The Film (4/5)
When you think pin-up model, Bettie Page immediately materializes in your mind. Page broke the mold in the 1950s and 1960s, going against the hard line, conservative grain many closeted libertarians were too afraid to face. American photographer Irving Klaw captured the many shades of Bettie Page on stills and on film. From her exotic dances to her bondage damsel in distress imagery, Page and Klaw pushed the cultural conservative envelope until, eventually, governmental oppression ultimate upended Klaw's professional career and, subsequently, ended modeling for Bettie Page. Cult Epics resurfaces Klaw's surviving work and illustrates, in their high definition restoration, Bettie Page's erotically grandeur appeal in 25th Anniversary release of "The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page."
Cult Epics' founder, Nico Bruinsma, aka Nico B., has been, and still very much is, the biggest Bettie Page admirer known to mankind. In 2004, the Dutch filmmaker wrote, directed, and produced "Bettie Page: Dark Angel," a modern day biopic about the pin-up model's last three years of her career. In 2016, Nico B. ups his game by rereleasing The King of Pin-up's, Irving Klaw, volumes of the notorious model in a Blu-ray collection entitled "The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page."
The short 8mm celluloids display Bettie Page, from 1951 to 1956, in various scandalous under garments and scantily-cladded bikinis, performing every move in the model's hip-swaying, booty-shaking arsenal. Cult Epics' restores, as best could from the source material, the low hang of Page's lush bangs overtop wavy jet-black hair resting just below her shoulders, her piercing stare with promiscuous blazing eyes that, at times, were soft and inviting under deep brows arching above, and her curves, oh her curves, that seem to stretch for miles on a body that's very anti-super model. That's the schtick of Bettie Page; she's opposite of today's perception of ultra thin super models as she, like many women of her time, is blessed with heavenly curves that make good men turn into rotten, dirty boys. Her uncanny physique with her broad shoulders, a thin waist line, and a bountiful backside amongst wide hips and shapely thighs destined Page for pin-up stardom.
By no means does Irving Klaw bring a particular flair to highlight the native Nashville beauty other than being one of the few willing photographers and videographers to develop recordables of attractive women at the time, especially in form of bondage. What may be obsolete today within media and content standards concerning modeling, pin-up, or even soft core pornography, was quite racy and provocative during a trying time of McCarthyism-like inquisition and for Klaw, as well as his cohort wife, to be courageous enough in his art, and probably having some foresight to see that sex sells, the leap into oblivion can contribute to and be appreciated from fans like Nico B., who in turn tribute pioneering work of inspiration.
Cult Epics presents the 25th Anniversary release of "The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page" in a new 2K HD 1080p transfer and restoration from the original 8mm reels in an AVC 1.33:1 aspect ratio, including also films from the Bettie Page Kamera Club that include topless footage of the pin-up model. The black and white collection will be perhaps be the finest we'll ever see of the original source material for each short. Basically, the dance segments fall under a nonuniform restorative qualities that are dependent on the print damage. Various white outs during contrasting flares, noticeable amounts of focal blur, and layers upon layers of dust, scratches, and burns run through the hour long presentation. Presenting sharply outlined details shouldn't even be a thought here, but some of the films, from my memory, look a whole lot cleaner than from previous releases, notably a couple of the Kamera Club films that do provide focusing clarity and some razor-edged lines.
A Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix caters to the era produced instrumental rock-n-roll soundtrack that's on repeat. The soundtrack is clean without disruptions as tracks fade in and out randomly through dance shorts. The dialogue audio on a bonus feature Q&A is a bit soft due to mic placement, but prevalent and clear.
As I mentioned before, Bettie Page Kamera Club Films, transfer to HD from the 8mm films, sustains in a pool of better quality and are far more reveling than the presentation counterpart. These particular films count for one-fourth of the duration, making the overall length of the feature deceiving. Other extras include high definition video photo gallery, displaying much of Page's bondage work, a Q&A with Bettie Page's newphew Ron Brem from 2016, and a biography and some kind words from Cult Epics' founder, Nico B., on the Blu-ray cover's inner ling.
Bettie Page remains as a one and only; her unique style and uninhibited persona in front of the camera inspires many young, and old, women alike and Cult Epics continues the good fight with the notoriously glamourous pin-up model, despite the natural defects that are out of their control. Being that there's no narrative or even dialogue, "The Exotic Dances of Bettie Page" will be a hard sell and will fall into the category of her hardcore fanatics. For the latter's sole purpose, I would full heartily endorse this release. Recommended.