Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bolling Straight: TRIANGLE, BONNIE'S KIDS and TRIANGLE


Tiffany Bolling--70s genius. A mix of Jane Fonda's doll-faced freneticism and Sharon Stone-cut malevolence, Bolling's beauty, fearless cool (meeting men's lustful gazes the way Clint Eastwood meets the street punks') 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 locked in loose orbit around bland new teacher who reacher her, 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 of either one. Watching it on a rental recently, I assumed the two men were shacked up in the shadows or closet and that the DVD print lost those scenes to some queer projectionist's private reel or a hateful redneck's fire (1970 was still a fashionable time to be homophobic, even in the northern states). She's the whole reason for the film existing and when its just the two male teachers a very weird vibe exudes that the film seems scared to follow up on, so we wait for Bolling to show up and give it all some life. And man that she does, at 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 the it finds a groove and rides it which considering the nature of the groove is absolutely perfect. Dr. Paul is sent to rescue Bolling from the party and the stomping vat (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 older men and then say they were taken advantage of. But wouldn't it be worth it, especially if they were as mind-meltingly hot as Bolling? Of course not! Fight the power (of every fiber in your being) and if you fail, at least you held out as long as you could. 

But, what about if what she really needs a friend, one who'll give her the warmth of human contact and an orgasm to prevent her from suicide? Why does sex befoul straight co-ed friendships in the movies. It's only our ever-shifting moral compass that, lately, damns these sorts of things when they're as old as education itself. To want a friend of the opposite sex is to want sex in our modern era. Without our current stigma, who knows what benefits might accrue if hunk teachers and hot co-eds shacked up right and left? Or at least hung out on the quad and it wasn't weird...  Or not... Bolling's seductive allure, those crazy curves, can make normal sane men very irrational, and lead them straight to death or worse. Unemployment,.

What makes me want to descend so deep into this film is of course Ms. Bolling, whose Barbie-doll face and figure evoke Jane Fonda and prefigure Sharon Stone, but where Bolling comes into her own is in the way she lets that kind of doll-faced poise go out the window as needed, busting past the limits of acting (the need for 'sense memory' immersion that bogs down 'serious' actresses) when needed to crash through the gutsy drive-in trash operatic plate glass, i.e. she knows just when to play it subtle, just when to pour it on over the top in ways neither Fonda nor Stone could ever dream of reaching. Her wheelhouse includes the kind of limit-busting that makes Quentin Tarantino write your name down on a snack bar napkin in the drive-in dark. 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)? That I do know. They cannot. Barbara Stanwyck is the only other person I can think of, actually, who has that same past-the-parking lot depths on the long bat connects. 

If Bolling and director Arthur Marks had made BARBARELLA and put Bolling in the lead instead Vadim and Jane, I'd bet you my bottom dollar it would be as beloved as FLASH GORDON (1980) is today.


There's another movie about a mixed-up blonde called TRIANGLE out there, so don't get confused. This newer one is from 2009 and is a weird variation on Poe's classic short story, "Descent into the Maelstrom." In this one a yacht full of himbos, beeyatches, and Melissa George (who leaves her son "at school") take a three-hour boat tour but wind up passing through a strange electrical storm off the coast of Florida (circa the Bermuda... Triangle) and wind up exploring a seemingly abandoned cruise ship after their boat capsizes. 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. After all, Claudia Jennings--a spiritual drive-in sister to Bolling--also got her start in that esteemed rag. 


Here's another one, prime TB: BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) --"Thank God she only had two"-After QT's praise of it (I forget where) I was expecting streaks and flecks and scratches like any drive-in print but instead it's on a beautiful anamorphic DVD from Dark Sky. Equal to Bolling and the image quality is the wild roster of character actors and a witty script along the lines of Elmore Leonard.

Bolling plays KID #1, Ellie. She works as a waitress where she's regularly stared at by lusting local diners, cops too. She could feel violated or bored by all that sleazy staring but instead she meets their gazes with a steely 'who gives a shit?' brazen authority. She's not afraid of leading them on or making them mad by brushing them off, she almost dares them to start something but with a steely look that says "I'll knee you in the balls before you even get to first base, and if you try for second you'll be bleeding out." Men respect that look because it sympathizes with their desire, doesn't blame them for it or condemn them as sick, it even flatters them while at the time circumventing their biological inner demon impetus so they don't kick themselves later for not asking her out. In other words, don't hide your gaze from theirs all bashful and demure, that just gets them all hot and bothered, let them know they can make a move if they want, but they'll be going home to their wives with at least one black-eye and a lip or ear half bit off, that's just the admission fee. Things will only escalate from there. 


Her kid sister Myra is played by a gorgeous youth named Sharon Gless and she's also a teasing badass ready to shout in your face if you get too close but also fixing to drive you crazy with teasing if you get too far away. Throughout Marx's widescreen frames the sister'  long legs as they luxuriate across vast expanses of 70s furnishings while everyone else, including a rich, closeted lesbian-- drool and all do the film equivalent of leaning on our shoulders and crying with forlorn longing (which we likely share, even while being secretly glad we don't have the--certainly fatal--option). Meanwhile, the stepdad has just about had it and drinking whiskey to bolster his courage makes an ill-advised move. He won't live to make another.

The girls take it on the lam, drop in on their crime boss model agency uncle and start posing and running money drops. Bolling is on unrepentant greed mode, hijacking a package her crooked uncle asks her to deliver to a dimwitted detective (Steve Sandor) enslaved against his better judgment to comply by those heavenly legs and flawless waist, her perfect lovely hair, and piercing eyes, and lips as if carved from wood by an artist at Mattel; who can resist her? What a joy to Bolling's greedy evil signify the doom that biker who harassed Stacey Keach in THE NINTH CONFIGURATION! Yeah, Sandor, you thought your hurt was over! 


The film also has Casey Adams (The square Cutler in NIAGARA) as a grinning traveling salesman "on an expense account" (typecasting!) who gets caught up in the Bolling's machination. Alex 'Moe Green' Rocco and a moothly-suited Tim Brown are a pair of hitmen with great THE KILLERS-style deadpan scary-comedic patter (i.e. "Hear that Eddie? The girl said she's out of coffee").  Their rapport is so awesome it's pretty clear it inspired that of Jules and Vincent in PULP FICTION (1)

BONNIE'S KIDS is so good, in short, it has me dutifully poring through the whole oeuvre of not just Bolling, but Arthur Marks as well. In a great director bio video from Elijah Drenner (on the BONNIE DVD) I learned of a hard-to-find gem called THE ROOMMATES (PS - since seen! Go here) 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 guides who knows what they're doing: Jack Hill, John Flynn, Russ Meyer and... now (for me anyway, a gratified first-timer), Arthur Marks. Ged aboard and sled with Bolling and Arthur, straight to Hell!


PS -  she had a guest spot as a crazy snake charmer yogi in "Game, Set, Death!" in Season 2 of Charlie's Angels
PPS - Check out this great 1991 interview with Bolling, reprinted over at TEMPLE OF SCHLOCK!

NOTES:
1. in addition of course to the rapport of Lee Marvin and Clu Gallager in THE KILLERS remake

4 comments:

  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.

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

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous30 July, 2012

    THE CANDY SNATCHERS... see it now!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sharon Gless only has a bit part as a waitress.
    That’s Robin Mattson as Myra.

    ReplyDelete

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