Main Menu Animation
Audio Commentary-David E. Friedman
Audio Commentary-Bettie Page Speaks In A Scene From Striporama
Featurette-Bettie Page in "Teaser Girls In High Heels"
Theatrical Trailer-For Varietease and Teaserama
|Year Of Production||1954|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Irving Klaw|
|Starring||Lili St. Cyr|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||Unknown||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Although the following three introductory paragraphs summarising the history of Burlesque appeared in my review of Teaserama, I decided to reproduce them again here.
In the 1840s Burlesque was a theatrical art form that humorously satirised such upper-class entertainment as Shakespearean drama and ballet. It also challenged male and female gender roles by having the women actors clad in corsets and masculine thigh-high breeches during a time in history when doing so in public was considered indecent and scandalous.
Over the decades, Burlesque evolved into a genre all of its own. It became less about lampooning traditional theatre and leaned more towards sexually charged, provocatively staged spectacle. Working class males could go along and ogle the female form, which was held teasingly out of reach in G-strings, tassels and fish-net stockings and laugh at the ribald humour without the burden of melodrama and high-browedness usually associated with the theatre.
Internationally, by the 1950s Burlesque was well-established as strip-tease entertainment. Artistes like “the flying G-string girl” Lili St Cyr, “that lovely hurricane of delight” Tempest Storm, “Miss spontaneous combustion” Blaze Starr and cult fetish icon Betty Page thrived on the stage. To spice up their acts they used all sorts of paraphernalia including live snakes, swimming tanks and bubble baths. Whilst in Australia, Burlesque was very much an underground phenomenon, relegated to queer fringe theatre and later seen in the sleazy strip clubs of Sydney’s Kings Cross with our own Sandra "topless" Nelson creating a sensation for appreciative local audiences in the '60s.
Like Irving Klaw’s later released Teaserama, Varietease offers more of the same in terms of corny comedy routines and showcases a number of well-known Burlesque queens. However, the comedic elements and specialty acts are the focus here, while the striptease routines are few and far between.
Betty Page opens the parade with her hip-swingin’ re-working of the Dance of the Seven Veils, while later Lili St Cyr clad in black bra and garters sits at a dressing table doing her hair. Suddenly, Peppe, an alarmingly masculine looking femme fatale and ‘her’ partner Roccio burst onto the screen in a blaze of colour with their Spanish dance act (!). The compact Christine Nelson, whose countenance reminded me of those bizarre ant creatures in the original Outer Limits episode The Zanti Misfits, presents a rather long monologue of lost love. The buxom Chris la Chris swans around the stage like Baby Jane, then transvestite Vickie Lynne almost steals the show with ‘her’ leg and thigh exposing diva number. Twinnie Wallen bounces on stage to do an hysterical one-woman Can-Can and if you’re still awake Lili St Cyr re-appears to close the show with her seductively awkward peek-a-boo striptease and her show-stopping, exotic vamp routine.
Like Teaserama, Varietease is presented full-frame which is the incorrect aspect ratio. The cue cards introducing the bevy of beauties are cropped at the sides and the opening credits do not fit the screen.
But unlike Teaserama, Varietease doesn’t fare too well on the transfer front. There’s a distracting amount of background noise and film artefacts such as scratches, hairs and white speckling plague the print.
Contrast fluctuates dramatically. During a comedy routine starting at 11:30 the print has a dark veneer then suddenly brightens at 11:35. The comedian’s checked jacket also suffers severely from cross colouration.
Aliasing is also rife (the chair at 8:16, for example) and edge enhancement is particularly noticeable during the introduction. In fact, edge enhancement is so bad it makes the male presenter look like a cardboard cut-out.
Colours are rather washed-out with much of the print impaired by a sickly pink and yellow tinge. However, at 18:34 the screen suddenly flares up with a hideous oversaturated mess of red and bright orange during Peppe and Roccio’s Spanish dance act.
What seems to be a disappointing trend in most Umbrella releases is that there are no subtitle options.
Overall, the print is quite watchable, as long as you remind yourself this is an unearthed relic most likely stored in less than optimal conditions.
The mono mix is quite muffled – the muted trumpet and simple piano meanderings sound distant and lacking in life.
A lot of the dialogue is slightly out of sync and difficult to understand unless you crank the volume right up. This is quite irritating as the essential focus in Varietease is on vocal delivery.
There are a few clicks and pops reminding the viewer they are indeed watching a low-budget 50-year-old production. Correspondingly, low level audio hiss is evident throughout the running time.
The subwoofer and surrounds are as silent as a feather boa caressing leather boots.
|Surround Channel Use|
Not as interesting as Vraney and Friedman’s commentary during Teaserama, but Friedman’s showmanship and exploitation career anecdotes are a delightful listen.
Mike Vraney talks about the disintegration of the showy aspects of Burlesque during the 60s and 70s, but notes that the voyeuristic allure of watching women and men strip on stage will never die out.
Two corpulent male slobs living together have a dream about the gorgeous Betty Page in this fuzzy and beaten morsel from Striporama. She appears in a skimpy tasselled number taunting the men with the following choice dialogue: “feel me, touch me, hold me, caress me.”
Hmmm…this bonus feature also appears on Umbrella’s release of Teaserama.
Lacking audio, this black and white peep show (an intertitle even pops up at regular intervals alerting the viewer to “Deposite (sic) another coin for the next part”) has Betty oohing and aahing while showing off her six-inch black stilettos and abundant thighs and buttocks.
Teaserama trailer (2:18)
Teaserama is coming to this theatre soon…seeing is believing!
Varietease trailer (1:47)
It’s new…It’s daring…It’s exciting. Filmed in dazzling Eastman colour…
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
|DVD||Yamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output|
|Display||Yamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.|
|Amplification||get a marshall stack, and crank it up.|
|Speakers||2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.|