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Movie Review

Insightful 'Nudity' Peeks at World of B-Movies

October 16, 1998|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For four years Odette Springer, an elegant classically trained musician and opera singer, was musical supervisor at Roger Corman's Concorde/New Horizons Pictures--until she discovered she was becoming turned on by the constant flow of images of sex and violence that confronted her daily in her work.

Leaving Corman, she decided to make a documentary, with Johanna Demetrakas as co-writer/director, that would take us into the world of B-movie filmmaking, dedicated to cranking out erotic thrillers and sexy horror-gore flicks; it would also be a process of self-discovery.

The result is the smart and insightful "Some Nudity Required," which is alternately amusing and rightly disturbing but always engrossing. Springer's two-fold strategy, examining herself as well as a specific filmmaking scene using telling clips, pays off, allowing her to be thoughtful and questioning rather than merely judgmental. Springer avoids familiar feminist diatribe, and because she doesn't preach, we're left with the inescapable conclusion that, yes, a deluge of sex and violence so frequently directed at women surely has to be potentially harmful to viewers.

While telling us about her own life and insecurities, Springer talks to just about everyone willing to sit still for her camera. Among the most colorful--and they're a vivid group--is director Jim Wynorski, who has worked for Corman in one capacity or another for years. A burly, hearty man with a survivor's sense of humor, he observes that "big breasts are the cheapest special effects in the business."

Springer finds plenty of such people, including Corman and his American International Pictures mentor Samuel Arkoff, who are unapologetic about making exploitation pictures. But she finds others, including herself, who became concerned about the kind of work they were doing. Her key interview is with Maria Ford, a lovely young actress who has become a Corman star, with Corman praising her development as a talent, but who is increasingly finding her situation degrading and frustrating. Yet she sees no alternative to continuing to play drug addicts, strippers, prostitutes and other stereotypical roles until some break comes along. (Springer reports that when Ford finally landed a small role in an A-picture the director suggested she have her breasts enlarged.)

"Some Nudity Required" suggests that Corman's mainly direct-to-video operation is no longer conducive to launching the careers of the likes of Jack Nicholson or Martin Scorsese, just to mention two Corman proteges of many years past. Yet the documentary leaves us with the feeling that Concorde or companies like it will flourish as long as males enjoy seeing sexy, scantily clad women in jeopardy--or, for that matter, as dominatrix figures--and as long as there are actresses--and this does not necessarily apply to Ford--who understand that they are longer on looks and sex appeal than talent.

* Unrated. Times guidelines: some nudity, language, adult themes.

'Some Nudity Required'

A Seventh Art Releasing presentation of an Only Child production. Executive producer Lionel Bissoon. Written by Springer and Demetrakas. Cinematographers Alain Bertrancourt, Sandra Chandler. Music Springer. Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.

* Exclusively at the Monica 4-Plex, 1332 2nd St., Santa Monica, (310) 394-9741.

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