Roger Corman was a guy who knew how to put butts in seats. While it can certainly be said that he was always coming up with new things, the guy also knew when to stick with a formula. Starting in 1970, Corman’s New World Pictures began a series of films focused on sexy young nurses that would continue for five installments…The Student Nurses, Night Call Nurses, etc. After a few years the studio turned their attention to sexy young teachers for two more films. There was even an excursion into the world of stewardesses with 1973’s Fly Me before coming to our film today…1975’s Cover Girl Models.
The film begins with Mark (John Kramer) who has been given an assignment by a magazine editor (Mary Woronov) to head off to Hong Kong and Singapore with three models in tow to shoot some photos. Problem is, one of the models selected is well-known for being difficult and Mark refuses to work with her. Fine…he’s told to find one more model quickly and head out. He finds that model in the form of the awkwardly sexy Mandy (Tara Strohmeier), who has been bumbling her way through being an assistant on one his recent photo shoots. Later, at LAX, Mark and Mandy are joined by experienced models Claire (Lindsey Bloom) and Barbara (Pat Anderson) and they jet off across the ocean.
As they arrive, the other girls try to give some pointers to Mandy. She’s told she has to provide her own stylish outfits for these shoots (which makes no sense), so she hits Hong Kong to get some duds. The girls pose for various photo sessions and Mark tries everything to get them to pose naked. Turns out he’s trying get some photos to sell to a skin magazine…not to mention get busy with each of the girls.
Later there is a fashion show that the girls are modeling for. However, trouble soon pops up in the form of an assistant named Juanita. She’s really a spy of some sort and she hides some microphone by sewing it into the hem of one of the dresses Barbara is modeling. When Barbara decides to keep the dress after the show, this leads to various baddies trying to get their hands on her and the film. Meanwhile, Claire runs into trouble of her own as she tries to impress a film director and gets mistaken for an ambassador’s daughter…leading to a kidnapping. Eventually, all of the girls are recruited to help bring down the crooks after the microfilm in a big shoot out of a climax.
Cover Girl Models suffers a bit from having too many ideas crammed into one little movie that’s only an hour and fifteen minutes long. Most of the ideas actually have potential. The story of Mandy, an awkward girl who stumbles into becoming a model, is quite interesting. Tara Strohmeier has undeniable spark which makes her the real standout of the three lead girls. This premise alone could’ve carrier the film.
Also fighting for time in this movie is the storyline involving the model who gets dragged into spy shenanigans because a microfilm has been sewn into one of her outfits. I’m still not really clear on exactly why Juanita thought it necessary to do this…but ok. This storyline gives us one of my favorite aspects of the film…kung fu! Tony Ferrer shows up as a good guy spy who also takes a fancy to Barbara. Whenever she gets in trouble, he shows up to lay some martial arts awesomeness on the bad guys. The martial arts sequences in this film were actually surprisingly impressive. Also fun is the madcap final shootout with the baddies. Some of these hired goons perform some wonderful flailing deaths when they’re shot.
So…while I like both of these storylines, it’s a shame that they have to compete with each other for screen time. The back and forth between them becomes quite messy as the film moves forward. Not to mention the fact that they battle with the third storyline, which still has me confused. Claire trying woo a director into giving her a part is understandable…but then, for no real reason, we have her pretending to be a politician’s daughter. She’s kidnapped, and whisked off to what looks like the prison camp from Missing in Action 2…but then suddenly she is free as a bird and back with the other girls for the final showdown!?! I was completely lost.
The film definitely has some other flaws. This is one of the many films that New World Pictures made in the Philippines…and the Philippines struggles to play the parts of Hong Kong and Singapore. At times I wondered if the production even left the US since many shots had a stock-footage feel. But the biggest crime of this film is relegating the great Mary Woronov to a bit part that extends no further than the opening scene of the film. Can you imagine what a better film this would’ve been if she had been in league with the spies!?
There’s still some entertainment value in Cover Girl Models, despite its many problems. However, there is a part of me that wishes they had taken Mandy’s story and made it one film, done Barbara’s spy antics as a second film, and trashed the dopey story involving Claire.