1/3/07

616 Racket Girls

(1951, Crime Drama/Sports, b&w), with:

Are You Ready For Marriage?
(1950, Educational, b&w)

BOING!

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Short: Does Larry and Sue’s relationship have that special, marital BOING?
Film: Lady wrestlers and crime don’t mix, not even when they appear in the same film.

Short Summary:

I wish my bishop had used props when my wife and I asked him to help arrange our wedding.In Are You Ready For Marriage, Larry and Sue osculate tenderly on a dimly lit porch. She’s about to graduate from high school. He’s halfway through college. Are they ready for marriage? Their parents don’t think so. Apparently misunderstanding the purpose of a marriage counselor, Sue and Larry seek one out, looking for someone to convince their parents for them. The counselor makes them doubt their love for one another with a series of crayon charts, a pair of dolls, and a rubber band (BOING!). They spend several weeks working on their fledgling relationship, finally convincing their parents to consent to a possible future engagement.

Film Summary:

I’d like to summarize Racket Girls for you, but I have no idea what it was about. It features several actual lady wrestlers as themselves, most notably Peaches Page, a top-heavy young lady built like a Mac Truck. She defeats an unnamed opponent in an interminable match during the opening credits. A seedy Italian named Scalli purchases her contract rights, and takes her out into the country to do outdoor calisthenics so he can study the buoyant motion of her oversized chest. Then the world champion of all lady wrestling (Clara Mortensen as herself) convinces her he’s a louse and drags her away. So I guess the movie’s not about her.

And, oh yes, it has the Women’s Wrestling World Champion and the Women’s Wrestling Champion of Mexico. (Mexican Champ Rita Martinez, as herself, apparently speaks English so fluently the director told her to affect an accent. She does so, badly.) They have a lengthy match with a lot of slapping, leg locking, and bouncing off the ropes. Clara flops all over the mat like a landed cod whenever Rita gets her in a hold, and Rita squeaks like a rusty door every time Clara yanks one of her braids. They don’t appear until the film’s almost over, and only wrestle in one of the three featured matches. (The middle match is a tedious affair that pits a nameless woman in a leopard suit against a nameless woman in a panther suit). So I guess the movie’s not about them either.

I suppose the movie might conceivably be about Scalli. He uses his position as a women’s wrestling manager to cover for his other, less savory occupations, including bookie, fixer, drug pusher, and prostitute recruiter. Scalli’s flunkies are Joe the Jockey, a libidinous and vaguely Latinate little man who accidentally kills racehorses, and Monk the bookkeeper, who sells Scalli’s financial information to everyone indiscriminately, even Scalli himself. Scalli owes thirty-five grand to a growling silhouette named Mr. Big, who rules the underworld from his boiler room office. Near the end, the Feds scare Scalli with vague threats, and Monk sells news of Scalli’s impending flight to Mr. Big. Mr. Big’s henchmen gun down Joe and slowly shoot Scalli to death while he drives away. Then the Feds catch up and arrest Big’s men, leaving us to wonder how the lady wrestlers are supposed to fit into all of this.

Introduction:

The aftermath of Crow and Servo's wedding.Lisa Loeb appears in the Hexfield Viewscreen to regale the satellite crew with a little ditty about the harsh realities of her relatively uneventful life.

Host Segment One:

Mike closes up the Hexfield Viewscreen and boards it over in the middle of her song. A strange family wanders into Deep 13. Dr. Forrester emerges from the shower to ask, “Have you been helped?” He consults with Frank about the efficacy of their security system and goes outside to test it. He reaches the intercom and asks Frank to buzz him in, but Frank will only talk to him like a customer at a drive-through window. Dr. Forrester gets in anyway, hurts Frank, and installs a new intercom system. He asks Mike and the ‘Bots, via intercom, if they can hear him. They answer all his questions specifically and then reply that they cannot. Dr. Forrester gives up on the intercom and tells them about the short film via semaphore.

Host Segment Two:

Crow asks Mike for Servo’s hand in marriage. Mike makes them take the Cosmo Compatibility Quiz. Though they differ on the many important issues of marriage (Marvin Gaye vs. Bill Cosby, Curly Howard vs. Joe Besser) they finally agree that they do not want to get married. Mike gives them his blessing, and then shoots a rubber band to symbolize their love. Tom and Crow are astonished at its sudden disappearance. Dr. Forrester calls up to tell them about their feature film. Mike shoots a rubber band to symbolize the movie. Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank are astonished at its sudden disappearance.

Host Segment Three:

Mike and Crow have a bachelor party. Jan in the Pan (from Episode 513) shows up in the Hexfield Viewscreen and lolls her disembodied head bawdily while glittery bandages peel away from her scalp. Mike puts a stop to it while Crow drunkenly praises his bride-to-be. Quoth he, “Servo is a beautiful flower.” “Your bachelor party is the most depressing event of my entire life,” Mike replies.

Host Segment Four:

It’s Tom and Crow’s wedding. Gypsy and Mike are flower girls. The strange family in Deep 13 attends. Frank sings There Is Love as a prelude, and then Dr. Forrester steps up to conduct the ceremony. He wanders off the subject of the vows into a cynical, anti-marriage rant. The proceedings devolve into a free-for-all wrestling melee.

Host Segment Five:

Crow, Mike, and Tom dress in flamboyant leotards and call themselves Professor Hurts, Count De La Pain, and Sir Slamsalot, respectively. They read letters. Down in Deep 13, Dr. Forrester has gotten rid of the strange family and fixed the security system. Lisa Loeb gets in anyway, and continues her song. Frank is welcoming at first, but quickly throws her out when Dr. Forrester tells him she’s dating Ethan Hawke.

Stinger:

The marriage counselor shoots a rubber band across the room. “It’s gone! Where’d it go?” cries the confused young couple.

Thoughts:

Gosh, how...um...titillating.The stinger shows my favorite part of the short. The counselor has just stretched out a rubber band to demonstrate that a marriage needs a certain amount of BOING (his word, not mine) when he shoots it across the room to show what can happen to it if they’re not careful. From the young couple’s astonished reaction, they seem to think it’s disappeared into thin air. Also, according to the latest kindergarten crayon charts, no couple should ever consider getting engaged until they’ve dated at least a year, and even then the wedding date should never be set any sooner than three years out. This is to allow time for their dress-up doll avatars to move closer together in the shoebox puppet theater of life.

I’m guessing Racket Girls was made to promote Women’s Wrestling as a sport. Or at least, I’d be willing to bet that’s what the producers told Peaches, Clara, and Rita to get them involved. Did they know that their sport would be nothing more than filling in a crumbly corn tortilla of tepid crime drama? Were they so desperate to get exposure for Women’s Wrestling that they were willing to appear in a Z-grade B-movie so far back on the drive-in theater bill that the remaining patrons were probably all too drunk, semi-conscious, and/or lip-locked to pay attention? Did their managers write their appearance in this film into their contracts and then bully them into it? I’m guessing that the last explanation is the most likely.

Bridget Jones looks and sounds a lot like Lisa Loeb, and her rambling song works very well both at the beginning and the end. Most of the host segments focus on Tom and Crow’s wedding preparations. The Cosmo Quiz and the rubber band analogy are very funny, but a little incongruous together. I loved the wedding, and Mike and the ‘Bots had great wrestler names at the end. Also, Jan in the Pan is a very creepy stripper.

The film segments have their share of problems. The short has a number of excellent opportunities for mockery (when looking at “Cupid’s Checklist,” Crow notes that “Cupid is anal”) but it bogs down in the various charts, checklists, and props used by the marriage-discouraging counselor. The film is a hard-to-follow mess. Most of the funny comments center around the casting of women who got ahead in their sport for athletic ability instead of sex appeal. When Peaches jogs down the road, looking for all the world like she has a pair of mini-basketballs stuffed down her sports bra, Mike notes that she’s “about as sexy as a concrete abutment.” While a dozen muscular women practice throwing each other across a crowded gymnasium, Tom says, “It’s like a stag film produced by the League of Women Voters.” During the third of three fifteen-minute wrestling matches filled with hair-pulling, leg-bending mayhem, Crow says, “My loins will never stir again.” It’s a fun short, but an awful film. The lady wrestlers would have been better served with a documentary.