For lovers of forgotten and not so forgotten high-camp gems from the '60s through the '90s, and then some.
Monday, 2 May 2011
PIA ZADORA AND "THE LONELY LADY"
I can’t go on doing this blog without giving a well-deserved shout-out to the legendary Miss Pia Zadora for keeping onscreen smut alive and well. For decades, she’s been known for acting in the worst—but highly enjoyable—movies ever made; movies such as BUTTERFLY, FAKE-OUT, VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS, and my personal favorite THE LONELY LADY. I just can’t get enough of this 1983 Peter Sasdy film. Watching it is to me one of the great joys in life, and I’m not kidding. Nothing in it bores me. I am literally glued to the screen every time I pop the DVD disc (from a VHS source, since the film as yet to be released onto DVD) into my player.
Why, you may ask? Why put myself through this grade-Z Hollywood fiasco over and over again? For the simple fact that THE LONELY LADY is an enjoyable mess. Everything in it is so wrong that it’s right, from the syrupy soundtrack to the over the top acting, to the guffaw-induced storyline, not to mention the very stilted dialogue exchange. Not a moment is spared in non-delivering the high camp goods. But my love for this gem even goes further than that. Beyond the evident mishaps (and they are many) exists a real tour de force of a film. Perhaps not from Zadora herself, bless her little heart, though she tries her best—maybe too much—to bring life into her role. But from the way the film is handled. THE LONELY LADY is almost an homage to the early exploitation films of the '30s and '40s (Barbara Stanwyck’s BABY FACE comes to mind), as well as sexploitation flicks of the mid '70s (NASHVILLE GIRL starring Monica Gayle is one). Director Peter Sasdy makes sure that everything bathes in sleaze, as it should be, since the film is based on a novel by Harold Robbins, the master of sleaze himself. And it’s probably the reason why the film got panned the way it did when first released; its adaptation to the screen is too much like a '70s vintage Robbins: lots of tawdry, degrading sex and little else; a premise not too popular for the high-gloss seeking audience of the '80s.
Filmed in Italy, London and Hollywood, Universal Pictures (in association with Harold Robbins productions) did break the bank in producing what I’m sure they thought would be another slick soap opera movie à la THE CARPETBAGGERS, THE BETSY, heck even à la THE ADVENTURERS for that matter—all big budgeted films based on Robbins novels. But something must have happened along the way for THE LONELY LADY to nosedive the way it did. Because indeed, compared to those films, THE LONELY LADY is far from looking and acting its best; though, like I said, the exploitation/sexploitation factor to it does bring it to another level. Moreover, scenes of such unintentional laughter—like the Pia’s climactic fit, for example—does place it as must-see campy moments. And to tell you the truth, had it not been as cheesy-looking and as affectionately bad, perhaps this blog would have never focused on it in the first place. So suffice to say, THE LONELY LADY is exactly as it should be.
We now must talk about Miss Zadora’s role in the film. In it, she plays a would-be screenwriter who wants to make it in Hollywood no matter what; a part that strangely resembles Pia’s then real life. Both women were married to rich guys, both had husbands who helped them get ahead in the business, both watched their careers hit a wall after some form of success. Pia went on to make the low-budget but not that well-received VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS, then had a little upswing with her singing career to finally disappear in whatever-happened-to-her heaven. Although she’s sort of making a comeback nowadays belting out her old tunes all around Vegas. As for Peter Sasdy, the director, after the fiasco that LONELY LADY was, he concentrated his next move on syndicated TV in the '80s and '90s, before disappearing completely from the face of the earth. On a side note, if you guys are still interested in experiencing his vision in films, take a look at his I DON'T WANT TO BE BORN (1975), starring none other than Joan Collins herself. This one has to be seen to be believed as well.
Now that I got this movie and its adorable star off my chest, I can finally rest in peace and say that I plan on writing more about those types of films. Trust me, they need all the spotlight they can get.