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Satan in High Heels

The word "exploitation" gets bandied about cinema circles like a bit of graffiti to be splattered on any low-budget film that features ample amounts of either violence or T&A. But it's a fairly imprecise moniker, and for a couple of good reasons. For starters, since it costs so much money to make movies, few (if any) are produced without some sense of their market appeal — really, does anyone make movies to not be seen? Even films with the loftiest of intentions usually are exploiting some facet of mass-appeal curiosity, be it a fascination with other's mental deficiencies (Rain Man) or the ability of the human spirit to endure horrible suffering (Schindler's List). At the opposite end of the spectrum, a film like 1962's Satan in High Heels might have been seen as an piece for the grindhouses in it's day, but now can be revisited as a well-crafted, low-budget film noir. It has a salacious title and a seedy atmosphere, but it is a much better film than one would expect. Meg Myles stars in Satan in High Heels as Stacy Kaye, a carny stripper with a junkie writer for a husband and a one way ticket to nowheresville. But when her husband shows up with some fast cash from a sale, she flees her dead-end life for New York, on the way meeting a player who introduces her to a nightclub where she can perform. Stacy quickly is taken under the wing of the very butch club manager Pepe (Grayson Hall), and though Stacy meets her approval, she's immediately taken shopping and put on a diet. Stacy also meets the club owner, Arnold Kenyon, who (like Pepe) has eyes for her, but Stacy finds herself drawn most towards Arnold's college-age son. Preparing for her big number, Stacy courts both men, which leads to trouble for all as Stacy dons a leather outfit and riding crop to sing her big number — in which she proclaims "The female of the species is more deadly than the male!" The femme fatale figure has always served films noir well, but these ladies rarely act as the central characters. But Satan in High Heels is about Stacy, who uses her sexuality to get what she wants — money and power, and it's only when genuine emotions come into play that her fortunes beginto unravel. Meg Myles has a harshness to her that immediately illustrates her willingness to do anything to get ahead, but throughout she is played as sympathetically as possible. And with director Jerald Intrator at the helm (who began his cinematic career with 1953's Striporama), there is a frank knowledge of the "gentlemen's club" community — Intrator keeps the characters' actions authentic and never crass. As should be expected with anything this bottom-dollar, some of the performances are weak, but the leads are solid. Furthermore, Intrator has not only a great sense of framing, but also of the black-and-white aesthetic. For what it is, Satan in High Heels belongs alongside pictures like James Landis' The Sadist as an example of what can be done with a low budget. Image Entertainment's DVD release, part of the "Something Weird" series, is brimming with extras. The film is presented full-frame (1.33:1) with DD 1.0 audio, and it looks and sounds better than it has any right to. Accompanying the feature is a second movie, The Wild and the Naked, which was shot in Latin America with looped audio and tells the tale of a young woman who takes a nap and dreams that she's stuck near a lake wherein any time she gets a fleck of dirt on her she feels that she must take yet another bath, and is chased by a gorilla, an ugly man, and a comparatively cute one. It is, in fact, far worse than it sounds. There are also are two short films: Satan and the Virgin, which features a dancer who has a devil head on her shoulder and dances around in circles (there is an informative title card that tells us that she is doing both roles. Thanks.), while Latex She-Devils features two women who get into various states of undress and tie a man up for fun. Added to the mix are eight trailers for this and other gems of the genre, along with a 12-minute gallery of "Something Weird" promo art and radio ads. Keep-case.
—DSH



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