When The Title Writes A Check The Movie Can’t Cash
Back in 1963, the president of Crown International Pictures, Newton P. “Red” Jacobs, speaking about the importance of a film’s title, said “A title is the handle. You can’t lift a picture very high if the handle is weak.” For the head of a movie studio, enticing movie-goers with lurid or flashy titles probably seems like a perfectly reasonable business strategy. What they don’t have to deal with, however, are the feelings of betrayal that viewers experience when they realize that the handle wasn’t carrying anything. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a movie because of a title that promised sleaze and destruction, but ended up being less offensive than a random episode of Alias (WARNING: The previous link exists for no other reason than to show Jennifer Garner in lingerie). As much as I’d like to, I simply can’t save everyone from being duped by deceptive titles. What I can do is warn others as I encounter them.
Recently, I sat down to watch the Japanese Yakuza flick Sailor Suit and Machine Gun. Generally, if I watch a film about the Yakuza, I assume that there will be a certain amount of violence and sadism. If I watch one with a handle implying that a sailor suit and a machine gun will be involved in the story, I assume some things in that case as well. Maybe my expectations were set too high because of Kill Bill‘s schoolgirl uniform-wearing assassin, Gogo Yubari. Or perhaps I’ve seen too many films like Terrifying Girls‘ High School: Lynch Law Classroom (which actually has a fairly accurate title). All I know is that I was ready to witness a girl in the aforementioned attire spraying hot lead into an army of tattooed gangsters when I turned this on:
Now, I don’t think it was a bad movie, but it should not have been called Sailor Suit and Machine Gun. You see, the trailer showed about as much machine gun action from the schoolgirl heroine that you’re going to find in the entire motion picture. That’s right. The rest of the film is more of a coming-of-age drama about a girl that just happens to run a Yakuza gang. There is violence in it, but most assuredly not enough to impress the more bloodthirsty viewer. Hit Girl probably kills more gangsters just for practice.
(NOTE: From what I’ve read, Sailor Suit and Machine Gun is popular in Japan. There’s even a TV show. )
Speaking of schoolgirls on a rampage, 1,000 Convicts and a Woman (originally known as Fun and Games) is a sensationalistic-ally(?) titled film that I’ve been curious about for some time. It stars Alexandra Hay, who plays Angela, the 17 year-old daughter of a prison warden (Hay was around 24 when it was released). She describes herself using such words as “psychotic”, “nymphomaniac”, and “exhibitionist”. This would have made for spectacular entertainment if the film was more adventurous in exploring the possibilities of such a character. It would also have been nice if she was actually surrounded by a sweaty mass of lust-crazed inmates. The trailer attempts to piece together the few moments of sleaze in the film into something resembling what the title boasts:
The “prison” in the film is minimum security, at most. One of the guards even compares it to a country club. The inmates are so well-behaved that the warden allows his teenage daughter to spend her days mingling with (and taunting) them. At one point, an inmate loses control of himself after excessive teasing and attempts to assault Angela. He then escapes and returns later to assault her again. This leads to him falling and breaking his neck during a chase.
Aside from Angela (indirectly) causing a prisoner fatality, here are some other things she does in the film that might be considered the actions of a psychotic nymphomaniac exhibitionist:
- Smokes marijuana
- Seduces a guard
- Gets it on with two guys camping in the woods
- Causes an inmate doing landscaping work to crash into some bushes
- Takes part in a prison escape (at first as the hostage) and then ends up getting it on with one of the prisoners
- Seems to be doing something naughty while riding a bicycle (you’ll have to see it for yourself)
- Laughs evilly on a few occasions
I think that covers the highlights. Any of those might be shocking to the casual movie watcher, but I went into 1,000 Convicts and a Woman expecting that sort of thing and so much more. I’ve read descriptions of the film that place it in the Women-in-Prison genre. I disagree, not only because Angela isn’t really in prison, but because most movies of that ilk are a lot trashier. There isn’t a single shower scene in the whole picture. She’s not even a sadistic guard or anything. Just a lonely girl who doesn’t get enough love from her father…
Now that I think about it, the original title, Fun and Games, is more accurate if interpreted ironically. All of Angela’s behavior in the film is just one long cry for help. This could’ve been a Lifetime movie.
I’ll leave you with this trailer for Reform School Girls, which may not be a film with a colorful title, but it does deliver on what’s important:
This post is part of our User Showcase series. You can find Chad as kingofpain on Flickchart. If you’re interested to submit your own story or article describing your thoughts about movies and Flickchart, read our original post for how to become a guest writer here on the Flickchart Blog.