, Ed Wood's dialogue mixes flirtation and philosophy, and there is something more than a little tragic about Rene Bond's character, who obliquely reveals that she's a prostitute.
Paul: What are you like? 
Madie: Oh, I don't know. Happy-go-lucky, I guess. Live today, tomorrow we die. All that sort of thing. I like men. Men like me. I like you. 
(Paul scoffs.) 
Madie: Most men like me right off. 
(She starts rubbing his crotch.) 
Paul: I guess I can see the reason for that... for some men! 
Madie: For all men, honey. 
(She sticks her hand into his pants.) 
Paul: Why don't you just admit you found one you can't reach? Finish your drink and get on outta here. 
Madie: Oh... 
Paul: Hey, look, there's something I've always wanted to ask a broad like you. 
Madie: A broad like me? Whaddya mean by that? 
Paul: Just like it sounds. 
Madie: Look, I'll have you know I'm a legitimate cocktail waitress. (looks away, bashfully) Among other things. 
Paul: Well, it's the other things I'm referring to. 
Madie: You don't know a thing about me. 
Paul: I don't? 
Madie: No. (She takes a drink.) Just what was it you wanted to ask a broad like me? 
Paul: Do you really enjoy what you're doing? 
Madie: Sure! I meet a lot of interesting people! A cocktail waitress at a resort like this makes good pay! Top pay! And good tips! It's a big living! 
Paul: Screw the cocktail waitress bit! I mean the other things, like what you're doing now. 
(Her hand is all the way inside his pants. She rubs his penis.) 
Madie: Maybe we oughtta go to your room before I answer that one! 
Paul: That sounds like a good idea. You any good in bed? 
Madie: Your room, Mr. Trent.
Carrol and Fred romp beneath the Scott USA posters.
As we will soon see, this is anything but a "good idea" for Madie. First though, is a sexual interlude between Fred and Carrol. This is of less interest to Ed Wood fans, as the actors seem to disregard the script, at least somewhat, and ad lib their way through the scene. But in the middle of the giggly, semi-improvised lovefest, Steve Apostolof cuts to one of the movie's most interesting scenes, the post-coital moment between Chris and Tammy in which he makes an extremely indecent proposal to her: "When the season's over, why don't I come to Los Angeles and visit you? You could introduce me to some of your rich friends ... Hey, there's a lotta rich broads who would love to be serviced by a young stud like me! ... C'mon, honey, I'll give you a cut!" Tammy's devastated. She thought her fling with Chris might turn into something substantial. Guess not!

Meanwhile, there's more disappointment in the Fred/Carrol coupling. "Listen," he says in a moment of tenderness, "why don't you and I get a place back in the city and make it a permanent thing?" Carrol's response demonstrates how vacation spots like this were used as consequence-free sexual playgrounds, disconnected entirely from decent society: "A ski lodge is one thing. An apartment back in the city is something completely different, and never shall the twain meet." So says the woman who came here with the express purpose of finding "a man." Fred is kind of pathetic here as he whimpers, "Never?" Instead of making their vacation fling "a permanent thing," they make love one more time on the ugly green couch (I think the same one seen in Terri Johnson and Forman Shane's scene) in front of the ugly brick wall with the ugly Scott USA posters.

The truly dark stuff, though, is coming up. In yet another room with the same exact paneling and the same ski posters, Madie and Paul try and fail to make love. At first, he is apologetic. ("I'm sorry.") But then Madie becomes fed up with her flaccid lover, as she did during Necromania, and they begin to argue. There is a sharp edge to their words here, as if Ric Lutze and Rene Bond are truly fighting on camera and we are listening in on what should be a private conversation between them. These are two people using their words to hurt one another. When Paul runs out of words, he resorts to physical violence. Keep in mind, this is all part of a movie that's supposed to be a sexual stimulant for horny men. Two of Ed Wood's career-long motifs, homosexuality and transvestism, become part of the discussion:
Madie: What in the hell's the matter with you? I've been working on you for nearly an hour, and you're still not with it! Aw, I tried anything a woman can! 
Paul: Maybe you haven't tried hard enough! 
Madie: I've tried everything there is to be tried! 
Paul: Well, it's not me! It's gotta be you! 
Madie: Oh, yeah, sure. The male vanity. It's always gotta be the girl! 
Paul: Not all girls... just you! 
Madie: Oh, yeah, Buster. Tell me something. Have you ever made it with a girl? 
Paul: Shut up! 
Madie: I won't shut up! You're putting me out on a limb! I bet that's it! You've never made it with a girl! 
Paul: I told you to lay off! 
Madie: I won't! No guy's ever been that weak with me after I got working on him. There's gotta be something wrong with you! I bet I know what it is! You can't make it with a girl! (getting up from the bed) You need something else, right? You just can't make it with a girl! (picking up her canary-yellow panties) Is this what you need? Here! (She tosses them at him.) Go ahead. Put 'em on. I'll call Richard the bellboy. He likes to make it with men! Is that what you need? Boys? 
(Paul gets up from the bed.) 
Paul: You goddamn bitch! 
(He slaps her hard across the face.) 
Madie: Ow!
Together at last: Rene Bond and Marsha Jordan!
Back to James the student and Brenda the teacher, who have gotten their clothes back on. Like Carrol before him, James is not interested in a long-term relationship and just wants to make his few remaining days with Brenda "feel like an eternity." Joan, long absent from the film, walks into the room and is cold and unfriendly toward James. When he invites her to accompany him and Brenda to the bar, Joan says, sternly, "I just came from there." This might be our first indication that Joan is a lesbian.

The real proof comes a few minutes later when a (slightly) bruised-up and Madie wakes up in Paul's now-deserted hotel room, puts her bright red vinyl-looking outfit back on, and staggers into Joan's room, distraught and seemingly in pain from head to toe. Being a nurse, the matronly Joan at first treats Madie like a patient and asks her what happened. Madie is unusually forthcoming: "I was hooking on the side, and I picked up this guy in the bar, and he couldn't make it with me, so he beat me up."  "That bastard! I'm gonna have him arrested and put in jail!" declares Joan. But poor Madie can't report Paul to the cops, since she's not allowed to fraternize with guests and could lose her job. "The bruises that show," Madie explains, "I'll just say I got 'em skiing." This made me think of domestic abuse and the kind of excuses battered wives and girlfriends make out of social necessity. That's not exactly the kind of thing you want to hear or think about during a porn flick, but it's another example of how Ed Wood was sneaking feminist themes into his scripts for Steve Apostolof.

Joan gets Madie to one of the room's twin beds and starts tenderly daubing her forehead with a washcloth. Here, though, the movie makes a deeply weird left turn. After agreeing not to call the cops, Joan makes a pass at the battered, nearly unconscious girl:
Joan: Sure, I'll help you. Just put yourself completely in my hands. I'll take care of you. Listen, why don't we get these clothes off? (Joan starts undressing Madie.) You can put on one of my nightgowns if you feel like it later. 
Madie: No. Forget the nightie. I don't think I could stand anything against my skin right now. 
Joan: Well, what I had in mind was something soft. (Joan discards Madie's shirt and starts daubing the now-topless girl with the washcloth.) You would like something soft against your skin, wouldn't you? It wouldn't hurt. It would just enhance your senses. You do like soft things, don't you? 
Madie: I always liked soft things. 
Joan: Of course you do. 
(Joan has set the washcloth aside and starts to pull down Madie's hot pants.) 
Madie: Oh, be careful! That hurts! 
(Once the hot pants are off, Joan rubs Madie's upper leg.) 
Madie: Oh, your hands are so soft! 
Joan: I know. Doesn't that feel good? 
(Joan starts to pull off Madie's yellow panties.) 
Madie: Feels as soft and warm as anything I've ever felt. 
Joan: That's what they mean to do. (Joan discards Madie's panties, leaving her completely naked.) Doesn't it feel heavenly? Like you might go into orbit? Why don't you turn over, dear? (Madie rolls over on her side. Joan rubs her back.) Some of the hurt gone? 
(Madie rolls onto her back. Joan rubs her abdomen.) 
Madie: It's going fast. It feels nice. 
Joan: (starting to remove her own, floor-length red dress) Well, don't let it go too fast. 
Madie: No, no. Not with you. Not with you. Take it nice and easy, Miss Berg*. 
Joan: Joan. Call me Joan. 
(Joan finishes pulling her own dress off.) 
Madie: I don't think I'll have to call you anything. Or say anything. 
(Joan pulls her own panties off. She is now nude as well. She climbs onto the bed next to Madie, and they begin to kiss and caress.)
*Yes, Joan's character has changed last names by this point in the movie.

Ed Wood's template?
Once again, a woman who has been treated badly by a man decides to take refuge in the arms of another woman, who is more sensitive and understanding than a piggish man could ever be. And unlike the characters in The Class Reunion and Drop Out Wife, Madie is not recruited back into heterosexuality by the end of the movie. All this is admirable. But it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that Joan is taking incredible advantage of Madie, who seems very out-of-it during this scene. But this dialogue gives us a few more of Ed Wood's particular fetishes, i.e. his love of "soft" things, especially nightgowns.

In considering Madie's story in this movie, I was reminded of another beach-related movie from the 1960s, namely Henry Levin's Where the Boys Are (1960). Perhaps this is the film which helped provide the template for The Snow Bunnies (1960). That movie was about four female college students (led by Dolores Hart's brainy character Merrit Stone) who go to Ft. Lauderdale over spring break in search of sun, sand, and, as the title indicates, boys. Just like in The Snow Bunnies, all four girls share a single room and are paired up with guys during the movie. Where the Boys Are is a more thoughtful, substantial film than the later Beach Party (1963) and includes a serious, depressing subplot in which one of the girls, Melanie (Yvette Mimieux) is raped by a young man named Dill (John Brennan), who falsely claims to be from Yale. Assuming a caretaker role, like Joan, Merrit volunteers to stay in Florida with Melanie until the latter is ready to return to school. Viewers accustomed to the lighthearted shenanigans of Frankie and Annette might be shocked by Henry Levin's film, which also contains a great deal of bold-for-the-time debate about whether women should have sex before marriage. The Snow Bunnies did remind me a lot of Where the Boys Are in its attempts to balance a featherweight sex-on-vacation comedy with some darker, weightier themes.

Together again for the first time: all four girls.
After Brenda's ridiculous, totally context-less nude dancing routine (which goes on quite a long while and is more anatomically explicit than the rest of the film), Steve gives us a few more minutes of skiing footage, then one big farewell scene which gathers Joan, Brenda, Tammy, and Carrol in the same hotel room for the only time in the movie. We've had scenes with two or three of them, but never all four at once. This is a good opportunity for the characters to reflect on their experiences over the last few days and tell us what they've learned from them. As usual, though, Ed Wood's dialogue is cryptic with its characteristic speculation about the future:
(The four women are packing for home.) 
Joan: So how'd you enjoy it? 
Brenda: I know I had a wonderful time these two days. 
Carrol: Aw, I wonder if I'll ever be able to forget this place. 
Tammy: (disgruntled) I'm gonna forget this place just as fast as I can. 
Brenda: Well, what's eatin' her? 
Joan: Too much sun maybe. 
Brenda: Yeah. If you're not in the sauna bath around here, you're not getting the real sex in the sun! 
Carrol: And there's certainly a lot of those around! (laughs) 
Joan: Hey, you sound like you got rid of your woes! 
Carrol: You better believe it! (laughs) 
Joan: Aha! 
Brenda: (rubbing the couch) I think I'll be taking a little bit of this place with me. 
Joan: Oh? I might be leaving a little behind. There's always the future, and there's always a new signpost in my future. 
Brenda: You got me fogged on that one! 
Joan: Never mind! You know, it is a long way home. So... let's go, snow bunnies! 
(They exit, all giggling except maybe Tammy.)
This is followed by another Manos-esque driving montage which goes on for many minutes, as the four ladies make their way back through the snowy, pine-tree-covered terrain until finally, finally the camera tilts up toward the sky and the end credits can roll. I like Brenda's line about being "fogged," not only because it recalls a famous line from Glen or Glenda? ("My mind's in a muddle, like in a thick fog!") but also because it expresses my own feelings after watching The Snow Bunnies.

What did Brenda mean when she rubbed her hand on the couch and said she was taking a little something away from the ski lodge? Did she possibly get pregnant from her tryst with James? Is she planning to steal an ashtray? And when Joan says she's "leaving a little behind," does she mean the behind belonging to Rene Bond, thus making a sly pun on "a piece of ass?" I'm glad the script remembered that at least one of these ladies, fun-loving Tammy, wound up having a lousy time and is in a grouchy mood right up to the end. And let's give either Steve or Ed credit for waiting until the last possible moment to work the title into the dialogue.
In two weeks: I'm going to be out of town for Christmas, so there will be no new installment of Ed Wood Wednesdays next week. As devastating as this might be, consider it an opportunity. Instead of reading about the declining years of a thwarted filmmaker, spend some quality time with your family and friends on that special day. You can rest assured that this insane project of mine will be back on January 1, 2014! As it happens, the first film I'll be covering in the New Year is very appropriate for the occasion, revolving as it does around alcohol. Yes, it's another Stephen C. Apostolof movie, this time starring our old pal Rene Bond. Mosey back here in 14 days for an undiluted examination of The Cocktail Hostesses (1973).

4 comments:

  1. All of the werewolf movies on Netflix that I have yet to see tend to have member averages that hover around 2.0. Ski Wolf is no exception in this regard.

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    1. The lack of IMDb and Wikipedia entries is also a bad sign. No one bothered to create either of these for the film, not even its director.

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    2. They did upload a trailer to YouTube, though. It looks... less than promising.

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    3. Potential IMDb keywords: "awful pink hat," "repetitive ska music," "obviously filmed as an afterthought during a vacation."

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