Even the sleaziest exploitation fare can often resonate with audiences, powerfully exposing truths about the ominous travails of the world. A recent viewing of 1974’s The Centerfold Girls, a truly nasty, episodic look at the sadistic assaults upon a series of magazine models, revealed that how society felt about sexually liberated women & their personal freedoms in the ‘70s hasn’t really changed at all.
Unfolding in three vignettes as the murderously (im)moral Clement Dunne (Andrew Prine) effectively does away with a group of women who have posed nude, this sticky, raw underbelly of a film highlights a patriarchy that wants to control every aspect of the feminine experience. Simultaneously, they reserve the right to punish any unbending femme for their independent thoughts, especially those pertaining to matters of an intimate nature.
Often tough to watch, the film ultimately does, almost gloriously, expose this hypocrisy. In the opening story, a grizzled small town, blue collar worker played by old school Hollywood vet Aldo Ray sneers at the life choices of a cover girl-nurse, effectively played by future soap opera icon Jaime Lyn Bauer. Despite his wrongheaded disdain, he still aggressively pursues an intimate relationship with her character, echoing almost exactly the attitudes of contemporary Republicans and right to lifers who look at women as nothing more than sacks of lifeless meat.
Thankfully, In the third tale a stewardess played by cult goddess Tiffany Bolling takes certain stage. Prefiguring the reign of the final girl by about 6 years, she ends Prine’s misogynistic agenda in a starkly poetic tableau. This outcome, hopefully, proves that the filmmakers, somewhere deep within their grindhouse hearts, actually believed in the beautiful resilience and strength of women and ascertained that, eventually, the evil of all rigidly controlling men would be, gloriously, undone. Ultimately, one can only aspire for this to be our fate in the real world, as well.
Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!