In the mid-60s, tides turned in the independent film world from the innocuous “nudie-cuties” of the era to the harder edged “roughies”; sexploitation films started to show a lot more sex and violence and dealt with far darker subject matter. White Slaves of Chinatown, the first in the much lauded “Olga” series proves to be a landmark production in ushering in this new style of sordid entertainment, playing in 42nd street theaters regularly and influencing up-and-coming genre greats such as John Waters himself.
Shot in black and white and told in a narrative style that often seems akin to the shockumentary films such as Mondo Cane and its ilk that appeared only a couple years before, White Slaves of Chinatown boasts the seductive and commanding Audrey Campbell (Sin in the Suburbs; Olga’s House of Shame) who does a magnificent job as Olga as well as sharing narration duties with fellow smut veteran Joe Holt (The Hookers; The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield). As reviled as much as praised, the Olga series has definitely suffered its share of detractors, citing the films to be misogynistic. While White Slaves of Chinatown definitely sports a fair amount of violence and disrespect toward the fairer sex, it can be argued those elements are counterbalanced by the character of Olga herself, who is in essence a very strong and powerful independent woman who knows what she wants and will settle for nothing less. And let’s face it, would these films have done so well if it was naked men being beaten and tortured? That’s a vastly different target demographic that few of these films ever seemed willing to target. Naked sluts? Yes, please! But enough of my postulating about society and its wanton tastes in film.
As a sort of light in the darkness, if you will, fans of 60s-era women’s fashion and/or lingerie will want to take heed as the lovely Ms. Campbell has a habit of meticulously dressing or undressing in front of the camera at length. Indeed, White Slaves of Chinatown presents itself as part fetish film, part BDSM torture epic and part sexploiter – and blends these elements together seamlessly. It’s not completely flawless however, as the score is surely going to be a test of patience to even the most seasoned of trashophiles – in particular the canned Chinese music with its grating cacophony of cymbals and whatever the fuck that is that sounds like a flute being castrated on almost constant loop. Be warned, it’s still in my head…
White Slaves of Chinatown should be considered essential viewing for anyone who is even remotely interested in exploitation or independent film. There is NO excuse to have not seen this landmark piece of cinematography by now.
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