Four discs of Irving Klaw’s 8mm films from the fifties: 270 minutes of material, which is astounding, given that all this was supposed to have been destroyed. The discs are distinguished by theme: “The Bettie Page Films,” “The Wrestling Films,””The Fetish Films,” and “The Dance Films.” The titles are self-explanatory, and a synopsis is, of course, utterly beside the point. These are short films featuring women parading around in heels and hose, fetish gear, and wrestling while got up in sam. These are not great art, by any stretch of the imagination. But they DID stretch the popular imagination. The rating I’ve assigned reflects the cultural impact of Kaw’s work, which continues to be felt to this day. This is an important collection.Audio
Cult epics has jazzed up the presentation by adding soundtracks of 1950’s style music to the shorts: lounge, jazz swing and big band are the offerings, and they add a great deal of fun to the proceedings. The 2.0 mix treats the music well, and the bass lines are very solid. This is, of course, the only sound, and it is a very nice touch.
Frankly, the continued existence of these prints is borderline miraculous, and to expect anything more is silly. These are 8mm prints from over sixty years ago, so of course they’re very grainy. Most are black and white and/or sepia, but there are a few that still bear some faint traces of colour. They aren’t much to look at, but they are perfectly watchable. Frankly, a video quality rating here is completely irrelevant and meaningless, so I’m downgrading the importance of the star rating for this category in calculating the final result.
A few bonus films are added to each disc, giving us performances by the likes of Tempest Storm and Lili St. Cyr, numerous other strip tease shorts, Bettie Page topless, and so on. No documentation of any kind, though, which is really too bad.
Some kind of documentary really would have added value to this collection, but it’s a pretty solid landmark in it’s own right. Some months back, I suggested that Cult Epics’ Bettie Page box set was one-stop shopping for her fans. I was wrong. This set is just as essential.