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Friday, April 11, 2014

DVD Review: Bettie Page Reveals All

You really can’t beat the title Bettie Page Reveals All, and you can’t beat Bettie Page, still the world’s most famous pin-up girl. In this new documentary, Bettie Page does in fact reveal many things about her life through interviews that function as the film’s narration (Bettie Page does not appear on screen, as she wished for folks to remember her as she was in her photos).

The film opens with a few thoughts on Bettie Page from people like Hugh Hefner (who talks about how much her image has influenced pop culture) and Dita Von Teese (who says, “It’s sort of confusing even whether she was a real person or not”). We then briefly see her funeral at Westwood Village Memorial Park in December of 2008.

After those opening shots, the film is basically told in chronological order. Through the interview, Bettie Page is really allowed to tell her own story, and she does a great job of it, offering fantastic and surprising anecdotes and information. Bettie speaks with candor about not only her professional life, and not only about her triumphs and joys, but about her troubles. About her father, she says: “A sex fiend is the way to put it. I mean, sex with anything that he could get his you-know-what into. Chickens and sheep and cows and anything.” He had sex with Bettie’s two sisters, and Bettie talks about how she let him touch her in order to get money to go to the movies. Her mother then took Bettie and the other children and left him. But because there wasn’t enough money to care for all six children, Bettie was put in an orphanage for a time.

As striking as that is, perhaps even more surprising is that Bettie Page aimed to be valedictorian of her high school class in order to get a scholarship and missed it only slightly, becoming salutatorian. Who would have guessed? It was very early in this film that I was already completely engaged.

Of course, a good deal of the film focuses on her professional career, and interestingly it was a Brooklyn policeman who not only got her started but suggested she wear bangs. The film presents plenty of early photos of Bettie Page. She talks about the bondage photo shoots, saying that most of that work came from requests from people. We are shown many of those photos, and yes, we get a good amount of nude footage of Bettie as well.

After Bettie Page disappeared from the professional world, the film goes into the influence she and her image had on artists and models in the 1970s and 1980s. Meanwhile Bettie had a few marriages, which she speaks about with humor. About the second marriage, she says: “Two months after the wedding I realized I had made a mistake. All we had in common was movies, sex and hamburgers.” Then when she got into religion, she was told she had to remarry her first husband, which she did. That is really interesting, and what comes after that is even more surprising.

Though Bettie is the narrator, there are several other interviews throughout the film. Other people interviewed include Paula Klaw, who along with Irving Klaw photographed and filmed Bettie Page; Bunny Yeager, a pin-up model turned photographer; and Harry Lear, who married Bettie Page in 1967 after her modeling career had ended and who reveals some disturbing episodes of her life.

By the way, I love that Bettie hated cigarettes. She didn’t smoke, and you can see that the cigarette in that famous whip photo is unlit.

Bonus Features

This DVD includes plenty of bonus material that should please Bettie Page fans. The first is Filth And Obscenity, and is nine minutes of footage including a couple of scenes of those old “educational” films (I love this line: “We know that once a person is perverted it is practically impossible for that person to adjust to normal attitudes in regard to sex”). There is more on Movie Star News, and more on Bettie Page’s influence on pop culture.

The bonus features also include The Early Years: Audio Interview With Bettie. Some of this interview was used in the film, but here we actually hear the questions as well as Bettie’s answers, which we rarely do in the film. Bettie talks about high school, and all the activities she was involved in. There is a little more about her time in the orphanage, and more on her start in modeling and the camera clubs. She talks about how she once thought about joining a nudist colony. Still photos accompany this interview, most of them being wonderful early photos of her. This interview is approximately sixteen minutes.

Unreleased Bettie And Paula Klaw Phone Call is the complete phone call, a small portion of which is in the film. They talk about old times, working together, and also about Bunny Yeager. This is approximately thirteen and a half minutes.

Perhaps most exciting is Irving Klaw’s Wiggle Movies, eight short films of Bettie Page (here referred to as Betty Page) totaling approximately twenty-five minutes. They are set to modern songs, most of them about Bettie Page, such as “Welcome To The Jungle (The Fabulous Bettie Page),” “21st Century Bettie Page,” and “My Baby Wants To Look Like Bettie Page.” The films include Dance Of Passion, Betty Pages’s New High Heel Tease, Waltzing In Satin Scanties, Dominant Betty Dances With Her Whip (my personal favorite), Dream Dance By Betty, Betty’s Enchanting Dance, Return Of Teaser Girl, and Betty’s Exotic Dance In High Heels.

There is also a music video of Buzz Campbell’s “Bettie Page,” which features footage from the Irving Klaw films.

Bettie’s Funeral is three minutes of footage from Bettie Page’s funeral, including an interview with Hugh Hefner and bits of the speeches.

The bonus features also include a photo gallery of seventy-one photos of Bettie that were not used in the film, as well as the film’s trailer.

Bettie Page Reveals All was directed by Mark Mori. It is scheduled to be released on DVD on April 22, 2014 through Music Box Films.

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