Overall | Chicken Ranch (1983) | Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) | Fetishes (1996)

The Nick Broomfield Collection-Volume 1: Adventures in the Sex Trade (1983)

The Nick Broomfield Collection-Volume 1: Adventures in the Sex Trade (1983)

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Released 23-Aug-2004

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Overall Package

    Three films from the camera of Nick Broomfield, or rather from the camera of his camera-person. Broomfield is English-born, but his major works have all been made in America. The three features on this disc were made for the BBC and for HBO, and deal with three aspects of the seamy side of America, or at least three of its many seamy sides. The collection is subtitled Adventures in the Sex Trade, and each film is about one facet of the "sex for hire" industry. Chicken Ranch looks at a brothel in Nevada that Broomfield became aware of through advertisements in an aeronautical magazine, as the brothel has an airstrip to fly in clients from Las Vegas.

    Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam is more of a character study into a famous American scandal of the 1990s. No-one comes out of this film in a positive light, though Broomfield seems to be trying to suggest that Fleiss was a victim in this affair. This is probably the best of the three films in this collection.

    Fetishes deals with a house of pain, domination and humiliation in New York, and is perhaps the most confronting of the three films.

    The set as a whole is a reasonable introduction to Broomfield's work and is followed by a second set dealing with entirely different subject matter. The two later films in this collection show a change in style from the first. The earlier film has no narration and Broomfield does not appear on screen. The later films have the director as part of the documentary, both narrating and interviewing on-screen. His adventures in making these documentaries form part of the narrative, more so in the Fleiss documentary than the last film.

    Anyone with an interest in the work of this film-maker could do worse than invest in this set. The films are not available separately.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Chicken Ranch (1983) | Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) | Fetishes (1996)

Chicken Ranch (1983)

Chicken Ranch (1983)

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Released 23-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Introduction-Nick Broomfield
Audio Commentary-Nick Broomfield
Featurette-Nick Broomfield - A History Part 1
Gallery-Photo
DVD-ROM Extras
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 74:05 (Case: 84)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:05) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nick Broomfield
Sandi Sissel
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case ?
RPI Box Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Nick Broomfield is a documentary film-maker from England who now makes his base in the United States. His first film dates from 1970, before he went to film school. His best known work to date would be the two films he made about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who was also the subject of the fiction film Monster, and the documentary Kurt and Courtney.

    Broomfield is the sound man on his films, as he reveals in the extras that his camerawork is not up to scratch. Chicken Ranch was the first feature film he made after graduating from film school, and is set in a brothel of the same name in Nevada. This is not just any ordinary brothel, but is one that has its own airstrip to fly in tourists from nearby Las Vegas.

    The brothel itself is a bunch of trailer homes joined together, and the women who work there also live in the building. We see them responding to the bell that tells that a client has arrived, and they line up and introduce themselves to the client. The client then selects one and they disappear into one of the back rooms. The reception area has some tacky furniture, all of which, including the cushions, is covered in clear plastic.

    The women are a mixed bunch, with a couple that get more screen time than the others. These are Connie, the outspoken one who doesn't like men and is having trouble getting picked, and Mandy, a buxom blonde who seems to get picked frequently. This film is not as sleazy as the subject matter. There is no nudity, and apart from a couple of clients who did not object to being filmed, most of the running time is taken up with the women talking about their experiences to each other. Broomfield and his camerawoman spent about two months at the Ranch, and it was several weeks before the girls would agree to be filmed.

    Other characters include Fran, the madame or maid as they call it, and the owner, Walter, a sleazy piece of work who is missing much of the time. The camera is a discreet observer of what is going on, more like a fly on the wall than a participant. Apart from some superimposed titles, there is no narration. The drama comes from the problems the girls have, both with their clients and with Walter. For example, they have trouble convincing a group of Japanese tourists to pick anyone, and there is a client who seems to be intoxicated who does not want to spend more than $20.

    This is a depressing film. It isn't that the women are shown being abused, but it is clear that they are being exploited and their lives seem to be quite empty and directionless. It is fascinating up to a point, but it is not the sort of film I would want to see often.

    Chicken Ranch is one of three films in a collection called The Nick Broomfield Collection Volume 1: Adventures in the Sex Trade. The other films will be reviewed separately.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was probably 1.37:1.

    It looks as if this film was shot on 16mm, so it has the lack of clarity and detail that you would associate with this film format. Everything is slightly fuzzy, and very little is clearly defined. Shadow detail is satisfactory. Contrast levels are also satisfactory, given the source.

    Colour is reasonable. There are some bright colours at times, and these seem realistic. The bright lighting contributes to a slightly over-exposed look that prevents the colours from looking lifelike and vivid. However, I think the transfer accurately represents the original look of the film.

    I did not notice anything in the way of artefacts due to the transfer. Flecks and dirt appear on the film, but not to a troubling extent. The video is very grainy.

    The film comes on an RSDL-formatted disc. The layer change is well positioned at a cut at 54:05 and is not disruptive. No subtitles are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is the original mono presentation, here in Dolby Digital 2.0 format.

    Dialogue is distinct throughout, even though the recording often does not pick up the voices clearly. I found I had no trouble understanding the dialogue despite this. I did not notice any significant hiss or distortion, and apart from some slight sibilance the audio is satisfactory.

    There is no music score as such, though there are a couple of songs heard on the soundtrack. These are not credited.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Animation for the menu options consists of clips from the film accompanied by the sound of a projector.

Introduction - Nick Broomfield (2:16)

    This is a brief introduction to the film, which is in fact an excerpt from Nick Broomfield - A History Part 1, also included on this disc. Broomfield gives some background as to how the film came to be made.

Audio Commentary-Nick Broomfield

    I have a mixed reaction to this audio commentary. On the one hand there is a lot of interesting information about the film, the people in it and what happened to them. On the other hand Broomfield tends to speak slowly and with frequent pauses, and as a result there are a few dead spots. Not the sort of commentary that I would listen to again. He does, though, reveal that one of the girls, Dianne, went on to become a successful computer analyst, while sadly Mandy was murdered a couple of years after the film. Walter was missing from much of the shoot as he was in prison, and he later died while awaiting trial for the murder of three women who worked at another of his establishments.

Featurette-Nick Broomfield - A History Part 1 (50:46)

    This is basically Broomfield introducing himself and his career, with extended excerpts from his films, ranging from 1970 to the late 1980s. There are some brief highlights from the later films at the end of the featurette. These are presumably included in more detail in Part 2, which must be included in Volume 2.

Gallery-Photo

    Fifteen photos taken during the shoot, which are much sharper and clearer than the film footage.

DVD-ROM Extras

    The Extras directory on the disc contains 21 QuickTime video clips. Some of these are short promotional clips for his films, and some are advertisements he has made for a German car company. The menu item for the DVD-ROM extras also gives Broomfield's website address.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   At present this film seems to be available on DVD in Region 4 only. Alternatively, you can buy a VHS tape from Broomfield's website for a mere US$100. Plus postage.

Summary

    An interesting but ultimately sad documentary about the world's oldest profession.

    The video quality is as good as the source material allows.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    A good selection of extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
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Overall | Chicken Ranch (1983) | Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) | Fetishes (1996)

Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995)

Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995)

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Released 23-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Introduction-Nick Broomfield
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 107:06 (Case: 106)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nick Broomfield
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Nick Broomfield
Case ?
RPI Box Music David Bergeaud


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The second of the documentaries in The Nick Broomfield Collection Vol 1: Adventures in the Sex Trade is a 1995 film for the BBC about the most famous Madam in Hollywood: Heidi Fleiss. She achieved instant celebrity in 1993 when she was arrested on pandering charges, and some prominent names in Hollywood were named as clients of her service. Pandemonium seemed to erupt more because of the names that she might name, rather than the names that she did name.

    Like many of the best investigative documentaries, it is the unexpected twists and turns that raise this above the mundane. Broomfield arranged to make a film about Fleiss, but just before he was due to meet her she was re-arrested and imprisoned. In order to keep the production going he sought out people who knew her. This trail led to some very strange and shady characters in the underbelly of Hollywood.

    Fleiss seems to have been attracted to older men. One of her relationships was with Hungarian-born film director Ivan Nagy, who comes across in this film as something like a Colourful Racing Identity. He claims that he was trying to save Fleiss from a life of prostitution and drugs, while a former panderer named Madam Alex (who seems to live in bed) says that Nagy sold Fleiss to her for $500. A detective says that Nagy was involved in criminal activity and ran an escort network. Nothing more than circumstantial evidence of this is presented in the film. Both Nagy and Madam Alex paint the other as evil gutter trash.

    We also get to meet Victoria Sellers, a former drug addict and once one of Fleiss' girls. The daughter of Peter Sellers and Britt Ekland, Sellers tells that she was a close friend of Fleiss until Fleiss turned on her. However, a quick search of the internet reveals that they are more recently business partners and still close friends.

    When Madam Alex was charged with pandering in 1991, an LAPD detective helped her get a light sentence by testifying that she was a police informant. Broomfield interviews this detective, who confirms the story and also claims that Police Chief Daryl Gates' brother was involved with a prostitute. The interview was conducted in prison where the detective was facing armed robbery charges. When Broomfield later interviews Chief Gates, we see the cash payment that Broomfield had to make in order to get the interview (he had previously paid Madam Alex $2,500 for her interviews). Fleiss herself is only interviewed in the last half hour of the documentary.

    The impression I get from this film is that the only things that matter to these people are power and money. The overwhelming impression you get is that everyone is lying or at least bending the truth for their own ends, and at the end of this film I felt I knew more about the character of the people involved than I did about their life stories. Even the sex (which we don't see, obviously) seems to be less about love and more about power and money. There is barely a credible or likeable witness in this film, from the principals (although Fleiss is reasonably sympathetic) through to the peripheral figures Broomfield interviews, such as former call girls, porn stars like Ron Jeremy and even Fleiss' mother. That being said, this is a compelling and entertaining film, often quite funny, benefiting from Broomfield's droll sense of humour.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. It was made for screening on the BBC, and looks to be shot on 16mm film, possibly later transferred to a video master from which this transfer is taken.

    As a result, the video is not very sharp. There is enough detail to prevent this from being unpleasant viewing, and the look of the film does suit the subject material. The lack of clarity of the picture matches the lack of clarity of the stories depicted. Shadow detail is not very good. While much of the film occurs in bright sunlight, occasionally the subjects are backlit, meaning there are deep shadows on their faces with no detail visible. Some of the indoor work is murky.

    Contrast levels are average as well, but acceptable. Colour is reasonable, much like any other 16mm footage shown on television. There are no vivid colours, but there is enough colour to be presentable. Blacks suffer from some low level noise and there are no pure whites either.

    The print material is of course quite grainy, but not to excessive levels. Gibb Effect is visible throughout much of the film, but apart from that the general lack of clarity means that transfer artefacts are not really visible, if they exist. There is a steady stream of film artefacts, such as dirt, debris and minor damage. For most of the first ten minutes or so there is a wavering vertical yellow line on the left hand side of the screen. This looks like something that might have affected the original negative rather than an artefact on the print used, though it is difficult to be sure.

    The film is presented on an RSDL-formatted disc with the layer change at 55:52 at a cut, and it is not disruptive. There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. I'm pretty sure that this is a mono track; in any case, there is no surround encoding.

    The audio is satisfactory for this type of film. The sound is obviously limited, given the use of a hand-held microphone, which does not always capture the voices well. Madame Alex mumbles and is therefore often difficult to understand, which made me wish that subtitles were available. Otherwise dialogue is reasonably clear. There is no noticeable hiss or distortion.

    The score is credited to David Bergeaud. There are a few snatches of music, all bar a few sounding like they are from pre-recorded sources. A few dramatic chords were the only sounds I thought may have been original to the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

    Animation for the menu options consists of clips from the film accompanied by the sound of a projector.

Introduction - Nick Broomfield (3:12)

    This is a brief introduction to the film, in which the director gives some background on how the film came to be made.

Photo Gallery

    8 stills of Fleiss, Nagy, Alex and Broomfield made during the production.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The US Region 1 release is available as a stand-alone release. I have not been able to locate any reviews, but it seems to omit the photo gallery, not enough to recommend the Region 4 in preference. However, if you want only this film then the Region 1 is the better option.

Summary

    An absorbing documentary about some pretty strange characters. This is the sort of thing that the phrase only in America was created for.

    The video and audio quality are acceptable given the source material.

    The extras do not amount to much.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add) NONE
Overall | Chicken Ranch (1983) | Heidi Fleiss: Hollywood Madam (1995) | Fetishes (1996)

Fetishes (1996)

Fetishes (1996)

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Released 23-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Introduction-Nick Broomfield
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 87:00 (Case: 84)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Nick Broomfield
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Nick Broomfield
Mistress Beatrice
Mistress Catherine
Mistress Delilah
Mistress Natasha
Mistress Raven
Elissa Wald
Case ?
RPI Box Music Jamie Muhoberac


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.29:1
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.29:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This film was made for the HBO cable network and was originally intended to be a travelogue of houses of domination across the world. However, film-maker Nick Broomfield decided that he could make a better film by concentrating on just one such establishment, Pandora's Box in New York.

    I have to say at the outset that I found this film to be confronting. What you get here is an inside look at a business that caters to clients who want to be dominated, humiliated or feel pain. Some want all three. There are scenes of whipping and nipple-clamping (and clamping of other body parts). The clients allow themselves to be put into degrading situations, at least one of which involving the cleaning of a toilet I found too much to watch.

    It seems that there are people who will pay to put themselves through these experiences and get enjoyment or at least release through them. Most of the clients in this film seem to be highly-paid executive types who spend their days in positions of power and somehow find that being at the other extreme works for them.

    Broomfield allows his camera to observe clients in session with their mistresses. We get to meet the mistresses and get some insight into their lives and their feelings about their work. The clients, most of whom have been ordered to allow themselves to be filmed by their mistresses, also talk about what they want to get out of their sessions. Most wear masks or face away from the camera, though some seem unconcerned by what others will think.

    This is about as close as most of us will ever get to the world of bondage, S&M and humiliation. The film is reasonably insightful, even though in Broomfield's approach I sense a sort of implicit personal judgement about the participants. It is well put together and many will find this fascinating, if a bit lurid. Not the sort of programme that will have me reaching for the disc from the storage shelf.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in the original aspect ratio of 1.29:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    It looks to me as though the film was shot on video, and there is a lack of sharp detail as a result. A lot of the rooms in which the film is shot are dark and thus the film is quite murky at times. Contrast is not the best though it is adequate for undistracted viewing.

    Colour is a little dark and drab. Even the bright colours, such as the red dress that one of the mistresses wears, seem drab. There is a lot of low level noise, and therefore there are no solid blacks.

    There is some minor aliasing and pixilation, though neither was disturbing to me. There is some excessive noise reduction, resulting in the front of a building at 1:55 seeming to move.

    No subtitles are provided. The film comes on a single layer disc, and consequently there is no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The sole audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. I'm pretty sure that this is a mono track.

    Dialogue is clear for the most part, though sometimes I had to strain to hear some of the voices. It's a bit hard for your voice to be clear when you are wearing a rubber mask over your face. The sound generally is acceptable without being exceptional, with no obvious distortion or other issues. Audio sync seems to be perfect.

    The music score is credited to Jamie Muhoberac, but it seems to consist mostly of excerpts of the music of Mozart, which was playing in the establishment when Broomfield arrived.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio and Animation

    The main menu animation involves each menu option having a small window with a scene from the film in it. The audio is the sound of a film projector.

Introduction (3:32)

    An introduction to camera by the director, giving a background to how the film was made.

Photo Gallery

    Nine behind the scenes photographs.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The film is available in Region 1 (US) as a standalone release. I have not seen any reviews but it looks to include just the film. The Region 4 is only available as part of a box set, so if you just want this film the Region 1 might be the better option.

Summary

    A film about one of the extremes of human sexual behaviour, this might be offensive to some viewers, and off-putting to others. Caveat emptor.

    The video and audio quality are acceptable given the source material.

    The extras do not amount to anything.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Richter Harlequin; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews NONE
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Paying for it...? - Malcolm Tent, UK.