Jul 6, 2019

Escape to Passion (1970)

From James Bryan, the director of The Dirtiest Game from the same year - a film that blew my mind.  It's a film about a bank heist that goes wrong. 

 Leo (Leonard Shoemaker) idolizes Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.  He wants to be a cool gangster like them - but right now, he's just a two bit loser.

 Leo's wife, Judy (Bambi Allen), shows him her boobs - she's happy he's come home with some loot.

 But he's still flat broke.  Judy has had enough of being poor - and calls him a worthless faggot.  Leo throws her out of the apartment.

Leo takes in a movie at the Vixen Theater.  (The film being played, oddly enough, provides the title credits for this movie.)

Leo goes to a strip club where a stripper, Cherry (Kathy Hilton), is being accosted by an overzealous patron.

 Leo rescues her, and Cherry is thankful for her savior.  Actress Kathy Hilton was in a ton of VZ1 type movies - The Harem Bunch, The Young Graduates, Wendy's Naughty Night, Invasion of the Bee Girls, The Cocktail Hostesses, etc.  The trouble is, she was almost always a bit part, often uncredited. 

 Leo has a loser friend named Jason (Sebastian Figg).  This guy cracks me up.  He's so pudgy, awkward and wears these big sunglasses with a pageboy cut.  I love this guy.

This is Jason's wife, Audrey (Barbara Mills).  How this Jason dope has such a hottie wife is beyond me.  Barbara Mills is another legend of sexploitation cinema, appearing in The Suckers, Sweet Georgia, The Long Swift Sword of Sigfried, Chain Gang Women, Madam Satan, The Love Garden, The Harem Bunch, Sinthia: The Devil's Doll, Boogievision, Truck Stop Women, etc.

Audrey treats her husband like a king.  She's got a drink ready for him when he comes home, and is ready to put out whenever he likes.  She doesn't quite understand why Jason hangs around a loser like Leo, but she let's him do his thing.

 Jason and Audrey have sex.

 Leo has another associate loser - Nads (Frank Millen), who doesn't seem quite altogether upstairs.

 Leo meets with Nads and Jason at a diner to discuss their upcoming big heist.  It's about time Leo had his big break.  They're joined by a gangster wannabe, but the trio denies him membership.

 Playing at the lounge is this country & western act.  This made my day. They sing two full songs -  I can't explain it, but I loved it.  The girl is Marlene Selsman, an actress, so I'm not sure is she had a country singing job on the side? The guy is Mike Hall, who was the "sound department" for James Bryan's other film, The Dirtiest Game

 It's the night before the big heist - a bank robbery.  Leo goes over the plans with Nads and Cherry.

For whatever reason, Cherry genuinely likes Leo, and offers him a present - a shoulder holster for his pistol.

 They have sex - but Leo can't get it up.  He's too consumed with worry over the big heist tomorrow.

Cherry urges him to give it another try.  But it's no use.  Leo is focused on what he feels like his whole life has led to.  To finally stop being a loser, and be like James Cagney.

 The big day has arrived and they get into the car.  Nads has stolen bunch of guns and disguises for their job.  Cherry wears a NASA space helmet.

 Nads is such a lunatic he reads every sign on the way to the bank.  Leo tells him to shut the fuck up and check on Cherry in the backseat.  This is what he sees...

Cherry says she's hot, so took her coat off.  This movie is so damn odd.  I can't compare it to anything.  Just in this scene alone - you have Nads reading signs for no reason, and Cherry getting undressed for no reason, and wearing a space helmet for no reason.  It's just random shit like this throughout the film - which definitely keeps things interesting.

A peaceful main street bank is about to a lesson in violence.  Cherry stands up on the bank counter.  The customers and staff slowly take note of this odd turn of events...

 Cherry takes off her coat and announces this is is a stick up!

 But Leo quickly loses control of the situation when the alarm bell is sounded by one of the tellers.

 It turns into a massive shoot-out, with Nads wasting basically everyone at the bank.

 Leo is shot.  Cherry and Nads help him to the getaway car.

 Meanwhile, on the other side of town, Audrey calls her friend Marlene (Linda Levin) over.

So, Jason's job is entertain wealthy customers for his advertising agency - and he uses Audrey and her friend to help make his customers happy.   This customer is played by Coleman Francis, director of The Beast from Yucca Flats.

 Things get really wild as the girls lay down Coleman and bring in the Crisco...

 I'll never look at a can of Crisco the same way again.

 But their fun is interrupted by the arrival of the injured Leo and gang, looking to use Jason's place as a hideout.

 Can we just pause on this for a moment?  Holy shit.

I love this trio.  The bubbly, slightly insane stripper, the loser gangster who thinks he's James Cagney, and the dimwitted but loyal sidekick.  This should have spun off into a TV show - I'd watch it.

 Audrey tries to hit on Nads, using her sexual charms to maybe get the gun away from him.  But it doesn't work.

 Audrey tries again with Cherry; trying to befriend her and perhaps turn her against her partners.  It doesn't work either.

 Shit really hits the fan when the police finally arrive.  The police just indiscriminately start blowing everyone away.  Jason, Marlene, and the obese customer are all wasted.  Nads, Cherry and Leo do their fair share of killing in retaliation. 

 Audrey is shot and killed.  Leo holds her in his arms.

Finally, the cops kill Leo, and the show is over.  THE END

This was incredible.  It had everything seventies sleaze cinema could offer, but with a pinch of oddness that really made it one-of-a-kind.  Constant nudity, gun battles, car chases, girls covered in Crisco, Country & Western music, a naked bank robbery, with truly unique and interesting characters.  A masterpiece of trash cinema.  Director James Bryan would go on to direct the slasher Don't Go in the Woods and other projects, but for this one year - 1970 - with The Dirtiest Game and this film, Bryan had tapped into something very, very special.  If you're a fan of weird and sleazy B-movies, this is the high water mark.

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