Director: Clay Westervelt
Writer: Clay Westervelt
So I was in a strip club in the San Gabriel Valley when Stormy Daniels strutted in. She was the feature performer that night and you could get your picture taken with her for $20. Who was I to deny myself this pleasure? Also, I had just reviewed "The Witches of Breastwick" and I wanted to talk to her about the movie. Stormy was very open and honest with me about the making of this softcore flick. She told me she got paid $800. For comparison, she told me she gets paid $8,000 to direct a hardcore flick. I asked her about her Co-stars and she said that Glori-Anne Gilbert was a very sweet girl. I asked her why she thought Wynorski put her in the movie since I didn't perceive any charisma in Glori-Anne. She said that Glori-Anne was Wynorski's girlfriend. Ahh, it all makes sense now. She also talked about how Julie Smith was not happy that she was there and that Julie argued with Wynorski all the time. She also never received a DVD of the movie but she did get a VHS tape. It was an enlightening and pleasant conversation. Little did I know that four years later I would watch a documentary about the making of "Witches of Breastwick" which complemented my late night strip club conversation.
"Popatopolis" is a documentary about breasts, B-movies, porn stars, greed, and a man who epitomizes cut-throat filmmaking. I am referring to Jim Wynorski, the most prolific, (and shameless), B-movie maker working today. This documentary follows Wynorski as he goes through the motions of bringing his latest softcore flick, "The Witches of Breastwick", to life. But it's also about the rise and fall of Wynorski and how he has let himself get corrupted by the never ending checks flowing from the bottomless coffers of late night cable.
"Popatopolis" is a fascinating documentary. Speaking as a guy who has not only seen "Witches of Breastwick" but has sat through many Wynorski late night flicks, this documentary really pushed a button in me. I had an image in my head of the guy who cranked out "Breastford Wives", "The Hills have Thighs" and "Cleavagefield" and it was reinforced after watching Wynorski in action. Now I can safely say that Wynorski only cares about himself and his $65,000 check from Cinemax. There is nothing else in his life that matters. Making movies only irritates him as it slows down his ability to get paid.
"Popatopolis" starts off with Wynorski saying he's a big movie fan. He runs through his house showing off his video stashes in the kitchen and in the bedroom. The dichotomy of Wynorski as a movie fan and Wynorski as a director just doesn't make any sense. How can this guy profess to being a movie fan and still live with himself for cranking out some of the movies he's attached his name to? Has he not picked up any filmmaking techniques from watching countless films?
The only techniques Wynorski has picked up over the years is in the art of getting away with it. When Wynorski was working with Roger Corman, he actually made an effort to produce some quality B-movies. "Not of this Earth" and "Chopping Mall" were both fun B-movies. But left to his own devices, Wynorski just wants to get the annoying filmmaking process out of the way so that he can collect his money. Actors, actresses and the crew are only there to irritate him as he barks his way through the production.
"Popatpolis" shines a light on how much Wynorski cares, (very little), for the other people who make his movies possible. When the cast and crew arrive at the cabin for the shoot, they are surprised to find out that there are no amenities available. There are no towels or working can openers. Of course that doesn't matter since there's no food to eat anyway. I thought there was only going to be one bed to share and Wynorski was going to have all of the ladies pile onto his to save some space.
Speaking of ladies, the three babes in "Witches of Breastwick" are the topless muses that keep Wynorski's creative juices flowing. Julie Smith, Glori-Anne Gilbert and Stormy Daniels are the witches and they will pop their tops at Wynorski's command. Monique Parent also shows up at the destitute cabin and her top will be popped at some point during the shoot.
Julie Strain and Julie Smith, (Big and Little Julies), are given the chance to reflect on Wynorski and B-movies in general. Both of them seem a little melancholy over the state of the industry and how Wynorski has changed over the years. Big Julie can not even bring herself to refer to what Wynorski is filming these days as B-movies. She has to call them C-movies. Both of them seem slightly offended, (especially little Julie), that porn stars are now able to get into B-movies. Julie Smith has been working with Wynorski for awhile and even though she tries to defend him, it can't be denied that Wynorski's lust for profit means less interesting B-films and more mindless softcore sex flicks. Of course when Julie Smith shows up in one of Wynorski's softcore movies, I'm not complaining.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this documentary is watching Wynorski's directing style (or lack thereof). In one protracted scene, he tortures Julie Smith until she gets a line about a tow truck right. He makes her repeat the line over and over until she reads it exactly as written. Torturing his one good actress interests him and yet in other scenes Wynorski show no directing interest at all. There's another scene where Stormy, Monique and Glori-Anne are in a hot tub and Wynorski doesn't do anything to move the scene forward except sit on his rear end while the girls go at it. If these are the money shots in the flick, why isn't Wynorski offering any advice on how to make the scene better? This one scene, (and Stormy's sex scene against the tree), clearly illustrate how much Wynorski cares, (very little), about sex scenes. They seem to bore him so he just lets them play out naturally. It's up to the performers to improvise their way through them as Wynorski takes a nap and dreams of his paycheck.
"Popatopolis" highlights the real tragedy of Jim Wynorski. If Wynorski was just some guy using a fake name to film fake sex, no one would care about him. There wouldn't be a documentary about him. People who he's berated and screamed at for years would not be sticking up for him if there wasn't at least something there to like. B-movie fans can only bring themselves to praise the movies he made in the late 80's to mid-90's because every movie since then has been a rush job to get in the hands of his masters at Cinemax. He's an ambitious guy who has a manic need to make films but he can't seem to bring himself to expend too much energy to make the movies really enjoyable. We've seen him make good movies in the past and we know he has the skill to do it but his lust for more money overrides any and all other filmmaking needs.
"Popatopolis" is the best movie Wynorski has been associated with in fifteen years. It's a documentary that should be seen by B-movie fans. It is an honest look at Jim Wynorski and his mercenary filmmaking style. It may also scare you away from the B-movie world after seeing the utter lack of glamour associated with it's unrelenting production schedule. "Popatopolis" won't endear people to Wynorski but it does help to understand the mindset of a rapid fire filmmaker.
SCORE: 3.5 out of 4 Wynorskis in action
Wynorski gives the number one lesson in B-movie making: Pop that top.