Michael Findlay's career had a bizarre denouement: heading for Europe to seek investors for a portable 3-D camera he'd devised, Findlay was decapitated by the propeller of a helicopter that crashed into the roof of the Pan Am building in Manhattan.
Roberta later became one of the few sixties filmmakers to make the transition to hardcore pornography.
Ironically, it was ghoulies that had the easiest crossover path to legitimate theaters. Andy Milligan, who made a string of sex pictures quarantined to grindhouses, broke through to first-run theaters with product like Bloodthristy Butchers and Torture Dungeon, which profitably played as R-rated features. Ivan Reitman, who'd go on to create one of the most successful movies of all time, Ghostbusters, christened his career with a jaunty AlP release called Cannibal Girls, which used the gimmick of an alarm bell to warn the squeamish of imminent bloodletting. Few censors batted an eye when American International, purveyors to American teens, began churning out films like The House of Whipcord, which maintained the sadism of kinkies and ghoulies, but ensured that any fleeting nudity was essential to the plot.
That violence was always more tolerable to mainstream audiences than sex once provoked Lenny Bruce to remark incredulously that Americans were more comfortable having their children see a man stab a woman's breast than kiss it.
THE BRITISH ARE COMING!
An overstatement, perhaps, but they were certainly breathing hard in 1963, when the UK was atwitter over the Profumo scandal, in which a pair of modish models-cum-prostitutes, Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, revealed the sordid details of dalliances with political officials, including British State Secretary for War John Dennis Profumo. The Christine Keeler Affair, produced in tabloid Fleet Street fashion, cashed in on the story's two main features: the Cold War-inspired fear that the party girls were spilling state secrets to Communist moles, and the titillating revelation that some of Her Majesty's MP's liked to be paddled like naughty boys after a day of rigorous leadership.
The global magnitude of the scandal was such that the film was rushed into production even though its producers knew it wouldn't be approved for distribution in the UK. (England maintained rigid prohibitions against "morally questionable" films, in terms of both violence and sex.)
Two bits of cinema trivia: Profumo's stalwart wife, Valerie Hobson, was a major British actress who had appeared in the horror classics The Werewolf of London and Bride of Frankenstein. The male star of The Christine Keeler Affair, John Drew Barrymore, was son of the legendary John Barrymore, and father of current actress/party girl Drew Barrymore
Compared with the volatile sex product in U.S. grindhouses of the mid- sixties, much of the imported European fare of the period seemed dated. Even a lurid campaign for The Flamboyant Sex couldn't convince potential patrons that it wasn't just another tame Continental concoction, pale in comparison with the grungier- but more immediately gratifying - American grindhouse product. Red Lips and Love and the Frenchwoman were mid-sixties imports that didn't fare particularly well trying to rekindle the market for "sophisticated sex" that French imports had pioneered a decade earlier.
Director Max Pecas even took a crack at making Elke Sommer the new Brigitte Bardot. He undraped the young German ingenue in a series of sex melodramas such as Daniella by Night and Sweet Violence. These films only became big draws on the grindhouse circuit after Sommer had been discovered by Hollywood. (Her biggest success being a co-starring turn opposite Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark, the second film in the Pink Panther series.) Following in the footsteps of Hedy Lamarr, Elke undressed less as her star status and bankability in Hollywood movies increased.
On the other hand, Hollywood starlet Carroll Baker is a rare example of a performer plunging from the Hollywood firmament to the grindhouse demimonde. Combining a background as a nightclub dancer with training in the famed New York Actor's Studio, Baker emerged in the 1950s as a top shelf actress who never shelved her sex appeal. In her first major role, as Tennessee William's Baby Doll in the 1956 Elia Kazan production, she played a southern Lolita who slept in a crib and sucked her thumb in a most provocative manner. It inspired furious calls for censorship from the Legion of Decency. Although big name directors such as George Stevens (Giant), William Wyler (The Big Country), and John Ford (Cheyenne Autumn) cast Baker, they didn't really know what to do with a woman who could play smart and sexy simultaneously.
Producer Joseph E. Levine had no such problem. He tried to make Baker into the next Monroe, casting her in a pair of big budget sextravaganzas, The Carpetbaggers and Harlow. But Baker, disillusioned by the Hollywood star-making machinery, left the studios at the height of her popularity, accepting instead lucrative offers from European producers. She also began doing nude scenes, which was at the time unthinkable for a major movie star.
Two such films made it back to the States in 1968, The Sweet Body of Deborah and Paranoia (a. k. a. Orgasmo). Baker claims that she made as many as four different films during this period that ended up being called Paranoia.
These were two of the very first films to carry the new Motion Picture Association of America "X" rating, under which the Hays Office's Production Code Administration was phased out in favor of multitiered warning labels assigned to each film. These pictures screened in a netherworld of second-run theaters that blurred the line between legitimate and grindhouse material.
In later years, Baker would continue to resurface in an eccentric array of roles, ranging from Andy Warhol's Bad (1976, in which she throws a baby out an apartment window) to Bob Fosse's Star 80 (1983, playing Dorothy Stratten's mom) to such diverse later fare as Ironweed (1987) and Kindergarten Cop (1990).