Sunday Matinee: The Big Doll House

Women in prison movies started becoming be in the late 1960s with films like 99 Women. Naturally Roger Corman’s low budget exploitation film company New World Pictures started making them in the early 1970s starting with The Big Doll House in 1971.

Directed by Jack Hill the movie was shot in the Philippines. Judy Brown stars as Collier a woman sent to prison for the murder of her husband. Once in prison she meets Alcott and Bodine (Roberta Collins and Pat Woodell). She also meets Grear (Pam Grier – in her first big screen role). Gear is a prison bully and lesbian who has her eyes set on Collier after her current girlfriend bores her. Meanwhile the sadistic female guards and warden Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer) like to torture the prisoners.
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Sunday Matinee: Come Drink With Me

Marital arts in movies have been around on the screen since the early days of film. But the massive international popularity of them wouldn’t really begin until the 1960s. In 1966 The Shaw Brothers Studio produced a movie called Come Drink with Me which would kick start a massive onslaught of martial art movies.

Come Drink with Me starred actress Cheng Pei-pei in the lead role as Golden Swallow a bad ass martial artist who is out to try and save her brother who has been kidnapped by a bandits have allied themselves with an evil monastery lead Abbot Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing). On her journeys she is helped by Drunken Cat aka Fan Da-pei (Yueh Hua), a former member of the same martial art master that trained Abbot Liao Kung.
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Sunday Matinee: Tiger of the Seven Seas

Gianna Maria Canale stars as Consuelo who is the daughter of the notorious pirate called Tiger. Tiger has decided to retire and decides to hold a contest to see who will take over his command. The contest comes down to William (Anthony Steel) and Consuelo. Consuelo wins but then her father is murdered in the night.
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Sunday Matinee: Anne Of The Indies

This 1951 action adventure swashbuckler stars Jean Peters as Captain Anne Providence, a notorious pirate who sails the sevens seas. Intended to be loosely based on Anne Bonny the movie took several liberties and eventual became its on thing.

Anne and her crew have just seized a British ship and she meets Captain Pierre François LaRochelle (Louis Jourdan) whom she spares and lets him join her crew. Anne starts to fall in love with Pierre and takes him to meet her mentor Blackbeard (Thomas Gomez).
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Sunday Matinee: Johnny Guitar

There are a few westerns in the 1940s and 50s which had strong female roles. 1945’s Along Came Jones featured Gary Cooper as easy going Jones who is mistaken for a bad guy except unlike the bad guy Cooper can’t shoot very well. Fortunately Loretta Young can.

There was also Ann Savage in Renegade Girl (1946), several adaptations on the life of Annie Oakley, first in 1935 with Barbara Stanwyck in Annie Oakley and then a musical with the same name in 1950 with Betty Hutton. There were also several Belle Starr films, the first was a silent in 19287 called Court Martial. Gene Tierney played her in Belle Starr (1941) and Isabel Jewell played Starr in Badman’s Territory and Daughter of Belle Starr (both 1946), and Jane Russell was Starr in Montana Belle (1952).
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Sunday Matinee: The Paleface

Other than the action serials of the 1930s and 40s there was very very few leading roles for women as the hero. Most leading roles at the time were primarily drama, mother of a family struggling to keep the family together and such or a woman trying to become a star was another popular theme. But there the odd hero role for women.

Starting in the silent film era there was the odd western about a female gunfighter. 1918 had The Gun Woman. In the 1935 Annie Oakley a bio-pic about the sharp shooter starred Barbara Stanwyck, in 1935 The Plainsman starring Gary Cooper as Wild Bill had Jean Arthur as Calamity Jane but only in a non fighting side role. 1941 had the romanticized bio-pic Belle Starr (Gene Tierney) the notorious outlaw although the movie makes her more sympathetic, less of robbing criminal and more of a patriotic freedom fighter.
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Sunday Matinee: Brenda Starr, Reporter

Brenda Starr was a popular comic strip that had started in the 1940s written and drawn by one of the few female comic artists working at the time Dale Messick. The comic followed the adventures of Brenda Starr a reporter who got into all sorts of adventures (Messick came up with it after her all female pirate comic got rejected). The series was so popular it lasted until 2011 in newspapers.

Columbia Pictures loved adapting comic characters into serials, Superman, Batman, The Phantom, Congo Bill, Terry and the Pirates and many more so it was not much of a surprise that they adapted Brenda Starr.
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Sunday Matinee: The Tiger Woman/Zorro’s Black Whip

In 1944 Republic Pictures came out with another jungle girl serial The Tiger Woman starring Linda Stirling as the Tiger Woman. Sterling’s costume is actually a leopard print but whatever.

Two rival oil companies are trying to get the rights to drill in a jungle which is protected by the Tiger Woman and her tribe. Allen Saunders (Allan Lane) works for the one oil company but teams up with the Tiger Woman to fight the more evil oil company.
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Sunday Matinee: Jungle Girl/The Perils of Nyoka

So all the past few weeks of jungle girl movies have been leading to this 1941 action adventure serial from Republic Pictures, Jungle Girl!

Jungle Girl was the first sound serial to have a female lead. Well not quite – there was the 1933 remake of The Perils of Pauline and there was the 1935 serial Queen of the Jungle which just reused footage from the 1922 serial Jungle Goddess. But this actually the heroine swinging on vines and saving lives and fighting bad guys instead of just being a damsel in distress. Very very loosely based on Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of the same name the movie stars Frances Gifford as Nyoka Meredith the jungle girl of the title. The plot has Nyoka moving to an remote tribe in the jungle where her father Dr. John Meredith (Trevor Bardette) has fled and becomes doctor for the tribe displacing the witch doctor Shamba ( Frank Lackteen).
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Sunday Matinee: The Savage Girl / The Jungle Princess

Continuing with the jungle girl series today’s Sunday Matinee is 1932’s The Savage Girl.

Rochelle Hudson plays the title character, a young woman who has grown up in the jungle who is sort od a female Tarzan, trying to keep the animals of the jungle safe.
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