Flight attendants weren’t always addressed as such. In the less enlightened 1960s and ’70s, “stewardesses” not only attended to every in-flight needs of airline travelers, they had to meet strict levels of boredom-normative “attractiveness” to do it.
In addition, marketers played up that calculated, humiliatingly enforced standard of allure by clearly implying that the beauty cooing “Fly me!” in various ad campaigns had acquired an entire planet’s worth of sexual knowledge in her travels.
As such, the stewardess became a massively marketed fetish object well into the 1980s and exploitation filmmakers hopped on board en masse to tap yet another gimmick that could get young women-in-uniform out of those uniforms on screen.
The smash global success of “sexy stew” flicks inspired B-flick king Roger Corman to produce similar carnal character studies about student teachers, student nurses, and such. An unmistakable teen-adjacent sexploitation genre emerged, then, that soared in a parallel pattern alongside more earthbound youth sex comedies. Come fly the following examples.
THE STEWARDESSES (1969)
Director: Allan Silliphant
Cast: Christina Hart, Adnita de Moulin, Paula Erikson
Perhaps anticipating the nihilism-spiked kicks of ’70s sex cinema, the 3D milestone THE STEWARDESSES peppers its mostly fluffy “night in the life” account of five turned-on flight attendants during an L.A. layover by having one of them bed a shell-shocked Vietnam vet, another drop LSD and insanely make out with a marble statue, and an out-of-nowhere gut-punch ending that may well have inspired some audience members to well up behind their cardboard red-and-blue eyeglasses.
Boasting five attractive females baring all in three dynamic dimensions, THE STEWARDESSES busted box office records at every location where it landed. By the end of 1970 alone, the $100,000 production had grossed $25 million (that’s $163 million today).
Business only picked up from there, as the non-hardcore STEWARDESSES, initially rated X, got downgraded to an R and upgraded with a superior 3D process. A rapid 1971 theatrical expansion, then, only sucked greenbacks from moviegoers’ wallets with even more furious jet engine force.
Over the ensuing decade, THE STEWARDESSES continually goosed multi-title bills at grindhouses and drive-ins before touching down on home video. At that point, porn company Caballero inserted hardcore footage and released THE STEWARDESSES in a big box emblazoned with the tagline, “From 3D to 3XXX!” Come the ’90s, THE STEWARDESSES zoomed again as an ironically embraced midnight movie.
All this is to point out the extreme impact of THE STEWARDESSES on both skin flicks and trash culture in general, and to make clear how this one production launched an entire industry of “stewsploitation.” Perhaps most importantly, SCTV properly parodied the whole phenomenon by way of “Dr. Tongue’s 3D House of Stewardesses.”
SWEDISH FLY GIRLS (1971)
Director: Jack O’Connell
Cast: Birte Tove, Inger Stender, Baard Owe
“Swedish” and “stewardess” are two potently evocative terms that go together like “’70s crotches” and “unshaven.” Amusingly, then, SWEDISH FLY GIRLS actually documents Brite Tove as Christa, a Danish fly girl and single mom who picks up male airline passengers for commingling in her Copenhagen love pad.
As noted above, since it was the ’70s, much of Christa’s high-flying romps crash badly, eventually involving her being tracked by a private eye, pressured to have an abortion, and being forcibly courted by a corrupt business magnate who blackmails her into breaking a happy engagement by threatening to have the state take away her son. The happy ending occurs with the blackmailer’s corporation goes bankrupt and he commits suicide.
Director: Erwin C. Dietrich
Cast: Evelyne Traeger, Ingrid Steeger, Kathrin Heberle
Initially made as STEWARDESS REPORT as part of Germany’s ongoing “Schoolgirl Report” series, SWINGING STEWARDESSES follows five liberated and libertine sky matrons as they tryst all over — and high above — scenic Europe locales.
THE SWINGING STEWARDESSES played some territories as the straight-up NAKED STEWARDESSES, yet somehow it got generically retitled SWEET SENSATIONS for an ’80s VHS release. Stop loving the ’80s so much, everybody!
FLY ME (1973)
Director: Cirio H. Santiago
Cast: Pat Anderson, Lenore Kasdorf, Lyllah Torena
FLY ME’s tagline proposes quite the series of come-ons: “This airline serves three wild dishes. Take your choice: ‘I’m Toby, fly me as far as you want!’ ‘I’m Sherry, buy a ticket and I come free!’ ‘I’m Andrea, my foreign lay-overs are very stimulating!’”
While not quite false advertising that blurb does fall short of FLY ME’s ultimate arousals and amusements, which involve—among myriad other complications — virginal Toby (Pat Anderson), dope-smuggling hedonist Sherry (Lyllah Torena), and sudden amateur sleuth Andrea (Lenore Kasdorf) attending to the needs of flyers between Los Angeles and Hong Kong before de-boarding and bombastically combatting a sex slavery ring with stylish stew kung fu.
The premise of FLY ME is, of course, an instant winner. Now though, consider its pedigree. Roger Corman produced, maximizing the results of his Philippines jaunts that also resulted in THE BIG DOLL HOUSE (1971) and THE BIG BIRD CAGE (1972). Joe Dante assisted as a dialogue director. Curtis Hanson shot the first scene in L.A. to throw off the scene of the movie’s foreign origins. Jonathan Demme(!) shot inserted martial-arts action. And Dick Miller drops in as a cab driver.
FLYING ACQUAINTANCES (1973)
Director: Douglas Randall
Cast: Susan Curtis, Helen McLean, Jamie Gilis
The oddball title of FLYING ACQUAINTANCES could indicate either lack in regard to marketing or a hint of ambition on the part of the filmmakers and, in this case, both scenarios seem to be in play.
‘Seventies hardcore wonder-stud Jamie Gillis stars as suave bank-employee-by-day/paid-in-sex-taxi-driver-by-night Max Dizzy. Okay. We’re intrigued. Early on, the dialogue overlaps and the camera dips into verite abandon and indicators crop up that perhaps we’re bordering on Artsville. Alas, we’re not.
Instead, FLYING ACQUAINTANCES is a sloppy softcore trifle that derives its stewardess connection from future XXX-queen Darby Lloyd Rains as a flight attendant, as well as some okay NYC locations, and a typically smashing DVD release from the heroes at Vinegar Syndrome.
Director: Ed Forsyth
Cast: Joyce Jillson, Louis Quinn, John Carradine
Joyce Jillson stars in SUPERCHICK as a Tara B. True, an all-business flight server so foxy she wears a mousy brown wig and baggy uniform while working just to downplay her allure.
Each time we see TBT step off a plane, though—in New York, Miami, and L.A. — she whips off the wig, ditches the dowdy duds and struts her stuff with supreme confidence and a killer air of carnality in keeping with her own declared status as a “sex goddess.”
Tara’s got a male plaything of choice in each hub and she knows karate, too — so watch out bikers and unwanted pud-flashers! TBT is also a masterful BDSM mistress, elevating an elderly kink freak played by ancient movie royal John Carradine(!) to unimaginable cascades of painful pleasure.
Carradine’s presence might seem weird, but it’s nothing compared to what became of Joyce Jillson. After a blip appearance in the Debra Winger/ Rainbeaux Smith teen sex comedy SLUMBER PARTY ’57 (1976), Double J went full-time professional psychic, penning a successful syndicated daily newspaper column for years and reportedly naming May 25, 1977 as a “lucky release date” for a 20th Century Fox production that proved intergalactically unlucky for anybody who loved movies after that.
Come the ’80s, Jillson got embroiled in presidential shenanigans, although she never officially confirmed nor denied Nancy Reagan employed her in the White House as an unofficial Oval Office Criswell.
THE NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES (1974)
Director: Al Adamson
Cast: Marilyn Joi, Connie Hoffman, Regina Carrol
Grindhouse schlockmaker nonpareil Al Adamson (DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN) aims high by ripping off Roger Corman’s Uniformed Young Female Professional potboilers and credit where due, it won’t repulsive raze your brain eyes-first in the manner of, say, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN.
An array of off-kilter eroticism, airborne and otherwise, comes to the fore fast in NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES. A birthday party collapses into a splosh orgy of whipped-cream cake and baloney sandwiches early on, while a nude cockpit canoodling that gets peeped in on my a curious little kid.
Amidst that madness, the main protagonists are ultracool blaxploitation star Marilyn Joi as exhibitionist Barbara and Connie Hoffman as Debbie, a ditsy blonde type caught in a love triangle between a geezer with big bucks and an energetic young pornographer with just his crotch-directed enthusiasm going for him (which is something).
Remembering its decade of origin, NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES also makes sure to work in violent kidnapping and unpleasantly acquired intercourse. As Al Adamson goes, NAUGHTY ain’t half-unwatchable, but he’d hit a new high in entertaining lows a year later with BLAZING STEWARDESSES.
BLAZING STEWARDESSES (1975)
Director: Al Adamson
Cast: Yvonne De Carlo, Marilyn Joi, Harry and Jimmy Ritz
Independent-International Pictures co-founders Sam Sherman (producer) and Al Adamson (director) initially conceived a sequel to NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES as a comeback vehicle for — get ready — the Three Stooges.
Ponder this a moment, Knucklehead Nation. This film may have been originally titled JET SET, but, as the Stooges’ gateway back to the big screen, it was always intended to be an R-rated, nudity-packed sex romp that would loudly and proudly showcase the million-year-old Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and the Stooge-mourned-by-no-one, Curly Joe DeRita.
That didn’t happen, of course, and we’ll get to what did in a bit. First off, the final title BLAZING STEWARDESSES is both a send-up and cash-in on BLAZING SADDLES (1974) and an invocation of this movie’s predecessor, NAUGHTY STEWARDESSES. Officially, this is a sequel to the latter.
Connecting NAUGHTY and BLAZING are female leads Marilyn Joi, Connie Hoffman, and Regina Carrol reprising their roles from the first flick, which was a downbeat bummer. Not this time. Here, our air staff heroines fly out west to a dude ranch run by Honey Morgan, a matronly ol’ pistol-packin’ gal played by Yvonne De Carlo. Yes. That’s right — Lily Munster from THE MUNSTERS.
Our leading lovelies and they’re fellow flight attendants carom about in and frequently out of cowgirl get-ups amidst an onslaught of masked bandits, trick riders, a full-on rodeo, and a cameo appearance by ancient vaudevillians. Now we can get back to the Three Stooges.
As preproduction on BLAZING STEWARDESSES commenced, beloved stooge-in-the-middle Larry Fun fell victim to a massive stroke that confined him to a wheelchair. No problem, the filmmakers said, Larry can be funny sitting down. Alas, a follow-up stroke rendered Larry too infirm to travel. So, at Moe’s insistence upon keeping the act intact, they all bowed out with gratitude and dignity. Never again would the Stooges number Three.
To the rescue, then, came Jimmy and Harry Ritz — two thirds of the Ritz Brothers, a popular comedy trio of Depression-era Stooge vintage. In their day, the Ritzes starred in their own well-received slapstick shorts, frequently did comedic bits in larger productions, and scored a sizable hit alongside Don Ameche in a musical spoof of THREE MUSKETEERS (1939). Let’s again stress: this was “in their day.”
By the time BLAZING STEWARDESSES came about, oldest brother Al Ritz had been dead for a decade, so it was up to Jimmy and Harry to contribute one last gasp to the team’s legacy. This they do in the form of nonstop rubber-faced mugging and a soft-shoe dance routine that just sort of stops the movie for a couple of minutes. It’s kind of awesome. The movie, which adds up to way less than the sum of its parts, is kind of not. Still, what parts they are. Why they’re… BLAZING!
STEWARDESS SCHOOL (1986)
Director: Ken Blancato
Cast: Don Most, Sandahl Bergman, Wendie Jo Sperber
If Steve Guttenberg in POLICE ACADEMY is a few clicks south of Tom Hanks in BACHELOR PARTY, just imagine how far down you have to keep turning the dial to reach Donnie Most — “Ralph Malph” from TV’s HAPPY DAYS — in STEWARDESS SCHOOL. Now stop. Go back up a few. Maybe even more than a few. It’s not nearly the distance you think.
The fact is that DONALD Most, as he’s billed here in an amusingly misplaced grab at respectability, didn’t become the beloved joke-a-minute Mr. Malph because he wasn’t funny. Leading man charismatic — perhaps not; but, still, wouldn’t casting Donald in that role just add charm to a barely released, R-rated training academy raunch romp? STEWARDESS SCHOOL provides the proof of just that theory.
Donald plays George Bunkle, the party-hearty yang to the straightman yin of Brett Cullen as Philo Henderson, his best friend. Philo is a handsome hero type who dreams of being a major airline pilot, but he’s hampered by the fact that, without contact lenses, he’s almost entirely blind. Calamitous slapstick and mega-magnifying Coke-bottle eyeglass gags ensue from there.
After George and Philo get booted out of a pilot training program, the best buds enroll in “Stew School” (which is also the title of the movie’s theme song). They land at the ivy-covered, dorm-equipped, multi-acre Weidermeyer Academy, where one by one, their fellow stew students join them in high character-defining style.
Blonde goody two-shoes Pimmie Polk (Julia Montgomery of REVENGE OF THE NERDS) shows up all smiles. Constant klutz Kelly (Johnson Mary Cadorette) crashes in after literally getting her ass bounced out of a kettle drum gig with the philharmonic. Professional wrestler Wanda Polanski (Sandahl Bergman of CONAN THE BARBARIAN) trades the squared circle for the friendly skies to mend a broken heart. Rich girl punk-rocker Cindy Adams (Corinne Bohrer) arrives on the hog of her beastly biker boyfriend Snake (Dennis Burkley). Charmingly chubby Jolean Winters (Wendie Jo Sperber) shows up to supply the movie with a welcome dose of Wendie Jo Sperber-isms.
Recently jail-sprung sex pro Sugar Dubois (Judy Landers) makes the funniest entrance. The bodacious blonde gets dropped off by her Cadillac-driving, African-American benefactor Harry (Teddy Wilson, familiar to fans of the sitcom WHAT’S HAPPENING!! as Al Dunbar, the music bootlegger on the one-hour Doobie Brothers episode). After Sugar gripes about going to Stew School, Harry says, “Look, Sugar, I’m your parole officer, not an employment agency!” She accepts her fate and tells him, “Don’t take any wooden pickles!”
Later on, Sugar supplies the movie’s single most outrageous moment. As a panicking airline passenger is forcibly confined to his seat by an entire flight staff, Sugar finally calms the man by kneeling before him and covering his lap with a blanket, which we then see bobbing unmistakably up and down.
STEWARDESS SCHOOL keeps the riotous raunch coming fun and furiously. Solid side-splitter scenes include the ladies allowing Philo to shower with them since he’s can’t see and a kid in a cowboy outfit blasting the perma grin off of Pimmie’s pretty face by aiming his toy pistol at her and saying, “How would you like your tits shot off?” The sex-drenched silliness all builds to semi-suspense-minded climax wherein our crack class of graduates must contend with a mad bomber and a knocked-out cockpit crew at 35,000 feet. In the process, ace pilot Philo’s contact lenses, naturally, get mashed to slivers on the carpet.
There’s a happy ending, of course, that could only have been made happier with the addition of one or seven sequels. STEWARDESS SCHOOL’s final image is a freeze of beaming Mr. Most flanked by two good-time gals who are planting smooches on each of his cheeks. There he is. The Donald we can all endorse.
PARTY PLANE (1991)
Director: Ed Hansen
Cast: Kent Stoddard, Karen Annarino, Jill Johnson
After the Kitten Natividad hefty-chest triumph TAKIN’ IT OFF (1985) and the cheapo strip-o-gram farce PARTY FAVORS (1987), skin flick auteur Ed Hansen and co-writer/cult actor George “Buck” Flower (TEEN LUST, THEY LIVE) looked skyward and blooped out PARTY PLANE.
What plot drips in just functions to showcase breast augmentation surgery at the dawn of the ’90s, as the owners of a private charter jet called the Albatross decide to goose their profits by hiring professional peelers to be flight attendants.
The following year, Hansen and Flower would essentially kill off the softcore sex comedy by way of their Skinemax smash, THE BIKINI CARWASH COMPANY (1992). By assembling striptease videos into feature-length product instantly translatable anywhere humans have gonads, BIKINI CARWASH set a template from which no return could be possible. How I wish it had crashed. And burned.
Tags: al adamson, Corinne Bohrer, Curtis Hanson, Don Ameche, George "Buck" Flower, Jamie Gillis, joe dante, john carradine, Judy Landers, roger corman, sandahl bergman, The 1960s, The 1970s, The 1980s, The Ritz Brothers, Vinegar Syndrome, Wendie Jo Sperber, Yvonne De Carlo