Varietease (1954)

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Released 5-Jun-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Animation
Trailer
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
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1954
Running Time 71:15
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Irving Klaw
Studio
Distributor

Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Lili St. Cyr
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    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.

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

Audio

    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.

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

Extras

Commentary with Mike Vraney from Something Weird and David Friedman

    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.

Hear Betty Page in a scene from Striporama (5:05)

    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.”

Watch Betty Page in Teaser Girl in High Heels (7:41)

    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…

R4 vs R1

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

Our Umbrella version appears to be a carbon copy of the single-bill, US Something Weird DVD release. However, Something Weird has also released a double-bill containing Varietease and the another Irving Klaw produced Burlesque DVD Teaserama. Teaserama is also available locally through Umbrella, but the US double-bill is excellent value and sways me in favour of it over our single-bill release.

Summary

More variety than tease, Varietease is a clumsy attempt to capture the comedic and seductive essence of Burlesque. A better introduction can be found on Irving Klaw’s later effort Teaserama, which features a lot more skin and the voluptuous Betty Page.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Robert Winter (read my dead sexy bio)
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDYamaha DVR-S200 (it came free with the plasma), using S-Video output
DisplayYamaha 106cm Plasma. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
Amplificationget a marshall stack, and crank it up.
Speakers2 x Bose Speakers and 4 NX-S200 Yamaha mini-speakers.

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