Teaserama is presented as a documentary film, with all actors and actresses playing themselves. Stripteases are provided by Storm, Chris La Chris, Twinnie Wallen, Trudy Wayne, Vicki Lynn, and Cherry Knight. Stand-up comedy is provided by Joe E. Ross and Dave Starr.
eyelights: Bettie Page’s ebulliance, playfulness, coquetterie and beauty.
eyesores: the crummy dancers. the crummy comedy. the crummy production.
‘Teaserama’ features the third and final silver screen appearance by Bettie Page. Released in 1955, the Irving Klaw-directed picture follows in the footsteps of ‘Varietease‘, his previous effort, serving up a burlesque variety show.
With only half the effort and little of the fun.
The star this time is Tempest Storm, a bosomy redhead who was one of most well-known burlesque performers of the 20th century. It co-stars Page, who shares a number with Storm, has two of her own, and appears as cue card girl between sets.
Truly, the only reason to watch this film is for Bettie.
Clearly, this is a given for her fans, but one could easily argue the case objectively given the caliber of the performances and production on display here: many of the acts are shadows of the ones in ‘Varietease’ – but comparatively done on the cheap.
Some of the sets from ‘Varietease’ are recycled, as are the performers: pretty redhead Chris LaChris returns for another bland routine, Pepe and Roccio do another stupid castagnette number, Vicky Lynn does another drag stripshow, …etc.
There’s even a crummy ‘Varietease’ stand-up routine that’s copy and pasted into this one.
No joke. (literally)
And the comedy routines this time? Holy crap they’re bad! Dave Starr, wrapped in a ratty fur coat, soft hat and striped tie does three bits, sometimes aided by Joe E. Ross as his straight man. He’s so awful that he stumbles during his delivery.
And that was final take.
Even headliner Tempest Storm disappoints: Her two solo numbers find her just walking around in lingerie with a pained expression on her face, doing these weird frog leaps that reminded me of Ozzy Osbourne. It was more farcical than sexy.
One number that was somewhat impressive was Twinnie Wallen’s, who also returned from ‘Varietease’, but who mercifully spared us her paltry version of the Can Can this time. This time she displayed her acrobatic abilities, which were impressive.
Can you say “body control”? Yes, I can can.
Bettie is by far the star attraction here. Though she can’t dance worth a lick (she admitted herself that she wasn’t much of a dancer and wasn’t directed by Klaw), she exudes confidence, a joie de vivre and playfulness that overcome this.
A perfect example of how she infused fun into the proceedings are the cue cards sequences, in which she would appear in various outfits, mugging for the camera, carrying the cards to a stand, much like one would in a live theatre performance.
The best of them all is when she brought out a cue card for herself, feigned surprise in the most adorable fashion, and then scampered off stage. This small bit embodies all that makes Bettie so beloved to her fans – beyond her beauty, of course.
But she needed a choreographer: had she had the good fortune of working with someone who could teach her some moves, she would have been an even greater star. All she knew how to do was pose for the camera, which barely translates into dance.
In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s Bettie, her numbers would be a joke.
Bettie has such a magical quality about her that she stole the show from Tempest: in fact, in their shared number, in which Bettie helps Storm get dressed, Bettie is far more ravishing and seductive than the piece’s star, eclipsing her completely.
Too bad she would never become the feature attraction.
Almost. But not quite.
Sadly, the picture is not only marred by crummy production values, but also by $#!t direction: performers sometimes go off camera, crappy close-ups are inserted and there are even takes where it’s clear the performers are waiting for their cue.
It’s utterly amateurish stuff.
But, armed with Bettie Page’s coquetterie, which comes in ample supply, ‘Teaserama’ isn’t entirely dreadful. Klaw seemed to recognize that his prized asset was Page and here he gave her far more screen time than even the picture’s star.
It’s too bad that he didn’t also invest in her talent, because she would likely have become a much greater success than she was. In trade, he could easily have ridden on her coattails as “the man who discovered Bettie Page and made her a star”.
If only it had been so.
Date of viewing: August 21, 2017