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House on Bare Mountain

a/k/a Night on Bare Mountain

     "That's right, honey. Never forget -- You're in good hands with Granny Goodbody."

-- Too good to be true? E'yup...    




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By the mid-1940s and the close of World War II, the Hayes Code, which explicitly said what explicit material could and couldn't be shown on movie screens, was starting to show a few cracks. Exploiting these new fissures were a group of independent filmmakers, who were doing their damndest to get a naked body on the big screen -- and out of the stag reels relegated to your local Elk's Club basement. Sure, nudity was nothing new. Pioneered with the likes of Kroger Babb's Mom and Dad, disguise any film as a documentary piece [Bowanga! Bowanga!] or educational short [Test Tube Babies], and you could usually sneak it past the local censorship boards. If that failed, the distributors resorted to the old "square-up" reel, where exhibitors were given two different copies of the film -- one a cleaner version used to get past the censors, and then the other that they would really show, complete, once they got the OK. And if the theater owner smelled out the cops or a sting, the tamer version was shown until the authorities cleared out, and then the square-up reel would be tacked on at the end to show what everyone had missed.

Then came the burlesque movies -- nothing more than a static recreation of an old vaudeville show, consisting of corny comedians and comely strippers, which opened the door for the nudist pictures (-- nature films and nudie camps, etc.), and one film in particular called Garden of Eden. For it was with this film, after a lengthy court battle, a ruling was handed down that stated:

"Nudity, on it's own, had no erotic content and therefore is not obscene."

-- Quoting from RESEARCH #10: Incredibly Strange Films.

Though the ruling didn't completely break the Hayes Code's back, it did turn those cracks in the foundation into a full-blown breach. And what followed next, starting with Russ Meyer's The Immoral Mr. Teas, was a new type of film that combined the corniness of the burlesque shows with the not-quite full-frontal of the Nudies -- and thus, the Nudie-Cuties were born. Voyeurism was still the game: lot's of looking, but no touching -- from the audience, or the characters on screen; just a parade of beauties and a lot of teasing, teasing, and more teasing, punctuated by a whole lot of corn, straight off the cob; that's a Nudie-Cutie in a kernelled nutshell. And when this cycle started petering out, oddly enough, monsters started showing up, giving the genre one last hurrah with the likes of Kiss me Quick, and this week's film, House on Bare Mountain, before the real monsters and psychos started showing up -- but we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit.

Now, it's usually at this juncture that I give you the plot description of the film, but that would be admitting that House on Bare Mountain had a plot to begin with. And to do so would prove the Supreme Being of your choice fallible -- thus starting a chain reaction that would null and void the entire universe. And who wants to be responsible for that? Not me. Heck, no.

Okay. Okay. Fine...

The plot, I think -- and stress on the think, revolves around Granny Goodbody -- producer Bob Cresse in drag -- and her school for wayward young girls. And Cresse's take on Goodbody is a flattering carbon-copy of comedian Jonathan Winter's Granny Fricker character in the same way Sammy Petrillo was flattering Jerry Lewis in Bela Lugosi meets the Brooklyn Gorilla. Anyway, Granny's curriculum for her girls mostly consists of spending a lot of time in the shower, getting ready for bed, lounging around the pool, or exercising around the grounds of her mansion. Of course, everyone -- except for Granny, thank the Deity of your choice -- is topless and sometimes bottomless (-- but only from the rear.)

The film proper opens with Granny in the clink. Why? Well, as a side operation, she sells liquor made by an illegal still out of her basement that's run by her pet werewolf, Krakow. (Make up provided by Harry Thomas, and it's just as shoddy as his work in Frankenstein's Daughter.) Relating her tale of woe, Granny was suspicious that a spy was in her midst, and then spends most of the movie via a flashback trying to ferret the mole out -- and you won't believe where she looks. Let's just say every nook and cranny is checked and re-checked and then leave it to your imagination.

Things eventually reach a climax at the Halloween Jamboree, where in an extended sequence, each topless border is shown flopping down the steps to call their dates, begging those on the other end of the line to sneak a bottle of booze into the dance. They all do, and after the punch is spiked to around 190-proof, the mole reveals herself, calls in the cops, who then raid the place, while the party degenerates into a drunken dance orgy, complete with the Frankenstein's monster doing the Watusi.

And that's about it, except for the twist ending. Turns out Granny got all the cops drunk, too, and keeps them all imprisoned in her basement, forcing them to work the still. (She wasn't in the clink, they were.)

The End

In the relatively tight circle of early sexploitation film pioneers, the only person disliked or more reviled by his peers than Alan Shackelton was probably Bob Cresse. Dave Friedman (The Defilers, Scum of the Earth), a long time collaborator, called him "a closet Nazi" and Harry Novak (The Pigkeeper's Daughter, A Scream in the Streets) threatened to throw him through a plate-glass window if he tried his strong arm tactics on him again; and for the record, those tactics usually included a loaded .38 and two beefy body guards for persuasion and bill-collecting.

Cresse started out as a messenger for MGM, but felt there was more money to be made working independently -- especially concerning subjects the big studios weren't allowed to do. Striking out on his own, he founded Olympic International Pictures, whose simple motto was "Art for the Sake of Money." Getting his feet wet writing and producing Once Upon a Knight -- a tale of an insurance investigator whose allergic to naked women, Cresse then got involved with the House on Bare Mountain by bailing out fellow producer Wes Bishop, who ran out of money one day into production. Hooking up with another long time collaborator, director Lee Frost, Cresse inserted himself into the picture as the star, ad-libbing the whole thing, and only shot one more day of footage, and then spliced everything together. The ad-hoc style of filming shows up pretty badly during the film's brief running time (-- it barely breaks an hour). There just ain't a whole lot there, and what is there borders on tedious, and the thing never quite gels and lacks the overall delirium of the far superior Monster-Cutie, Novak's Kiss Me Quick or Ed Wood's Orgy of the Dead.

Now, despite those earlier court rulings, some local censorship boards were still throwing their weight around. And when House on Bare Mountain premiered in Boston, the Chief of Police, claiming to have seen a little bit of snatch during the screening, raided the theater and shut the movie down. Demolishing the projector, he arrested the owner and burned the negative on the sidewalk for the gathered press outside (-- turns out he was up for re-election at the time). Cresse counter-sued for destruction of property, and since the evidence was destroyed, giving the cops no case, he won a settlement.

The end was soon nigh for the Nudie-Cuties though, and the giddy colors and jiggling scenery were replaced with the darker, grittier and nastier Roughies as the teasing gave way to sex with an unhealthy dose of violence. And as the characters starting fondling each other, and more, they usually just wound up beating the crap out of each other; evidenced in the bondage and sadism of George Weiss's Olga movies; the Findley's sleaze and necrophilia -- and if you thought the lobster claw assault in Kiss of Her Flesh was bad, check out the corn cob scene in The Ultimate Degenerate. Gah!; and then culminated with the all out gorenogrpahy of Hershell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs etc.), which officially put an end to -- no matter what there was to look at, c'mon, admit it with me -- one of the dumbest genres off all time.

Cresse went with the flow, churning out the wonderfully sleazy Mondo Bizzarro, The Animal, and the truly nasty western, Hot Spur, where a cowhand kidnaps and tortures the boss's wife, followed by The Scavengers, his take on Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, only here, the rapes are shown in slow-motion; and Cresse was also responsible for the very first, and some think the worst, of the Nazi-sexploitation-sickies, Love Camp 7, where he had a little too much fun playing the Commandant -- if you know what I mean. And by most accounts, Cresse was just as big a misogynistic misanthrope in real life as he was in that film. It's my understanding he had a two-way mirror in his office that gave him full view of the ladies restroom -- that lets you see what, exactly? Shower? Sure. But a restroom? Which makes what happened to him next even more bizarre:

While taking his dog for a walk along Sunset Strip, down an alley, Cresse heard a woman crying for help. He investigated and found two men, who appeared to be assaulting her. Pulling out his trusty .38, when Cresse told them to back off, one of the men pulled out his own gun, shot Cresse in the stomach, then shot and killed his dog for good measure, and then informed Cresse that they were police officers making an arrest. And while recuperating from his injuries, Cresse bled his accounts dry with medical bills. Broke, he dissolved his partnership with Frost and bowed out of the production business, taking a few bit parts here and there, and at one point wound up skipping the country to get away from his creditors. He eventually did come back and died of a heart attack in 1998, ending one of the strangest runs in filmdom.

Although he might not have been the nicest guy in the business, the one positive thing you can say about Cresse is that he always delivered what his titles and promotional material promised. I'll admit there is something refreshing about watching these old Nudie films, and that's the -- for lack of a better word -- naturalness of the eye-candy on display. No silicone perfection or over-fixed grotesqueries, and no waifish, heroin chic. These ladies are what they are, tan lines and all; cute and solid and comfortable, and there ain't one damn thing wrong with that.

House on Bare Mountain (1962) B & M Productions :: Olympic International Films / P: Bob Cresse, Wes Bishop / AP: Tommy L. McFadden / D: Lee Frost / W: Denver Scott / C: Gregory Sandor / E: Gary Lindsay / M: Pierre Martel / S: Bob Cresse, Laine Carlin, Leticia Cooper, Laura Eden, Ann Perry

Originally Posted: 04/23/06 :: Rehashed: 05/23/09

Knuckled-out by Chad Plambeck: misspeller of words, butcher of all things grammatical, and king of the run on sentence. Copy and paste at your own legal risk. Questions? Comments? Shoot us an e-mail.
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