Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. (1971) / Dirty O’Neil (1974)
Rousing long-ago faded memories of drive-in movie aficionados are two new trashy Blu-ray releases from Kino Lorber sub-label Code Red. Both of these low budget early 1970s offerings are true to form in that they harbor more than one title (though Code Red has opted for the racier options- “Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc.” as opposed to the on-screen monicker “Dagmar, Inc.” and “Dirty O’Neil: The Love Life of a Cop” over the more commonly used just plain “Dirty O’Neil”), and are all too happy to indulge the male gaze… for brief bits, anyhow. Neither R-rated outing is as naughty as the cover art implies, though they’re far from squeaky clean. (Although all the showers might move that particular needle). Cinematically speaking, these movies are naturally no great shakes, but with the right group of friends on the right night, their badly-aged forwardness and cheeky veneers might be good for a few laughs.
DIRECTED BY VERNON P. BECKER/1971
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: MARCH 29, 2022/CODE RED (VIA KINO LORBER)
Content warning: At no point in Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc., are there any hot pants. None whatsoever.
Content warning in context: The said titular hot pants-lessness can and should be received as confirmation that absolutely no one in charge was paying attention to any detail of this film whatsoever. Surprise.
Made during peak American fascination with European softcore fare, 1971’s Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. strikes up a cheeky vibe, but can’t quite stick the landing. Apparently, the film is something of an anomaly, in that it isn’t actually full-on European, but rather a Hollywood-driven impersonation of such. (Hollywood coupled with Sweden, to be exact). You’d never know that by looking at it, though.
Well before prostitutes were “sex workers”, Dagmar (Diana Kjaer) had her work cut out for her. A Copenhagen prostitute looking to get out, Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. carries us through a ninety-four- minute version of her self-declared last day in the business. Dagmar is the kind of working girl who’s so prepared, she wakes up in the morning with her makeup already applied and her hair done. She can turn on the charm to take in the dough, but she’s also a woman who knows what she wants. To her credit, the late Diana Kjaer is entirely up to the task. Truth be told, she’s probably far too good for this.
Although it’s billed as a comedy, laughs are as scarce as the plot. At times, the film feels like it really is lasting the entire day. It doesn’t help that Dagmar spends much of it glimpsing clocks, determined to stay on schedule. But, if the story fails to disclose any significant timetable, shots of clocks do not build suspense. They just remind us to look at our own watches.
To the surprise of probably no one, when we’re not looking at clocks, we’re looking at boobs. Badly lit, matter of fact, very early 1970s-style au naturel female toplessness dominates this movie. This sort of thing sells tickets (or presumably in this case, Blu-rays), even as filmmaker Vernon P. Becker (who’s ubiquitousness in the crew credits suggests he almost made this single-handedly- and it looks like he might’ve) fails hard in generating any other compelling reason to watch. There’s exactly one humorous sequence in the whole thing, a would-be kinky montage of Dagmar calling her preoccupied “professional” friends for help lightening her day’s busy load, only to be declined by each with dad-joke-level puns. As a sample of the degree of comedy in this lone sequence, one says, “I’m a little tied up at the moment!”. Pull back to reveal that she is, of course, compromisingly in bondage ropes with a client. Sheesh.
While it’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it’s fair to observe that Dagmar herself (while certainly attractive) is not what many would consider an otherworldly knockout. Nor is anyone in this movie. All the “johns” are caricatures, either quite old (among these is actor Robert Strauss, a venerable performer with Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger films on his resume of 107 solid titles- this quite sadly being the final film he’d make) or goofy comedy relief. (Two pervy Japanese businessmen; an older teenage boy whose father “gifts” him with deflowering… even though the kid has apparently never even heard of sex). With the exception of Dagmar, all the other girls are presented as quite content with their lot in life, sharing a singular Devil-may-care personality. It’s only when we meet Dagmar’s jerky pimp near the end do we begin to understand why anyone in this happy universe might not want to be a prostitute.
For a faux-sophisticated drive-in sex comedy programmer, the R-rated (though originally X-rated) Dagmar’s definitely wields a comparatively modest streak. Although it’s about a prostitute going from gig to gig, there are no sex scenes. In several “provocative” portions, Kjaer is clearly intentionally covering herself when the immodest character wouldn’t be so inclined to do so. This seems to indicate the actress’s discontentment and even disenfranchisement at times with the project as opposed to being a modesty move. More so, however, the fact that Kjaer shows up for one scene mid-picture with a totally different, much shorter hairdo after being seen strolling to that location with her established long locks might indicate her apathy even more strongly. Once Dagmar moves on from this scene, her hair is long again. And remember, this is an all-in-one-day movie. Again, sheesh. At least the music is swingin’.
Finally, an important reiteration: there are NO hot pants in the drab and dumpy Dagmar’s Hot Pants, Inc. The assumption of this critic, sight unseen, was that all roads might lead towards Dagmar’s unspoken dream of opening her own hot pants boutique. Alas, that is not the case. Not only are there no hot pants, but little indication that Dagmar has incorporated any business. In one scene, she signs some papers. Maybe that’s it? Again, it’s almost… as if… no one in charge… is paying attention… Zzzzzz….
Why offer final points about this blah movie when I can look to critic and author Peter Harson’s take from his 2018 write-up: “Just as Kjaer’s confident portrayal suggests she could have handled real dramatic scenes, the almost-imaginative comic bits suggest cowriter/director Vernon P. Becker could have edged further into outright farce. Instead, they made tepid smut.”
DIRECTED BY HOWARD FREEN (LEON CAPETANOS) AND LEWIS TEAGUE/1974
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: MARCH 15, 2022/CODE RED (VIA KINO LORBER)
“A cop is usually overworked, underpaid, and misunderstood. But he’s never horny.“
So he says. (Twice). He’s lying. Officer Jimmy O’Neil is a straight cop, but only in the sexual sense. The premise is that the sleepy California town which he spends his days patrolling is so free of crime that he can spend his shifts bringing in women (willingly) for being hot looking. This results in a series of barely connected vingettes that usually end with him falling into the sack with said women. This being an R-rated timewaster as opposed to an X-rated one, all these scenes abruptly cut once the smooching starts.
In O’Neil’s spare time, he coaches a high school girls’ basketball team. The team is lousy, and he knows it, but in their defense, his checked-out slouch during their games indicates that he’s not much of a coach. It also seems that these girls spend more time hitting the showers than playing ball. Mostly, they fixate on plots to seduce O’Neil. One of which manages to lure him in, and he presumably gives in to their advances. (Eeek). Thankfully, we can’t know for sure, as it again cuts away just as the plan appears to go into motion.
Obviously, the boys-will-be-boys conceit of a protagonist cop taking such advantage of his badge has not aged well. Couple that with his overweight good ‘ol boy partner (Art Metrano, of Andy Sedaris’ Seven) who, when musing about whether he’ll ever get to actually fire his rifle, says, “Maybe the Black Panthers will come to town!” (Noooo you didn’t…!) For what it’s worth, the late Morgan Paull in the title role isn’t phoning it in. The material is stupid-thin, but, as his part as Holden in Blade Runner attests, he is a compelling presence.
Around the one-hour point of this eighty-nine-minute sexploitation programmer, it abruptly decides to turn into a real movie. Almost on a dime, Dirty O’Neil goes from being the nebulous dialed-down sexploitation romp described above to proto-Lethal Weapon. When three troublemaking toughs who’ve rolled into town decide to up their game to the levels of brutal prolonged assault (of a homeless old man), aggressive robbery (of the cops’ favorite diner), and harrowing rape (of the attractive young lady who works in the diner), a raging O’Neil must put the law aside, and get Mel Gibson-level violent with his payback. Let’s just say a bulldozer is involved.
There are two directors credited for this, presumably making two very different movies. The complete lack of extra features on the Blu-ray means that we are given no handy account of which director did what, but considering that one is Lewis Teague, who’s only cutting his teeth here before going onto cleverer fare like Alligator (1980), Cujo (1983), and Cat’s Eye (1985), the smart money is on him having helmed the far more stylized later stuff. The other director is Leon Capetanos (using the alias Howard Freen), who’s scant directing credits bear titles as suspect as this one. Capetanos would go on to be a successful screenwriter on films such as The Gumball Rally (1976), Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986), and Fletch Lives (1989).
Dirty O’Neil, in all its terminal 1974-ishness, gives us nothing to root for… until it decides it has to. The tonal shift doesn’t result in a better movie so much as a differently objectionable conclusion. All in one crummy movie, we witness a sea-change: 1970s freedom-of-sleaze giving way to a harbinger of 1980s over-the-top aggression of the repressed male id. Consequently, it’s hard know what type of movie Dirty O’Neil even is. That is, other than a footnote when it comes to antiquated 1970s drive-in exploitation.
Both the male-centric Dirty O’Neil and female-centric Dagmar undeniably lead with their libidos on full display. Both leads are dead, and both movies are entirely disposable. The people at Code Red, however, apparently disagree with that last point, as these physical media releases (complete with spine numbers, 195 and 196) grant them a very particular permanence. These movies look kind of crappy, but then, isn’t that how they should look? As in, a bit grainy, washed out in places, and with opening titles that we know to be one of several possible options. These are low-end films that probably never looked decent. For those so inclined to take a peek at these discs, entirely reasonable A/V results (but no notable bonus features) await. That, and a lot of early 1970s hair, makeup, and moderately healthy skin.