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Synapse Films presents

Olga's Girls (1964)

"Remember, I bought you all. I paid good money for you. I own you, body and soul. I'll make sure there aren't any marks left upon your body."- Olga Saglo (Audrey Campbell)

Stars: Audrey Campbell, Ricky Bell, Ava Denning, Darlene Bennett
Director: Joseph P. Mawra

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nudity, sadomasochistic abuse, sexuality, violence, gore, drug abuse, prostitution, gratuitous shower scenes)
Run Time: 01h:09m:10s
Release Date: 2005-04-26
Genre: cult

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

In 1964, serious sleaze and gore were just starting to make an appearance in the grindhouses. Most notable for those genres in that year was a trilogy of sexploitation films from Joseph P. Mawra (White Slaves of Chinatown, Olga's Girls and Olga's House of Shame), centering on the evil Olga. White slavery, prostitution, drug abuse, smuggling, and gratuitous cruelty were all par for the course for the depraved Olga. The nastiest of the three is this second entry in the series, Olga's Girls.

Olga (Audrey Campbell) is back in action with her prostitution operation, acting as a front for the Syndicate. Using her girls, Olga is actively encouraging drug experimentation and addiction. But not all is well with her empire; she learns that one of her girls is leaking information to the police. With Olga being the cruel woman she is, torture is the first option for getting to the facts. At the same time, her right-hand woman Colette (Ricky Bell) has had enough and plans to take some of the girls out to set up her own operation. Olga's wrath is fierce and violent in retaliation.

One of the things that makes the Olga pictures so memorable (especially this one) is the endless inventiveness of the torture methods. Among those used here are a blowtorch, the stocks, isolation chambers, whippings, chastity belts, vises, amputation and mutilation. Lending a flair to the proceedings is a new innovation, a black leather poncho that Olga dons when she's really getting serious, which she refers to as her "Cape of Persuasion." This entry in the series also takes the next step in nudity, with female pulchritude on display throughout. In addition, following Herschell Gordon Lewis' lead from Blood Feast (1963), there's an emphasis on extreme gore (though as it's in black and white, the impact is somewhat toned down).

Audrey Campbell made an interesting Olga; she does have a cruel edge to her character, but doesn't seem to take much delight in the proceedings, visibly pulling her punches at times. Furthermore, she's quite uncomfortable with the frequent lesbianism that the part calls for, having difficulty touching or kissing any part of her girls. But she does have the necessary take-charge character for the part, setting a template for the Ilsa films a decade later. The girls are no great shakes as actresses but they're suitably sluttish and their drug use onscreen is frequently chilling (Campbell pretty much dodges the question of the authenticity of the drug use in the commentary).

One of the weird parts of the Olga films is that the first two (and large chunks of the third) are made without synchronized sound. They rely entirely on a voiceover from a narrator (in this case, Perry Peters) plus Campbell expressing her thoughts. It gives the proceedings a dark documentary flavor that increases the queasiness factor significantly. Cameraman Werner Rose frequently uses odd angles to emphasize the girls' various charms, playing to the intended audience. On the other hand, the use of "drop-needle scores" often result in ludicrous results, such as Tchaikovsky's love theme from Romeo and Juliet making an absurd appearance. Mussorgsky's A Night on Bald Mountain shows up in each picture to give a tempestuous feeling to the goings-on.

The film takes a page from the venerable Reefer Madness, with the narration often getting hysterical in its hyperbolic condemnation of drugs and equation of heroin and marijuana. Consistent with that preachy character, the film also takes the tack that it is not possible to produce drugs in the United States and that they are imported from Moscow or Peking as part of a communist plot to weaken America. It's wild and freaky, and often crudely done. But fetishes are covered pretty much across the board for the sleaze fan, and there are also plenty of gratuitous shower scenes. If you're only going to see one Olga film (the continuities are pretty flimsy), this should be your first choice.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture is presented in significantly windowboxed manner to prevent loss of the picture to overscan. It's incredibly attractive for a cheaply made grindhouse feature, with only the occasional speckle to detract. Textures, detail, and greyscale are all first-rate. Black levels are excellent as is shadow detail.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Given the drop-needle score, one would expect this to have a fair amount of noise and crackling and that's certainly the case. However, it's not excessively disturbing and lends some authenticity to the grindhouse aspect. It never could sound great; it's probably as good as it ought to be.

Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: In addition to a trailer and a brief set of liner notes, there's a full-length commentary, surprisingly enough, from Audrey Campbell herself. She's not very embarrassed by her participation in the film, though Andre Salas helps her with some fawning over the film and its importance. Though she doesn't recall everyone after forty years, she does pick out quite a few cameos, including the producer as a member of the Syndicate. It's an interesting discussion that is worth listening to for students of such material.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

A classic of sexploitation sleaze guaranteed to leave you feeling dirty, it's equipped with a first-class transfer and an interesting commentary.

Mark Zimmer 2005-04-27