DORIS WISHMAN’S BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965)

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965) theatrical release poster

To the alternative cineaste, Doris Wishman is somewhat akin to what Mary, the Mother of Christ, is to Catholics. She was a considerable influence on luminaries such as John Waters, Roger Corman, and Quentin Tarantino. Like them, Wishman approached genre films with an idiosyncratic enthusiasm for the art and the business. Her films are sexploitation roughies, nudie-cuties, and precursors to the grindhouse films. Therefore, she also has her detractors, who compare to her to the likes of Ed Wood. Wishman was a true, self-taught outsider artist. And like most outsider artists, being a maverick had its advantages and disadvantages (she never had the budget she needed). Wishman was as tenebrous and quirky as her films. She often told elaborate lies about herself and remained defiant to the end, mocking conventional attitudes. “I’ll continue making films in Hell” she said, terminally ill, only days before her passing at age 90. If that anecdote doesn’t endear her to you, well, you may have come to the wrong film site.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965 Doris Wishman)

For the Wishman newcomer, Bad Girls Go To Hell(1965) is probably the best entry point. This film, her first real “roughie,” inhabits an expressionist, subconscious world that Luis Bunuel, Franz Kafka, and the aforementioned John Waters might recognize (and yes, I am being serious). Indeed, protagonist Meg (Gigi Darlene) might be soulmate to Kafka’s Josef K, moving numbly through an inverted, anti-fairy tale nightmare told by John Waters at his copping-an-attitude best.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965 Doris Wishman)Doris Wishman

Meg’s husband goes to work, after he has made love to her in their Boston apartment. Meg showers her husband off, slips into a sheer nightie and begins to obsessively clean the house, purifying herself and her surroundings from the taint of sex. Shots focused on Meg’s hands, feet, knees, the shag carpet, and an ominous ashtray compose a queer dreamscape. Meg literally takes out the trash in her life, only to be raped by the apartment janitor. When he comes back for seconds, Meg whacks him to death with the ashtray and in a downright bizarre cut-away composition the ashtray is seen from the dead janitor’s perspective.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965) screenshot
Meg is unable to fully comprehend what has occurred, let alone deal with it. She escapes the confines of her apartment, almost sleepwalking through the violent New York City like Minnie the Moocher gliding through an animated apocalypse. She has moments of sexual tranquility, but, alas, they are short-lived. The abuse cycle continues, so does the purging and the incessant shifting. The closest she comes to achieving something is in a short-lived lesbian relationship. Yet, this time, Meg willingly flees potential happiness.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965 Doris Wishman)

The film becomes circular, as dreams often are, but Bad Girls Go To Hell has its cake and eats it too. There is a comeuppance to such a lifestyle of ill repute, BUT, like Wishman, Meg personifies defiance in the face of recompense.

BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965) The End

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About Alfred Eaker

Alfred Eaker is fine arts painter, filmmaker, and has a masters degree in theology. He currently lives in Portland, oregon with his wife: Aja Rossman-Gray.
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One Response to DORIS WISHMAN’S BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL (1965)

  1. cryptictown says:

    “If that anecdote doesn’t endear her to you, well, you may have come to the wrong film site.”
    Ah, haha! Love it.

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