Meg Myles IS “Satan in High Heels”

What a great double feature this will make with today’s earlier post on Jack Smith, he thought, rubbing his hands together…

The mature Meg Myles (1934-2019) was a regular on soap operas in the 1980s like The Edge of Night, All My Children, and Search for Tomorrow. She also had small roles in well known movies like Coogan’s Bluff (1968), and The Anderson Tapes (1971). But her real heyday had been decades earlier, when the busty beauty had worked as a pin-up, nightclub singer, and actress in gritty B movies like New York Confidential (1955), The Phenix City Story (1955), and Calypso Heat Wave (1957). Her peak as an actress, and her biggest role, was in the 1962 sexploitation film Satan in High Heels, which turned 60 years old this year.

One of the positive quirks of the passage of time is that stuff that appalled mainstream sensibilities a half-century ago, comes off as quite tame now. I hasten to point that out in the event that you are frightened off by the title of this movie. Half of contemporary critics seems to like the film because it is “better than typical exploitation”; the other half are dismissive because it isn’t lurid enough for their tastes. The main character is indeed a stripper (soon to be an ex-stripper). There are moments of what might be deemed semi-nudity at best, and there are suggestions (but no more) of homosexuality and S/M. But I’ve heard worse language on the Disney channel. Nor is the titular Satan’s campaign of destruction terribly evil in the scheme of things. Myles plays a haggard and played out exotic dancer at a carnival who runs out on her junkie husband with his grub stake of $900, hops a plane to New York and takes a job as a saloon singer. “The female of the species is more deadly than the male!” she bleats from the stage in a voice so brassy it makes Shirley Bassey sound like a nun who’s taken a vow of whispering. From there she wastes no time landing the club’s owner for a sugar daddy, but then unfortunately falls for his son.. When her husband inevitably shows up, justifiably pissed, she tries to trick him into stabbing the club owner, so she can run off with her better looking beau. Which he doesn’t do, so she hits the sidewalk, alone and on her own again. It’s kind of life-affirming in a way, haha! It’s a story of survival.

Make no mistake: director Jerald Intrator was in the titilation business. His other films include Striporama (1953), Naughty New York (1957), The Orgy at Lil’s Place (1963), The Sexperts: Touched by Temptation (1965), Caught in the Act (1966) and The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969). And a publisher of fetish magazines was the film’s backer, hence the sporadic inclusion of leatherwear in the film, although not in any way you might imagine. There is eventually a little whipping, but not in the traditional salacious fashion; it’s literally motivated by the emotions of the character. The backers apparently felt betrayed by the fact that this wasn’t a straight-up smut film. It’s literally all about the story, with some musical entertainment. Myles sings of course, as done does the even more fabulous Sabrina, a campy English chanteuse in the vein of Jayne Mansfield and Diana Dors. The terrific jazz score by Mundell Lowe is one of the film’s legit virtues. As is the cast, which also includes Grayson Hall as Pepe, her lesbian overseer. Hall would be nominated for an Oscar just a couple of years later for her performance in Night of the Iguana. Her lover Paul is played by Del Tenney, auteur of such epics as The Horror of Party Beach and The Curse of the Living Corpse, both in 1964.

The most delightful part of the film for me was its documentary aspect, with its locations at an amusement park, Club Le Martinique and apartments around Sutton Place. One thing you get from low-budget films that you don’t get from old Hollywood studio films is real genuine period detail that didn’t come out of the head of an art director. It’s really valuable stuff, and I am especially of fond of looking at such footage from the period just prior to when I was born. I don’t know why, but for the fact that I didn’t get to see it first hand. What was it like a minute before I got here? Knowing my folks, probably not too much different from Satan in High Heels.