Essentially a prolonged in-joke disguised as feature-length social satire, the Andy Warhol-produced Women in Revolt lampoons the Women’s Liberation movement by using drag queens instead of actual females to portray a group of ladies who rebel against oppressive treatment by men. Chances are this material is endlessly amusing and fascinating for a very specific audience, but the combination of crappy production values, godawful acting, and semi-explicit sexual content ensures that many viewers will opt out quickly—which, given Warhol’s affection for shock value, was undoubtedly part of the point. (Whichever postmodern artist or theorist first put forth the notion that repulsing viewers is a valid aesthetic maneuver gave license to a whole lot of excess.) Many noteworthy veterans of the Warhol scene participated in this project, from director Paul Morrissey to performers Candy Darling, Holly Woodlawn, and Jackie Curtis (all of whom get name-checked in Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side”). Also appearing, mostly without clothing, is future mainstream actor Martin Kove, a long way from his famous role as the sadistic martial-arts coach in The Karate Kid (1984).
Although Women in Revolt has a threadbare plot, the movie unfolds as a series of very, very long vignettes, some of which are more interesting than others. The bit in which a drag queen sprays deodorant into her male lover’s rectum while he paints the drag queen’s nails is skanky, and the scene of a drag queen trying to conduct a conversation while performing a blowjob is droll in a trashy sort of way. As for the film’s dialogue, here’s a representative sample. During sex, a stud asks a drag queen, “Are you gonna come?” Bored, the drag queen replies, “I think I’m gonna go.” Some sequences were obviously designed to offend, such as the one during which a drag queen recalls being menaced by a dwarf who masturbated so compulsively that the drag queen vomited. Like many of Warhol’s productions, Women in Revolt exists somewhat outside the boundaries of normal critical appraisal—in terms of storytelling and technical execution, it’s absolute garbage, but in terms of capturing the offbeat carnival of Warhol’s ’70s world via attitudinal posturing as well as improvisation that reveals the thought processes of key figures, the movie has some value.
Women in Revolt: FUNKY