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Diabolical dames: grindhouse goes gay in Bitch Slap.

The Sexbomb, the Psycho-Slut and the Stripper are not exactly monikers you would associate with a post-feminist flick, so when the trailer for Bitch Slap (out on DVD this month)--the racy action vehicle for actors Erin Cummings, America Olivo and Julia Voth--first his the Internet, my girlfriends and I found ourselves decidedly conflicted. Its mix of undiluted sexploitation and the sheer va-va-voom-ness of its all-girl cast had our feminist sensibilities saying, "No, no, no!" but our libidos shouting, "Yes, yes, yes!" Naturally, our hormones won out, and we eagerly counted down the days until we could see the film ourselves.

Here's the setup: On a desolate desert highway, Hel (the Sexbomb), Camero (the Psycho-Slut) and Trixie (the Stripper) are on the hunt for a buried fortune. The story unfolds through a series of flashbacks, progressively uncovering secret motivations, plot twists and betrayals. It's a grindhouse throwback full of visceral thrills and salty language, equal parts homage and send-up of '60s era exploitation films. Girl fights, gun fights, water fights--it's all here. And, best of all, it's steeped in Sapphic seduction.

Cummings, already popular from staring in the queer soap Dante's Cove plays, Hel. She says taking the role was a no-brainer: "I'm always drawn to characters that are variations of the same mold, which is a strong, intelligent female who you don't want to mess with." Hel, the master-mind of the crew, has a taste for weaponry and the ladies. She looks like she could've walked off the set of Faster, Pussycat Kill! Kill!--what Cummings refers to as her "Lucy Ball goes to prison" pin-up look. "I used those fishnet pantyhose as a source of empowerment. I'd be like, oh, are my seams straight? Good. I'm ready to kick some ass."

If Hel is the brains of the operation, Camero (Olivo) is the muscle--a murderous, lusty dyke who loves hard and kills on a whim. For Olivo (of Friday the 13th fame), the Bitch Slap shoot was the fulfillment of a family legacy: Her mother, Danica d'Hondt was a B-movie star in her own right. She also received some tips from lezzie favorites, Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, who reunited for a cameo in the film.

"Lucy was giving me some really funny ideas," Olivo recalls. "We just goofed with it, and played with it, and had a really good time."

Camero--a drug-addled nutcase--was a role that required Olivo to shed any trace of effeminateness, a character trait that bled over into Olivo's real life. "I'd become this feral creature in the desert," she laughs," I'm so dirty and disgusting and drenched with sweat ... I would go to the store and people would, like, bend back away from me."

Both her co-stars laugh at the memory of Olivo's method acting. "Oh yeah, she was nuts. I was like, this bitch is fucking off her rocker," laughs Cummings.

"I was actually scared of her," agrees Voth. "She was so into it. She was so there."

For Voth, becoming her character meant taking on the role of a stripper with a heart of gold (and a vajayjay that can light up a room--literally). Prior to landing the role, Voth was a successful model and responsible for both the voice and look of Resident Evil's tough girl Jill Valentine. However, when she read the Bitch Slap script she was drawn to the meek character. "She's very naive and ... because this was my first acting job, I myself was very naive going into it. But this character just seemed to speak to me ... the struggle she went through to become who she is ... and I felt a power in that."

While the actors quickly fell into their roles, the characters themselves are an explosive combination, culminating in an epic girlfight. Behind all the punching, kicking, hair pulling and, yes, crotch biting, is stuntwoman Zoe Bell, renowned for her work on Xena: Warrior Princess and Kill Bill Bell was a major boon for a film that features one of the longest running female throwdowns on celluloid/'It's so fantastic to have a female, so she could show us how to do it on a female body She's using the flexibility of femininity," says Olivo.

Cummings agrees: "Zoe, being a woman, put things in the fight that a man would never think to do, The scene where Camero is kneeling over me and I bite her crotch, I grab her breast and I punch her in the face--Zoe would be like, just grab her titty and punch her in the face, in her cute little Kiwi accent. Some people say that fight is too long, some people say that the fight is too bloody, no one ever says that the fight is lame, because it's not."

The film is full of girl-on-girl action, and it doesn't skimp on the hot 'n' heavy variety. To prepare for her love scene, Cummings studied episodes of The L Word, then showed them to Voth and the director. "You don't want to go in there like gangbusters and attack your screen partner, and they're like, no, this should be lovemaking. And you also don't want to go in there all soft and cuddly, and they're like, no, you need to be fisting her right now" laughs Cummings.

"We did the first take, and it was very--it was very pleasant. It was like, oh, I'm kissing you, and this is nice," says Cummings. "Then Julia and I sat down ... and I said, "The only thing that would really suck, would be if we go through and shoot this whole sex scene and we don't really fully commit to it, and people watch it, and go, 'Eh, that wasn't really sexy.'"

Voth recounts the moment, "I looked at her and ... a light bulb went off like, oh, that can't happen!"

"So, Julia and I just sort of made a commitment ... to just go for it," says Cummings. "We set these parameters of, OK, can I kiss you with tongue? Yes. Can I grab your breasts? Can I lick your breasts? Yes, you can grab my butt ... Then we just went at it. The second take, [the director] looked at us and was like, what just happened?" laughs Cummings. "At the end of the day you look at someone like Julia, and she's drop-dead gorgeous--why wouldn't I want to kiss her?"

There's plenty to love about Bitch Slap--it's full of hot women who love women, and action galore--but is it a feminist film? The actors say yes. "I think that it's just a really fun tongue-in-cheek way of saying, 'Hey, look where feminism is today.' Now women are playing the leading ladies who are saving the day and saving the girl and carrying the big gun," says Cummings.

The main complaint against the film is its overt ogling of the female cast, but, for Olivo, that's an argument in its favor, "We have the freedom to be like, oh my God, women's bodies are fantastic! Let's just have it out. Let's enjoy our bodies. And let's show it off. Let's be sexy. Why can't that be another form of femininity?"

Cummings looks forward to the film changing the minds of jaded audiences, saying, "When women walk away from a movie that they think is going to be beyond offensive and think, you know, I really want to make out with a chick and punch some-one in the face. I go, yeah, we did our job."

Grindhouse goes gay in Bitch Slap. By Rachel Shatto

Photos by Kevin Warn
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Title Annotation:Lesbosploitation
Author:Shatto, Rachel
Article Type:Movie review
Date:Apr 1, 2010
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