Feb 19, 2011

The Snow Bunnies (1972)

It isn't every day that people go see a skin flick... to hear the dialogue.

But so it was with The Snow Bunnies, a surreal poverty-row sex romp, co-written by the one, the only Edward D. Wood Jr., made available for cult movie fans at a rare public screening, presented by ESR's good friend, Mr. Dion Conflict. Many who love the naive innocence of the writer-director's work of the 1950's usually deplore his subsequent efforts for the next two decades, in which he largely paid the bills by penning pornography, often contributing scenarios for director A.C. Stephen (AKA- Stephen Apostoloff). The few Stephen-Wood romps I have seen are enjoyable for their strange combinations of sloppy eroticism and meretricious writing. (As of this writing, I STILL haven't seen Orgy of the Dead.) One needn't watch this for long to realize that it came from the pen of everyone's favourite spacey visionary, but for those who still need a clue, later on one of our female leads suggests that her limp boyfriend should wear ladies underwear.

This epic begins in Warhol-level grubbiness, with an endless close-up of soapy bosom as buxom starlet Marsha Jordan lathers herself in the shower. But all it takes is one phone call, and we realize we're in the hands of a master. Marsha is a vacationing nurse whose shower is interrupted by a phone call from someone at the hospital who has the nerve to call on her time off ("You BASTARD!"). To avoid any more intrusions by those capitalist pigs who want her to spend her holiday time at work, she decides to get away from it all to a "Canadian Winter Wonderland", and recruits a few friends to come along, all of whom have the same white telephone and fake flower arrangement on their night stands.

So for the next hour, this randy bunch has casual encounters at a ski resort: the buck-toothed Joni Mitchell clone gets it on with a Bobby Vinton look-alike (check out that belt buckle!), the strawberry blonde has some fun with some dopey blonde ski bum in a sauna, and then of course the sun dazed brunette has a roll in the hay with a guy who could pass as John Ashley's younger brother. But if this isn't busy enough, there is also the ubiquitous Rene Bond as a waitress who prostitutes herself on the side, and most puzzling, some voyeur is capturing the girls’ fun in snapshots. The latter subplot is NEVER RESOLVED, however maybe the mysterious disappearance of Ms. Jordan for an hour of screen time has something to do with it. (And speaking of ubiquitous, that same horrible leather couch appears in most of these sequences- alas, the one telephone we see is red.) For me, the cinematic highlight had to be scene of the lovebirds by the stream, where the sound of the cameraman's feet crunching on the snow is heard on the soundtrack! This could be a deliberate inclusion on the filmmakers' part to add to the voyeuristic subplot, or merely a technical gaffe, but moments like this make this picture so alive.

The lucky patrons of the Snow Bunnies screening were further given to explore the film's unusual structure, as some scenes are later repeated, one assumes due to a reel jumble in the projection booth, however causing the viewers' head to explode with ideas, evoking comparisons to Resnais' upheaval of time and space, and Wood's own Brechtian leanings in his signature film Plan 9 From Outer Space. But fear not, amidst the mechanical eroticism, and bountiful second-unit ski footage filled with blurry pans and stuttering zooms, there are some true Woodisms heard in between. One wishes this film was on DVD alone for the benefit of pausing to write down some of the gems uttered by this wooden bunch of hopefuls who often glance to the camera for direction (further calling attention to the film's artifice). It was hard for yours truly to scribble many of them down, since the movie leaped from one head-spinning moment to another, but here is one jewel: "Work is the curse of the modern system."

Once again the over-achieving Mr. Wood attempts to transcend the tawdry requirements of a sex film with socialist mumblings and a strange moral of how pleasure can lead to unhappiness, but what also remains in memory is the film's randy celebration of hedonism, captured as best as could be in varying shot-to-shot colour temperatures (reminding one of Wong Kar Wai) from the diverse short ends they scratched together for this epic, and scored with familiar up-tempo lounge stock music. One is quickly reminded why we must track down every lost 70s film we can: even a poverty-row quickie like Snow Bunnies feels more organic and vivacious than most clinical product made today. I haven't been to such a liberating screening since, well, Satan's Blade. Viva Conflict! Viva Cinema!

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