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6/4/2010

08:31 AM PST

Porn History 101: Long Before the Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan Played Prostitutes and Strippers

--on the web

When you think about it, the name Rue McClanahan is almost as Tennessee Williams as Blanche DuBois, and these are the types of characters, the late Rue McClanahan played when she was an aspiring ingenue. "Second Hand Sexpot" is what one review aptly called her character.

What you won't read in any of her obits, is that as a young woman, McClanahan played in two potboilers called The Rotten Apple and Hollywood After Dark. Here's what the Something Weird website, www.somethingweird.com , which offers them for sale, has to say:

The Rotten Apple: "Why would anyone want to make a story like this? What good purpose would it serve?" asks Mr. PUAL LEDER, directory of Ape, My Friends Need Killing, and I Dismember Mama, is a pre-credit prologue to The Rotten Apple.

"After viewing tests, the studio called and said they were ready to cast me as Harry. But after going over the story, I told my wife I wouldn't play that role for a million dollars. Next day, we returned the script to the studio. My associates opened a cabinet and spread a dozen large binders in front of me. They were full of press clippings, magazine stories, police files, and medical documents. Now, like many of you, my wife and I are busy parents too. We have three children and we simply didn't realize that we could be raising a rotten apple right here in our own home! I changed my mind and agreed to produce the film. In a minute, you'll see me as Harry, a wrecker of human beings. I'm sure you'll hate me. At least, I hope you'll hate me," says Mr. Leder about the film he produced and stars in for, we suspect, considerably less than a million dollars.

Leaving his wife Edna and infant daughter in a broken-down car by the di side of the road, Ben enters Harry's junkyard looking for a new starter and...well, steps into Hell. He's seduced by the "crazy damn whore" (RUE McCLANAHAN) who lives in a shack, then framed by Harry and beaten by two corrupt cops, while a big bruiser named Blowhard (KING MOODY, the original Ronald McDonald!) tries to rape Edna...

It's obvious the filmmakers wanted something a bit more highbrow than the average "B," and The Rotten Apple actually aspires to profundity. It doesn't succeed, of course, but comes damn close to being what could be considered Existential Exploitation. Leder shouts every line at the top of his lungs, all the characters are crackpots, and there's even more incessant babble here than in the average Andy Milligan film.

Released by Headliner Productions in 1963 as The Rotten Apple, it was later re-released as Five Minutes To Love minus Paul Leder's impassioned intro.

Director JOHN HAYES cranked out a number of SWV faves such as Shell Shock, The Hang-Up, and Garden of the Dead, while Miss McClanahan played another second-hand sexpot in Hayes' Hollywood After Dark before going on to TV fame in The Golden Girls. One of the three children Leder mentions in his prologue is GERALDINE LEDER, the baby Edna runs around with in the junkyard. Another of his daughters, Mimi Leder, has distinguished herself by directing such big-budget Hollywood schlock as The Peacemaker, Deep Impact, and Pay It Forward which suggests that she just might be that rotten apple Paul was worried about.

But a final word of caution from Mr. Leder: "This picture is rough. Its story shocking but enlightening. It was a difficult picture to make. But if it stops one young man from lighting up the wrong kind of cigarette, or one young girl from becoming a bad apple, the sincere efforts of all of us who made it will be genuinely rewarded." You bet.
From a 35mm "Die-you-rotten-toad!" print.

Hollywood After Dark - Ignore the title. It's a great one alright, but Hollywood After Dark evokes images of movie stars, casting couches, and back-lot orgies which can be found in Starlet or The Masterpiece but not here. No, this one's about a loser in love with a stripper who gets involved with a deadly robbery.

And though it ostensibly takes place on the fringes of Hollywood, except for a shot of the Hollywood sign, it could've been made in Anytown U.S.A. It's also another of director JOHN HAYES' brooding meditations on life pretending to be a sexploitation film. like its companion piece, The Rotten Apple (another Hayes! McClanahan collaboration), it can best be described as Existential Exploitation, and, like all of Hayes' films, aspires to be something smarter and more profound than just another "B'"

A toothy mobster named Nick and his "silent sweetheart" Tommy pay a visit to Tony (SEBASTIAN GREGORY),an expert on underwater demolition who now runs a junkyard. "I intend to steal somebody else's money" Nick tells Tony, offering him ten thousand dollars for "a short swim." Intrigued, Tony agrees to meet Nick at the burlesque theater Nick manages (where, in addition to "those funny-looking chicks dancing around on the stage, there's a poster advertising The A-B-C's of Love). Sitting behind Nick's desk, stripper Sandy Smith (a pre-Golden Girls RUE McCLANAHAN) mistakes him for the "mysterious boss." They argue. They fall in love.

Eager to change careers, Sandy hopes a date with a writer will result in a role on a TV show. Instead, she gets sloshed and passes out while the guy plays with her boobies before a jealous Tony, lurking outside, clobbers the bum. Though Sandy becomes resigned to a life of peeling for the public, Tony begs her to run away with him after he does the robbery with Nick and Tommy: "I'm offering you this money, now climb up out of Hell!" Ah, but a double cross is in the cards along with a couple of murders ....

Shot in 1965 - the IMDB claims the original title was "Walk the Angry, Beach" the tail leader of the film says The Unholy Choice - it wasn't released until Headliner Productions sent it out in 1969 as Hollywood After Dark. Though billed here as Anthony Vorno (the same name he used in Easy Rider and Garden of the Dead), we know the leading man better under the Sebastian Gregory moniker he used in such SWV faves as Come One Come All, The Hang Up, and the ultra-bizarre Help Wanted Female. Slim, trim, and younger than we've ever seen him, we wouldn't be surprised if Hollywood After Dark was Vorno/Gregory's first film.

As for Miss McClanahan's bare breast. .. Nah, it's not hers. It belongs to a body double (as do the legs that get fondled) courtesy of inserts which, along with two of the strip acts, were probably shot years after the rest of the film by another director and crew and spliced in to make it all more marketable as exploitation. Just another bit of Tinseltown tease ....

From a 35mm burly-q-with-Rue print.

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