Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Stewardesses

When the 1969 sexploitation film The Stewardesses went into wide release in 1971, it became one of the era's biggest box-office hits, for reasons entirely unrelated to acting or story. The Stewardesses takes the basic plot of an AIP beach-party movie, replaces all the jiggly dance scenes with simulated sex, then slows things down to roughly the speed of a jet-bridge. Like most of the road-show skin-flicks of the time, The Stewardesses follows a proven formula: Take some inexplicit grinding, add a few trips to the shower and some light lesbianism, and top it all off with a weirdly moralistic, bummer ending. But The Stewardesses outpaced the competition because writer-director-producer Al Silliman Jr. shot the film in 3D, more than a decade after the 3D craze ended. Some went to see The Stewardesses just for the novelty of the gimmick itself, while others queued up specifically to see bazooms popping out of the screen.


The problem is that even the biggest bazooms don't really pop out that far in 3D. Shout! Factory's double-disc 40th-anniversary DVD of The Stewardesses comes with a pair of red-blue 3D glasses, and three versions of the film: one plain, one in color 3D, and one in black-and-white 3D. The latter gives the best 3D experience, but anyone expecting anything approaching virtual sex—even virtual simulated sex—will be sorely disappointed. Aside from an early shot of bare legs suspended seemingly inches from the viewer's nose, most of the 3D effects in The Stewardesses are fairly unimaginative: a pool cue here, a glass of scotch there, and in one hilarious blooper, a hovering boom mike.

Still, The Stewardesses' awkwardness is a large part of its enduring charm. The producers tagged their film with an X rating even though it's non-pornographic, and they seem unsure about how much they can get away with, beyond sticking fully nude women into nearly every scene. They're also a little clumsy with the filmmaking itself. Sometimes they arrive too late with the camera and microphones to catch the action, and sometimes they spend a full minute of screen time on a man racking billiard balls. Yet everyone involved with The Stewardesses is so fresh-faced and game that the movie comes across as more sweet than sleazy. It may be the only movie—3D or no—that can make a young lady masturbating with a table lamp look like good, wholesome fun.

Key features: Short but surprisingly scholarly featurettes about the history of 3D movies and the success of The Stewardesses, along with the classic SCTV sketch "Dr. Tongue's 3D House Of Stewardesses."