Monday 20 April 2015

Fly Me (Cirio Santiago, 1973) Review

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“My daughter, she isn't happy unless she sees everything.” Roger Corman: a name synonymous with low budget exploitation cinema, a man who has brought his audiences cobbled-together spectacles for decades. He's taken us from gun-slinging actioners to monster cheapies, low-fi sci-fi to kung-fu kicking stewardesses – and it's that last little one we're focusing on here: Cirio Santiago's Fly Me...

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“I put a virgin on the plane in Los Angeles, I'll put a virgin on the plane in Hong Kong.” Scurrying out of the L.A. surf in a skimpy white bikini, Toby (Pat Anderson, Cover Girl Models) is in a mad hot rush to get to LAX airport – so much so that, of course, she's got to change in the back of her cab … much to the dangerous distraction of her driver (fan favourite Dick Miller). It's her first day on the job as a stewardess and she's heading to Hong Kong, with a handsome doctor and – much to her surprise – her mother in-tow.

“I'm not only a Doctor, I'm a bone specialist.” It's the sexy seventies and anything goes – bunk ups with the captain a mile up in the air, drug-fuelled parties, and liberal use of aeroplane stock footage – and the young and impressionable Toby wants her fair share, setting her sights on the Doctor (Richard Young, Friday the 13th Part V). However, despite their best – and repeated – efforts, Toby's mother (a tenacious Naomi Stevens) is hot on their heels; she's a pasta-obsessed walking prophylactic!

“In this city, when someone disappears they don't leave no address.” Similarly, things aren't going so smoothly for Andrea (Leonore Kasdorf, Mrs Rico in Starship Troopers), whose fly-by lover has mysteriously disappeared … and then, suddenly, a kung-fu fight breaks out! These gals do more than pour coffee and point out the exits, they can dish out high kicks and take on black belts. In all the confusion and burning passions, Sherry (Lyllah Torena) falls into the hands of some vengeful drug traffickers – that'll teach her for thinking she can get away with skimming off half of her delivery.

“Mama Mia! Did it have to be the men's room?!” Throw in an undercover drug buster, a blind assassin, a couple of shoot outs, Toby's forever frustrated libido – as well as reams of sight-seeing footage of Hong Kong, Tokyo, the Philippines (and L.A.'s Chinatown) – and you've got yourself a classic clobbering of Corman chaos.

“He's a perfectly nice Playboy.” In typical exploitation style there's a consistent smattering of bared boobs and skimpy under-things, but the introduction of a sex slave subplot does go some way towards muddying the tone. One scene will have one of our gals being menaced, and the next will return to the continued efforts of Toby's Roman Catholic mother to protect her daughter's virtue, have her American citizenship respected, and satiate her appetite; one particularly entertaining interlude finds Mama helping herself to a police chief's dinner.

“I'm backing the winning horse, if I'd stayed with you I'd have been one of your sluts.” Boasting a post-sixties grooviness (check out those snazzy opening titles), and a carefree sense of silliness, Fly Me – like many of Corman's productions – provided early work to future heavy weights of the industry. Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) was the 2nd Unit Director, while Joe Dante (Gremlins) acted as Dialogue Director, and Miller Drake (who went on to be a VFX Editor on numerous major Hollywood extravaganzas like Terminator 2) takes on scripting duties.

“Nobody said anything about goodbye.” However, even at a scant 74 minutes, the film – perhaps more by today's standards – isn't as briskly paced as you might expect, and often pads out its already skimpy running time with numerous sight-seeing montages … although they do provide a pleasing sense of globe-trotting scope that otherwise evaded Corman's competitors. While modest by 21st century measures, Fly Me is still cheeky and sexy, dolling out a few swift kicks and punches with gleeful abandon. What it does have in spades, however, is that heady vibe of exploitation cinema's heyday.

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