Bettie Page: Dark Angel (2004)

DVD Cover (Cult Epics 2-Disc Limited Edition)
Genres: Biography (Non-Fiction), Docudrama, Documentary, Drama, Film & Television History, Showbiz Drama
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Nico B. Nico B.
Paige Richards Paige Richards
Frederick Bald Frederick Bald
David Boller David Boller
Oto Brezina Oto Brezina
Clinton Ehrlich Clinton Ehrlich

3.8 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: October 14, 2006
Bettie Page, for those of you not in the know, was a pinup model back in the fifties that has reportedly been photographed more than Marilyn Monroe and Cindy Crawford combined. That's certainly no small feat, and coupled with the fact that she's best known for her work in fetish photography (bondage and catfights being her specialty), it's no surprise that the lady has gone on to receive quite the cult following. However, at the height of her career, she suddenly disappeared from the world of photography.

This documentary is a reenactment of the last couple of years of her stardom, with Paige Richards, a woman who could easily pass as Page's identical twin, playing the part of Bettie herself. Instead of merely presenting the documentary, however, those fine folks over at Cult Epics have went one step further with this release by creating reenactments of six of the destroyed films that Bettie starred in. These films, you see, were burned by director Irving Klaw (played here by Dukey Flyswatter) to avoid being prosecuted on obscenity charges. Klaw's company, Movie Star News, never released a single image containing nudity, but they were nonetheless charged for distributing obscene materials. Using photographs from these films to get an idea of what they contained, director Nico B has recreated these scenes excellently; in fact, had I seen these recreations with no knowledge that they came from this film, I'd have easily believed that they starred Page herself.

Although this film does feature a good amount of information about Page, it's not something I would recommend as the definitive Bettie Page documentary. As mentioned, it only covers the last few years of her stardom and ends with her deciding to move away from the publicity; the beginning of her career and the events that occurred after her moment in the spotlight aren't touched on. The items that are featured here, including (but not limited to) the obscenity trials, her work with Irving Klaw, and a particularly odd "ransom" demand adequately tell the details of the events in question, but each of these pieces feels more like a paragraph on Wikipedia rather than a chapter in her life. That's not to say that they're not informative; the opposite is true, in fact, as I learned quite a few new things about the lady by watching this film, but those of you wanting a complete, beginning to end recap of her life should probably check out one of the numerous books written about her instead. However, given the main premise behind this film (the recreations of her films), the fact that this isn't the definitive story of her life can be overlooked.

These recreations are the main attraction of the film, and they definitely capture the feel of the original Bettie Page films. Each one runs for about five minutes, and the themes of these films cover just about everything that Page is known for (with the exception of her nude photography). There are a number of bondage films (with Page being on both ends of the rope), as well as a catfight sequence between Page and another model. The transitions into these films were done very nicely; instead of simply plopping them into the feature film at random intervals, they're actually inserted into the storyline in an intelligent fashion. For example, we'll see Page talking to Klaw about the shoot that they'll be doing today, Klaw will instruct her on what to do, she'll get in front of the camera, and we then shift from shot-on-video color to 16mm black-and-white as we watch her work. This made these short films feel like a part of the movie itself rather than something that was inserted as an afterthought.

The combination of these recreations and just enough story to keep everything moving along is enough for me to recommend this to those of you who'd like to know a little more about the life of Page or those who simply want to see the type of work that she's best known for. 7/10.
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