Reel Life: Doris Wishman's grade-Z oeuvre | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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Reel Life: Doris Wishman's grade-Z oeuvre

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Women auteurs are rare among the directors of ultracheap sleaze flicks. But starting after her husband died in 1960, self-taught filmmaker Doris Wishman wrote, directed, edited, and produced over two dozen charmingly crude films with names such as Bad Girls Go to Hell and Keyholes Are for Peeping. Unlike camp icon Russ Meyer, whose big-breasted features have long been championed by Roger Ebert, Wishman has only recently been treated to retrospectives.

Beneath her outlandish plots lurk a crypto-feminist critique of the male gaze. In Double Agent 73, made in 1974, Chesty Morgan plays secret agent Jane Genet, whose left breast is equipped with a surgically implanted camera for documenting her hits. Men are the victims here; they die with eyefuls of blurry flesh. Let Me Die a Woman, a 1978 documentary on transsexuals, includes a lurid castration scene. A doctor is interviewed while holding a pointer to his patient's penis and saying, "His one and only all-consuming thought and desire is to get rid of his hated penis and testicles." Nude on the Moon, filmed in 1962, is about two young rocket scientists--one smokes a pipe with Hugh Hefner urbanity--who travel to the moon, where they obsessively photograph a matriarchy of nude moon maidens. But they're deprived of their photographic trophies when they leave their camera behind.

These three films will be shown at Chicago Filmmakers' Kino-Eye Cinema, 1543 W. Division, as part of the program Who Is Doris Wishman (and why does she make such weird films)? The series may not completely answer this question, but Wishman has always let her work speak for itself. Double Agent 73 will play at 8 and 10 PM Saturday; Let Me Die a Woman at 10 PM October 7; and Nude on the Moon at 10 PM October 21. For more information call 384-5533.

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