Psychedelic Film Criticism for the Already Deranged

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Tiffany Bolling--70s genius. A mix of Jane Fonda's doll-faced freneticism and Sharon Stone-cut malevolence, Bolling's beauty, acting and sheer screen presence elevate near any project, no matter how low it started.

TRIANGLE (1970), for example, would be some unwatchable dreck if not for Bolling's luminous presence and strong acting as the fiery private school heiress mating in loose dance orbits with bland hunk new teacher Paul Richards. It would be against the rules of the school to act on his weakness for her, and besides he's also caught the lascivious bisexual sculptor art teacher's eye, and is so dopey he can't pick up the signals. I assumed the two men were shacked up in the shadows that the DVD print lost to some queer projectionist's private reel or burned by hateful rednecks --1970 was still a fashionable time to be homophobic. I'd think all that except for the luminous presence of Bolling and a wild grape stomping orgy at the local vineyard, the sole moment which might give the film the 'psychedelic' tag that first drew me to Netflix it.

The film really meanders until that orgy, but after is pretty dead on. Dr. Paul is sent to rescue Bolling (the cops were friends of her late father) and he does, but rather than go back to the school they spend the rest of the night wandering in the woods and love blooms betwixt them. The big issue for hunky male educators everywhere: is it better to give in or resist when some unstoppable nymphomaniac keeps hitting on you?  Refuse and they could get their hell hath no fury scorn on and spread rumors you hit on them, but if you do submit, they could 180 on you and start crying afterwards and in hindsight who knows what they might say? You could be part of some mad cycle where they seduce strange men and then frame them for the gallows. But wouldn't it be worth it if they were as mind-meltingly hot as Bolling? What about if they really need a friend, who'll give them the warmth of human contact and an orgasm? It's only our ever-shifting moral compass that, lately, damns these sorts of things when they're as old as education itself. Without the stigma, who knows what benefits might accrue for both of you? Or not... Bolling's seductive allure, those crazy curves can make normal sane men very irrational, and lead them straight to death or worse.

What makes me want to descend so deep into this film is of course Ms. Bolling. She's got the cunning ability to cut through the song and dance of Sharon Stone while maintaing Stone-style momentum (I never feel like I'm watching anyone but Sharon Stone doing anything but work too hard as actor in CASINO). But where Bolling comes into her own is in the way her border's transcend the limits of acting when needed and into the gutsy drive-in trash operatics that make Quentin Tarantino write your name down on a cocktail napkin in the drive-in dark. It's a kind of kabuki theater of over-the-top heaving and shimmying that can be operatic without losing a sense of inner humor. Could she play Shakespeare? Don't ask me. But could Meryl Streep or Fonda deliver the goods like Bolling does in BONNIE'S KIDS (1973)? Hell no. If Bolling and director Marks had made BARBARELLA I'd bet you my bottom dollar it would be as beloved as FLASH GORDON (1980) is today, by the fans who know.

There's another TRIANGLE from 2009, a weird mix of GHOST SHIP meets Poe's classic short story, "Descent into the Maelstrom," wherein a yacht full of himbos, beeyatches, and one slightly skittish blonde deer-in-the-headlights single mom of a kid with some mental illness (who she leaves "at school") pass through a strange electrical storm off the coast of Florida (circa the Bermuda Triangle from which the title springs) and wind up on a ghostly passenger ship. It would be wrong to tell you anything more, except that it plays nearly nonstop on Showtime Extreme, and it's the kind of film you can come in on anywhere, over and over, without knowing the plot, and it only fits the metatextual oomph of the proceedings to a Golgothian T.

But Bolling ain't in it. So let me just say by way of a Bolling bio that she rose to fame via a spread in Playboy, which she's since lamented as pigeonholing her as a sex symbol instead of an actress. To me, and no doubt Tarantino, too, she's better than an actress... she's nothing less than a psychotronic goddess.

Yes, BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) --"Thank God she only had two"- I was expecting streaks and flecks and scratches like any drive-in print but here is is on a beautiful anamorphic DVD from Dark Sky-- the image has probably never even looked this good before even back in the day. Equal to Bolling and the image quality is the wild roster of character actors and a witty script along the lines of Elmore Leonard / FOXY BROWN. Bolling plays KID #1, Ellie. Her kid sister Myra is played by a gorgeous youth named Sharon Gless. The widescreen frames their long legs as they luxuriate across vast expanses of 70s furnishings while regular working character actors--including a rich, closeted lesbian-- drool and all but lean on our shoulders and whistle.  Meanwhile, the stepdad has just about had it and drinking whiskey to bolster his courage makes an ill-advised move.

That lamely busted move is so ill-advised he winds up dead and the girls take it on the lam, hit up a crime boss model agency uncle and start posing. Bolling is on unrepentant greed mode, hijacking a package delivery her uncle sends her on, with a dimwitted detective (Steve Sandor) enslaved against his better judgment to comply by those heavenly legs and flawless middle and lovely hair, and eyes, and lips; who can resist her? I once dated a girl like this and she derailed my entire life before taking off and leaving me in the dust. It was worth it then and it's worth it now to see Bolling pull the same crap on the guy who harassed Stacey Keach.

Tangential highlights include Casey Adams (NIAGARA) as a grinning traveling salesman "on an expense account" the short skirts and 70s decor; and most of all the swell rapport of the two guys chasing them--the heavily eyebrowed Alex Rocco and smoovly-suited Tim Brown. "Hear that Eddie? The girl said she's out of coffee" Their rapport is so funny, scary, and KILLERS-ish it inspired that of Jules and Vincent in PULP FICTION.

BONNIE'S KIDS is so good, in short, it has me dutifully poring through the whole oeuvre of not just Bolling, but Marks as well. In a great director bio video from Elijah Drenner (on the BONNIE DVD) we learn of a hard-to-find gem called THE ROOMMATES, a giallo-type slasher film THE CENTERFOLD GIRLS, and an all-but lost 1978 film called WONDER WOMEN. You can try to get into Al Adamson or Ted V. Mikels if you want, but it's a grueling uphill hike. Go for the guide who knows what he's doing, Arthur Marks, and sled with Bolling straight to Hell.

And she had a guest spot as a crazy snake charmer yogi in Charlie's Angels!
Check out this great 1991 interview with Bolling, reprinted over at TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK!


  1. "She's got a face that recalls Jane Fonda at her hottest, and some of Fonda's..."

    what? You're killing me here!

    I kid. Good profile of one of my favorite ladies.

  2. Sorry Marc! Thanks for pointing that out. It's been one spacey summer

  3. Anonymous30 July, 2012

    THE CANDY SNATCHERS... see it now!