Directed by: Ray Nadeau (Naneau)
Starring: Uschi Digard, Jacqueline Giroux, Marius Mazmanian, Bob Makay, Susan Wescott and Sharon Kelly
Runtime: 83 minutes
Release Date: 1974
You know you’re onto a clunker when you research a movie and, despite the volumes of cult movie review guides adorning the creaking virtual shelves, can only find a singular capsule review in Michael Weldon’s trustworthy Psychotronic Video Guide. THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS (1974) is one such clunker, a bargain basement ‘Bigfoot & Boobs’ movie that would send BBandBC’s mammary count into and beyond the stratosphere!
Originally released under the title THE BEAUTIES AND THE BEAST, a retitling to THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS attempted to capitalise on Russ Meyer’s SUPERVIXEN (1975) which also starred Uschi Digard and Sharon Kelly.
Following on from the 1972 release of Charles B Pierce’s THE LEGEND OF BOGGY CREEK, a nifty backwoods docudrama exploring the Arkansas Fouke swamp monster that managed to gross an impressive $20 million, a flood of ‘Bigfoot’ movies poured into the city grindhouses and rural drive-ins across the US. With each film hairier than the last, audiences were subjected to the B movie shenanigans of Mike Findlay’s SHRIEK OF THE MUTILATED (1974) to made-for-TV movies like SNOWBEAST (1977) to the dick-ripping nastiness of NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1980). Of course, as a cultural phenomenon, ‘Bigfoot’ enjoyed his share of salacious entertainment that ranged from backstreet pulp paperbacks (Nights with Sasquatch, Medallion Paperbacks, 1977…”an explosive ordeal of rape and revenge beyond any woman’s experience!”) to the art of Robert Crumb and his voluptuous hairy maidens. Mindful of THE GEEK, a 47 minute 1971 Bigfoot porn movie, THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS certainly isn’t the scuzziest of early 70’s Bigfoot buffoonery but is so much more sexploitation than sasquatch.
Structurally the film is pretty chaotic, the central storyline has Swedish ‘big bust’ glamour starlet Uschi Digard and Jacqueline Giroux (billed here as Jean Gibson) having a weekend hangout in a woodland cabin while studying for their anthropology papers. Of course, they spend their first evening sipping brandy, commenting on the cold while walking around half-dressed, and eventually slip into bed to unenthusiastically kiss and snuggle vintage sexploitation style. The next day they hook up with a small hippy commune residing in an out-of-season summer camp where they immediately get naked and attempt to skinny dip (even more unenthusiastically) in the cold Autumnal waters of the lake. A couple of rifle-wielding criminals turn up threatening the group to reveal their source of old silver coins that the commune appears to be living off.
All this is interspersed with ‘the beast’, a guy in a jet-black gorilla costume wearing a rigid plastic mask with oversized goofy white teeth, roaming the forests and carrying off an assortment of women who are already in varying stages of undress. Three abducted women, one of which being Sharon Kelly (billed here as Coleen Brenan), are being held captive in the beast’s cave. Despite being carried off completely naked, Sandra Carey – another sexploitation starlet who starred in an array of B movie classics including WHAM BAM THANK-YOU SPACEMAN (1975) and THE NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES (1974) – is now appropriately dressed and says ‘well at least he brought my clothes back’. The Beast he may be, but a considerate beast all the same!
In fact, possibly one of the reasons why THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS has seemingly fallen into obscurity is that it just isn’t particularly memorable. The Beast doesn’t really pose any real threat. It’s designs on the abundance of naked women aren’t sexually menacing (he feeds them apples) and at one point the Beast is overcome by some old country and western dude.
Story threads have no correlation with one another, characters appear and disappear and Uschi Digard and her hippy pals don’t actually encounter the beast. I don’t think they even see it. Fred Olen Ray, who provides a commentary track (well . . . for the first 15 minutes) on the OOP Retro-Media DVD surmises that THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS may have been born from the acquisition of an incomplete or unwanted movie that was propped up for release with tacked-on Bigfoot scenes. This would make sense as different sources quote different years of production and release, though the copyright within the opening credits states 1973, and the film exists in an assortment of varying cuts from a scant 71 minutes to 84 minutes. Ray Nadeau (…or Naneau as credited) was a basic jack-of-all-trades on the exploitation film scene, serving as a production assistant on MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973) and achieving his one directing credit with THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS.
There is a quaintness surrounding THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS. Despite this Internet age, production details are still relatively vague and obscure. The film showcases all the beloved hallmarks of low grade 70s sexploitation – post sync dialogue, library music, and choppy editing – all while everyone gets naked for any occasion, hippies playing guitars (Gypsy Mountain Madness?), and elongated love making scenes of endless fleshy nuzzling that doesn’t even remotely resemble any kind of penetration.
A padded dream sequence of Jacqueline Giroux and Susan Westcott, naked but for spurred boots, cowboy hat and a gun belt, about to have a quick-draw shootout, beautifully illustrates the surreal absurdity that time has awarded to this movie. However, hipster Internet commentators who discovered exploitation cinema solely through Quentin Tarantino interviews and movies, have undoubtedly enjoyed writing endless derogatory ‘hee-haw’ reviews laced with sarcasm about THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS while some of us will admire the sledgehammered process that pieced together a commercial feature peppered with scenes of hazy nudity, softcore grinding and a grumbling hairy monster carrying off naked women kicking and screaming.
With contemporary horror cinema’s fascination with P.O.V dominated ‘found footage’ structures, Bigfoot has enjoyed something of a resurgence (unsurprisingly as all you need is a camera and a forestry backdrop). THE BIGFOOT TAPES (2013), BIGFOOT WARS (2014), and BIGFOOT VS ZOMBIES (2016) all deviate from the comfortable formula, eschewing buxom vixens, hippy humping and a good-natured beast.
THE BEAST AND THE VIXENS (what a great title!) is a great slice of real grunge sexploitation that peculiarly avoids any real mean spirited sex, violence and gore. It will undoubtedly find appreciation amongst hardcore exploitation film aficionados.
Contributed by Tristan Thompson