• Bettie Page Dark Angel

    Released by: Cult Epics
    Released on: May 22, 2012.
    Director: Nico B.
    Cast: Paige Richards
    Year: 2004
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    The Movie:

    Playboy Magazine’s January, 1955 centerfold was Bettie Page (played here by fetish model/actress Paige Richards – who nails the look quite nicely). Anyone who hasn’t been living in a van down by the river knows that she’s the undisputed queen of fifties pin up and fetish photography, and that she rose to infamy in her last years of modeling because of her association with Irving Klaw (played by Dukey Flyswatter) and the photos and films that they made together.

    Nico B, director of PIG, recreates in segments the last three years of Ms. Page’s career from her last shoot with renowned pin up photographer Bunny Yeager (Kirsi Sand) through to the Klaw years. The movie also covers the subsequent fall from grace caused by the obscenity charges that were leveled against Klaw and his business, Movie Star News, which sold the photos and films that Betty stared in through the mail.

    Bettie Page – Dark Angel documents an interesting story, one that should have been told a long time ago. The late pin up queen’s self imposed exit from the public eye and marital problems more or less kept her from really telling her story but this film does a pretty decent job of filling in some of the blanks in her history. While the acting isn’t always top notch and the budgetary restraints are obvious, the filmmakers have certainly taken great care in reconstructing some of the lost films that Klaw burned to avoid prosecution. By using the remaining photos from these sessions that do exist they’ve been able to convincingly bring them to life using a very authentic looking Bettie look-a-like.

    The movie is not without its flaws. Some of the bit part players are wooden and there are times where Ms. Richards doesn’t exactly shine in her lead role, though her ‘look’ is almost always perfect. The dialogue suffers from not having much depth to it and the characters really could have been fleshed out a whole lot more. But the recreation scenes, which are obviously going to be the highlights of the film despite its short running time, are handled well and look pretty decent. There was obviously no small amount of attention paid to nailing the details from the costumes and gets ups to the props and sets used and to be blunt, that's what matters the most in this feature.

    In short, the movie is flawed (a bigger budget probably would have helped a lot in that matter and given Betty’s enduring popularity as a cult figure you’d think that securing some investors wouldn’t have been too difficult – but what do I know?) but it’s interesting and big time Bettie Page fans will check it out regardless of its obvious shortcomings. The film isn't perfect but Nico B's love letter to the undisputed queen of kink definitely has its heart very much in the right place and you can certainly do a lot worse things with your time than watching the sinfully delicious Paige Richards in various forms of undress. Production values are generally solid, the movie is very nicely shot and well put together on a technical level, and it sheds some welcome light on a very interesting part of American pop culture’s history. On top of that it’s got a great score put together by Chris Stein of Blondie and Danny B. Harvey from The Swing Cats/The Head Cat.


    Cult Epics brings Bettie Page Dark Angel to Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer in an aspect ratio of 1.85.1 and generally it looks very good. Quite a bit of an improvement over the previous DVD releases, detail is considerably stronger here as is texture and color reproduction – but this is still limited by the source material and is only going to look so good. For what it is, it’s not bad but don’t expect sharpness and detail to floor you as this remains a modest, low budget production. Skin tones look nice and natural and while the previous DVD releases were presented fullframe, there aren’t any serious cropping issues here (and the recreated Klaw footage is presented windowboxed and therefore not distorted at all). The ‘real life’ segments were shot on digital video, the Klaw recreations on 16mm, so detail varies as does tone, but overall this is a noticable upgrade from what we’ve had before.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is pretty clear without any issues in regards to hiss or distortion. The levels are well mixed and the background music never overshadows the dialogue or the sound effects. While the accent on the narrated scenes comes through thicker than it does in the dialogue scenes. The quality and clarity of the track is decent and you can hear everything that’s being said without any issues, it’s well mixed and problem free. There’s no lossless option here, sadly – the music probably would have really benefitted from it. There are subtitles provided in English, French, Spanish and Dutch.

    This Blu-ray release from Cult Epics includes a bunch of new extra features. Things start off with the first of three making of featurettes, Paige Richards As Betty Page – Photo Shoot, which is an eleven minute look at Ms. Richards and her love affair with the camera. The second featurette is the four minute Paige Richards As Betty Page – Still Gallery which is just what it sounds like while the third is the sixteen minute Casting Call And Rehearsals segment which shows us what it was like trying to get the right people in front of the camera to take on this project.

    Also included on the disc is the sexy and fun uncut Dominant Bettie In A Black Corset sequence that was shot for the movie, presented here full strength with a running time of eight minutes. We also get a music video from The ’57 Incident for their track Teaserama which was directed by Nico B. and a short ten minute documentary entitled In Search Of Bettie Page that sheds some light on the real life history that inspired this movie, also directed by Nico B. way back in 1993.

    Last but certainly not least the disc includes eleven original Bettie Page bondage films shot by Irving Klaw between the years of 1951 and 1955. The shorts included here, which total roughly forty minutes, are:

    Untitled / Bettie Paige And Her High Heel Shoes / Untitled / Bettie Gets Bound And Kidnapped / Untitled / Untitled / Second Initiation Of A Sorority Girl / Teaser Girl In High Heels / Domineering Roz Strikes Back / Bettie Gets Dressed In Satin

    Puzzlingly enough, although these were shot and composed for fullframe presentation, they’re presented here matted for 1.78.1 widescreen, to most of the time Bettie is missing the top of her head. You can still figure out what’s going one easily enough, but these really should have been left fullframe.

    Completists will want to hold on to that previously issued 2-disc DVD set from a few years ago, however, as it included five behind the scenes featurettes that document the 16mm black and white shoots that are used throughout the film to reenact the lost Irving Klaw films, three segments that document the creation of the score, the film’s trailer, a great featurette entitled How To Pose Nude By Bunny Yeager, a forty five second look at a photo shoot Richards did with Yeager called The Maid, an interview with the actress entitled A Date With Paige Richards, a still gallery of promotional shots and some liner notes from the film’s director. These are not carried over to the Blu-ray release unfortunately – but the new extras are very cool and definitely worth watching.

    The Final Word:

    In a perfect world all of the extras from the two-disc DVD special edition would have been carried over. That didn’t happen, but we do get a nice upgrade in the transfer department and some quality extras, including the addition of some of the original fetish films that inspired the feature in the first place. While Bettie Page Dark Angel isn’t perfect, it is definitely worth a watch for those with an interest in the subject matter and despite the absence of some of the more interesting extras from the last DVD release, this is the best way to do that.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!