Sex Kittens Go to College (1960)
Once a producer of fine repute who reached his taste apex with Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil in 1958, Albert Zugsmith evidently ditched prestige when he decided what he really wanted to do was direct. In 1960 alone, he helmed no fewer than three movies, all of which featured his secret weapon for easy box office: the sweater-shapely Mamie Van Doren.
Two of those films utilized the word “college” in their titles, but only Sex Kittens Go to College gifted Van Doren — the poor man’s Jayne Mansfield, who is the poor man’s Marilyn Monroe — with the lead role. The 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt babe stars as Dr. Mathilda West, the new science-department professor at Collins College. She has photographic memory and a photograph-worthy frame; she boasts an IQ of 298 and a bod of 40-20-32. As one fellow faculty member perfectly puts it upon meeting this buxom-blonde genius, “Thirteen university degrees never looked like this!” But Dr. West does, and proving that brains exist behind the boobs is even tougher when she arrives on campus with considerable baggage: a former stint stripping under the nom de plume of The Tallahassee Tassel Tosser.
Although shot in black and white, Zugsmith’s Sex Kittens has all the Palmolive-clean ingredients of one of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello’s sandbox romps: rock ’n’ roll singing and dancing, a chimp who types with his feet, a giant robot named Thinko, characters with silly names (Woo Woo Grabowski), cameos from has-beens (Vampira, John Carradine) and plenty of innocent-enough innuendo (“How do you feel about oral examinations, professor?”). But whereas no Beach Party would dare to contain nudity, the unrated version of Sex Kittens offers plenty, with an extended sequence of back-to-back-to-back-to-back stripteases excised for prudish American moviegoers. Its inclusion on Warner Archive’s “extended international version” DVD is a win for film history, but a loss for the movie, which actually posits a feminist message — one that gets bumped and ground out when Zugsmith exploits the very thing his movie otherwise claims to condemn.
Living in its own curvaceous, carefree world, the flick is more than watchable, even if nearly every joke falls in the way that Van Doren is not: woefully flat. —Rod Lott