Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Centerfold Girls 1974

(or Tiffany Bolling Movie Night # 1)

    A 1974 release from Arthur Marks General Film Corp, The Centerfold Girls is a great 1970's exploitation thriller. It contains an unbelievable cast - Andrew Prine  Aldo Ray, Jennifer Ashley , Janet Wood, Francine York, Ray Danton, Jeremy Slate, Mike Mazurki and one of the queens of '70's drive-in movies- Tiffany Bolling.

   Andrew Prine, looking like a demented door to door salesman, wears a dark suit a couple of sizes too small (which accents his gangly figure), glasses, ugly saddle shoes and lives in an all white room in which he keeps souvenirs of his victims. Playing Clement Dunne, a psychotic killer who is murdering centerfold models for a popular men's magazine, he really brings a creepy vibe to the role. From the opening scene of Prine dragging the nude body of a girl with her throat slit over a desolate beach to bury her to the finale in a bleak, wildfire ravaged canyon,  this is a very dark & twisted ride.  Like most of Arthur Marks's productions Centerfold Girls presents the world and the people in it (except for the killers victims) as pretty sick. Prine, started out on the stage and appeared in John Wayne's Chisum in 1970 among other films, and alternated T.V. work with such such drive-in staples as Hannah, Queen of the Vampires (1973) and Grizzly (1976).

   Although it first come across as disjointed the film actually sets up a kind of interesting concept of being divided into three separate stories with Prine's character being the the common thread as he stalks the models. One of the segments ends up in a house on an island for a rather neat Agatha Christie type "who's going to get murdered  next" setup.  The film also uses several times the telephone as a suspense item (one of my favorite things from older movies), which in these days of cellphones is pretty much a lost plot device.
   Director John Peyser might seem at first an odd choice for such a movie. He was born in 1916 and did most of his work in T.V., but he does a very nice job here and there's more then a couple startling set pieces- including one scene where Prine slashes one of his victim's neck and the blood  splatters across a window in front of the camera. The cast is really good with Jeremy Slate playing an an almost darkly funny ineffectual police detective and Ray Danton (in a wonderful slimy role) & Francince York as the models agents.

  Tiffany Bolling plays one of the centerfolds (naturally) and brings her usual presence. I really like Tiffany Bolling. She did bunches of T.V. work in the 70's but also appeared in several other classic exploitation films, including another Arthur Mark's production Bonnie's Kids ("Thank God, she only had two" !!), The Candy Snatchers (released by Subversive on DVD , but now OOP) both from 1973 and pehaps her best known role, co-starring in 1977's classic Kingdom of the Spiders. She always seems to bring a little something extra to her roles and has a wonderful, natural, very pretty "70's" look to her. She first started out as a singer, releasing an album in 1970 and a had a minor regional hit with the single  "Thank God the War is Over". In the unique 1974 film Wicked, Wicked which was filmed in "Duo-Vision", a process in which two side by side scenes were shown on the screen, she appears as a nightclub singers and gets to sing in the movie. Her album titled "Tiffany" on Canyon Records is a pretty hot item on the collector market today.

  Centerfold Girls is out on an excellent DVD from Dark Sky. The 1:66 anamorphic transfer displays some wear and scratches, but  overall looks very good. Also included is a documentary on the film containing interviews with cast members Andrew Prine, Francine York and Jennifer Ashley - who relates how she was initially uncomfortable with the nudity (she says it came out "pretty good") and how most of her fan mail now comes from prison inmates. Trailer and TV spots, and some isolated music cues from Mark Wolin's very effective score are also included. Dark Sky has also released the above mentioned Bonnie's Kids on DVD. Over at the Cool Ass Cinema blog there's  an excellent write up done on The Centerfold Girls from 2010.

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