Al Adamson’s “The Naughty Stewardesses”

Naughty Stewardesses cd2[(063684)08-27-25]

I was not exactly expecting proto-Showgirls from an Al Adamson/Samuel Sherman production entitled The Naughty Stewardesses containing confessional monologues such as “See? Life to me is one big orgasm, getting stronger and stronger, I guess that’s why I eat so many men”. Only in intent, not result, of course. There isn’t a hint of Verhoeven’s elegance on display, or even decent craftsmanship, for the most part. This is Al Adamson, after all, and I would not dare call it a good film, but it transpires a general sense of discomfort with its own shaping that makes it somewhat fascinating.

It is self-conscious to a degree, but it comes mostly from the fact that writer, cameraman (Gary Graver, who worked as a DP for Orson Welles before becoming Robert McCallum, experienced director of pornography), editor and specially actors, most of the times, appear to be working on a movie completely different from the one Adamson set out to make. It is his shamelessness and incompetence in setting up a scene with any logical development that turns its most ridiculous moments, like the meeting between the protagonist and her old friend/lover, into something of value, in this case a set-piece about the other stewardess’ routine, simply because he can’t edit a gratuitous tracking shot into the more relevant action, therefore creating, accidentally (I guess), something completely disparate from their life as it was presented since the opening sequence, putting right upfront Adamson’s issues with what he should be fetishising, also giving some kind of justification to a character that, according to the script, doesn’t have any life outside of what that monologue told us.

Adamson was, like many prolific exploitation directors, just another raging conservative whose work was mostly a reflection of his nightmares of societal decay, although he never attempted to hide it behind the sleaziness, behind what made them money, and consequently, The Naughty Stewardesses, almost in its entirety, constantly lacks balance between what is demanded by this sort of market and the movie he would like to be shooting, which makes the result incredibly bizarre, with incomprehensible discourses and tonal shifts, since it is deadly serious about the generational conflict at the center of the story, or what resembles one. With that in mind, there is no other way that discomfort with changes and excesses of the era would come as sincerely as it does, because no great acting is capable of conveying Connie Hoffman’s utmost awkwardness on the screen, the feeble postures, frailing speeches and hesitant movements. Chaotic performances have always been the fundamental core amid the absurdity of Adamson’s pictures, the visceral truth he could not find anywhere else. When the camera isolates Hoffman in the frame, after being ordered to strip down, when neither character nor actress seem to understand the purpose of the dialogue and her reaction, it is when we can look beyond intriguing accidents.

Christofer Pallú