Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bolling Thunder! - TRIANGLE, BONNIE'S KIDS

Meeting men's lustful gazes the way Clint Eastwood's meet liberal DAs and unlucky punks, Tiffany Bolling was always too good for her 70s projects, elevating them one full grade just for showing up. Well, here's two of them!  

TRIANGLE (1970) would be some unwatchable dreck if not for Bolling's luminosity. She's a fiery private school damaged soul type, locked in loose orbit around the bland new teacher (Paul Richards). It would be against the rules of the school for him to act on their mutual attraction, I guess, wouldn't it?. 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 Netflix rental recently, I assumed the two men were shacking 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). Bolling is the whole reason for the film existing (I guess?) but most of the time it's the two male teachers trying to smolder with the kind of situation I'm sure was common in the era before gaydar. (Don't even get me started). 

The result of all this longing and cluelessness is a very weird road that Triangle seems scared to pick a lane and drive on, which makes for a turgid, irritating time (like a lot of those 'closeted gay historical' near-romances I get assigned to review as a second stringer film critic). So we spend a bit of time watching these two wet dude rags trying to light each other's fire, impatient for Bolling to show up and spark the back half of the film to life. We finally catch fire over one long night spent trying to get her out of a psychedelic rape 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 finally the film finds its groove and rides it to the end of the night. 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 Rohmer-esque love blooms betwixt them, made all the more intoxicating by just how dangerous it is to his career, even in 1970. 

Thus TRIANGLE asks the the big issues for sexy 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 ripped-up 'hell hath no fury like a scorn woman' dress on and destroy your reputation with wild accusations. On the other hand, if you accept, they could 180 on you and start crying afterwards, minutes or even decades later-- 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 just to feel powerful as men who remind her of her father are reduced to smoldering wrecks. But wouldn't it be worth it, Dr. Paul, especially if we're talking about a girl as mind-meltingly hot as Bolling? 

Of course not! Fight the power (of every fiber in your being) and if you fail, don't forget you almost made it. You tried to stop it but you were outnumbered. When you're always fighting yourself you lose at least half the time, like gambling. Roll 'em, Dr. Paul! 

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, in our New Repression, to have a secret agenda, whether you realize it or not.  Bolling's seductive allure, those crazy curves, can make normal sane men very irrational, and lead them straight to death, or unemployment.

What makes me want to descend so deep into this film of otherwise tedious neo-Victorian hand-wringing 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 method 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 ever could or ever will (Stone tries but just comes off cold and actorly). 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)? They cannot. Barbara Stanwyck is the only other person I can think of, actually, who has that hits thje same past-the-parking lot depth on the long bat connects. 

If Bolling and director Arthur Marks had made BARBARELLA instead of Roger Vadim, and put Bolling in the lead instead of Jane, I'd bet your bottom dollar it would be as beloved as FLASH GORDON (1980) is today. I guess it's got camp staying power, but does anyone ever love it and see it over and over? Sure there's Anita Pallenberg, and the crazy art direction, and the space strip-tease, but there's also John Sebastian songs and sophomoric winky jokes that have aged like cheap wine left open on a table for 10 years. 

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 bringing it back to Bolling 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 too. 

Here's BONNIE'S KIDS (1973) --"Thank God she only had two" is the sublime tagline. After QT's praise of it, 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 an exploitation 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. She stares back when they stare, her steely look saying something like "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 acknowledges their attention, doesn't blame them for it or condemn them, or cry and expect the social order to step in and slap them for her.  She 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 OR hold a grudge. In other words, She might get them all hot and bothered, let them know that--as long as they're willing to risk going home with wives with at least one black-eye and a lip or ear half bit off--they can try to make a move. But things will only escalate from there. And if you push too far, she won't hesitate to kill you.

Her kid sister Myra is played by 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. Marx's widescreen frame makes sure to get the sister's long tanned legs as they luxuriate across vast expanses of 70s furnishings while everyone else--including a rich, closeted lesbian--lean on our shoulders and cry with forlorn longing. Meanwhile, the macho stepdad has just about had it with the little sister's bathrobe teasing, and--drinking whiskey to bolster his courage--makes an ill-advised move.

Later, the sisters head to the big city, drop in on their model agency-owning/crime boss uncle and start posing and making big money drops. Bolling is on unrepentant greed mode here and when she gets wind of the cash therein--hijacking a package her crooked uncle asks her to deliver to a dimwitted detective (Steve Sandor) enslaved against his better judgment to acquiesce to her scheming... who could resist the tractor beam of hotness that is Bolling when she wants something from you. Those heavenly legs and flawless waist, her perfect lovely blonde hair, piercing eyes, and lips as if carved from wood by an artist at Mattel. And if you recognize Sandor, it's because maybe you remember him (and how could you not?) as the psychotic biker who harasses Stacey Keach in THE NINTH CONFIGURATION! Yeah, Sandor, you thought your hurt was over! 

The film also has Casey Adams (the genial square husband in NIAGARA) as a grinning traveling salesman "on an expense account" (typecasting!) who gets caught up in Miss Bolling's machination. Alex 'Moe Green' Rocco and a smoothly-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 tough guy back-and-forth rapport is so on point you will recognize it as the inspiration for 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. Instead take the downhill/emergency break-off path offered by auteurs Jack Hill, John Flynn, Russ Meyer and...  Arthur Marks. So jump aboard and let's cruise downhill 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!

1. along with Galager and Marvin in the 1964 or Charles McGraw and William Conrad in the 1946 Killers adaptations


  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!

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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...