Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Schoolgirl Hitchhikers (1973)

Directed by Jean Rollin
Starring Gilda Arancio, Joëlle Coeur
Rated R

“Let's go to bed. You want me to help you get undressed?”

It seems improbable that French auteur Jean Rollin, best known for his downbeat, nearly-wordless eroti-horror mood-pieces, would make a straight-up sexploitation flick. He just doesn't seem like the type. But then again, most of his vampire movies consist of two hot teenage girls wandering around some creaky old house, and that's exactly what happens in Schoolgirl Hitchhikers. The only difference is that this time, they don't meet up with a depressed, middle-aged Dracula or his flouncy gay cousins. They meet up with  a “petty, low-level gangster” named Fred.

Two dough-eyed, wispy schoolgirls, Monica and Jackie (Gilda Arancio & Joëlle Coeur), wander around in the woods together, foot-loosing and freewheeling their way through a school break. Like all of Rollin's heroines, they don't say much, preferring to just stare at things like confused barnyard animals. Also like most of Rollin's ladies, they also prefer each other's company, so it's important that they find the nearest bed to frolic in. Luckily, they happen upon an abandoned house. They gingerly scale the crumbling stone walls and let themselves in.

Although no one appears to be around, the joint is fully furnished, complete  with a comfy bed for the girls to nuzzle in.

Their playful cuddling soon turns into a delightful full-on girl-on-girl sex romp.

Their post-coital bliss is interrupted, however, when the girls find out that the house isn't exactly empty. While out on the balcony enjoying a smoke, Monica notices a light turned on downstairs. She investigates, and finds Fred, a skinny, mustachioed thug, reading a book. On a duvet, no less. Pretty dainty for a bad guy.

Anyway, after a little playful peek-a-boo, Fred and Monica get it on.

Jackie wakes up and wanders downstairs. When she sees what's up, she joins in. Hey man, it's the 70's!

The next morning, the girls split.

They set up camp in the woods. Fred, meanwhile, is visited by his riding crop-wielding boss lady, who's looking for the “junk” that's supposed to be in the safe that Fred is supposed to be watching. Of course, said junk is now missing, and Fred blames the sex-kittens.

Boss lady sends Fred and her driver/flunky off to find the girls and get back her stuff. Fred chloroforms 'em and drags them back to the house.

Poor Jackie is strung up and whipped by evil boss-lady!

She even jabs at her with a hot poker, twists her nipples, and cuts off a few hunks of hair with a scissors. She actually looks better afterward though, so that worked out ok.

Plucky Monica, unwilling to endure such vile treatment, uses her feminine wiles to seduce the stone-faced driver. His guard down, Monica bashes him in the head with a candlestick and scrams. She runs all the way to town, where she hires Harry,  a goofy comic-relief detective – complete with a pig-tailed, mimi-skirted Girl Friday – to help her retrieve her kidnapped bed-buddy.

They search the house, but it's empty. Harry, assuming that she made the whole story up, threatens so spank her. But then the bad guys show up again, and everybody gets into an awesomely inept gunfight.

It's all for naught, though. Fred and boss lady manage to snatch Monica. They leave Jackie and Harry and Girl Friday behind and head off to parts-unknown, presumably to torture Monica into talking about the stolen jewels. That's what it's supposed to be about, I think. Diamonds or some-such. By the way, the change of scenery allows boss-lady to change into a purple dress and prowl around in a room with swirly psychedelic lights.

Of course, Monica doesn't know anything, so they really don't get anywhere with all the threats.

So he tries to fuck it out of her instead, while boss lady watches and masturbates in the next room. Why not?

After that tactic fails, they leave Monica hogtied in the car, and go back to the house to fuck/torture everybody else until their loot shows up.

But then, Harry sets a trap to nab the real culprit. And  also, some mysterious idiot in a red turtleneck shows up. Much face-slapping and back-stabbing ensues. What a tangled web you've weaved, Mr. Rollin!

Around the point when hippy gumshoe Harry shows up, it becomes obvious that Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is supposed to be a comedy. Up until that point, some kind of pale-faced ghoul could've burst in to molest the girls and guzzle their lifeblood, and it would have been Rollin-esque business as usual. This twist on the old formula, if not actually effective – Schoolgirl Hitchhikers is many things, but funny isn't one of them – is still pretty endearing. Imagine, the perpetually dour Jean Rollin, trying to make us laugh with silent film-era antics clumsily interspersed with sado-masochistic torture scenes. So it's got that.

It's also got plenty of Rollin's greatest gift to worldwide cinema: endless shots of two hot girls wandering around, starting at things and not saying anything. Nobody in this or any other world does that better than our man JR, and as always, he nails it here. Also, the dixieland jazz soundtrack is amusingly incongruous, and the camerawork, in places, rivals Argento in its low-budget sumptuousness. It may not be Rollin's best, but Schoolgirl Hitchhikers still has a lot to offer for the adventurous sexploitation fan.

- Ken McIntyre

1 comment:

  1. Actually, Rollin found himself having to do a lot of sexploitation and even hardcore pornography to financially support his more personal projects. He hated it, and tended to do it under pseudonyms. I believe Schoolgirl Hitchhikers was is first straight out sexploitation flick, but it was far from his last.


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