4 sexy, violent movies made by overlooked director Stephanie Rothman

Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Category Movie Archive, the most recent book from Mondo, is a exhaustive take a look at the exploitation scene through the lens of Alamo Drafthouse’s origin story, the theater chain’s weekly “Weird Wednesday” shows, and the facility of the American Category Movie Archive. In this unique excerpt of the compendium, now offered at Mondo’s online shop, author Heidi Honeycutt explores the ignored exploitation contributions of filmmaker Stephanie Rothman, and Alamo veteran Lars Nilsen makes the case for 5 of her movies to enjoy.


Writer/director/producer Stephanie Rothman fulfilled manufacturer Roger Corman when she was a current graduate of the University of Southern California’s master’s movie program; she had actually reacted to his marketing at USC for an assistant at his production business, The Filmgroup. Rothman had actually simply won the Director’s Guild Award, the very first female ever to do so, and Corman was pleased with her abilities as a filmmaker. “There was no way I could not hire Stephanie,” stated Corman of Rothman in his 1990 book How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Ever Lost a Penny. “Stephanie began a fine career that led to several directorial efforts for me.”

Corman without delay brought Rothman on board a 3rd reshoot and re-edit of a Yugoslavian movie called Opericija Ticijan (Operation Titian, 1963) which would become launched as Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire (the previous variations were shot and modified by Francis Ford Coppola and Jack Hill, respectively). Due to the fact that of her work as associate manufacturer on Corman’s Trip to the Ancient World (1965) and Queen of Blood (1966), both of which were re-cuts of Soviet sci-fi movies with brand-new video and re-dubbed in English, Stephanie Rothman looked like a perfect prospect to restore the movie. Rothman shot 2 brand-new outside vampire attack series in broad daytime and placed them into the existing cut. Though she was not happy with the outcomes of this effort, Rothman took pleasure in working with Corman. “Working for Roger was really wonderful,” she remembered in an interview with Ben Sher in 2008:

“He just threw me into the swimming pool and I had to swim. He was very encouraging. I know that some people came away from their experience with him a little bitter, but I personally found him to be very encouraging. Really, he gave me the self-confidence to do what I needed to do. He was thoroughly behind me. He was, as I’ve said before, the only mentor I ever had, and until my last breath I will be very grateful to him for that.”

In 1970, Rothman directed her very first function for Corman: the easy going sex funny It’s a Swimwear World (1967), which she co-wrote with her other half Charles Swartz. That exact same year, Corman formed his own business, New World Pictures, to produce and disperse his own movies. New World Pictures’ very first movie production was Rothman’s The Trainee Nurses (1970). Rothman, at the time still Roger Corman’s assistant, directed The Trainee Nurses in 3 weeks on a budget plan of $150,000. Nurses was acknowledged as a liberal and feminist movie, with customer Linda Gross even describing it as “the first exploitation picture about the Chicano revolution” in a 1978 Los Angeles Times short article. Gross went on to explain how Corman offered Rothman the liberty to compose and direct the movies she desired, “as long as they have a lot of sex, or violence and action with material that is sufficiently strong enough to receive an R rating.”

two pages from Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Genre Film Archive (2021) on Stephanie Rothman’s films

Warped & Faded: Weird Wednesday and the Birth of the American Category Movie Archive (2021)
Graphic: Mondo

Rothman’s surreal vampire tale The Velour Vampire (1971) starred Celeste Yarnall. It was a sensuous story about a female vampire living in a lovely home far out in the desert. When she welcomes an appealing young couple to remain with her for the weekend, they both delight in sexual relationships with the mystical female (who likewise delights in checking out desert cemeteries and doesn’t fear the sunshine). It wouldn’t be a scary movie without a couple of dead bodies and some renowned casket images, and regretfully Yarnall’s Diana satisfies her ruthless end dealing with direct sunshine and crosses. “I wanted to make a vampire film that dealt explicitly with the sexuality implicit in the vampire legend,” Rothman stated in Dennis Peary’s 1977 essay “Stephanie Rothman: R-Rated Feminist.” The Velour Vampire’s spending plan was $165,000, and it was shot in the desert in Joshua Tree, California.

Likewise in 1970, Rothman, her other half Charles Schwartz, and Larry Woolner left New World Pictures and formed Measurement Pictures. Rothman’s very first function as director/writer for Measurement was the dystopian Terminal Island (1973), which has clearly feminist overtones. The near-future jail exploitation movie was made with a really low spending plan and includes scantily dressed males and females convicts defending survival on an anarchic island prison. Terminal Island marked the 6th exploitation function that Rothman had actually dealt with in eleven years. “These films deal heavily with controversial subjects that are not always considered socially respectable,” she stated of her work. “Violence is controversial and so is sex. To attract audiences, exploitation movies have to be done more shockingly and with greater intensity.”

Rothman thinks that her credibility for directing exploitation eventually injured her possibilities of transitioning to directing mainstream studio movies, which was her profession objective. “Exploitation” was horrible to Rothman; as she informed scholar Alicia Kozma for her 2014 paper “Stephanie Rothman Does Not Exist,” it “underlined that I was making films of no status that would not get any kind of serious recognition from reviewers, certainly not in the papers or in magazines. And it certainly would not be taken seriously in Hollywood in any way and it would not open up great employment opportunities for me in terms of the tools I would have to work with as a filmmaker.”

Rothman will decrease in history as one of the couple of females to direct exploitation movies in the 1960s and ‘70s (the others being Barbara Peeters, Beverly Sebastian, Doris Wishman, and Roberta Findlay). But Rothman’s movies have an unique social and political slant that many exploitation motion pictures do not. “A Stephanie Rothman film deals with questions of self-determination,” states Rothman of her own work. “My characters try to forge a humane and rational way of coming to grips with the vicissitudes of life. My films are not always about succeeding, but they are always concerned with fighting the good fight.”


THE STUDENT NURSES

Stephanie Rothman, U.S.A., 1970

Nurses around a teacher and chalkboard in The Student Nurses

Image: Scream! Factory

This is an amazing social, cultural, and political file about modern mindsets towards medical principles. Oh, and there are attractive naked nurses, too. Like numerous movies produced by Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, it’s sort of an ideological Trojan horse. Guy who were drawn in by the sight of 4 doe-eyed young nurses on the poster wound up getting a huge injection of social awareness thanks to Dr. Roger Corman, his manufacturer other half Julie, and director Stephanie Rothman (Terminal Island). The movie is structured like a daytime soap with a number of character arcs going on at the exact same time as we peek in on the everyday trials and adversities of a group of trainee nurses. Rothman and business discuss styles that are still questionable today — abortion, euthanasia, inequality of healthcare, and more. The extreme left-wing position may appear strident if the movie weren’t so amusing by itself terms. Including the remarkable half-Cherokee charm Barbara Leigh and an actually frustrating, chronically ill person in a wheelchair. —Lars Nilsen

The Trainee Nurses is offered to stream on Tubi.

THE VELVET VAMPIRE

Stephanie Rothman, U.S.A., 1971

THE VELVET VAMPIRE: a woman in a red dress walks among gravestones

Image: Scream! Factory

Stephanie Rothman has actually offered a few of the most remarkable Weird Wednesday motion pictures: The Trainee Nurses and Terminal Island, and this is potentially her weirdest — a one-of-a-kind Aquarian sex-vampire legendary. Though made in America, the movie includes a great deal of the strategies we associate with artistic European scary motion pictures — a focus on storytelling through color, sluggish psychedelic liquifies which old standby: plentiful nudity. There’s a school of thought that horror movies need a strong sexual component, whether explicit or sublimated, or they just don’t have the desired impact. Clearly, Rothman has attended a few classes at that school herself, as this movie is all about vampirism as a sexual dynamic. And Celeste Yarnall as the bloodsucker of the title provides a clear sexual focus for this movie about a vapid bleached blonde California couple who find themselves ensnared in a vampire’s desert lair. Better than you’d expect and possibly the only vampire movie to successfully incorporate dune buggies. Featuring a completely unexpected cameo appearance by legendary Delta bluesman Johnny Shines, who performs “Evil Hearted Woman.” —LN

The Velvet Vampire is available to stream on Shudder, Tubi, AMC Plus, and to buy on DVD.

GROUP MARRIAGE

Stephanie Rothman, USA, 1973

four people sleeping in a bed together in Group Marriage

Image: Code Red

From the maker of The Velvet Vampire and Terminal Island comes a story of the liberated love generation. If it sounds like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, it is — but only just a little. There’s a more immediate street-level feel to the movie. For the super low-budget New World Pictures, the time between idea and screen was pretty brief, so the social commentary contained in these motion pictures was still piping hot by the time it reached audiences. And Rothman was a magnificent message smuggler — it’s fascinating to see how feminine the viewpoint of the film is — and in what surprising ways this pleasing difference makes itself known. Rothman’s Terminal Island was about male/female partnership under strain from the outside. In Group Marriage, the conflict comes from within. It’s pretty amazing to look back at these motion pictures with their anarchocommunal message and realize that they played for every Jim-Bob who went to the drive-in to see some skin. It’s a brilliant way to sugarcoat an agit-prop message that most viewers would never have actually swallowed otherwise. Isn’t it time to bring Stephanie Rothman back into films and make her a four-star general in the culture wars for the good guys (and gals)? Featuring Claudia Jennings and some of the best bumper stickers in the history of cinema. —LN

Group Marriage is available on Blu-ray and DVD.

TERMINAL ISLAND

Stephanie Rothman, USA, 1973

A bunch of men and women prisoners stand in a field in Terminal Island

Image: Vinegar Syndrome

“Where society dumps its human garbage!” At some indistinct point in the very near future, which looks suspiciously like the early ‘70s, America has outlawed capital punishment. So murderers are sent to a blockaded island to fend for themselves. A new Darwinian social order asserts itself, and the few women on the island have a pretty rough go of it—until they decide to fight back. This is very likely the first women-in-prison movie directed by a woman, but it’s hardly a chick flick. Stephanie Rothman, like so many other talented people in the film business, was given her start in films by the great Roger Corman, who certainly deserves a statue in Hollywood, albeit an inexpensive one. Her films, while every bit as sweaty and violent as those of her male counterparts, always contain fascinating touches of feminine insight. Including the glistening naked torsos of Phyllis Davis, Barbara Leigh, and Marta “Lost in Space” Kristen. Plus, look for Tom Selleck as a coke-snorting doctor. —LN

Terminal Island is offered to stream on Mubi, and to purchase on Blu-ray.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.