It’s hard to find offline but VCI’s DVD set of HONEY WEST is my cold cure of the week. Ann Francis (FORBIDDEN PLANET!) is great and real, with her smoker’s voice, full figure with fluctuating weight gain, sass, smarts and Ju Jitsu moves. But the best thing about this black and white prototype for Aaron Spelling’s CHARLIE’S ANGELS is that it’s only a half an hour. That’s right, when the angels used to loll around in forbidden file cabinets or tail the wrong suspect to pad out the running time and you would get all bored? That was because Aaron Spelling crime-and-grind shows are meant to be a slim half-hour.
But even with all that Spelling stigma, there’s a lot to love with HONEY WEST. What struck me as most impressive and rare was the sense that West is not very bright, but sometimes is a genius… in short, she’s human. She makes mistakes. She’s too rash and her partner, platonic male buddy Sam Bolt (John Ericson.) is too cautious. But they think on their feet (no time to think anywhere else) improvise well, and are overall fearless and fresh in their approach. There’s lots of suspense and excitement generated from knowing that they do lose fights and forget about things, regret not doing something in the heat of the moment, etc. Things move too fast to sweat the small stuff. No sooner do they have their case, then they are losing the evidence, or getting hit on the back of the head and falling into the bad guy’s trap. There’s some chasing around and murders and seductions, a big finale and the cute coda, usually with her pet ocelot rolling luxuriantly around on the couch and some banter, and credits. All icing, no cake. The way you like it. The first three episodes are the best of the bunch so far (I’m not even done the first disc!) with nifty touches like Honey’s cool kiss with a sleazy suspect (how often are women allowed to be detached about kissing anyone, let alone a bad guy?), putting bands around her ankles to keep her evening dress pinned while she climbs the drainpipe, etc. the little stuff that matters to a Paglia disciple like myself.
Another plus is the great low budget black and white cinematography, recalling the high contrast stuff in early French new wave and Russ Meyer’s FASTER PUSSYCAT, KILL KILL. Further cementing the KILL KILL comparisons is the great sleazy saxophone jazz score (available on LP), same release year so same cars (West drives a sleek convertible) and the appearance of Lori Williams (she was Billie, the blonde pussycat in the white boots) as a poolside babe in the first episode. Yowza! That’s like the 1965 seal of cool.