Satan was a Lady
A Doris Wishman Film
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If Russ Meyer were still making movies, Honey Lauren might be one of his lead actresses. With an eternal sneer, predatory eyes, and large breasts, she would've easily fit into Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or Supervixens. Her on-screen persona is a sex-charged hellcat who thinks only of her own desires. Men are mere toys to be used and discarded. However, times have changed and there isn't much of a market for R rated sex films anymore. And Meyer has long since conceded the game to the pornographers. But strangely enough, another relic of the nudie-cutie '60s is still kicking — Doris Wishman of Nude on the Moon and Bad Girls Go to Hell fame.

Like Meyer, Wishman has been relatively inactive over the past two decades, so Satan Was a Lady represents a comeback of sorts. Technically, it's far superior to any previous Wishman movie. The cinematography, lighting, sound, and editing are all well, nothing less than competent. And in the world of Doris Wishman, competency is a major improvement. Acting is still something of a problem. Honey Lauren is a mediocre actress who gets by more on her nasty beauty and her penchant for surliness than her ability to read a line of dialogue. But compared to previous Wishman lead actress Chesty Morgan (one of the worst actresses in the history of cinema), Lauren is a godsend.

Lauren plays a stripper/hooker who puts the squeeze on one of her customers, threatening to phone his wife and tell all unless he coughs up several thousand dollars. This situation precipitates bloody results. A musician named Glyn Styler (he recorded an EP with Lydia Lunch in 1997) plays her boyfriend. He sports a thick bowl of hair propped up by sunglasses. His acting talents are minimal, but he contributes a couple of acid-tongued songs to the soundtrack (including "You Killed My Love"). An actor named "Edge" (no relation to the U2 guitarist) plays the object of Lauren's blackmail scheme. And Hans Lohl (a pretty boy with no acting talent whatsoever) plays Edge's twenty-something son. Lauren can't resist bedding Lohl just for the hell of it.

While in most respects Satan Was a Lady is one of the best made films of Wishman's career, it's also a little too removed from her '60s and '70s exploitation career to really matter much. It exists mostly as a curiosity. It occupies some of the same neo-noir territory as Blood Simple and The Last Seduction, but alongside these gems, Wishman's new effort looks mighty thin. Its greatest virtues are Honey Lauren's presence in the lead role and a nervous, restless, cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof mood (bolstered by Styler's smoky-barroom music).

Fly By Night has put together a good DVD package of Satan Was a Lady, including extra music by Glyn Styler and extensive outtakes. In the latter, you'll see Doris Wishman (now 80+ years old) decked out in a leopard print outfit, drifting around the edge of the frame, giving instructions to the actors.

If you like Satan Was a Lady and you'd like to see more of Honey Lauren, you should check out Men Cry Bullets. It's arguably a better movie, with a more vicious, John Waters-inspired, sense of humor. In between starring gigs in independent productions, Lauren snags bit roles in Hollywood productions, such as "hooker #2" in the upcoming Deadwood TV series or "peep show girl" in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. I suspect if the right project comes along, she could have a major breakthrough movie. And you have to hope it happens: surliness this damn sexy is practically sublime.

Satan was a Lady is now available on DVD in a widescreen edition. Distributed by Fly By Night. Special features: behind-the-scenes video, Doris Wishman filmography, and solo song performances by Glyn Styler. Suggested retail price: $19.95 each. For more information, check out the Satan Was a Lady Web site.