Lipstick and Dynamite

"OK"

Lipstick and Dynamite Review


Like a pro wrestler without a script, Ruth Leitman's Lipstick and Dynamite seems oblivious as to its own purpose. Or perhaps it's just that this hurried, unfocused documentary about pioneering female wrestlers is so blinded by its colorful cast of girl grapplers that it unintentionally places their stories in a vacuum. Leitman's film traces the bruising careers of some of the "sport's" trailblazing ladies, whose eventful lives - filled with rape, adultery, back-stabbing, and a regular dose of eye gouges and crotch kicks - are recounted through archival wrestling footage, glossy glamour pictures of the towering, muscular athletes, and foul-mouthed interviews with the now-geriatric women. Yet though the director would apparently have us gaze upon these former brawny beauties as early feminists, there's scant evidence supplied by this paper-thin portrait of pro wrestling's inception to make such a case conceivable, much less compelling.

Gladys "Killem" Gillem, Ella Waldek, Ida May Martinez, Penny Banner, Lillian Ellison, Judy Grable, and The Great Mae Young all reached the squared circle during the '40s and '50s via divergent paths, yet Lipstick and Dynamite's subjects share common experiences with parental and spousal abuse, cheating husbands and exploitive managers. Unfortunately, Leitman's objectives don't include examining the motivating forces behind these women's unusual careers; she's so taken with humorous anecdotes about their experiences on the road and in the ring that the film quickly reveals itself as simply a collection of similar war stories. Female wrestlers operated on the industry's fringe, mostly working for one promoter (an authoritarian womanizer named Billy Wolfe) and little money or fame, and the director fawns over their rough exteriors - now in their seventies and eighties, they still cuss like barroom drunks and egotistically boast about their once-formidable toughness - with only skin-deep interest in tying their stories together with a coherent narrative thread. And when it comes to investigating the link between wrestling's choreographed reality and these ladies' desire to escape their unpleasant lives through extravagant personas (like so many performers, the first thing many did was change their immigrant names), the film falls flat on its face.

As any long-time WWE aficionado already knows, the most famous of these buxom bruisers was The Fabulous Moolah, a tough-as-nails wrestler (still working today in her 80s) with the face of a bulldog and the swiftness of a dancer, and Leitman elucidates how Moolah (real name Lillian Ellison) shrewdly took control of her own destiny by expanding into promotion and talent cultivation/management. Moolah's path from cotton-picker (earning one penny for every pound she picked) to worldwide celebrity is juxtaposed with that of Gillem's, whose less-celebrated career began with bear-wrestling and lion-taming at carnivals but ended without much notoriety. However, thanks to Lipstick and Dynamite's disinterest in contextualizing its subject's exploits in a historical framework, Moolah's impressive (as well as her contemporaries' less-lofty) achievements can only be moderately appreciated. Although they clearly bucked traditional notions of female docility and domesticity, these often-fascinating women are never located in a wider cultural perspective. In the end, Leitman is most successful at conveying how such "tough broads" - despite the creepily obsessive fans shown flaunting their trivia knowledge - were viewed primarily as a sideshow to the male-headlined fan base. And in the end, her documentary functions on much the same level: It's a minor novelty film about minor novelty acts.

Aka Lipstick & Dynamite, Piss & Vinegar: The First Ladies of Wrestling.



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Fabulous Moolah /Herself, as Herself, as Herself, as Herself, as Herself, as Herself, Lou Albano as Himself, Freddy Blassie as Himself, Eric Bischoff as Himself, as Herself (archive footage), as Himself (archive footage) (uncredited), as Herself (archive footage) (uncredited)

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.